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February 2003
Crossing the Great Slave Lake : Diary
boot with crampon
Boot with crampon

A police team from Nottinghamshire is hoping to set a record by crossing the frozen Great Slake Lake in Canada in freezing temperatures.

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- Diary

SEE ALSO

Arctic trek : Preview

Police team ready for Arctic trek

UK trio set polar records

Single mum's journey to the Arctic

WEB LINKS

North Pole 2001

Nottinghamshire Police

NSPCC

Great Slave Lake
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FACTS

The trek will last about 10 days.

Wolves are seen on the lake.

Team leader Mike Thornewill has walked to both the North and South Poles.

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The six policemen and two policewomen are hoping to become the first group to make the 110-mile trek across the Great Slave Lake.

The team leader is polar veteran Mike Thornewill from Thurgarton, who has trekked to both the North and South poles with his wife Fiona.

The team set off on Monday, 17th February 2003. Here's the story so far... (diary via satellite phone):

Mike Thornewill's expedition diary:

01/03/2003
In Yellowknife, Northern Territories, Canada

A fantastic final day.  Canadian Broadcast. Corpn. team came out on the ice to film them as they came into Yellowknife.

They arrived at 15.45 local. (22.45 GMT) The R C M Police insisted that the team stay in their homes, but firstly they were taken to Police HQ for showers, food and drinks. 

The Area Police Commander made a welcoming speech, and presented them with gifts - Swiss army style knives and pewter model of mounties boots and hat. 

Mike and Barry responded with their sincere thanks for the interest, gifts and hospitality shown by the police there. 

All the team were able to phone home, and say how much they have enjoyed this journey.

Mike says everyone in the team is elated, and 'over the moon' about their personal achievement. 

Having been the coldest winter for 20 years, the trip was harder than they expected, but everyone got through with flying colours. 

It is still minus 40C as Mike was standing outside to catch the satellite for this call, so as always, the call was brief. (The batteries run down fast at this temperature also.)

This has been a pioneering journey. The first ever crossing of the Great Slave Lake in winter on foot, and unsupported as well.

An amazing achievement for a team of novice travellers - as Mike says - they will see the world in a different light after this - who knows what impact this achievement will mean for their future.

Tonight there will be a celebration barb-e-que, and tomorrow they have been invited to join a caribou hunt. (This is Canadian culture, and for food, not trophies)

The team leave Yellowknife on Monday, and arrive back in UK at midday Tuesday 4th March at Heathrow on Air Canada via Calgary.

Congratulations to the team from everybody at BBC Nottingham

28/02/2003
Position: 62.20  114.20

Minus 40 C today without the wind chill! 

Yesterday was the coldest day of the trip - minus 55C with the Easterly wind.
We did 13.7 miles in 9 hrs - very slow because of the intense cold, and sore feet.  Just 9.27 miles to go!

Six Canadian Mounties came out to see us on skidoos at midday, and returned in the evening, lighting a bonfire on the ice. 

Alistair lit a cigar with a blazing log from the fire, which gave everyone a good laugh.

The Mounties are showing us wonderful hospitality. They have invited the team to their homes in Yellowknife for saunas, food and use of their vehicles. 

They were amazed at this crossing by novices.  It has never been done by walkers, hauling their supplies before - or at this time of the year. They tell us that the weather this last month has been the coldest in Yellowknife in the last 20 years.

News of our crossing has been broadcast Canada-wide, with huge coverage by the media.

Arrival time in Yellowknife today (Friday) should be about 16.00 local. (23.00 GMT)

Mike says" I cannot express enough thanks to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for their interest, concern and overwhelming generosity.  I must also commend the team for their resolve in this truly hostile climate.  They have been fantastic"

27/02/2003
Position 62.08  114.18

Twenty three miles to go.

It was an exceedingly cold night.

All team members were plastered with ice on waking.

During the night, there was a loud 'bang' and a crack appeared in the ice under one tent!

This morning it's minus 50C with the wind-chill, but sunny. 

Yesterday was longer - 10.30 to 18.30 covering 14 miles, including a quarter mile rubble icefield with pressure ridges 8ft high.

The extreme cold made it difficult to cope with at the end of a hard day.  Blisters and sore feet and legs are giving problems.
 
An AIR TINDI Cessna 185 landed on the ice yesterday with a camera crew from Global News, especially to film ourprogress.
 
A stunning sunset last night. When the sun disappeared the sky was mauve. Later the northern lights streaked the sky with green.  The beauty and isolation have to be experienced to understand this wonderful place.
   
We hope to arrive Friday afternoon Yellowknife time.

We understand there is a great deal of interest in this crossing, from the inhabitants of Yellowknife, who are following the progress on the internet.

So hello to everyone in Yellowknife!
26/02/2003
Position 61'56N 114'16W 

Walked 12 miles yesterday.

Weather was poor - a whiteout with drifting snow. 

Navigated using the wind direction. 

Scenery more and more reminiscent of the Antarctic. 

Heard a wolf in the night. 

This morning the sun has some warmth - helping to dry the tents.

Boots remain a constant problem, but we are all coping.

37 miles to Yellowknife - hope to get there Friday rather than Saturday.

25/02/2003
Position 61 deg. 46W  114.16 N on a line to the Blue Raven B & B at Yellowknife.

11.7 miles yesterday, slowed down by some unexpected ice rubble. 

The lake branches off into a Northern arm, and the currents are very strong causing chaotic ice. Hoping to do 12.5 miles per day, have done 52 miles with 49 remaining.

Yesterday was cold minus 38C with wind chill, but today it is warmer - minus 15C - actually too warm in the tents last night.

Still lots of creaking and groaning ice under the tents during the night.

Had an incident when Steve's sledge overturned on a pressure ridge, and some food and fuel was lost - we still have enough though.

The Canadian Mounties are hoping to meet up with the team either tonight or tomorrow night to see how everything is going.

Apparently this expedition has caused great excitement in Yellowknife.  Before they started out, Graeme gave a talk to 100+ children at Yellowknife school about the British police.

Boots still causing problems, but morale is high, all are well and enjoying themselves.

Love to all, families and friends, Mike.

24/02/2003
Position 61.35W, 114.18N

Feels warmer today, but there is more cloud and the wind is south east as forecast.

All fine, and making good progress, 12.5 miles today making 40 total. On target for finishing on Friday.

Should pass the half-way mark today - about level with Bloomsfield Point to the east.

The loads are lessening and the team share the pulling when different members feel the need for respite.

They have crossed an 8ft lead and there are some pressure ridges about 4ft high.

Last night the ice boomed, creaked and groaned beneath the tents. Quite disconcerting to the un-initiated!  This is due to stronger currents towards the lake centre, and the ice being slightly thinner here - which makes it more flexible.

Last night the lights of Yellowknife some 61 miles away could be seen.  The sky was incredibly clear with many satellites visible.

Now that the team know the routine thoroughly, everything is going smoothly.  Boots still a problem, but all are coping well.

Love to our families and friends.

23/02/2003
Weather clear, -32C slight breeze.

Yesterday, they managed 12.2 miles in 6.5 hours which was good.  The pulks have been repacked to distribute the weight more evenly, and are getting lighter as supplies are used.

Lake at this point is 2000ft deep, and with little snow.  In places you can see through the ice - like walking on glass!

Now for a typical day:
Get up at 7.00am -  45 mins to get dressed etc, and clearing frost from their gear and organising themselves. Then breakfast - three hot drinks made from melted ice, and museli.

9.40am tents down and walking starts about 10.15am.

Two hours walking then 10 mins break, then same again, then 1.5 hours and 10 mins, then one hour (happy hour) because looking forward to warmth in the tent and food!

Repairs are going on with ski bindings, and the four stoves have all had to be mended.

Team hope to travel 11+ miles today.  There are no storms forecast, but any wind can be a problem because of the chill factor.

It is very like the Antarctic, and nothing like as hostile as the Arctic ocean.
22/02/2003
Position 61 degrees N, 114.17 W - 09.00 local today.

Weather -34C, calm and sunny.  Clear skies and an awesome sunrise.

Travelled 6.5 miles yesterday in 9.5 hours.

Unfortunately, the girls are suffering with their footwear, but we have ideas to try to improve things using foam pads.

All members have picked up camp routine quickly, everyone is fine and eating well.  5000+ calories per day!

Love to all our families and friends.
21/02/2003
It's sunny and the wind is diminishing.

Yesterday the 50 year old single otter flew the team to Pine Point, landing at 13.00 local time.

The pilot flew at 160kts and about 15ft at first, then climbed to 4000ft, where Steve showed his skills as 'co-pilot'!
 
The team walked 6.2miles in 4.5hrs - a good start over rough ice. 

Lots of stops and starts as everyone got used to, and adjusted clothing and footwear.

Crossed one minor crack in the ice already.  Everyone pulling well together.

Mike managed to get hold of 96 heating pads for the boots, but they have not been necessary yet.
 
A truly wonderful sunset last night, and the aurora borealis. 

Everyone is amazed at the beauty and remoteness of the location, and having a wonderful experience.
 
Looking forward to the second day of walking.
 
Weather forecast is good, with sun and little breeze.
20/02/2003
-39C today, with a breeze so down to -50C.

I'm very concerned about the boots and skis.  They were ordered correctly well in advance with specific instructions for the required usage, but they are not entirely satisfactory.  (Sadly there was not time to change them without missing our connection to Yellowknife).

We have modified them - hopefully!

Yesterday's tent erection training went well. 

With only 3 inches of snow on the lake, the tent has to be screwed to the ice - quite time consuming, as you cannot bank the snow against the tent.

Due to start walking at 12.15 local (19.15GMT).

All ready to go, but a bit apprehensive - a steep learning curve for novices.
19/02/2003 20.00gmt - 1pm Yellowknife.
Late phoning today because we had been with the Mayor who welcomed us to the town. 

After that, the local Mounties took us round, and they were filmed by CBC TV.

All equipment has been tested, and the team are now on the ice practising erecting the tents, using ice screws.

Temp. is -35C. Forecast is colder down to -58C with wind chill! There is some open water apparently, and some pressure ridges from one metre to four metres high.

Daylight begins about 7.30am, and after a long twilight, sunset about 6.00pm. Tomorrow at 4.00pm, the team will be picked up by a deHavilland single Otter aircraft and flown to Pine Point - between Port Resolution and Hay River at 114 degrees latitude.
More to come shortly...

 

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