A brother-and-sister duo from Iqaluit has successfully kite-skied 3,300 kilometres through the Northwest Passage in 85 days.
Eric McNair-Landry, 26, and his sister Sarah, 25, started their ski trek — using kites to help move them along — from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., in late March and headed east to Pond Inlet, Nunavut.
A crowd welcomed the pair when they skied into Pond Inlet, a remote hamlet on northern Baffin Island, on Saturday evening.
"They had the sirens on the police car going, and there was a good 20 or 30 people down on the seashore there who had come out to greet us, say hi, shake our hand and congratulate us," Eric McNair-Landry told CBC News in an interview Monday.
First to kite-ski passage
Sarah and Eric McNair-Landry, who are the children of Iqaluit-based polar guide Matty McNair, become the first to kite-ski the Northwest Passage.
The pair were aiming to retrace the same route that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen took when he sailed through the Northwest Passage in the early 1900s.
But while Amundsen travelled from east to west, the McNair-Landry siblings went west to east.
The duo had originally hoped to arrive in Pond Inlet by the end of May, but they had to cope with moving ice, melting snow and a lack of wind for much of their tough trek along the fabled Arctic passage
Attacked by polar bear
'We were his four-in-the-morning breakfast snack, for sure.'—Sarah McNair-Landry
The siblings said while they have plenty of good memories from the expedition, there were also some unpleasant experiences, including a polar bear attack near the Gulf of Boothia.
Sarah said the bear pounced on her side of their tent while they were sleeping.
"From inside the tent, just to get him away, I started kicking at the wall of the tent and he backed off some. And then Eric ran out with a shovel and hit him on the nose," she recalled.
Eric kept the bear occupied before Sarah shot a gun just above its head, scaring it away, she said.
"We didn't have to kill him, which was good. But we were definitely pretty shaken up about it for the next couple days," she said.
"We were his four-in-the-morning breakfast snack, for sure."
Long detour taken
Eric said they did not mention the polar bear attack in any previous interviews or blog entries because they did not want to worry their family and friends or re-live the incident during their journey.
Their kite-ski trek took 10 days longer than expected because the pair had to make a 600-kilometre detour south of their intended route, due to dangerous moving ice in the Gulf of Boothia.
The last two days of their journey, as they headed towards Pond Inlet, entailed skiing through puddles in the rain, Eric said.
The siblings said they plan to spend a few days in Pond Inlet before returning to Iqaluit later this week.