It was 27 below when I woke up, the coldest morning yet. I slept warm and snug at first and then the cold entered my sleeping bag later in the night. I slept off and on. When I actually slept it was comfortable because I didn’t feel the cold. When I was awake it was like a cold limbo. The last half of the night I tossed and turned to try to find a warm position that didn’t exist. At sunrise I couldn’t take it any longer so I got up. The day had changed in the sky. Gray stratified clouds showed up in the morning and the sun had a halo, which means snow coming. The wind blew hard from the Southwest changing by lunch to south and in the afternoon it blew against me from the Southeast. Around quitting time I felt one snowflake hit my top. I didn’t see it, and there was no snow in the air, but I was sure it was a snowflake. Soon its companions started to show up and by camping time they disappeared, but then all last night a slight snowfall accumulated on the tent and I woke often when layers of snow slid off it. There are 5 inches of new snow this morning and it is much warmer, around 20° above!

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Day 4

It was 27 below when I woke up, the coldest morning yet. I slept warm and snug at first and then the cold entered my sleeping bag later in the night. I slept off and on. When I actually slept it was comfortable because I didn’t feel the cold. When I was awake it was like a cold limbo. The last half of the night I tossed and turned to try to find a warm position that didn’t exist. At sunrise I couldn’t take it any longer so I got up. The day had changed in the sky. Gray stratified clouds showed up in the morning and the sun had a halo, which means snow coming. The wind blew hard from the Southwest changing by lunch to south and in the afternoon it blew against me from the Southeast.

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Day 3

It was -20 this morning, Wind picking up early. I had made camp on the leeward side of the small hill next to a small waterfalls whose noise blended into the wind all night.

The small river forced me to travel its deep snowbanks with snowshoes. I relayed a load of extra food and other things that are nonessential from day to day. The wind picked up from the Northwest on my back on my outward journey. I had to keep dressed up because of the cold day. I sweated and soaked my inner clothes on the way back. Against the wind I froze and chilled due to my wet clothing. Because of my exhausted condition and my concern of catching something in my lungs if I continued this all day, I decided to take the rest of the day off.

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Day 2

Yesterday was a tough day-25 in the morning. Breaking camp was not too bad but when I tried to pull the canoe it was obvious it was too heavy in the deep snow and in particular because of the friction of the snow in the cold temperature. I expected to do relays the first days until conditions got better. There was a cold, strong northwest wind blowing and I had to dress up which meant I sweated hard when pulling and froze when I rested. There was no real rest for the 10 hours I ended up hauling. In relays in the snow you always have a track to look forward to your return and the second load is always easier. But yesterday the track drifted in on the return for the second load and this trail again drifted in so the return loaded trip was difficult. I made it to the end of Beaverhouse, did a small portage around the small river that flows from Beaverhouse Lake it to Quetico Lake. I camped on the solid ice near the river which gave me a flat spot to pitch my tent. I used to ice screws to secure both ends of my Stevenson tent. A very easy setup. Also there was water from the river, which took a little doing to relay but this saved me fuel and time melting snow for water. I filled the three thermoses.

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 “I forgot my 10 pounds of venison hamburger with 20% organic pork fat.”

I had spent a full week before with expedition planning in my head. Three days before departure I had everything all packed and in place in the canoe. Two days before I left, 8 inches of heavy snow fell,  creating the worst possible trail conditions. The day before I left, what was going to be a leisure-type day turned into a fiasco. 

 

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He knows high latitudes. He has crossed the Arctic and Antarctic with canoes and dogsleds. He has led expeditions to both the North and South Poles.

But Steger had never attempted a journey like this one. Neither had anyone else. Without companions of any kind or aid en route, he planned to venture from earthÕs northernmost point to the nearest land-half an ocean away. He set out in the summer, when ice covering the Arctic Ocean is at its thinnest and most treacherous.

Conditions proved even more treacherous than expected. Steger terminated his trek on July 19, 1997, and spent the next week camped on an ice floe while awaiting evacuation via helicopter and icebreaker.

An Educational Exploration of Nunavut. Setting out to document arctic climate change we will dogsled the territory of Nunavut, meeting Inuit Elders and students, to explore traditional ecological knowledge in the remote communities visited along the trail while gathering scientific data daily from the field for NASA and Environment Canada.

On March 7, 1986, the Steger International Polar Expedition, made up of seven men and one woman, set out by dogsled to reach the North Pole. In a deliberate throwback to the early explorers, the sought to complete the journey without resupply. They would be entirely reliant on the three tons of supplies they brought with them; there would be no airlifts with rested dogs, new equipment, or extra food and fuel. In part they chose this approach to shed light on the historically intriguing and heavily debated question of whether Robert Peary reached the Pole in a similar manner in 1909.

Fifty-five days and a thousand zig-zag miles later, after enduring -70°F temperatures and crossing the Arctic Ocean as it began to break apart with the coming of spring, six team members completed the journey. It was a spectacular feat of unsurpassed daring, courage and commitment.

Famous polar explorer and life-long educator Will Steger spends much of his time these days building a legacy outside Ely, Minnesota. “For the past 19 years I’ve been working on this education center,” Will says as he weaves his way between stacks of lumber, crates of tile, and various machinery being put to use in erecting the most impressive structure in the region. “The hardest decision I ever made was to put a road in. But, no way! was I bringing in an electric line.”

Self-sufficiency is a code he and others here have lived by for 4 decades. But as the center nears completion in the next year, the need for energy cannot be ignored. “People from the cities won’t come up here without some of the basic amenities they are used to, such as flush toilets and electric lights. The plan has always included renewable energy such as solar, but exactly how it would be done had not yet been determined.

Enter Team Sundial. Owner Jon Kramer has known Will for many years and they both share the same vision of teaching people about the Earth and respect for the environment. “I met Will while I was living in Grand Marais back in the early 80’s, just prior to his famous arctic expeditions” Jon says. “Recently he invited me up to his Homestead to show me what he’s been up to. I was blown away by what he’s done!” The plan impressed Jon and he dove in with both feet. “There’s nothing more important than education and whatever we can do to help Will in this vital message we must do. It is our responsibility.”

Over the past summer the Sundial team donated and installed a pole-mounted PV system at the Homestead to test the performance of a new technology in preparation for a much larger installation next year. The installation went well and so far the testing has exceeded expectations. “The PV system is a real luxury,” Will said “plenty of power and silent as sunshine.”

Will Steger with Sundial owner Jon Kramer (left) and General Manager Wayne LaForge (middle)

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Jon teaches an off-grid class at the battery shed.

The array overlooks the lake at Will’s Homestead.

Testing the pole mounting head.

Team Leader Tom Jandric hauls in a solar panel to install on the pole.

Jon and Tom bolting down the panels.