Two adventurous siblings from Iqaluit have begun a 3,000-kilometre trek in the Northwest Passage in the hopes of being the first to kite-ski through the fabled Arctic route.
Eric McNair-Landry, 26, and his younger sister Sarah, 24, are retracing 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 are going west to east. They departed from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., over the weekend and hope to reach Pond Inlet, Nunavut, by the end of May.
Their mother, longtime polar guide Matty McNair, told CBC News that her children kite-skied for 60 kilometres on Sunday, but had no wind on Monday.
Travelling in 'our backyard'
Both siblings are no strangers to extreme travel, as they have embarked on similar expeditions around the world in recent years.
In 2007, they completed a 2,300-kilometre kite-ski trip across Greenland. After that, they crossed the Gobi Desert by kite-buggy.
"Antarctica and Greenland are exotic, and this is our home," Eric McNair-Landry told CBC News before the pair left Iqaluit last week. "This is our backyard, and we kind of wanted to explore that."
Last year, Sarah McNair-Landry guided an Australian couple on a gruelling 800-kilometre ski expedition to the North Pole, making her one of the youngest to ever lead such a trek.
"I'm really excited. There's a lot of interest in the Northwest Passage and yeah, it's really nice to be doing a trip at home," she said.
The McNair-Landrys are using skis that are pulled by kites. Those kites have to pull not only the skiers themselves, but also their sleds, which have about 68 kilograms of food, tents, polar bear deterrents and other equipment.
"We have four kites each. It's not just one, so it's kind of like having different sails for a sailboat," Eric McNair-Landry explained.
Wind, ice crucial factors
Both siblings say wind will be a crucial factor if they want to reach Pond Inlet in 65 to 75 days, but Sarah McNair-Landry said sea ice conditions will also be important.
"There's some sections with rough ice," she said. "The Boothia Strait doesn't have land-fast ice, so it could be moving or cracking, and there will be some open waters and polynyas along our way."
Matty McNair said she is staying home in Iqaluit, keeping in touch with her children by satellite phone.
"I try not to [be concerned] because I know I've done the same sort of things," McNair said.
"But yeah, I worry — sometimes."
The McNair-Landry siblings plan to visit several communities during their trek, including the Nunavut communities of Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven.
The pair will visit schools in those communities to promote exercise and healthy eating.
Their expedition is backed a number of sponsors, including Canadian North, the Will Steger Foundation and the National Geographic Society's Young Explorers Grants Program.