4th February, 2016

6 years ago  •  By  •  8 Comments

We are beginning to count down and get last minute details sorted out for the start of the expedition from Eagle, Alaska.
Eagle has no road access in the winter so we are going to sledge from there to Dawson to get to the nearest road. We will then truck everything up to Inuvik for the flight onto the sea ice next to Herschel Island for the start of our 700 mile replication of Amundsens journey.

DSC00657_smallOne problem we have come up against in the last few days is the condition of the Yukon River between Eagle and Dawson.
Unfortunately, the jumble ice is so bad on the river this year that it is impassable between Forty Mile and Dawson. Instead we will have to use the alternative route which is a 20 mile uphill run to 3600ft to get over the mountains. We will need to leave a day earlier as it is going to take us a bit longer! Hopefully the weather will be kind to us. Once you start with a venture like this the timetable soon gets torn up due to weather and ground conditions.
Contingency is a major part of the planning process for an expedition of this complexity. It is always the bits you think won’t be a problem that can easily become one.



I have been asked the question by students taking part in the expedition’s educational programme what food we eat and is our diet carefully worked out.
During the six weeks of the expedition the team will be manoeuvring heavy sleds across difficult terrain in temperatures of -20 to -50 degrees. We will be almost constantly on the move for up to 7 hours and will burn around 5500 – 6000 calories each day. It is difficult to maintain weight on an expedition of this length and food intake is an important part of expedition planning.

In the past, an endurance diet for Arctic expeditions contained 70% of its calories from fat and dried meat and 30% from Carbohydrates in the form of Pemmican (blocks of fat, meat and vegetable) which Amundsen used.
The problem with a Pemmican diet was that fat and meat did not allow the body quick access to the calories contained in it. Carbohydrates on the other hand provide ready energy for exerting muscles. The team will consume a diet in which 65% of calories come from carbohydrates and only 35% from fat.

A carbohydrate diet has drawbacks. It takes approximately twice the amount of carbohydrates to provide the same number of calories found in fat so we must carry a greater volume and weight of food. This problem is mitigated by using light weight dried prepared meals that just need water adding. The meals taste OK but after six weeks we will be looking forward to a regular meal.
We will be really careful to take lots of fluids which is very important in a cold climate as you often don’t feel thirsty. Dehydration exposes you to increased risk of hypothermia and frost bite.


During Amundsens expedition to the South Pole he supplemented his diet with dog meat – we will definitely NOT be doing that!
I cannot end this blog without mentioning the great sadness we all feel at the death of Henry Worsley the Antarctic explorer who died in January.  Others have already written more eruditely than I could about his enormous achievements. Our thoughts are with his family.

We will be replicating Amundsens sledging journey starting on the 22nd February and finishing in early April this year. We hope you will follow us on our website which will have a map tracking our progress.

Comments 8

  1. keaton
  2. Eagle Community School
    How deep of snow can the dogs break trail through? How are you prepared to defend yourselves against wildlife (polar bears, wolves, moose etc.) on your trip? What kind of parkas and other winter gear do you wear? How do you plan to deal with feces (human and dog) on Herschel Island?
    • Jane Oakley
      Hoping that the final preparations go smoothly and all your equipment and the dogs are in good fettle also that the weather forecast, and ice conditions improve to be as you wish. Here's hoping that Matt, Wayne's son does really well on the Yukon Quest and has a strong finish. You have a strong support team so just wishing you all a safe journey, success and my thoughts are with you and your progress will be watched with admiration. If there is any element of luck in this expedition - Good luck!
  3. Eagle Community School (Marlys, Valerie, Sunny, Josh, Alex, TristaN, Kirsten, Shian)
    How deep of snow can the dogs break trail through? How are you prepared to defend yourselves against wildlife (polar bears, wolves, moose etc.) on your trip? What kind of parkas, boots, and other winter gear do you wear? How do you plan to deal with feces (human and dog) on Herschel Island? Are you planning to bring your own water, or will you melt snow as a water source? Good luck, and travel safe! We hope to see you here soon!
    • Tim Oakley
      Thank you for all the questions.I will answer them in order the best i can. In the snow anything above chest height the dogs find difficult to pull the sledges in unless there is a trail with a firm base. If there is no trail then you can run a loose lead dog ( off the gang line) to create the beginning of a trail for the other dogs.It has to be a very well trained dog that will work to command when it is not pulling the sledge. It also can help to run the dogs in single file on the gang line. The next alternative is to cut trail for the dogs by snow shoeing in front. Defense against wild life: Polar Bears - you use small hand held flares and bangers that you fire at the bears. they are harmless but generally make them go away. The next thing is pepper spray which they really don't like. The problem with that is that they have to be a bit close to use it. At night you circle the tent with the dogs and hope they let you know if a bear comes by. Wolves - are not really a problem as they don't want to take on 22 dogs. Moose can be a problem if you meet one on a small trail with deep snow around. Generally they just run away but it has been know for bulls to charge thinking that the dog team is a pack of wolves. Our winter gear is pretty much the same as what you would use but maybe a little bit more heavy duty.I use Cabella -100 degree boots, a down parka with a canvas outer layer with a good hood. the coat comes down below the knees. three base layers under Carhart insulated bib trousers. A pair of gloves that go inside big beaver mittens. Then a really good hat with ear flaps. Also a neck scarf. Both Herschel Island and the Firth river area are ecologically very sensitive areas.Under normal circumstances there is a ship in /ship out policy on everything including feces. In this instance because of the time we are out there and the number of dogs we will have ( 22 dogs) it is not possible to operate a ship out policy. As a result we have had all the dog vet checked and inoculated against any diseases that might cause a problem to wild life. By the time the spring comes all trace will disappear along with the snow. For water we will either use water from the river, after cutting an ice hole,or melt ice or snow. We will need to warm 20 pints of water twice a day for the dogs as well as water for ourselves. Thank you for the good luck.I hope you enjoy following the trip on the website.There will be a map that shows you where we are. We will also be blogging with weather and progress updates.
  4. Mick Farley
    See you have arrived safely in Vancouver, we will be following you on here! Best wishes Mick
  5. Mary Graham
    Hello Tim! Having just returned from Eagle and a short trip out with Wayne, I can sympathise with the state of the river ice! I ran some of your dogs and a couple of pups and they were all wonderful. Wish you all the very best for a successful expedition and may the snow gods and snow dogs be kind to you all. Once I have finished following the Quest I shall start following IAF instead. These trackers are a wonderful thing - stay safe and really looking forward to reading and hearing all about it. Take care, Musher Mary
  6. Hi Tim, you might be interested to know that it is forecast to get really cold here (UK) - down to minus 7!! Trust it is cold enough for you to go where you want. Are the conditions looking favourable? Charles