World first, take two

By Kathy Riley 24 June 2009
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Two innovative adventurers are returning to Victoria Island in the Arctic to finish what they started.

It’s a good thing hindsight doesn’t weigh anything, because Chris Bray and Clark Carter are taking truckloads of it with them back to Victoria Island in May. The adventurers have spent the past three years reviewing many aspects of their 2005 attempt to cross the island in Canada’s Arctic, including mode of transport, food, walking tactics and equipment. Their initial 350 km, 58-day unsupported trek was nothing to sneeze at (see AG 82), but they’re hopeful that they’ll complete the remaining 700 km in less than 100 days. Chris freely admits: “The reality is we have no idea how long it will take.”

To ensure a swifter journey, they undertook a dramatic makeover of their PAC (Paddleable Amphibious Cart) design. “One of the biggest things we learned was to keep everything as simple as possible,” Chris says. “So we’ve gone back to basics.” The result is PAC2 – an aluminium and carbon-fibre cart made of interlocking sections, semi-flexible joints and a netted hammock to carry their gear, which will be stowed in easily carried, 30 kg waterproof bags. Instead of car tyres, PAC2 uses 1.5 m diameter tractor-tyre inner tubes protected by home-sewn, bullet-proof-fabric covers. “A bigger wheel gives you lower rolling resistance and spreads the load over the ground,” explains Chris. “So when we get to boggy ground or frozen lakes we won’t sink in or crack through the ice.”

The PAC2 frame is easy to take apart and set up, and when disassembled the whole lot can fit into a surfboard bag. At 43 kg it’s half the weight of PAC1, and when latched together the two PACs become either a raft for paddling across lakes or a platform upon which the two can sleep. The latter will save considerable time otherwise spent looking for suitable camping spots.

An aversion to cooking and washing up (“Because we’re guys, it’s cold, and it uses time and fuel,” says Chris) led to the decision to limit the main menu to dehydrated food eaten out of foil bags. And they’ll steer clear of lakes. Although the PACs are designed to float, “They’ll be shocking to paddle, so we’ll walk around everything we can.”

This second attempt will be extremely well documented, thanks to the advances of technology in the past three years. The adventurers now have a compact, high-definition digital video camera weighing 490 g – far lighter than the 2 kg “dinosaur” they took along in 2005. They’ll also have three stills cameras between them and an Iridium tracking device that’ll regularly beam their position to their website.

The final weigh-in totals 200 kg per PAC – 50 kg less than PAC1, despite carrying an extra 35 days’ supply of food. The adventurers’ feelings about the impending expedition are equally light. “We learned last time that it’s not all about getting to the finishing line, but the journey in between,” Chris says. “I’m just looking forward to escaping out there again.”

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