One man's quest to journey from Pacific to Arctic Ocean continues on Great Slave Lake

The journey has taken place in several legs so far, including skiing up Ellesmere Island, paddling down the Back River, and hiking across mountain ranges from the Pacific to Fort Nelson, BC.

John Dunn continues a decades-long quest to connect the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean

John Dunn headed out on Great Slave Lake on April 8th. He is expected in Lutsel K'e by the 28th. (Jimmy Thomson/CBC)

A Calgary man is getting close to his goal of crossing from Tofino, B.C. to the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut by foot, ski, and boat.

Last weekend, John Dunn set off from Hay River to Lutselk'e, crossing Great Slave Lake on skis to connect two legs of his journey that he has already completed.

"This is one leg of a much larger trip that started many years ago," says Dunn. 

Dunn has been pursuing his goal since the early 1990s, when he traveled the length of Ellesmere Island by ski. All that remains is to connect Ellesmere to the Boothia Peninsula — a point of land that includes the northernmost part of continental North America — and to complete a small section along the Mackenzie River. 
Dunn's journey has taken him across much of northern Canada already, with just a few legs remaining. (John Dunn (submitted))

Each leg has required different gear and transportation. Crossing the mountains from the Pacific Ocean to Fort Nelson, Dunn used an inflatable raft that could be disassembled for portages. North of Lutselk'e, he hiked to the Back River, which he then paddled down to the foot of the Boothia Peninsula at Back Bay. 

Standing at the edge of Great Slave Lake on a frigid Saturday morning, Dunn is strapping on his skis, bundled up for the start of his long trip across the lake.

"Pretty soon you get warmed up and start peeling things off again," he says. 
John Dunn heads out on Great Slave Lake, towing all of his equipment for the 15-20 day crossing to Lutselk'e. (Jimmy Thomson/CBC)

Dunn says the decades-long expedition is really just about his love for traveling in the wilderness. A photographer and public speaker, he has his trips sponsored by the likes of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

He expects the trip to Lutselk'e to take 15 to 20 days, with a late April arrival. He tows a heavy sled with all the essentials, including about 90,000 calories' worth of food (4,500 per day) plus a few comforts, like an e-reader, stuffed with books. 

"I don't have a chair yet," he admits. "I'm going to get one of those for the next part of the journey." 


Jimmy Thomson is a former reporter for CBC North.