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Where the Sun Never Sets, a 1,500-Mile Trip by Sea Kayak


To stave off a breaching 3,000-pound walrus from the cockpit of a small sea kayak, Erik Boomer recommends using the paddle.

“Sort of like a Heisman stiff-arm, hit him in the face and try to feed him the paddle,” he said. “Then start paddling.”

The first 600 miles of the Ellesmere Island expedition had not been so sporting — lots of marching along on skis with skins, towing the boats.

“Kind of a goofy sea kayak trip, because we haven’t been sea kayaking yet,” Jon Turk said via satellite phone 38 days into the journey. He added, “At every moment, we expect the possibility that we’re going to run into big trouble.”

Opposite Greenland along the ice-choked Nares Strait, Ellesmere (population 146) is the northernmost isle of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the most mountainous island in the Arctic Circle. “It’s stacked with fatty mountains,” Boomer said. Ellesmere, the world’s 10th largest island, is also something of a jewel of Arctic exploration, its rugged and icebound 1,500-mile perimeter rarely traveled before.

Unlikely partners, Boomer, a 26-year-old photographer and rising figure in whitewater kayaking, and Turk, 65, an author, scientist and veteran of far-flung adventures, were attempting to complete what is believed to be the first circumnavigation of the island.

They hardly knew each other before setting out on their clockwise circumnavigation attempt. Starting May 7 from Grise Fiord (population 141), on the south coast, they found the first section involved trudging for 10 hours daily over snow and ice on what remained of their skis, towing their 200-plus-pound kayaks, making and breaking camp, all under the midnight sun. Introduced by a mutual friend, who withdrew from the trip after he was injured in a 94-foot waterfall plunge six weeks before, Turk and Boomer also spent a lot of time talking and laughing.

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