Test Drive Diary - 2023Case Record No.4/2023
Three days in Cambridge Bay, hot water supply, the damned Internet, and the workshop again. The day after our arrival the main travelers left us: comrades Andrei Ivanovich Komri-Picard, Zurab Sanikidze and Alexey Safonov. We don't have time for dawdling, so we spend all the time in the garage, fixing, improving and deepening the vehicles as much as we can. During the trip, the members were free to record their thoughts on this subject matter, now it is time to implement the resulting multi-volume document. Another important task is: the list of spare parts needed for the next year. Purchasing them and delivery to Canada have become significantly more complicated over the past year, but we will try our best. Based on the results of the trip, the following is clear:
Enormous overabundance of personal clothes was revealed for some polar explorers. We declare a holy war against hedonism. Asceticism – that is our motto! Next year, the task is to reach the North Pole and then Greenland, rather than get drown in the Arctic Ocean due to unhealthy excesses. The proposals to retrofit the ATVs with coffee machines, boilers, etc. sometimes drive me into a stupor, but ... a pill against nervousness under the tongue, and the sky is blue again, we continue working. But the sadness of parting with comrades-in-arms gradually faded, the thoughts are occupied with ATVs, because they are the real heroes and plodders. Requests, tables, schedules and deadlines are coming from the headquarters, all of them have to be filled-in, and it is unavoidable. We send the dimensions of the body planes for advertising stickers. Now, about the route. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, only once the whiteout was really white; there were no snowfalls and blizzards, the drones were flying, making photos of us, bears and bear cubs, sea hares, polar hares and other hares. Crossing overland twice from one water area to another, we crossed freshwater lakes with transparent ice of fantastic beauty, collected the ice, as water from it is much tastier than snow distillate. We saw many ice figures in the hummocks and snowdrifts. We sailed in a man-made water opening in the ice, admired the expression of the driver's face, plunging for the first time in the black icy abyss. Plunging and getting out were successful. Regrettably, the evenings during the stops were often spoiled by Starlink and Iridium installations, not everyone had the strength to do without the Internet if only for one evening. Despite the noise of the engine, we are still talking on the move, while on the stops most of the workpeople instantly disappear in the black hole of the information field. By the next year, it would be good to approve the schedule for access, similar to water supply in a remote Somali village or to electricity supply in the freezing Europe. Anyway, the order must exist.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
We departed in the morning in due time, at 7.00, again following the trail of electric Nissan and the two six-wheeled Emil Grimsson’s Fords escorting it; electric good-lookers have a contraindication for driving solo over such terrain, they can fail at any moment. One feels more at ease with two diesel brutes nearby. At midday we drove on the land, met a hare, a brave creature, unlike the bears. A vehicle approached him at a distance of about five meters, no more, he stopped, looked at us and continued to gnaw calmly the remains of either moss or lichens from a stone, without paying attention to the three other ATVs that had arrived. The members came to a common opinion that either he is a dunce who had never seen humans and vehicles, or he stands for election as the leader of the tribe, and uses the occasion to demonstrate bravery and prowess to his congeners. We drove further on, but after this encounter we were ashamed of our feeble-mindedness and, leaving the trail made by the others, we made our own trail across tundra. In this manner, we drove to the outpost of civilization at 16.00. Today and tomorrow morning there is a search of the team: the doctor confiscates the remaining foodstuffs in the hope to calculate the amount of eaten foodstuffs and their assortment, in preparation for the next year's trip. The main thing in this investigation, as they say, is not to go out onto yourself. Andrew, Zurab and Alexei Safonov are leaving us tomorrow, force majeure circumstances are drawing them to the mainland. We remain to perform maintenance of the machinery, clarify the lists of spare parts, draw up a list of what is needed for next year. The tasks of the test drive were completed, the people are safe and sound, so everything is not bad...
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
All day long Š driving over snow ridges across the furrows. At midday we met partly covered tracks of electric people (I wrote about them in the previous posts). The tracks are quite visible, and we drove following them. We realize that it is purely nervous - to follow the tracks of someone else, though probably we would have chosen the route no worse, and maybe better. All in all, we are moving ahead. A couple of times we saw bears, they are easily frightened, run away in good time, don't expect anything good from meeting humans. We stopped for the night earlier than usual, at 7 p.m., because a cooling system pipe burst in the red vehicle, they are replacing it. Alexey Safonov cooked fish soup for the whole team, he cooked it outdoors, the doctor does not tolerate fish smell in the vehicle. So the day passed in petty bustle.
That's how the matters are.V.Ye
The day is clear, the wind is moderate, ice is smooth for the most part, so the entire day passed. Cedric confirmed the hotel and the workshop for us starting from April 21st. We expect to arrive in Cambridge Bay at noon of the 21st. In fact, thatÕs all for today.
With greetings, V.Ye
The weather is cloudy and bright. At noon we approached the island of Tasmania, the place of the last year's accident. In August we were here, participating in extraction from the sea floor of the drowned vehicle. Nothing has changed during the year, the strong current is still flushing the ice from below so much that the sea floor is visible to the naked eye not only of a human being - the apex of creation, but also of the most ordinary bearded seals, squareflippers. A couple of such good-lookers were sunbathing on the ice about a hundred meters from us. It is worth mentioning that they watched us with interest, and there was something to watch, really. Four vehicles drove up to a section of thin ice, one of the vehicles began to drive over the same spot hoping to break through. After all, the spectators (i.e. us) got bored of it, and we started breaking the thin ice with ice shovels. Finally, the vehicle broke through, it was hooked with a rope, and another ATV pulled it out onto strong ice. It was done quickly and somewhat prosily. Then we tried another method of pulling out the vehicle on a high bank, then gathered and drove further, leaving the bearded seals in the state of utter amazement. Almost immediately whiteout occurred, and small hummocks appeared. In the conditions of absolute absence of visibility of terrain, driving becomes an interesting adventure. In case of doubt about ice strength the vehicles drove each by its own path, because the vehicle riding over weak ice damages it, and the following vehicle may break through. By the evening the weather improved, the world took its usual contours, and so the workday was finished.
That's how the matters are. With regards, V.Ye
It is warm. We arranged bivouac on the northwestern extremity of the Boothia Peninsula, on the ice of the Franklin Strait. On Monday mornings conferences are held in Zoom, the state of affairs is reviewed, everyone are praising themselves trying to show their merits modestly, but intensely. The bosses on the mainland are very interested in the quality of communication, and it had been high... until these questions were asked. The Germans call it Generaleffekt, you know. As soon as we started swaggering about it, the satellites immediately piled off to unknown destination. In short, we were disgraced. Then we continued sadly our way towards the passage across the Boothia Peninsula by land. The Bellot Strait does not freeze, the velocity of tidal streams in it reaches 15 km/h, ice does not grow under such conditions, so the strait is impassable for us; besides, the local authorities made us promise not to go there. We saw bears, including a loving mother with a cub. She didn't like the unfamiliar flying trash trying to get closer to her baby, she deftly managed to stay between the baby and the danger every time, she even tried to attack the copter. Then there was a small pass, and we found ourselves in a picturesque valley leading to a long narrow fjord, by which we drove into the Franklin Strait in the rays of the setting sun, where we lodged for the night. In the evening we sliced frozen fish waiting for bears coming to the smell, but they did not come, and the night passed quietly.
That's it. Yours V.Ye
. The night was cold, during the day it got warmer, -18°, practically no wind. Today is the Orthodox Easter. The plan for today is: to drive eastward from the place of overnight stay in search of open water, find a suitable polynya and train the procedure of overcoming it with preparation of all the necessary equipment, distribution of roles Š in general, to arrange everything properly, as should be in self-respecting labor collectives. All day long Š hummocks intermittent with ice fields, classic terrain painfully familiar to any polar explorer. We have two copter pilots in our team, Anton and Maxim. Anton led his copter to the east, discovered open water 15-20 km away. We drove there; a polynya is about 150 m wide, with intensely hummocked shores, and also covered with young ice - nilas, the shores move relative to each other at a speed of 1-1.5 km/h. The speed is not high, but if something goes wrong during the crossing, fixing it will be extremely difficult. Looking at these gloomy shores piled with blocks of ice over two meters high, the idea of navigation did not cause much enthusiasm among the working masses. Frankly speaking, we always tried to avoid crossing water in such conditions. After driving a dozen kilometers along this gap, we went to take a closer look at it. The polynya disappeared, huge masses of ice began to move and, unable to stop, continued to pile up gigantic hummocks, or rather mountains of ice, in front of our eyes. The sight is fascinating, a hummock about seven meters high is moving towards you, huge blocks of ice are falling down, and all this with a very impressive accompanying sound. The photo session, it should be noted, was a success. After watching the process of creation of the ice world for half an hour, we drove back to the camp site, to discuss our courage and heroism in warmth and comfort..
That's how the matters are V.Ye
We covered not much during the day, about a hundred kilometers, over the last 20 km before Fort Ross the ice is heavily trampled by bears, many traces were made by cubs, mostly in the direction from the coast to the east, to polynyas. About 30 kilometers remain to open water, to the ice cracks. The task for tomorrow is: to drive to a polynya, work out its traversal by the entire labor collective, find a nursing mother with a cub; the cameraman said that he would not leave without filming these plots. We launched the copter fly over the ice, to see how hard our path to the heights of documentaries will be tomorrow, but it didn't fly far, too cold for the poor thing. Now, about Fort Ross: it was a trading post of Hudson's Bay Company. The company was founded in 1670, before origination of Canada as a state. By the way, in Russia, in a similar outback, a trading settlement – Mangazeya was founded in 1601, the goals were the same, trading with the locals. Fort Ross today is represented by two abandoned buildings, one is a shop with a warehouse, the other is a residential building. The date of Fort Ross appearance is 1937. In the residential building that is empty for 75 years already, fresh traces of a bear were found in the snow (the windows have been knocked out) who desperately searched for something edible, apparently he was very hungry. Having captured on video and photographic film everything we saw, we drove to the sea, to prepare gear for practicing skills in overcoming the polynyas. For dinner – steak from nelma, tea with strained cranberries, chocolate, nuts optionally; in general, everything is as ascetic as always.
Till next communication sessionģ V.Ye
The day turned out to be excellent. A freshwater lake was waiting for us on the pass, with ice remarkably beautiful and transparent to a depth of several meters. We collected proper ice for the household; it is said that melt water is very healthy. We descended to the sea along a picturesque valley. Soon a snowmobile with a sleigh caught up with us, a father and son, relatives of George the hunter who was unwell. They all are relatives here, maybe even too much. The Gulf of Boothia, along the western coast of which our route lies, was named after the brewer Felix Booth who supported with a purse the expedition of John Ross in exchange for perpetuating his name on the world map. By noon, fields of hummocked ice appeared, the further to the north, the more hummocks. Traces of bears are met from time to time, perhaps spots of open water are present seaward. We drove into the zone of hummocks, launched the copter, raised the ladder, but no open water was visible. We decided not to waste time, we are heading to Fort Ross, open water will definitely be there, and we will swim there. We can assign a couple of days for these drills combined with the search for mother bears. For the second day already it is substantially cold in the evening, the temperature on the floor inside the vehicle in the morning is considerably below zero. In the morning, at five o'clock, the most fearless of us thrusts his arm out of the sleeping bag and turns on the cabin heater, and in a quarter of an hour the person who is accredited to make coffee gets up. So a hard working day of polar nomadic folk begins, full of asperities and hardships.
With greetings, V.Ye.
Clear, no wind, it's wonderful. The hotel in hospitable Taloyoak was left without regrets, everyone suddenly wanted to head for tundra. The hunter George came in the morning to tell us that he has problems with health, and wished us a happy journey. He saw us off to the outskirts of the settlement, and finally we drove towards the sun and adventures. All day long it was rather sparse in regard of adventures, we drove over a snowmobile trail, but were rewarded by the weather and the sights. After reaching the sea, we drove along the coast; the condition of the ice is good, though the snow ridges are slightly irritating. We are driving with the hope of seeing the engine from the ship "Victoria" of John Ross, the expedition of 1829-1833, on the coast. We visited the bay of Tombey; a wooden Catholic chapel is standing on the hill, a household outbuilding is nearby. In the 19th century, it was a reception center of one of the trading companies, neighboring a small Inuit settlement. All this is abandoned now. We stopped for overnight on the ice before tomorrow's ascent to the isthmus of the peninsula. We are taking a shortcut, a snowmobile trail leads up, the locals also do not like to wind up extra distance on the tracks of their vehicles. The last few kilometers before overnight stop the ice was completely flat in the wind shadow under a steep slope, we managed to ride as quick as the wind. In the evening we strolled up to the lake, saw caribou and wolf trails on the way. All is well, the food chain in action, the most important is to avoid getting integrated into it.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye
Clear windless weather. Since morning, -28°C. At 10.30, we arrived to Taloyoak. The permission to visit the territories of the community has been obtained, almost all population of the settlement met us, even the lessons at school were interrupted to let the kids see us. About 10 of them were sitting in each vehicle. The adults also showed keen interest in the machinery. There is a skating rink on the central square, a special vehicle cleans the ice. The boys are chasing the puck. There is a sports center here. We stay overnight. Departure is at 7.00 tomorrow. There were six free rooms in the hotel (out of six), again we enjoy hot water supply. George, a local hunter, will be with us further on till Cambridge Bay. He will show us the local paths and trails. In my opinion, the chosen route is interesting, in regard of landscape as well as in regard of history. From tomorrow and till the end of the journey, we will be in unpopulated area, and this is good: short stops in the villages somehow throw off the track, you just tune to the nomadic way of life – and again the folk, shops, hotels. So, our tasks for the next 12 days are: not to break the machinery, to train the team in overcoming a polynya (opening in the ice) several times, to drill the extraction of the first vehicle that broke the field of fresh ice. To make historical photos and videos. SO FAR, satellite communication systems are working excellently, we’ll see what will happen further to the north.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye
Today 100 km were covered in 5 hours of driving. Zastrugi (snow ridges) and heavy trailers do not allow moving faster. The weather is good, the spring is felt. We took 300 liters of fuel in Gjoa Haven, this is more than needed, but we hope for real adventures, and in this case it is better to prepare soundly. This morning I spoke with local hunters; the bears are already coming out and bringing the kids out. Footprints of a nursing mother of size 67 in the snow and next to them – a couple of chains of footprints the size of a dollar coin look very touching. All day today we are driving over a snowmobile trail, during the day we saw a dozen snowmobiles, in short, it is a highway by local standards. The distance to Taloyoak is 45 km, communication with Zurab was just before now, he is already there, the permission to cross the Boothia Peninsula over the lands owned by the community was received. Tomorrow before noon we will take on board him and the hunter who will help Zurab to keep circular defense against bears. They are rumored to be extremely cunning and insidious here. The vehicles play almost no pranks, the evil spirits in the form of air pockets in the cooling systems of blue and yellow vehicles were driven away finally, and the business is looking quite well.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
The weather has improved, it has got colder, the sky is clear. Two nights will be spent in the hotel. We tidied ourselves, reviewed the satellite images of the area. They adequately show the condition of the ice. A meeting was held in the evening, we discussed further plans; there are two of them – to move north to Fort Ross along either the eastern or the western coast of the Boothia Peninsula. It depends upon the state of the ice and on the permission of Taloyoak village community council to cross the peninsula over their land. The plans for tomorrow are: to tinker a little in the vehicles, and construct a bracket for the ice radar. The material is available, the work is a short one. We calculated the fuel consumption, it is 25 L / 100 km. Not bad at all for off-road driving with a trailer, quite satisfactory.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
On the previous day the Internet gave a forecast (our thanks to Elon Musk), wind up to 8 m/s, -18°C, light snowfall. The working people calmly went to bed, and in the morning everything matched the forecast, but with a slight adjustment: the whiteout, or “belaya mgla” in Russian. This is a state of the atmosphere when there are no shadows, and we cannot see the terrain. Those who understand will sympathize. Slowly, but steadily we drove till 10 a.m., when thermostat failed in the red vehicle. The crew had two hours for replacement, all the rest had a lunch and browsing over the Internet. The times of personal contact have fallen into oblivion. Again driving by instruments, almost no visibility, the wind has increased. Yesterday the idea of driving at night was discussed, but the team apprehended it without enthusiasm, and I did not insist. Being led by the staff was not the best choice, I will bear it in mind for the future. The terrain is: ice fields mixed with ridges of hummocks, overcoming which in the absence of visibility causes extra efforts. When riding across one of such ridges, the drive shaft of the right front wheel on the blue vehicle was damaged. We stop, replace the item. The time is 4 p.m., the passed distance by this time is 40 km. Not much. At 6 p.m. we continued driving in the whiteout. With the onset of darkness, in the beam of headlights the world took shape again, and our caravan moved forward much more cheerfully than before. We drove in shifts, and by 5 a.m. were already close to our goal. The conclusion: if there is a probability of whiteout, it is necessary to drive without stopping whenever possible. In the morning of the 9th of April we were already in Gjoa Haven () – this is how the name looks in the Inuit language. The village was named after the schooner of the famous polar explorer R. Amundsen who spent winter here in search of the Northwest Passage.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
The first full day of the ride. The distance covered today: 175 km. Little by little, we are getting used to the travel. We are heading east along the Victoria Strait. The weather is good. The state of ice is varying from small zastrugi to hummocks of average nastiness. This is good, the conditions are close to real, and fuel consumption can be regarded as credible. The vehicles are moving well enough; Alexey Zaitsev (the red vehicle) by form of tradition comes to us in the green vehicle with complaints that all the time the towing capability of his vehicle is worse. Zurab has got the first and unforgettable experience of working with peshnya (ice chisel), he has split an ice block and overcame the obstacle. In the afternoon, the skid that we had constructed for towing the ice radar broke down. The polyethylene of blue barrels, which seemed to me very resilient in the cold, failed to endure the endless bumps and blows against rigid zastrugi and ice blocks and broke down. By the next year, we will try to tackle the problem and think up how to do better. We, at least the crew of our vehicle, do not eat up the planned food ration, a kilogram of foodstuff per person per day. The distance remaining to Gjoa Haven is 190 km; I think we should get there by midday of April the 9th.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
There is a full moon tonight, it's nice to howl at it, the time now is such that you need not restrain your temper, people will understand. The crew members are slowly gathering, Alexey Safonov arrived yesterday, a gentleman positive in all respects, a yacht skipper, a pilot of motorless flying vehicles. He came from Thailand, tanned, but with noticeable signs of fatigue from excessive sun. Making no secret, he rejoices the invigorating frost (-30°C, as usual), the romantic landscape of the ice desert, the upcoming travel, the dog choir in the evenings. He is in the project from the very beginning, participated in the tests of the green vehicle, that time we drove along the beds of frozen streams in the Ural taiga, spent the night in a hunter’s hut, a Russian bath, submersion in an ice hole, everything as it should be. He mastered the driving of ATV quickly, as well as polar nomadic way of life. He rides in the vehicle with the doctor; he is the organizer of the space. He is in charge of cooking fish soup and stroganina. He keeps a log of technical stops, the guideline document for further enhancement of our machinery.
The representatives of Taloyoak community visited us yesterday. We discussed the route with them, received some useful advice. We have to drive a short distance through the territory of their community, which requires careful consideration of the issue by the local council. The attitude to nature is reverent, and it deserves respect. We have not lost hope of obtaining the permit yet, so tomorrow we depart. 450 km to Gjoa Haven, then 150 km to Taloyoak.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
One more participant of the project arrived yesterday – Andrew Comrie-Pikard, a Canadian citizen living in Los Angeles, an adventurer, a well-known racing driver in the recent past, but now he likes to drive over the city in "Tin Lizzie" owned by him. He brought a Starlink terminal, now we’ll turn over a new leaf.
Three of us are flying in different directions today, the doctor and I – to Resolute to bring back the equipment left there last spring, while Andrew – to Taloyoak, a neighboring settlement not far away, and five hundred kilometers to the east. His task is a political one: to charm the local habitants and get the permission for driving our caravan over the private territory of this community. Both missions are one-day trips, back home by dinnertime.
It is Monday. On such a day, the best thing is telling about the doctor.
Doctor Larin started with teaching strength of materials, but fate led him with a bony hand over the tortuous canyon of life, and - voila! Now he is a doctor of Himalayan expeditions, climbed to the top of Everest six times, visited both poles of the planet and traveled to all mountain regions of the world with mountaineering expeditions. In our expedition, besides medicine, he is responsible for nutrition. It (the nutrition) is in dependable hands, the weight gain of the members is fantastic. Everybody are persuading themselves and each other that we will immediately return to former gracefulness of shape as soon as we start off, I have heard this mantra many times; tested on myself – it does not work. By the iron hand of the chief of the travel, I limited the daily ration of the workers to one kilogram. The weigh scales were bought, even graduated in kilograms. Canada is a metric country since 1970, but the process slowed down at the start, and complete transition will take another 150-200 years. Many containers, boxes and other tare for foodstuff were bought, the porch of the house where the doctor and I live is full of them, and in the morning, instead of physical exercises, it's nice to grab a container frozen at -30°C and hit against the corner of the house. This is called a crash test. The doctor himself can't practise vandalism, his psychology does not allow it, so I have to do this. After writing a diary, it is necessary to devote a minute to creativity.
However, returning to the hero: he is a bachelor, likes steam bath, does not like (absolutely) germs and bacteria, and therefore he is always rich in ethanol. Prevention of virus diseases and colds in the working collective is at due height.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
Local dogs are lying on the snow with bellies up, taking sunbath. I have got a friend named Dumpy, having such fur that if he is thrown into water, it won't get to the skin. At noontime the horn in heard in the settlement as in the good old days, it's time for lunch. At this moment the canine community starts singing backup, giving rise to associations with Smoke Bellew from the childhood.
On Monday Dr. Larin and I are flying to Resolute and back in one day to return the equipment left there. Last year we departed from Resolute urgently, hurrying to Icelandic colleagues who had lost their vehicle. Now the starting point of the Arctic stage is relocated from Resolute to Cambridge Bay for safety reasons, therefore we will compose the caravans here.
Well, the next person in the queue for dissection is Konstantin Gavrilov. Today's hero is a robust man, nourished to appropriate measure, in the full prime of life, rigorous on the outside, mellow inside. He is married, the daughter is a student possessing the energy of a nuclear reactor. In ordinary life Konstantin is engaged in the production of all-terrain vehicles much larger in size than ours. He is not too talkative, but if he says something, then with real expression. An experienced hunter, he is our only hope the next year, when polar bears yearning for rare expeditions will fuss around our caravans with grub. Many of them can read quite well; in one of the travels, it was enough to write «LARD» on a barrel, and they always went straight to it. Konstantin actively participated in the preparation of our vehicles for the Antarctic travel, so he knows the hardware well. He drives the green vehicle. Like many in our crew, he likes stroganina from noble fish breeds whole-heartedly. He is a man of wide reading, capable to hear his opponent's arguments in disputes, a rare property nowadays. The perception of life in particular and of the universe as a whole is unbiased.
That's how the matters are. Yours, V.Ye.
The activity in the workshop is moving on, the skid for science is finished, and, professing the principle "every thing in the travel must be multifunctional," the doctor manifested a revolutionary and innovative idea to the masses: it is a platform for mobile lavatory!
Fascinated by the scale and depth of the idea, the people gasped, and it remains only to "make a fairy tale become true." I will report the results to the readers later.
Now, about the people: Anton Ershov is next in the queue. The gentleman is anything but simple; indeed, a person who penetrated the secrets of electricity can hardly be simple. In ordinary life he is also no match for us, he travels with his wife around the planet on BMW motorcycles; the attitude towards automobiles, a plebeian means of transportation, is that of slight contempt. Actually, the family does have a car, namely Daewoo Matiz, with body parts of different colors obtained from a dismantling site, with speedometer which displays 150 km/h at actual speed of 100 km/h; I regard it as a smart psychological finding, and secondly, it trains visual evaluation when driving in the operational area of traffic control cameras. The vehicle does not arouse any interest in the traffic police, which is not only pleasant, but also useful feature. Anton, the author of all the electric systems in our ATVs, at the same time is so democratic that he can afford to do even such work as, for example, jacking up a vehicle, or even venting the brakes. In short, a powerful figure. He is also responsible for the operation of the ice radar and satellite communications with the Mainland. Despite the burden of responsibility, his gait, and his character also, are still light.
Such are our people. V.Ye.
The hero of my today's opus is Alexey Dubinin, a workaholic mechanic, aka a businessman, co-owner of a solid company. Line of activities - construction and cargo transportation. Though in ordinary life he is a CEO, it does not in the smallest degree hamper his ability of masterly operating any machinery occurring on his way, be it an excavator, scraper, fork lift, etc. During the construction of our ATVs, he rendered invaluable assistance in selection of the most diverse parts, including rare ones. He was so fascinated with our project that set off with us without hesitation, leaving his enterprise to the care of his assistants. As a mechanic, he is very meticulous; any job he tackles with is performed as if it were assembling flying vehicles. A sound gentleman. As for shortcomings, due to modest stature, the fuel reserves in his organism run out earlier than in the others, hence refueling is needed more often. The doctor knows this and compensates whenever possible. Today Alexey finished installing the engine in the green vehicle; it was dismantled for replacing the gearbox. As a rule, he is the last who leaves the workshop - proper attitude for long travels. Well, that's enough, I suppose, or else nothing will remain to write about the other crew members.
Emil Grimsson, an Icelander known for his polar automobile expeditions in high latitudes, both in northern and southern hemisphere, arrived from Yellowknife by airplane today. He came to meet his men escorting the "Electric Nissan, from pole to pole". Emil is a many-sided person; he is one of the organizers of our expedition as well. Soon the electric people will be back, and we will listen with bated breath to stories about the difficulties and hardships of polar travel on electric traction.
That's how the matters are. V.Ye.
As promised, I am depicting the participants.
Alexey Zaitsev - age 40 years, married, an ecstatic father, slim, which is highly appreciated by the crew due to limited living space. He embodies a rare combination of an engineer and a highly qualified worker, be it welding, turning work or something else. Presently he and Konstantin Alexandrovich are constructing a skid for the ice radar, working for high-level science. When performing creative tasks, Alexey relapses into ardour of perfectionism, and sometimes it is not easy to pull him out of this state painlessly; as a rule, only a new creative task helps. He and his father, also Alexey by name, took the most active part in Emelya project almost from the very beginning. Alexey Jr. is from Dnepropetrovsky region of Ukraine by origin; the climate there is much warmer, but, as he admits, he is ready to endure the cold when there is a group of men who are pleasant to you and who, moreover, are absolutely crazy about the idea of riding in places where it is impossible to ride. On the question: "What's the use of it?" Cyrano de Bergerac answered long ago by saying, in a moment of enlightenment, the immortal: "what is useless, is twice as wonderful", and he knew what he was talking about, I daresay. In addition to "useless", we also want to render unselfish help to glaciological science. Therefore, our trip is not only harmful, but also useful.
Now, a bit of prose. The red vehicle has passed full maintenance, it is ready for the trip, in the evening the volunteers will drive out on the ice to "catch" a round with the skid on its tail, to see how it will feel itself. The yellow vehicle was taken from the airport hangar, there is a list of defects identified last year, we are eliminating them.
That's how the matters are. V.Ye.
We are fiddling with the vehicles, they always have something to hack upon because perfection has no limits. The green one requires gearbox replacement, it hinted that it's high time to retire. Besides, there are creative tasks as well - to construct a skid for the ice radar. The requirements are simple: it shall have amphibious capability, fit in the trail of the ATV, have the same ground clearance as the ATV, and contain as little metal in the design as possible in order not to interfere with radar operation. We make it of plastic barrels, on the principle of a catamaran. Life will show how viable our brainchild is. Life always shows everything and teaches everything, but, regrettably, sometimes it does it too late.
In the morning, our electrical colleagues from «Nissan Pole to Pole» fixed the blades of the wind generator mounted on a telescopic mast installed on a trailer and set off in a beautiful cavalcade towards adventures. Rotor diameter is no less than 4 meters. It will charge the electric car batteries with energy. The main thing is: to solicit from Mother Nature as much wind as possible. The super-task is: to reach the location of North magnetic pole as of the year 1920 (it is permanently shifting, and at that time was not far away, estimating by local scale), and return back self-sufficiently, which alone is worthy of all respect.
As for the rest, everything is as usual: stroganina of delicious white fish for dinner, a thimble of vodka - actually, it is Sunday - and warm-hearted conversations about spare parts.
Next time I'll start telling about our men, whose restless natures drive someone to high mountains, the other - to high latitudes, though, frankly speaking, in my opinion, their motivation is uncomplicated, not to say primitive. You get sick and tired of tumbling in the cold and wind with wrenches under the vehicle, and returning back home you feel like in paradise ... for two or three weeks, and then it's high time to get off again to refresh the acuity of existence in your memory. That's how they burn the candle at both ends.
That's how the matters are. V.Ye.
At night, two escort cars arrived from Yellowknife as part of the project «Electric Nissan conquers the magnetic pole». Not without adventures: due to snowless winter, the rocky sections of the route were often difficult for them, something got broken, was repaired, they drove further. Attaboy, they managed to get through. The handsome Nissan got to Cambridge Bay, as befits a genuine ATV, by air. Further on it will go on its own. The newcomers are three-axis F-350 6x6 Fords, reputable vehicles, incredible power is felt in everything. We will be watching with interest.
Today I was the winner of the brainstorming session on the topic: «where is our fifth trailer», because in the hangar at the airport we discovered:
But we have FIVE trailers! An airport employee named Randy, when I asked whether he had seen the fifth trailer, replied that yes, he had, a man arrived on a pickup truck and took it away. All of our people breathed a sigh of relief: it was stolen, the solitaire is out. The brainstorming session - where to search for it - started. We choose the logical way, as in the famous Ryazanov's film "A light steam". As a result of superhuman tension of the neurons remaining in my head, I suddenly realized that the trailer being searched for is quietly standing in the hangar, not in Cambridge Bay, but in Resolute where we have left it. I just managed to break the matrix earlier than the others. They don't steal here. And the guy with the pickup truck has taken something of his own, but he played the role of a smoke screen. Well, let us break the matrix further on. Tomorrow is Saturday, but in violation of all the basic laws of the universe, we will work.
That's how the matters are. V.Ye.
We flew by Beechcraft 1900D aircraft, quite comfortably, the pilots were two gentlemen wearing technician overalls, about 21-22 years old. The landing was performed skillfully. The weather is clear, invigorating; the hangar with our vehicles and all the junk is nearby. The first thing I did was: rushing to my barrel, taking out my cap with earflaps and the felt boots. Daniela who met us was wearing a baseball cap despite -28°C, while I was searching for cap with earflaps - what a shame, as Shvonder, the chairman of the house committee, used to say. We settled in, everything is organized perfectly, many thanks to Cedric. During the hunt with camera for movie plots, Maxim met a boy of 8 years old on the street, and in course of conversation the boy told that he was following our expedition on the Internet, and dreamed of being among the participants. Once we met a similar wonderful boy in Yar-Sale village on Yamal, he persuaded his mother to subscribe to «4x4 All-wheel drive» magazine just because it published our diaries. In the evening, finally fried nelma (white salmon), then hot-tempered discussion of the problem of composition of foodstuff barrels in the caravans, and the associated problem of petty theft by the members from the barrels of what the soul desires, and the soul always desires something tasty. As everyone knows, the doctor's mood starts to deteriorate due to this, and then it may develop into depression... The problem is serious indeed; during this trip we will try to solve it using different methods, in order to arrange a simple and convenient system for foodstuff packing before start of the big travel.
Wonderful weather. Sunny, windless, -21°C. Morning. During breakfast, Sergey Larin told me confidentially that due to joy caused by occurrence of a spare day, his skin stopped cracking on the grounds of nervousness. Perhaps in the bright future this method will be employed for treating skin diseases, and other diseases as well. We are also welcome in the Buffalo Air company; one enters their hangar, and the mouth stretches into a smile from the sight of different planes standing on the floor, suspended under the ceiling tiny hydroplanes on which they fly to fishing places in summer. We immerse in the atmosphere of goodwill and wish to help. Tonight Zurab leaves by car for Edmonton (1600 km), he will arrange lathing of some items, take something for the Arctic Truck pickup, and will return right away - an iron man, in one word. The purchased fish is of delicatessen sort. When we asked Zurab to get us some game, he said - no problem, we may get venison, ox and even buffalo meat, so it seems that we will not be hungry.
We spent the previous day on the road: Toronto-Vancouver-Yellowknife. In Yellowknife we lodge in the same hotel as last year, we were recognized, we are welcome. This day will become one of the most delightful in the expedition, but we don't know that yet. Laborious hustling around for foodstuffs, packing of all purchased items, time is spare, we are nervous, and suddenly, in course of one of the conversations with Cedric (he is the chief of the project, in particular, responsible for all flights), it turns out that we are leaving one day later than expected, so, we have a spare day. This is called «collective catharsis», fate grants unforgettable moments sometimes!
Doctor is nervous: long life on the road has definitely consolidated his conviction that one should expect only bad development of events, and if this does not happen, then the probability of trouble will only grow with time. Actually Doctor trusts only himself, and even then not completely. As we approach Cambridge Bay which is the starting point of our travel, the nervousness is leaving him also. It is a training trip this year, we will keep a wary eye on fuel consumption, food expenditure and then make conclusions, so that next year we start the main travel with minimum load weight, while having everything we need. A very important and difficult task will be the setup of stable and, if possible, fast Internet connection. That's how the matters are. Till next communication session in Yellowknife.
Continuation of shopping, purchasing fish from the Slave Lake using e-commerce (thanks to Covid), making dried crusts. We bought real rye bread in a Polish store, chopped it into small pieces, and now the bread spirit reigns in our rooms, and all horizontal surfaces (except the floor) are occupied by the future delicatessen. I phoned Christian Haas, the well-known glaciologist from the Alfred Wegener Institute. In the evening we are dining together. He takes active part in our project, brought an ice radar for measuring ice thickness. Later I will write more about this interesting and useful instrument.
Hotel. The people around are quite common, without any traces of scalping and other knifing. In the morning, regardless of the 7-hour, and for someone even 10-hour time lag, we set for work, the most difficult and unpleasant sort for a man's heart - roaming from one shop to another with lists of foodstuffs, tools and many other necessary rubbish. Doing this in a Toronto suburb is much easier than in Constantinople: local architecture and tincture will not drive to ecstasy gradually turning into a heart attack or apoplexy, so one is not distracted from the assignment.
More than 11 hours in the airplane is no trifle. However, closer to the end of the flight, Greenland appeared on the right side, magnificent landscape of exceptional beauty, not like those at the hotel. Mountains sparkling in the sun, glaciers and the sea with ice floes. I walked along the cabin, our group members were dozing; at first I wanted to wake them up, offer them to have a look, but then I thought: why should I share such beauty, let it be only mine, maybe I'll tell them later, in a moment of weakness… This time our group somehow did not arouse any suspicions in the border guard officer, and after learning that we are heading further to Nunavut he completely lost interest in us, and we left for Canada even somewhat slightly disappointed.
The weather is good, +5°C. Late in the evening yesterday the mechanics, operator Maxim, Doctor and your obedient servant met at the hotel. In the morning we were busy buying samples of various little things for testing; after lunch doctor Larin released us to have a last nip of Byzantine culture before submersion for almost two months into North American reality. The doctor is a person with razor-sharp sense of responsibility, he cannot afford wasting time on sighs like «oh, what kind of life those people had...». Our hotel is located near a plastic surgery clinic, and our group stands out unpleasantly from the majority of the hotel guests by having no scars encircling the head, or plasters on the noses, - in general, by plebeian carelessness in regard of our appearance. Well, we are just tractor drivers, it can be seen with unaided eye.
Test Drive Diary - 2022
Morning. 5.00. It's dark. Yesterday we made good progress to the west, and the time on my watch ceased to correspond to the daylight. But captain's word is law, hence - reveille, and no objections. The finish line is not far; therefore, as a preventive measure against the evil eye, we filled the water tank with snow, knowing that in this case the chances of avoiding road troubles increase significantly. And if you only say, or just think loudly, that nothing is needed and we will be at the hotel soon - then all is lost. In the morning we filled thermos flasks with boiling water in order to warm up the radiator of the yellow vehicle, but it got started immediately with half a turn - out of spite, of course. We begin to regard the vehicles as animate beings, this is a kind of medical symptom already. Dawn broke. On a small frozen lake we stopped in order to practice retrieval of the vehicle from water to ice. Of course, it is an imitation only, because liquid water in freshwater lakes cannot be reached in winter in this blessed region. Superfluous tests are never superfluous, and our case has confirmed this statement. The tip of a new ice anchor bent under good tension, Zaitsev made a cutting of it with a gentle hand, and everything worked. It was found out that the steel tips of "Λ"-shaped pillars are too long, and one of them bent in hard freshwater ice, even though it was made of high-grade steel; again cutting, it's a useful thing after all! It worked! As for the rest, everything was fine: the manly faces of polar nomads in the rays of the rising sun, the operator working with risk of amputation of his frozen fingers, turning the handle of his device in ecstasy, Andrey Ivanovich inspiringly introducing TV viewers to our future feat. By 11:00 the body of the author of these lines, exhausted by important tests, together with the entire caravan was delivered to Cambridge Bay, where our run of this year was finished.
That's how the matters are. With greetings from the glorious province of Nunavut, yours, V. Ye.
I wake everyone up at 5 o'clock in the morning, and moreover, according to the time of a different time zone which suits us better in regard of the coming dawn. The team members are not delighted about this, while I have senile insomnia. I am shy to tell everyone about it and use it for sordid motives, let them think that I have iron will and that sort of things. After ritual dances with gas burners around the radiators, we departed. Today the road is merrier, once I even accelerated the green oldie to 60 km/h. But it is just to remember youth. We have trailers on our tails, and high science, the ice radar, so, we need to be frugal. Anyway, our task is to arrive to Cambridge Bay and prepare the vehicles for the main travel of the next year. By the evening I experienced driving the Ford, the poor thing is riding over snow with great difficulty, the pressure on the ground is too big compared to our vehicles. Andrey Ivanovich sat to the right from me (we changed his patronymic for the correct one, as his middle name is John), the conversation turned out to be interesting again.
So, in informative conversations, another day disappeared in the darkness of times.
With greetings, V. Ye.
No wind, clear, - 32°C. In the morning, for the purpose of fighting with frost, we start by warming up the engine radiator and the power steering cooler with a gas burner, only then the engine is started. Today is the day of riding over sleeping policemen. There are about 10 policemen (snow ridges) for every hundred meters of the route. For a daily run of 165 km, we calculate the number of policemen who got under my wheels - 16500. In the afternoon we had to replace a wheel on the Ford, a cut tire. There was a sharp stone somewhere. The ice radar got loose on the brackets, perhaps that is the revenge on behalf of the policemen. We tightened the fasteners and drive further on.
That's how the matters are. V. Ye.
Problems in the morning with the engine cooling fluid and power steering fluid - it thickened, froze. We lost about an hour while warming up with a burner. In the evening we passed the time with Andrew (who was renamed into Andrey Evgenievich), Maxim and Zaitsev. We drank a sip of vodka, ate sliced frozen nelma (stroganina). It's scary even to think what might have happened to us without this simple and healthy food - maybe scurvy, and in whole - complete turning savage and, as a consequence, final loss of human appearance. During the meal Andrew and I discussed the problems of school education: whose methodology is better - Montessori or Steiner, we recollected Irvine and Mallory who disappeared on the slopes of Mount Everest in 1924 - all in all, there was no shortage of topical themes for gentlemen sitting in a nomadic waggon in the middle of ice desert. We were very lucky to have Andrey Evgenievich (Andrew) as a companion, he is a former racing driver, understands excellently the machinery, intricacy in the operation of aggregates at low temperatures. We are staying opposite to Bellot Strait, the key section of the entire Northwest Passage. Just 35-40 km to the east of us, at the other end of the strait, two huts of Hudson Bay Company are located, the Fort Ross. But now we are in a hurry, maybe next time we will get there to touch history. We are examining closely the satellite images sent to us by Emil, we will go to the zone which looks darker in the picture in order to measure ice thickness, perhaps it is thinner there. We set off. We measure. 173 cm. Hence, the finding: in order to determine even roughly the ice thickness from satellite image, we still have to learn and learn. Black zones mean open water. While dark-gray zones are a puzzle, whether it is smooth ice, without hummocks, or it is ice of different thickness. It is still about 80 km to the place of the Ford's wreck. About four o'clock in the afternoon we arrive to the place of the accident. There is a narrow, a kilometer and a half, strait between islands, and a strip of thin (15 cm) ice in it. In my opinion, it is difficult to understand and explain where this trap came from and how it was formed. If only the current has washed the ice from below. The vehicle is lying at a depth of about eight meters, it is perfectly visible. We took pictures of it, drove up to the surviving pickup. We messed for some time with starting its engine, refueled and drove further on. Green vehicle first, followed by red vehicle with ice radar on the tail, and then the Ford. After short wrangling, we decided to divide heroism with Andrey Evgenievich by half. At first I drive for a little, then he. So, in troubles and worries, another working day passed.
Yours, V. Ye.
We departed from Resolute only at 14.00, while the schedule was - immediately after breakfast. The expedition, as it is. In a day, or rather in half a day, we covered 102 km. The weather is clear, the wind has calmed down completely by evening. We drive over our old trail back to Cambridge Bay. The day before yesterday the wind was very strong, it created a lot of snow ridges (zastrugi), and we are riding across the troughs, as usual in this life. We were given a box of delicious food for the road from the canteen of Resolute hotel, even cans with crab meat and other tasty meals. Today we drilled ice and compared its thickness with the readings of the instrument. The measurements match perfectly, the radar works excellent at ice thickness of about 1 m. Later we will test its operation on other thicknesses. This is of high priority for us in the context of evacuation of the Ford that stays in the zone of problematic ice thickness. So, our science activities are not only academic and fundamental, but also applied. This fact increases our self-assessment, but, seemingly, only in our own eyes.
With compliments, V. Ye.
Our tasks have changed, we need to leave in Resolute every thing without which we can get to Cambridge Bay and return back. This applies to spare parts as well as to foodstuff. The work is tedious, especially the doctor's work, with foodstuff, but for us it is also not easy to guess - what should be left and what should be taken with us. The doctor, with subtle humor typical for him, asserted the idea that the other Ford with the trailer that remained at the accident site will not stay there till our arrival, it will be stolen. We leave in Resolute one trailer and tires, we take only two spare assembled tires. The doctor leaves a mountain of food. We launder our clothes preparing for the sea; considering the circumstances, it is better to be in clean shirts in case of emergency. Our task now is to get to the accident site, to document everything as scrupulously as possible, and take the surviving Ford with us (if, beyond expectations, it is not stolen yet). Everyone wants to show heroism and queue up in the desire to become its driver. I am thinking over the sequence of movement of the vehicles aimed at the highest safety for the heavy Ford. Green vehicle will go first, followed by ATV with ice radar on a trailer, then the pickup. We will drill the ice a couple of times, compare it with the readings of the instrument and, hopefully, everything will click into place.
That's how the matters are. V. Yelagin from Resolute settlement.
Vikings on the Fords departed back to Cambridge Bay - Yellowknife today at 10.30.
While we headed to the garage, to rest. The yellow vehicle was overheating yesterday, the driver was enthusiastic driving on smooth fast ice. Things happen. I hope no consequences will follow. The day passed in bustle, as usual, then dinner, sleep. At 0.30 - knock on the door. Andrew and Maxim came with news not of the best quality. At about 22.30 the blue Ford, in which Torfi was the driver, broke the ice and got drowned. Torfi and Brandon, the hunter, managed to jump out. The Fords drove over our old trail. All the night we were in the dark about the situation. Emil Grimsson took all coordination upon himself. The accident occurred in the middle of the route from Resolute to Cambridge Bay, about 450 km away from us. For our ATVs it would be a 20-hour journey. We didn't know what equipment they had - sleeping bags, a tent, whether they could make a hot drink for themselves. The vehicle that got drowned was the second on the route; the first vehicle with a trailer managed to pass the bad place, but disturbed the ice, its integrity. The weather in the morning was very windy, but in the middle of the day the guys were safely taken off by helicopter. Now it is possible to say "Welcome to Canada" again, but this time in a tonality that is radically different. Since that moment the rush for us was finished, as well as our plans to look for adventures and open water in the northwest of the Canadian archipelago. It became clear that by the time of the main travel the core of the team will have to be taken aboard in Cambridge Bay, since it is problematic to guarantee safe passing of the section Cambridge Bay - Resolute on vehicles that do not have positive buoyancy. It should be added that the condition of snow during our journey was, if not ideal, definitely more than merciful. And snow is the substance that causes the most trouble to vehicles of Arctic trucks class. And remember that the core of the team will have to be delivered by a certain date at the beginning of the main travel. Most important is that the humans remained unharmed, the bear did not bother them, apparently, it was just rambling nearby, so this time things settled safely again.
That's how the matters are. With kind regards, V. Ye.
Mike became older, he no longer works in his wooden workshop, lives in a modest house, but is as cheerful and merry as before. We were accommodated in a good hotel, much more comfortable than in 2013 and 2014. The food is excellent. A cold workshop was provided for maintenance and storage of the vehicles till the next year. The workshop has powerful diesel-fueled heat guns that make noise like a jet plane with afterburner, but they warm this hangar successfully.
The Vikings will depart for Cambridge Bay tomorrow. While we'll rest for half a day, and then go to the garage to service the vehicles. The doctor will sort the products, and we shall sort spare parts and gear. In a couple of days we are planning to drive to northwest in search of open water and adventures. Accommodation in the hotel by rooms: Andrew, I and the doctor, Obikhod with Maxim and Boris, four tractor drivers in one cell. The weather is windy (if mildly speaking), it is cold. An impudent arctic fox lives under the hotel building, it is reasonable: a place abundant with food, close to containers with canteen wastes. In the evening Zaitsev's camera recorded the creature trying to get into our vehicle for food confiscation purposes. He failed to open the door, and besides he was too small. We have plenty of foodstuff, and we could feed the rascal, but environmental science strictly forbids that. Therefore, the warmth, light and kindness that our team carries with care in our calloused souls on our long-suffering, but still wonderful planet, will have to be granted entirely to representatives of our species.
That's how the matters are. V. Ye.
The thermometer shows - 35°C, however, polar explorer Zaitsev asserts that it is "twoscore", no less. He is hurrying up everybody to depart. Zaitsev has a strong motivation: the hunter sleeps in their vehicle, and to say simply that he snores is to say nothing. In Resolute our route and his route will diverge, and the workers of high latitudes will be relieved.
A leak appeared in the low-pressure hose of power steering of the yellow vehicle. It's plain terror: we bought in Toronto the most frost-resistant ATF, but it freezes already at 30 degrees below zero. On the average, our caravan of six vehicles is at a stop for about 1.5 hours a day due to repairs, because each cart wants to break down separately from the others. Most often the failures are minor ones, but the sum of downtime is quite substantial.
The weather is excellent. We saw a mother bear with two cubs, she is as lean as a cover girl, it seems that these two scamps are taking all the prey for themselves. They were curious, approached us to a distance of 20-30 meters. We made plenty of photos. By the evening we got stuck among the hummocks; Andrew persuaded me to try driving during dark hours; I agreed due to my cordial foible, we lost an hour and a half, passed 1 km and stopped for the night. In the morning, after climbing on the roof, I looked around, and in 20 minutes we were on flat ice, and an hour later we arrived to Resolute. Morning, evening, I hope that the rest you know yourself...
That's how the matters are. Yours V. Ye.
Last evening's meal: nelma liver and nelma caviar on a frying pan, 50 grams of whiskey, all in all - a modest proletarian dinner. The Vikings have sandwiches. We sympathize for them.
The morning is misty today, visibility approx. 100 m. We start moving among middle-grade hummocks. Then the terrain got more cheerful - good fast ice, Torfi was leading again (when there is no visibility they usually let me be the leader, our vehicles have a much better field of view), we covered 210 km in a day, lost two hours fiddling with the Ford's drive shaft. Viking Ayo demonstrated that spiritually he is like a Russian: he lies patiently under the vehicle which is supported only by the jack. Andrew Picard, at my suggestion, persuaded the fatalist to use our prop. All ended well. The evening is windless, it's mere resort here. Gavrilov salted one and a half kilos of fish in the evening. How could we manage without it! And poor, poor Maxim Badulin!
We are driving along the border of time zones, electronic devices switch from one time to another and back. By joint strain of mental efforts we set the alarm clock, but it did not work properly - this rascal rang as if at 4 o'clock, while actually it was only three. I made a decision to look only at the ordinary wristwatch, it is not prone to such trifles. After all, we are like chickens: it's the dawn that is important to us rather than the exact time. IMHO, we are not in China, where the whole country lives according to Beijing time, and nothing doing, they reproduce themselves successfully.
That's how the matters are. Till next communication session. V. Ye.
Yesterday we drove over hummocked ice (i.e. pressure ridges) for the first time. Hummock severity is about two scores by a five-score scale. The Fords move well, on the fields of smooth ice they outdrive us like a rocket. While we are driving slowly, especially the red vehicle, because the ice radar named after Christian Haas, the reputed glaciologist, is attached to its trailer. The radar is fixed on the rear side of the trailer on a bracket one and a half meters long, and there is a risk of breaking it when crossing ridges of hummocks. My vehicle, the green one, carries not only Konstantin Alexandrovich Gavrilov, but also the operator, Maxim Vasilyevich Badulin. He is a gentleman pleasant in all respects, and he pleased us still more with the news that fish is not his favorite meal. In the evening, upon completion of the creative process of perpetuating our feat, looking into the vehicle and asking what we have for dinner, he hears our joyful chorus - fish! Nelma, or inconnu, or Siberian white salmon, is a meal of the tsars, but "Generation P" prefers Rollton quick-cooking noodles. Most of the foodstuffs purchased by Dr. Larin to support the vital activity of the team are completely unsuitable (to our great despair). It is not the doctor's fault, he tried his best, but it is a different continent, and local concepts of delicious and healthy food are very different from European perceptions. And we could not bring our habitual foodstuffs, because the local customs inspectors are vigilant.
Everything goes not bad, we covered almost 200 km in a day, but God willing if only 120 km in the right direction. The ice radar indicates ice thickness from 1 to 2 meters. We saw a bear's trail, but we are not afraid, since we have a hunter with us. We rented a gun together with him in Cambridge Bay.
All the best, and keep in touch. V. Ye.
In the evening we drove into the glorious town of Cambridge Bay. The strong snowstorm has brought many refined shapes to the architectural appearance of this outpost of civilization on our way to the North. One can't see much in the darkness, and the day was long and laborious; therefore, right after aristocratic dinner consisting of a burger with a cutlet and a shower, we went to bed. The morning of the 17th greeted us by usual invigorating frost around 30°C with wind. The hangar workshop was furnished to us by Chris, an incredibly friendly, active and smart man in the plenitude of his power. Our lodging is located about 15 meters from the place of work, so the conditions for full-fledged rest of the workers are perfect.
People like Chris completely overturn the stereotyped opinion in Russia about Americans and Canadians as people with formal fixed smiles. By the way, a small trait: one of our guys was messing outdoors with the trailer; a stranger driving by on a snowmobile stopped, climbed over the snow ridge, helped, wished success and departed. Actually, nothing new - the higher the latitude, the better and more friendly is the attitude of humans to each other.
Regarding the vehicles: checking the hub assemblies, tightening of fasteners, replacing the ATF in the power steering with a more frost-resistant grade. The wheels: two discs having leakage through the weld seams were re-welded and painted.
We spent the second night in warmth and with sewage. In the middle of the day, some individuals came to the idea that it would be not bad to have a third overnight stay here... I suppressed the faint-heartedness with an iron hand, and at 17:00, in the rays of the setting sun, our chins proudly raised, we left the glorious town where you are greeted from every vehicle passing by, and moreover, the policemen do not notice the absence of license plates on our self-propelled vehicles.
That's how the matters are. Yours V. Ye.
Yesterday evening we arrived to Cambridge Bay. The day turned out to be a creative one, there was strong wind and snowfall in the morning, visibility appeared and disappeared from time to time. The distance remained to Bathurst Inlet was about 50 km over quite rough terrain with valleys separated by rocky ridges, with slopes of various steepness. The task of crossing them in the absence of visibility did not invoke much inspiration in our souls. But the Highest knows better whom to help in their endeavors, and at the right moment the visibility appeared to some or other extent, and finally by midday we got to the sea ice. In the afternoon, having left behind about 200 kilometers already, we expected to get to hot water supply by 6-7 p.m., but... "Welcome to Canada", strong wind has arose, and in conditions of zero visibility (sometimes it improved to 5-7 meters), staring at the navigator screen with one eye and at the windshield with the other, so that, in case of luck, to notice an ice block in time, pass it by, or at least minimize the blow, driving "by instruments" we arrived to the glorious village of Cambridge Bay. In the evening I went to the doctor, with a humble request to portion some ethanol for the purpose of treating strabismus, but the healing liquid was dosed in ruthlessly insufficient quantity. As is well known, selflessness in Russia is encouraged abundantly, but only verbally. In the middle of the strait, 15 kilometers from the village, the handsome white Ford hybrid failed, the electronics went wrong. Luckily, the ice there was smooth enough and allowed to tow it on a rope to the destination pint. The journey for this vehicle ended here. The other two Fords, of a simpler design, behave quite decently and demonstrate quite good cross-country ability, of course within the limits possible for vehicles of this type. I am pleased with the team, the relations with the Vikings are warm, the men are highly professional, in general, everything is fine, we are moving on. Tomorrow we have a rest day, and we will spend it in the garage with the vehicles.
That's how the matters are. Greetings to all! V. Ye.
The third day of travel. We enjoy the absence of endless reminders on timely passing of PCR and other tests. Tundra. It is happiness - to get to the places where you need not think whether you have a mask in your pocket or not. We found ourselves in tundra somewhat imperceptibly, the forest disappeared, and the vast expanses of the North opened. There are numerous caribou deer around. The deer here, I must say honestly, are just as stupid as in our homeland. Seeing the approaching caravan, they must run across the road in front of the vehicles as an absolute necessity. Always, without exceptions. But this only entertains us, and to some extent brightens up the monotony of driving over the terrain that is still flat. Now, briefly about our nomadic everyday life. The team is divided by the design differences of the vehicles. It's like women's footwear: high heels are beautiful, but uncomfortable for walking, and vice versa for felt boots. In our case, Fords are beautiful and drive fast, but living in them is not very comfortable. While we have "felt boots", they don't drive fast, but living in them is quite comfortable. Sometimes as many as eight romantics gather at the table during a friendly dinner and, to the best of their abilities and the extent of doctor's generosity, strengthen international cooperation and exchange of experience in the nomadic way of life. I am looking forward to refueling in Cambridge Bay with great interest to fuel consumption. This will be a good, reliable indicator for a sizeable section of the travel. The gasoline hybrid Ford demonstrates remarkable abilities in terms of voracity, the on-board computer sometimes shows with horror up to 70 liters/100 km. Its engine capacity is obviously excessive, only creating unnecessary difficulties when driving off-road. So far everything is fine with the weather, we are driving.
That's how the matters are, and so long till the next communication session. Yours V.Ye.
To be exact, this is not quite true (the first day) - four people, Zaitsev, Gavrilov, Dubinin and Elagin - unexpectedly happened to be en route yesterday evening. The matter is that after one of the operations of loading our ATVs on open platforms (local authorities did not permit us to ride 70 km by a public road), we had to follow them in a passenger car for the purpose of unloading at the beginning of the winter road. There was no point in returning to Yellowknife, and the four of us spent our first night in the vehicles. The working day started at 7 a.m. with the arrival of the other team members. Light repair, adjustments of steering in the red vehicle, of trailer suspensions at full load - and at midday we start driving, accompanied by a local ranger. After an hour and a half our caravan finally gains momentum, and by 6 p.m. we cover the planned distance of 150-160 km and stop for the night. An absolutely comic episode happened in the morning. Our hyper-responsible doctor, Sergey Alekseevich Larin, while preparing the vehicles for departure, bought all sorts of containers and formed four sets of them, one set per vehicle. However, he had no opportunity to evaluate the practical usefulness of these bulky plastic boxes of questionable quality, or he simply did not bother to think about it. After all, we just stuffed the contents of one such box here and there, but we could not dispose of the empty box, as there was pure ecology all around. The solution is simple - to distract the crew's attention and shove this horrible box into the stern of Larin's vehicle. Stealthily, like a young pioneer who has stolen a pie in the canteen, I sneak to the rear door and ... come face-to-face with Zaitsev, sneaking from the opposite side with a similar piece of plastic. We shove both boxes into the stern of the doctor's vehicle, and, bending with laughter, make off to our vehicles. I reassure myself by the fact that no criminal collusion existed, so the sentence will be without aggravating factors. The winter road is good, the nature is painfully familiar, and only absolute cleanliness both on the road and at parking lots is unfamiliar. The frost is about - 30°C, slight wind, the weather is exhilarant. We stopped at 6 p.m., tomorrow it would be good to cover about 300 km and move off this private road with super-strict rules for staying on it and finally pass to the vastness of the White Silence.
That's how the matters are. All the best, and till next communication session. Yours V. Ye.
The day started anything but simple. Firstly, it is my birthday; secondly, the previous evening Zaitsev and Pavlov went out of their hotel room, but couldn't get back in again. The electronic lock did not respond to the cards. The gentlemen dressed slightly more than in the underwear stayed in the corridor, presenting a cheerless sight. Zaitsev went for lodging to Dubinin and Ershov's room, Pavlov spent the night in the premise allotted to him. During the breakfast it was found out that the safecracker specialists do not work on Sundays, and that Monday is a regional holiday - Family day. The locked room contained not only the dress of the polar explorers, but also the keys to the vehicle. At midday, in complete despair, I called the main person - Shakhnovsky. Less than 10 minutes later Zaitsev phoned me - the necessary specialist was found, the door was unlocked. That's how important is making a phone call at the right time to the right person.
Larin and Pavlov are shopping, the mechanicians are packing spare parts and tools. And I have completely forgotten one thing: when I woke up in the morning I realized that the ice radar sledge made from the procured materials, considering its bulkiness and weight, cannot be included in our caravan, so we make a bracket on the rear wall of the trailer on which we will place the instrument. Though it is not as secure as on the sledge, but this option is postponed until next year, when we will be able to prepare beforehand the materials of the right size, characteristics and weight. In course of sorting the equipment purchased for the journey, something is put aside for the reason of apparent duplication, something does not fit due to the fact that the ATV on-board network voltage is 12 V and 220 V, while all electrical appliances purchased via Internet are designed for 110 V. Perhaps it's for the best.
That's how the matters are. V. Ye.
Travel diary, day four
Mississauga 17.02.2022 Thursday evening. It is snowing outside, and it was raining all day.
Preparation for departure to Yellowknife goes on properly; in the morning Zurab left for rescuing the viking Torfi and succeeded in this; a magic letter from the Ministry of Tourism helped, hence, Torfi is free, and he even has a work visa for six months, so the family will not be left without a piece of bread.
Together with Zaitsev we ordered metal for a sledge carrying the ice radar, the contractors took the money benevolently (as usual), while the goods will be ready only tomorrow, though they promised to deliver it today by midday. Sergey Larin arrived today, tomorrow he will purchase foodstuff with Boris Pavlov and with all his energy. Someone of the mechanics will join them when the mechanical work is completed.
The whole day passed waiting for different deliveries. Everything arrives late; it is good luck if the delivered items are those that have been ordered. Sergey, the representative of "Sherpa" in Canada, is of great help. He sells, maintains, repairs "Sherpa" all-terrain vehicles. A young man, active, knowledgeable, friendly. He helped us to buy PE pipes for a sledge-catamaran carrying the georadar to measure ice thickness along the route. Christian Haas, reputed glaciologist from the Wegener Institute, asked us about this.
The sledge turns out to be quite cumbersome, but there is no other way to make it - it has to follow exactly the track of the trailer, otherwise it will quickly break down and fail in the hummocks on drifting ice; besides, it has to be amphibian. Despite proximity to a huge city, the assortment of foodstuffs, tools and all kinds of equipment leaves much to be desired. In reply to our groans, we hear from Zurab who lives here for 20 years: "Welcome to Canada." He is also far from idealizing the Canadian part of the British Commonwealth.
That's how the matters are. V.Yelagin.
Travel diary, day four
Toronto suburb, the actors are the same.
Zurab Sanikidze, our lifeline in the sea of problems surrounding us, is absent. An uncommon person, he managed to miss a flight to Boston for which he even had no ticket.
Therefore, he was forced to go to Boston by car. There it was necessary to pick up three pickups for Arctic Trucks and, together with his wife Maria and Torfi, to bring them here to Mississauga. Actually, Mississauga is not a suburb of Toronto at all, but, as revealed by recent scientific studies, a million-plus city, the sixth largest city in Canada.
Today's morning started well: foreman Gavrilov received a message from the Canadian anti-virus authorities that all of us are negative, nowadays this is the best news.
So, we are released from further self-isolation and may commence to perform our tasks. At about 10 a.m. Zurab called and informed in a voice full of optimism that he is to reunite with us in some three hours. Toward evening, another call: Zurab and his wife have just crossed the border and are heading home, but without a third car, without a trailer and without Torfi. That's what had happened: having arrived at the Canadian border, Torfi, in the simplicity of his soul, on the question about his plans in Canada answered, "I will get a vehicle with a trailer into shape, and then will go to the Arctic". In reply, the Canadian customs officials, with all possible benevolence, asked him to return to the United States, obtain a permit for working in Canada, register the trailer, and then return to the country of maple leaves and birches, with slanting rains between them - well, you know the song yourself... Presently the lonely Viking is sitting in a hotel on the American side of the famous waterfall, waiting for a work permit and registration of the trailer. Zurab is in great demand, we are in grief without him, without his much-needed help and knowledge of the terrain. Nevertheless, the work goes on, cargo is being packed, missing materials and tools are being purchased. The weather is good, with light frost, and for tomorrow the forecasters predict warming-up and Zurab's arrival.
That's how the matters are. V.Yelagin.
We haven't got moving anywhere yet - but the travel diary already exists; there is something indigenous in this, something ours, specifically Russian.
Now, then: travel plan for the year 2022.
12.02 - 19.02 The ATVs undergo the final check in Toronto
20.02 From Toronto, ATVs are transported by trucks to Yellowknife
25.02 The ATVs arrive to Yellowknife
26-28.02 In Yellowknife fresh food is bought, fish first of all, and cruise (i.e. large-sized) wheels are installed on the ATVs
01.03 Start of the expedition
Main points on the route: Yellowknife - Contwoyto Lake - Bathurst Inlet, Cambridge Bay - King William Island - Resolute - Meighen Island - outing to the ocean - Resolute. Scheduled time of the end of the travel: year 2022 - 31.03. 14.00 UTC-4.
Outdoor temperature is -15°C, the weather is fine. It would be even finer if our expedition warm jackets (they are called "parkas" for some reason) were waiting for us here in Toronto rather than in Edmonton. But indeed, sufferings engraft the will and strengthen the spirit. We are working, the trailers are completely assembled, suspension stiffness and toe-in angle are adjusted; cruise wheels are still being assembled, there are many of them - 35 wheels. We fixed some small leaks of antifreeze, we are sorting tools and various gear into barrels. The work is tedious, it requires care and accuracy. My heart is trembling-shivering in anticipation of arrival of Sergey Alekseevich Larin, in order I could transfer, with a feeling of relief, the burden of purchasing foodstuff and overall nutrition responsibility into his calloused hands. Zurab intended today to fly to the North American United States in order to pick up the pickups for the Arctic Trucks company, but alas - those very bats did not permit. He did pass the PCR test, but got the results right after end of boarding, so he let fly the bats and the aviation, and drove by car, no problem, the distance is just 1000 km; however, the way back is the same distance... He will return, approximately, ... well, when he manages to return; you know, truckers block the roads, in short, if only he would return. One of the Icelandic gentlemen will come with him, he will also prepare the vehicles for the travel, they will drive with us to Resolute, then will return to Yellowknife. While we will head further to the North, to Meighen Island, to the open ocean, in order to splash in the water, ride over ice hummocks, to see how the tires from TRECOL company behave, and take heroic photos. Then we will return to Resolute, perform maintenance of the machinery and treat it for preservation until next spring, when time will come to start moving again. This is the end of the program for the year 2022, then we will accumulate strength and nerves for the main journey, to the pole and to Greenland. It's interesting to have a look at the lands discovered by Eric the Red. An authoritative gentleman he was, according to rumors.
That's how the matters are. V.Yelagin.
What an expedition starts from? In my opinion, this process may be divided into two stages: the first is the virtual preparation of a trip, designing the route, elaborating the idea, casting of participants, anticipation of wanderlust happiness (for those who understand).
And the second stage: meeting with reality, hassle, and once again hassle. Wrecked deadlines, these damned bats that have gifted the mankind with covid, strikers in all countries, prices that have magically soared to the sky, lunacy on the borders, - and only we, all dressed in white, persistently force through to our goal, ideally suited to the immortal saying of the great Cyrano de Bergerac (according to Rostand): "what is useless, is twice as wonderful". That's a joke. But actually, we bring warmth, light and kindness to the world. We, tractor drivers, finally broke through to hospitable Canada, and, despite the sabbatical ban and the ten-hour time lag, rushed to work. It's a pity that the work is not knee-deep in icy water, in that case it might be the real "How the Steel Was Tempered". The bottom line of the day: the trailers are almost assembled; assembly of the wheels - the process was streamlined, and it is gaining momentum. The workshop has been put in order, benches have been arranged. Frankly speaking, it was achieved not without strain, but there is hope that it will help to adapt faster to local zonal time.
That's how the matters are. V.Yelagin.