The Transglobal Car Expedition is returning to the Northwest Territories – with plans to travel the world by vehicle now – about two years after making headlines for violating airspace rules and sinking a truck.
Andrew Comrie-Picard, an international team member from Edmonton, said he “learned a lot” from the trip ahead of the 2022 expedition.
“The ice can change very quickly. And we also learned that the relationships between indigenous communities here are critically important,” he said. “We learned that we must draw on and share local knowledge to be successful.”
The expedition, which includes members from Canada, the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Iceland, says it be the first circumnavigate the planet, reaching both poles, with wheeled vehicles. A crew of eight left New York for the Northwest Territories on January 10 and now plan to travel from Yellowknife to Resolute Bay, Nunavut, and then to the North Pole. From there, the expedition will continue through Greenland, Europe, Africa, Antarctica and up through South and Central America to the United States.
The trip is expected to last 17 months and will be carried out with a fleet of 12 vehicles.
From Yellowknife to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, the team will drive three Ford Super Duty trucks modified to have six 44-inch tires. From there, they will upgrade to four Yemelya amphibious vehicles capable of traversing sections of open water on their way to the North Pole and Greenland.
These vehicles are already parked in Cambridge Bay.
What’s the point?
Comrie-Picard said the expedition was collecting data for research projects along the way, including information on ice thickness, cosmic rays, light pollution and about their own bodies going through extremes.
Pat Maher, a professor at Nipissing University in Ontario who studies Arctic tourism, told CBC News the expedition appears to be aligning with science in an effort to make itself relevant — and he’s critical of the goal general of the trip.
“I don’t see any value in it per se,” he said.
“I think there’s a motivation or a drive here, a lot of which is based on being first,” he said. “In this day and age of climate emergency… it makes me wonder what is the need?”
Maher said Arctic expeditions, like Transglobal Car’s, can have a long-term positive impact on local communities by investing in scholarships or sponsorships.
Absent that, he said, communities can at least benefit from short-term local jobs and money spent on things like fuel and groceries.
Maher said it was important to be critical of tourism. Believing that all Arctic expeditions are “inherently good” could mean potential impacts on local communities are overlooked, he said.
Cambridge Bay man takes trip again
Comrie-Picard said the expedition employs a man from Cambridge Bay for the trip from that community to Resolute Bay. Brandon Langan, who has worked with the expedition before, said his main role will be monitoring polar bears and helping navigate the sea ice. From the satellite images, he said, the ice looks rather rough.
“It’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure,” he said.
Langan said the expedition members are “experts” in navigating the ice and will carry with them an ice thickness radar, the information of which will be uploaded to the cloud and accessible to hunters for next polar bear hunting season. he said.
He doesn’t worry that the trip will be as eventful as the test two years ago.
When the Transglobal Car Expedition traveled to Yellowknife to test part of the northern leg of its journey in early 2022, Transport Canada fines imposed against a Russian passenger who had chartered the plane and the two pilots, as well as against the flight operator based in Switzerland.
Then, after successfully reaching Resolute Bay, one of the Modified Ford F150s sank among the Tasmanian Islands, northwest of Taloyoak, Nunavut, on the return voyage. Langan was in the truck when he broke the ice and participated in the efforts to help get it back later this year.
Still, he only had to think about the team’s proposal to work together again for 30 seconds.
“I never say no to adventure,” he laughed.
Langan said there was excitement in his community about the expedition, especially among children.
“They love seeing these big vehicles,” he said. “There is a feeling of excitement.”
Comrie-Picard also said relations with local communities have improved since the lost truck was recovered about a year and a half ago. He said he met Jimmy Oleekatalik, the director of the Spence Bay Hunters and Trappers Committee in Taloyoak, while he was in Yellowknife.
Oleekatalik had been critical after the expedition lost the truck in prime hunting ground, and was relieved when the sunken truck was recovered. Comrie-Picard said their recent interaction was friendly and jovial.
CBC News attempted to contact Oleekatalik, but was unsuccessful.