We started on April 8 in the very wintery and friendly native village of Shishmaref. Before we knew it, we were towed into town behind a snow machine and invited to dinner of Caribou stew at Clifford Weyiouanna’s house. A quick look around town confirmed that spring and boating season hadn’t arrived yet.
The next morning we headed out of town with a perfect tail wind across Shishmaref inlet.
Although travel wasn’t always that easy, we also experienced a spectacular “train-wreck” when we towed both of us, backpacks and two sleds behind the smaller of our kites in some strong and gusty winds. The trail was mostly well marked although the white-out conditions were at times challenging.
Serpentine Hot Springs were as magical and spiritual as everyone had told us.
The wildlife around Serpentine was amazing with 100’s of Caribou, huge flocks of Ptarmigan and this resident Fox.
Then it was time to return, and lack of wind combined with warm temps (rain) turned it into a long walk dragging our sleds. At one point we still had 44 miles to go and only 2-day left before our flight back. Nancy practicing the art of kite-napping while waiting for wind.
But the wind came and once again as a nice tail wind, so our speed increased from 6-miles a day to 6-miles an hour.
Conditions were so perfect that I could pull out my camera and take pictures while flying along.
Most people don’t head to the Arctic after a long winter, but I went kite skiing with my wife Nancy in the High Arctic of Alaska. We arrived in Kaktovik in beautiful weather, that was a balmy (-2ºF) to the locals, but cold to us.
The Arctic Ocean in April.
Whale bones protruding out of the snow.
Kite skiing outside town.
Soaking in a Hot Spring, water temperature at 104ºF (40ºC) and air temperature at -10ºF (-23ºC).
The Aurora danced over our campsites almost every night. The cold -25ªF (-30ºF), quickly drained both camera batteries and the heat in my fingers during night photography. Breathing on the camera would freeze my beard to the camera.
The light quality was often amazing for photography with amazing blue tones. I found it was best captured by setting the cameras white balance to Daylight. I often shoot in Auto White Balance and have found that it works well for most subjects excepts in unusual light situations such as winter twilight in the Arctic.
We had no wind in the Brooks Range or in the foothills, so we spent the first few days slowly dragging our sleds back towards Kaktovik.
Finally Kite skiing on the Coastal Plain!
Of course we also had long periods of what we fondly call Kite-Waiting. In other words waiting for the wind to start blowing again.
With the possibility of Polar Bears on the Coastal Plain we experimented with winter Bear Camping practices. We strived to cook away from our campsite despite the cold and used an electric Bear fence.
Nancy catching a few turns off a pressure ridge on the Arctic Ocean.
We found our first Polar Bear track on the sea ice just outside Kaktovik.