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Siblings plot summer adventure across Arctic Canada in hand-sewn kayaks

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

A brother and sister duo from Iqaluit, the capital city of Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, is planning their latest northern adventure.

This summer, Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry will use handmade kayaks to travel 1,000 kilometres across Baffin Island in Nunavut. They'll start in the community of Qikiqtarjuaq and end in the community of Cape Dorset.

But first, they have some sewing to do. They're stretching canvas over a light wood frame, then sewing it tight. Next, they'll paint the canvas with about four coats of polyurethane. The kayaks are based on the traditional Inuit one, used for thousands of years across the Arctic.

The idea to use kayaks on a trip came after several trips to Greenland where kayaking is still going strong for hunting and national competitions.

"There have been many attempts at revival through just building a kayak, but they all hang in museums or in schools, visitors' centres, what not. None of these kayaks are actually used," said Eric, who also runs Pittarak Expeditions.

The four-person team will spend 50 to 60 days on the trip – enough time to get well-acquainted with their custom-made boats.

"In Greenland, there's 36 different rolls that they can perform in competition, so that's something that I think we'd like to work towards as well," said expedition member Katherine Breen.

The kayak they're making now is just a prototype. Later this year, the team will move their workshop to Inuksuk High School. They'll recruit students to help them build the boats which will go on the trip, and also try to get more people interested in the sport that Inuit gave to the world.

"It's not just such an important part of their history, but, I mean, Nunavut's also an amazing place to sea-kayak," said Sarah.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.