Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Patti”s Story Part 9 ©

Weathering The Storm     

On July 1st, we had miraculously crossed the big lead!  Shortly after we removed the ice screws that had secured it, it floated away.  It almost seemed like a dream. We made our camp farther on, always looking for dry ice and avoiding water. I don’t recall speaking much that evening.

The next morning we awoke to gale force winds! The ice seemed to be melting as we watched. It had been puzzled with water before but now there was so much more water. It had rained during the night, though in my fatigue I had slept through it. After a short discussion we realized we were suddenly in a race to get off the fjord and onto land!  We were still a couple of travel days away from a camp at the end of Tanquary Fjord. Travel on land would be much slower and harder. The shoreline was gravel and sand, tough to travel over with this much load.
Sawtooth mountains in background

Moving quickly we packed up. Breaking camp in high speed winds is treacherous mainly because you cannot set anything down or it will blow away. Gone. Will left early to find a route, heading out with the wind at his back. The  winds from the west were blowing the ice into the east shore. We hitched the dogs in double tandem with a long lead rope to the sled, a system that gives them more leverage under these conditions. Some of the pools of water had gotten so deep that even with all of us pushing and pulling, we had trouble getting the sled through. Concerned with deep water and having lost sight of Will, I snapped a rope onto Blackie and Buster who were leading and led the team through the maze as Bob wrangled with the heavy sled.

We were nearing the shoreline before we finally caught sight of Will. He was off to the right standing next to some heaved ice, or jumbled ice, that had been pushed into shore.  We headed towards him, pushing and pulling. That ice was our bridge to terra firma. The storm was winding down, we estimated the winds were less that 30 mph. We had traveled for about seven exhausting hours that day. Happy to be on land and safe, we found a reasonable spot and made camp, taking a well deserved rest. We were tormented throughout the 'night' by screaming Jaegers, large aggressive birds trying to drive us away. It seemed the safety of land suddenly had a cruel surprise for us.
Tent Ring

The first photo shows how deep and difficult the icy melt water had become. We struggled more and more. Spring roars in the Arctic. Streams that are ankle deep one day become impassable waist deep torrents the next. The second photo is Bob, after we reached shore, standing at the edge of an ancient tent ring. It was so remote that we assumed it was undocumented. The stones would have anchored the base of Musk Oxen hides that would have been stretched over a bone frame. The third photo is a Jaeger in flight.

Happy 5th of July!

Patti Steger
Steger Mukluks

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