North

Siblings face tough conditions in Arctic trek

Two siblings from Iqaluit are encountering polar bears, large rocks, moving ice and other challenges as they try to become the first to kite-ski the Northwest Passage.

Two siblings from Iqaluit are encountering polar bears, rocky terrain, moving ice and other challenges as they try to become the first to kite-ski the Northwest Passage.

Eric McNair-Landry, 26, and his younger sister Sarah are about two-thirds of the way through their kite-skiing trek, which they began in late-March from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

The duo had hoped to travel 3,000 kilometres and reach Pond Inlet, Nunavut, by the end of this month, but Sarah McNair-Landry said she and her brother were forced to take a detour of almost 600 kilometres south because of dangerous moving ice in the Gulf of Boothia.

"We are just south of Kugaaruk and just past Repulse [Bay], kind of on the Melville Peninsula heading north towards Igloolik," Sarah, 25, told CBC News on Thursday.

"It's an almost a 600-kilometre detour that we're pushing south and then back up north, so it's a lot of kilometres we're adding to our route," she added. "And spring's coming, the snow is starting to melt, so we are definitely feeling time pressure."

The siblings hope to arrive in Igloolik, Nunavut, in the next 10 to 16 days. They said they then plan to cross the Fury and Hecla straits up to Baffin Island, then travel overland to Pond Inlet.

Terrifying polar bear encounters

The siblings have had to navigate around boulders during their kite-ski trek, but one of their scariest challenges is seeing numerous polar bears and bear tracks during their travels.

Eric McNair-Landry said at one point, they encountered six polar bears in a 12-hour period.

"Some were just very curious and interested, and then there were some who were pretty much interested in eating us and they were a little faster," he said.

Eric said he and his sister have set up a bear fence around their tent and equipped themselves with a gun and flares to scare the polar bears away. There have been some sleepless nights as they kept watch for bears, he added.

"They are very, very beautiful animals, and it's definitely been kind of a privilege to see so many bears … small and large, mother and cubs and whatnot," he said.

"But again, it is a little bit terrifying. They eat just about anything they can get."

Sarah McNair-Landry said she recently celebrated her 25th birthday on the sea ice with a "cake" of sorts — a Snickers candy bar with candles on top.

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