Team Sweetwater's Arctic Vacation To Hell

After Infocomm, I went kayaking with a couple friends in the Weedon Island Preserve over in St. Petersburg (photos and GPS track here).  As luck would have it, on that hot night was a very cool presentation by Russell Farrow, of Sweetwater Kayaks, about the 2nd Annual "Vacation-To-Hell" trip, 1100 miles above the arctic circle, in summer 2008.

The "Vacation to Hell" is an expedition funded initially by Immersion Research, where you submit a video entry, and the winning team is told where they will be going after they win.  Here's the challenge given the Sweetwater team, from this Atlantic Coastal Kayaker entry:

The mission is to start at the north end of Baffin island at Pond Inlet in the Canadian Arctic, then paddle towards Devon Island. This will involve a 60-mile open water crossing over Lancaster Sound. From there, the team must make a 45-mile overland crossing of Devon, the largest uninhabited island in the world. After that, the team will have one last 45 mile open water crossing before arriving at Griese Fjord, a small settlement on the southern end of Ellesmere Island.

If you have no idea where they are talking about, you are not alone!  Here's a scrollable Google map of the area:

View Larger Map

The proposed trip sounds completely insanely stupid to me, especially the 60-mile and 45-mile open water crossings, and the 45-mile portage.

Their blog of the trip is here (along with satellite phone audio updates).  They struggled with the Candian government, who would not promise them rescue them that far north, polar bear threats, and, most of all, extreme weather.  In the end, they did not come close to completing the proposed route, and the team took some armchair criticism afterwards for that.  But listening to Mr. Farrow's account of the trip, it sounded to me like they made one rational decision after another (and this is something I respect, especially as a NOLS graduate) and they did have an amazing, five-week arctic experience.  Farrow edited a 45 minute video himself, it was amazing to watch, and his presentation was great.

Mr. Farrow's presentation made me want to head to the far north yet again--a couple years ago I paddled in Newfoundland (photos here), and years ago I paddled the Sheenjek river (150 miles or so above the arctic circle, more pictures here):