Jonathan and Kirti Walpole's 950 km canoe journey across Northwest Territories and Nunavut in July and August of 2014

Day 18

Weather: Smokey, hot, moderate wind and swell from the South, getting stronger by mid day
Distance: 49 km
Location: Latitude:64.53829, Longitude:-99.00211 at 07/30/2014 19:55:27 PDT
Map link: Click here

We got up early and were on the water by 3.45 am today. This was motivated by the prospect of paddling a very large expanse of exposed coastline. The wind and waves were coming from the south (on shore) and there was a 2+ foot swell rolling in. It was foggy or smokey or both and it felt much more like sea kayaking than river or lake canoeing. As experiences sea kayakers we felt at home in this environment, but couldn't help feeling that we were in the wrong craft for this. A canoe is too slow, too vulnerable to breaking waves, and has too much windage for exposed open water paddling.

The north shore of Aberdeen Lake is very shallow, with gravel and boulder bars extending out from shore 1 km or more much of the time. This meant that the south swell was steep and breaking quite far out from shore, so we had to paddle well away from shore in places. This made us quite exposed to sudden changes in wind direction (i.e. a wind from the north). The lake is huge and it was not possible to see the southern shore, even from high on the north shore.

Kirti found the conditions very challenging, with large waves from the side and intermittent surf and shoaling areas. The shallow areas also created a lot of hull-drag and made our progress slow. The wind picked up and it was hard to make any progress. At 10.30 am we decided to stop. We set up the tent to protect us from the bugs, which were surprisingly aggressive given the wind. We stopped here for several hours and had a meal and a snooze. We found a bird tag on the beach and saw another caribou.

The wind dropped slightly by mid afternoon and we decided to break camp and push on, given that we had about 60 km of exposed coastline to negotiate. We paddled for another 3 hours and covered 14 more km. It was difficult to find a good camping area as the shore was very low lying and the water level seemed to have recently dropped, so there were extensive wet, mossy, muddy areas.

Eventually, we found a camp. The black flies were horrendous - the worst yet. Without the bug shelter we would be eaten alive. Kirti reiterated her conviction to never come to the Thelon again.