Across the Ice With Sarah McNair-Landry

Sarah McNair-Landry. Photo by Abby Fenton, Will Steger Foundation.

By NG Young Explorers Grantee Sarah McNair-Landry

To inspire youth to get outdoors and get active, promoting a healthy lifestyle and a love of nature

Arctic Ocean, Canada

Something woke me at four in the morning, and it’s a good thing it did. A polar bear was about to attack the tent right above my head. As claws started to rip the fabric, I kicked and screamed. That woke my brother, Eric, who charged after the bear with a camp shovel. In the chaos I managed to find our shotgun, fire it in the air a couple times, and scare off the bear for good. Eric and I were attempting the first kite-skiing traverse of the frozen Northwest Passage. We had set off in March 2011 from Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and hoped to end on Baffin Island, Nunavut, where we had grown up. Our parents are adventure guides, so we spent weekends on dog-sleds learning to have fun in the cold. As teenagers we took up kite skiing—catching the strong polar winds with a kite to pull us over the ice and snow. Now we’re showing how it can open new routes by moving expeditions quickly over long distances. On this trip the native Inuit tracked our progress through the radio interviews we did along the way. When we got to a town, they were always waiting for us. After 85 days and 2,050 miles, we pulled into Pond Inlet, on Baffin Island, where people welcomed us with a square dance. There was only one thing to do. We took off our skis and joined in.

[Republished from the October 2012 National Geographic Magazine.]




Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.