“The Big Thaw” by Ed Struzik   Leave a comment

I just finished reading an excellent book by Ed Struzik called “The Big Thaw: Travels in the Melting North”.  During 2006-2007, Struzik spent 18 months taking 11 different journeys into the arctic to research material for this book.  His personal experiences along with information from scientists, industrialists, and native residents paints a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the changes that have occurred and are still occurring in the arctic.  While Struzik does not travel to Banks Island during these trips, there is plenty of mention made of the island as it relates to increased sightings of grizzly bears and grizzly-polar hybrids and the populations of musk oxen and Peary caribou.

After watching the video about “The Search for the Investigator”, I wondered what the big deal was with “Canadian sovereignty”.  Struzik answers that question in the last chapter, entitled “The Coldest War”.  Unbeknownst to most of us in the Lower 48, apparently not all countries concede that all those arctic islands north of Canada actually belong to that country and are disputing that the Northwest Passage falls within Canadian territorial waters.  The Danes have laid claim to a small treeless island that Canada assumed was theirs.  In 2007, the Russians even sent a deep-sea submersible to the ocean floor at the North Pole to deposit a Russian flag and claim it for their country.  Unfortunately, Canada and even the United States are woefully unprepared to deal with these and many other scenarios that are becoming increasingly probable.

It is now beginning to look like the Northwest Passage may be seasonally ice-free and navigable within a decade making the Arctic more attractive to those interested in the extraction of oil, gas, and other natural resources.  In a rapidly changing arctic environment, this book should be on the reading list of every educated person.  What happens in the Arctic doesn’t just matter to the polar bear and the native residents, now it matters to the whole world.  For anyone traveling anywhere in the arctic, I would highly recommend reading this book.  At 262 pages, it is a fairly easy read.



Posted May 23, 2011 by slmertz in Uncategorized

Need to do some proof-reading!   Leave a comment

I recently tried to add in some information to some of the pages on this site.  I was in a hurry at the time.  After going back just now to check on the park fees for this summer, I realized that I need to do some serious proof-reading on the pages of this website.  If you notice anything amiss before I do, please feel free to post a comment bringing it to my attention.  I fixed a couple paragraphs already, but I suspect there may be more goofs in the text that I didn’t catch before hitting the “publish” button.


Posted April 24, 2011 by slmertz in Uncategorized

Clothing is Key   Leave a comment

Lately, the discussion on this site has been turning to clothing.  While most of the discussion has centered on what to wear while paddling, I’m sure that everyone on our trip this year is giving a lot of consideration to all the clothing we need to bring.  Weather on the Thomsen River, even in summer, can range from a fairly warm sunny day to cold, windy, and snowing.  Having the right mix and amount of clothing is critical for comfort and safety since limitations on space and weight for the charter flights and packing in the canoes means we can’t just bring everything we own, “just in case”.

As someone who prefers to be toasty warm all the time, I know that deciding what clothing to take along on this trip has been taking up a lot of my planning time.  So, I’ve added a page specifically devoted to “Clothing”.  I was originally going to cover the topic of clothing on the “Gear” page, but decided that this subject is so important and and takes up such a big part of my packing list, it needed to have its own page.  I did keep the information on “dry suits” on the gear page under the heading of “Paddling Gear” since a dry suit is really only used for paddling and water sports.  The layers that you would wear underneath a dry suit are covered on the “Clothing” page as you use the same layering system as do to dress for all situations.

My husband, being the flamboyant fashionista that he is, has decided that lime green is going to be the signature color for his accessories.  So far he has managed to find bright green Crocs and a neon green nylon belt for his pants.  We are currently on the lookout for bright green hats.  He wants to make sure that the polar bears and muskoxen see him coming from miles away.      ; )

Posted April 8, 2011 by slmertz in Uncategorized

Looking for Information on Weather   1 comment

I would like to add a page to this site with information on weather for Banks Island and the Thomsen River.  I would probably also put information about geology on that page, as well.  If anyone has links, book or article suggestions, or wants to do some writing with information on either of these subjects.  I’d be happy for the help in adding to the information already assembled at this site.  It’s getting closer to my busy season for teaching kayaking and canoeing, so I’m going to have less time to devote to this project as the trip draws closer.  However, I do plan to share my experiences, photos, and add more information after our group returns from the Thomsen River.

Posted March 30, 2011 by slmertz in Uncategorized

Focusing on Trip Gear   Leave a comment

I’ve been spending some time working on getting more information on the website.  I added a page for “Gear” and have been busy posting links for some items as well as giving my 2-cents worth on products that I have used in the past and plan to use for this upcoming trip.

I worked at an outdoor store for almost nine years selling camping and paddling gear, so I have amassed a large amount of personal gear and have seen many different products over the years.  It can sometimes be difficult to sort through the hype put out by the manufacturers to determine what is really a good quality, innovative product and what is just a lot of “hu-ha” trying to get you to buy something that really doesn’t fill a need.  Really good gear can be expensive at times, which has unfortunately led to a lot good gear being discontinued and a lot of not-so-good products being marketed just because the price point is more attractive.

I use my own camping and paddling gear pretty seriously, so I have tested most of it in reasonably cold, wet, and windy conditions.  The good stuff stands up.  The rest breaks down.  Most of the gear information that is currently on this website is my own personal opionions (since I’m the one writing it).  I welcome comments from others who have experience using camping and paddling gear in the far north and arctic destinations.  Your experiences may have differed from mine and it is always useful to get a cross-section of opinion and reviews.


Posted March 17, 2011 by slmertz in Uncategorized

Site Content is Improving   Leave a comment

Thanks to KJ, there are lots of additional pieces of information that have been added in a short period of time despite my having been out of town all weekend.  I did just add a new page for gear.  I will talk about some of the gear that I will be bringing.  Whenever I can, I will add links for the sources of the items in case you want to do further research yourself or wish to purchase.

If you have had experience with certain items that you would like to share, please comment or you can send me an e-mail and I will post the information on the site for you.  Eventually, I will get some comprehensive gear lists linked on that page as well.  I have the one that KJ sent out a while ago and my own, as well.  Your first comment to the site will need to be approved by the site moderator (me), but once you have been approved the first time, your comments will automatically show up right away.

I want to try to get some images up on the site to make it look a little prettier and make it more interesting visually.  If anyone has photos of gear, wildlife, plants,  Thomsen River scenery, etc. that would be appropriate for the site and would be willing to have it posted, please e-mail it to me and I will try to get it published ASAP.

I just spent 3 days at Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin.  It is arguably the biggest paddle sports event in the world.  Watching presentations on canoe and kayak trips all over the world and wandering through all the boats and accessories really has me excited for the trip!!


Posted March 14, 2011 by slmertz in Uncategorized

Just Getting Started   1 comment

My husband and I and six others are going to be traveling to the Thomsen River on Banks Island in the Northwest Territories of Canada this summer.  I wanted to create an internet location where I could compile all the information that our group has been sharing with each other as we plan for our trip.  I hope to add pages of links, maps, reading lists, and information that I have found about the history, geography, geology, flora, and fauna of the region.  When our trip is complete, I will certainly post photos and videos, as well.  In the meantime, I hope to get some photos from other sources since at least two of our group have been to this area before.

While this site is first of all intended for the benefit of the eight of us that are traveling together this year, my hope is that some of this information will also be of use to others who might want to do this trip in the future.


Posted March 10, 2011 by slmertz in Uncategorized