The seven days I have had at home (on return from Finland) to catch up have quickly come and gone and in a few moments (as soon as I finish this post) I am going to make my way to the airport for the long-haul international flights to Canada. And, of course, yet another round of COVID testing and international travel declarations. Canada is not the easiest country to negotiate with its confusing and somewhat convoluted entry requirements. Everything from a compulsory dedicated ‘Canada Entry’ App for smartphones to the possibility of random testing (which must be pre-booked) on arrival makes for an entry process that seems on the surface far more complicated than it needs to be. It is definitely a first-world problem, but international travel was certainly significantly easier to facilitate pre-pandemic – enough said.
My flight schedule to Ellesmere will be the longest on record for me, eclipsing even the many flights to the remote Emperor Penguin colony out on the sea ice at Gould Bay, in Antarctica. The schedule for Ellesmere: Melbourne to Sydney, Syndey to Vancouver, Vancouver to Ottawa. From Ottawa, life gets more complicated with ever-smaller planes from Ottawa to Iqaluit, Iqaluit to Arctic Bay, Arctic Bay to Resolute, and then finally a small twin-otter from Resolute to Grise fiord and Ellesmere Island. That’s seven flights just to reach the starting point for our expedition to find and photograph the elusive white Arctic wolf.
From Grise Fiord we will take snowmobiles and sleds north toward the remote weather station, Eureka, in search of the White Wolf, Arctic Hare, Polar Bear, Arctic Fox, Musk Ox, and Snowy Owl. How far we get, and where we establish our basecamp will depend greatly on what we find and the prevailing weather conditions. This is very much an expedition, and weather and conditions will dictate the ultimate progress and success of the trip.
There will be no updates from Ellesmere Island whilst I am away as once we leave Grise Fiord on our snow mobiles we will have no internet or communications outside of the emergency satellite phones we are taking with us.
Once we finish in Ellesmere Island I will return to Vancouver (via the same return flights) for onward travel to Oslo, Norway via London and finally Svalbard for my Svalbard Return of the Light Expedition. This expedition was originally scheduled to run in 2020, but was delayed until 2021 and then until 2022 because of the ongoing pandemic. Now, with restrictions sufficiently eased, we can finally go ahead with the expedition. I always look forward to Svalbard at this time of year; the light and conditions are truly inspiring. Before we board our boat and head north from the small town of Longyearbyen, I will guide a four-day private snowmobile expedition out to the frozen sea ice of Monbukta in search of both wildlife and landscape opportunities.
From Svalbard, I will return to Australia for a month’s rest before heading to Africa for my Zululand, South Africa workshop. Given the luggage for these extreme winter expeditions, I am very much looking forward to lightweight packing for the heat of Africa! There are a couple of places available on this trip so if you are keen to photograph African wildlife from a ground-level hide please drop me an email to register your interest. As usual, first in best dressed.
In total, this trip away including Ellesmere Island and Svalbard will include nineteen separate flights across a six-and-a-half-week period. With the Iceland and Finland winter trips already complete (eleven flights), this will see my current flight count for 2022 rising to thirty by the end of the first quarter of 2022. Living in Melbourne, Australia comes with a lot of benefits, but short flights and nearby destinations are not amongst them. We are indeed a very long way from the rest of the world!
Of course, I hope to squeeze in a couple of podcasts between Ellesmere Island and Svalbard and will do my best to post blog updates when possible.
See you in Ellesmere Island in a few days!