Adventurer Yuri Klaver has returned to the Netherlands after the successful third leg of his Venture Arctic expedition, where he traveled 1,240 miles in five months along the Arctic coast from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Paulatuk in the Northwest Territories. (Read about the previous legs of the expedition here.) The Arctic Venture expedition is Klaver’s attempt to become the first person to cross the entire polar region of North America using only human power. With a kayak, kite and cross-country skis, he plans to travel 4,350 miles solo from Nome, Alaska to Greenland, framing it as “a journey through human and spiritual nature.”
Follow Klaver’s progress and his route, above.
After immediate snowstorms weather-bound Klaver in his tent, frostbitten toes (and a subsequent hospital detour to Anchorage) derailed the first few weeks of his departure from Prudhoe Bay. Klaver continued his journey in early April, planning to travel over the sea ice before it “piled 10 meters high by the wind,” and rendered that option impossible.
“I had no choice but to follow the long route along the coast,” Klaver says in a recent press release. “Moreover, the wind blew constantly from the east. In two months, there were only three days when I was able to use the kite.”
Klaver continues: “On one of these days I traveled nearly a hundred kilometers across the lagoons along the coast. But a few days later the thaw came in. I often had to paddle along the estuaries, and deep puddles appeared on the sea-ice. I had to wait three weeks for the sea-ice to disappear.
“One night (well ‘night’ as it was not at all dark anymore), the wind started to blow from the west. Soon I heard the hissing sound of open water. When I looked outside, there was a strip of 100 meters of water from the shore. An ice plate kilometers wide was moving toward the sea. Fortunately I found myself safely ashore. But it took another week before I could paddle continuously, on my way to the Mackenzie Delta and Tuktoyaktuk.”
“Having passed Tuktoyaktuk, I was on my way to Paulatuk. After 50 miles of paddling I moored on a beach of an inland sea. The water was as smooth as a mirror, there was no wind. I was terribly tired and just wanted to eat and sleep. But the beach consisted of sharp stones so I had to walk hundreds of meters to find a place for the tent. When I looked back I saw that the kayak was detached from the shore. I sprinted (1000 feet), took off my boots and pants and stepped into the water. It was clear and cold. The pebbles vanished quickly into the depths. I had to swim. The distance to the kayak was about eight meters but the cold began to penetrate deeply into my body.
“‘What if I was to drown here just before my boat!’ I thought. I wouldn’t be the first one. I had no confidence and turned around. I tied a knot in both legs. I filled the pants with air and tried again, but my improvisation quickly lost buoyancy so I had to give up my second attempt. ‘No!’ I shouted on the beach. ‘Nooo!’ I found myself (125 miles) from Tuktoyaktuk, my possessions reduced to rain pants, a thin sweater, a mosquito net and a device to send a emergency signal.
“Why am I doing this alone? Are there things that drift me away from people? The answer to the first question is that we are all made to wonder through the wilderness. So it’s better to turn the question around: What happened that we don’t do that anymore? It has partly to do with fear. There is a Dutch proverb that says, ‘Man suffers most of the fear he suffers. We are more afraid of the fear, than for the real dangers.’ That’s a part of the answer.”
Klaver plans to continue east from Paulatuk in late March, spending the winter fundraising and working on a book from his expedition.