Table of Contents
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Brian and Linda Fredericksen
Lake Nipigon - Solo
Inuit Dogs in New Hampshire, Part II
The Inuit Dogs of Svalbard
Update: Uummannaq Children's Expedition
Update: Iqaluit Dog Team By-Law is Official
The Homecoming: Epilogue
Product Review: Sock Sense
Tip for the Trail: Wet Equals Cold
Janice Howls: More Than Meets the Eye
Page from a Behaviour Notebook: Hunting
The Longest Kids' Sled Dog Expedition: Uummannaq-Thule
by Geneviève Montcombroux
Youngsters from the Uummannaq Children's Home, in Uummannaq, Greenland had been eagerly looking forward to traveling all the way to Thule by dog sled, a trip that would take approximately two months. At the last minute the weather turned against them. This came as no surprise, for in Greenland the saying sila naalagaavoq means "the weather is the master". An incredible accumulation of snow, treacherous sea ice, and storms, with warmer than usual temperatures kept the party in Uummannaq Bay, with the exception of one short trip to Qeqertaq, Disko Bay. Since travel proved practically impossible, the expedition turned itself into a nature-survival school and lasted two months and two days.
Nine hunters, six teachers, a helper and Jean-Michel Huctin - the driving force behind the project - guided nine youngsters, aged fourteen to seventeen, who drove their own qamutiit for the whole time, accompanied by 200 dogs! All the other children from the Home took part in short trips, traveling on hunters' qamutiit and sometimes driving the dogs themselves.
On the trip they fed themselves by hunting and fishing. For these young Greenland Inuit it was a the thrill of a lifetime. They reconnected with their roots, regained self-confidence and for a short time forgot the traumas that had brought them to the home. This aspect may have been the biggest success of the expedition.
It was not all smooth riding. Young Nukaaraq, Mikael and Kristine, blocked by impassible snow for several days, were forced to camp out on the ice with scarcely any food before they could be resupplied.
On one occasion, Joorut, a hunter, crossed a six foot wide crevasse bridged by rotten snow, which he saw too late. The rest of the sleds and people had little choice but to cross too. These cracks in the ice can extend over several miles. Some of the inexperienced dogs fell into the frigid water. Joorut helped the dogs climb out. Then the people used a qamutiq to cross over. Knud, another hunter was last. His qamutiq sank into the crevasse and he had a fraction of a second to jump off. Everyone helped pulled the qamutiq back onto solid ice.
It was a poor year for seal hunting, but the fishing was good and sharks plentiful. One day, seven of the group with three qamutiit encountered snow so deep it took them almost an entire day to advance 500 yards. Unable to reach the next village and their supplies, unable to turn back and unable to fish or hunt, they had to bivouac in a small hut on a tiny island. Since Jean-Michel was to test a satellite telephone on the trip, he took this opportunity to call for help. Uummannaq dispatched snowmobiles but the rescuers were unable to get through and had to turn back. The stranded party remained in high spirits while they feasted on the biscuits and chocolate bars they still had in their backpacks. A little heat was provided by the camp stove and the togetherness of bodies sleeping in the small hut.
Everyone was disappointed by the failure to reach Thule, but plans are underway for 2002 with Thule as the goal. In the meantime, they have to raise funds to finance the expedition.
Uummannaq Children's Home
Anonymous Donor Supports Expedition!
Touched by the article about the Greenland Home in the Vol.3 N.2 of the Fan Hitch announcing the expedition, an anonymous donor sent 300 Canadian dollars to the home on behalf of the Inuit Sled Dog International.
Many thanks, dear Donor, from the ISDI, from Ann Andreasen, director of the Home, and of course, the young adventurers!