kite skiing the arctic


THEIR CHALLENGE: First to use kite skis to cross the Northwest Passage (3,300 km of Arctic Ocean).

On March 19, 2011, brother and sister Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry began a twelve week expedition to trace the 1906 route of famed polar explorer Roald Amundsen, across the Northwest Passage.  For those of us who don’t remember, the Northwest Passage was a waterway (and trade route) connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  It doesn’t really exist, not as 18th and 19th century explorers imagined it.  It’s essentially the northern coast of Canada, deep within the arctic circle, buried in ice.  At least until global warming gets it.

So basically, Sarah and her brother traversed the top of Canada, along the arctic ocean, kite-skiing when they could, sledge-hauling when they couldn’t, and camping in subzero temperatures for 12 weeks. All we can say is… it’s a good thing they had already been to the south pole! In fact, they were the youngest to ever kite-ski to the south pole (at ages 18 & 20) six years earlier.

You can check out their expedition blog, Pittarak, but we really like the videos of their journey (10 in all). You can see what gadget geeks they are. It’s a virtual how-to on everything from rigging kites to warding off polar bears. But don’t be fooled. These two are the son and daughter of polar explorers… so they make it look way easier than it is in subzero snow storms at the top of the world.


Finding new ways to achieve something is the heart of creative adventuring. It is where our ambition meets our ingenuity. It is where amazing things happen. It is how mankind evolves.

Imagine how different it was for Roald Amundsen and his expedition (whose famous route Sarah and Eric were retracing). Amundsen was an absolute hero in his day, discovering a passage that had alluded every explorer since Columbus. And yet it took him 3 years to cover the distance that Sarah and Eric covered in 12 weeks! Why? Innovation. Sarah & Eric had thought to use wind-power to propel them over the ice.

Amundsen had arrived with a 47 ton ship. He soon learned to use sled dogs from the native Inuits. Innovation! 106 years years later… kite skies. More innovation!

Being the first to do something is often accompanied by finding a new way to achieve it. And once that door is open, new challenges are bound to follow. That’s just how we evolve. Although the best part is seeing who pushes the envelope next.

One comment on “kite skiing the arctic
  1. The question I’d rahter ask is, “What if he’d made it back but was still second to Amundsen?” I’ve heard that the big controversy was that Amundsen ate his dogs — as the supplies were used, the sleds got lighter, fewer dogs were needed, ergo, why carry so much food? Scott used ponies and refused to eat them, which was very noble but we see the outcome. Had he succeeded, could he have achieved fame as “First Man To The South Pole Without Eating His Pack Animals”? Seems a bit of a stretch, doesn’t it?

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