British explorers Olly Hicks and George Bullard will begin a sea kayak expedition in June from Greenland to Scotland, covering 1,200 miles in 6 weeks and paddling for a dozen nights under the midnight sun. The In the Wake of the Finnmen expedition will see the pair following a water route possibly used by Inuit centuries ago.
An Inuit route from Greenland?
In the late seventeenth century there were multiple reports of strange boats being paddled off the Scottish coast. One story included a man speaking a language no one could understand paddling his way to shore and dying just days later. There is no consensus today on the identities of these people, but theories include Finnish fisherman and indigenous prisoners who escaped ships coming back from the New World. Artifacts in Scottish museums like hunting paraphernalia and the remains of an ancient, skin-covered kayak point to the theory Hicks and Bullard subscribe to, that the paddlers were Inuit from Greenland who crossed the extremely treacherous waters.
The expedition-ready sea kayak
Hicks and Bullard will be paddling a slightly modified Inuk Duo 6.8m sea kayak made of carbon fiber with Kevlar on the hull to protect against ice. The kayak has cockpit canopies that can be sealed, allowing Hicks and Bullard to fit inside and rest or sleep. Hicks tells Adventure Kayak that sleeping in the kayak is still a serious challenge, and that they need to be careful not to sweat or remain static for too long to avoid getting cold.
Hicks says that he and Bullard are spending most days in advance of the expedition together on the road, going to training and coaching sessions and overseeing the boat build. They also do a significant amount of psychological preparation by practicing decision making evaluations and working to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses.
The adventurers plan to paddle for at least 20 hours per day, eat seal blubber to help cope with the extreme cold and will be testing modern equipment with traditional Greenland kayaks and sealskin apparel.
A history of tough expeditions
Both Bullard and Hicks are familiar with long and difficult expeditions. In 2005, Hicks spent 124 days alone at sea before becoming the only person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. to England. Bullard has covered more than 2,000 miles on foot in polar regions and at 19 years of age completed the world’s longest fully unsupported polar journey.
As the weeks wind down to their June start date, Hicks says the preparation and pre-departure phase of expeditions are most stressful for him, and he can’t wait to get started and head into the Arctic ice.