Towering sea ice and a lost Ford truck: Team treks from Yellowknife to Resolute Bay

Transglobal Car Expedition’s 2,200-km journey only one part of planned vertical circumnavigation of globe

Members of the Transglobal Car Expedition team, from left to right, Anton Ershov (Russia), Alexei Zeitsev (Ukraine), Brandon Langan, (Cambridge Bay, Nunavut), and Alexei Dubinin, (Russia), upon arrival in Resolute. (Photo courtesy of Transglobal Car Expedition)

By Randi Beers

Andrew Comrie-Picard’s Inuit name is Omilgoetok, meaning thin-lipped.

It was bestowed upon him by elders in Cambridge Bay after he and his teammates — members of the Transglobal Car Expedition — arrived in the hamlet on March 16. Their route took them over tundra and packed sea ice, in a fleet of Ford F-150 pickup trucks and Yemelya amphibious vehicles.

“We arrived at 9 p.m. in zero visibility so the only people who met us was the guide and fixer, and he couldn’t even find us for a while,” said Comrie-Picard, a professional driver originally from Edmonton, who now lives in California.

The Transglobal Car Expedition deals with some tricky pack ice between Cambridge Bay and Resolute Bay. (Photo courtesy of Transglobal Car Expedition)

“People said, ‘Can you see the lights of Cam Bay,’ and we ran into it before we could see it.”

But Cambridge Bay was only the halfway point in the group’s journey, which took them from Yellowknife to Resolute Bay. They arrived on March 21.

The group, which includes an Inuit guide knowledgeable about polar bears and sea ice, faced towering ice blocks, mechanical struggles, polar bears, drifting snow powerful enough to swallow a truck — and even lost a vehicle through the sea ice.

But now the team says it has completed a world first by trekking overland from the continental shelf to the High Arctic. 

This trip is a test run of what the team calls a “very difficult section” of a complete vertical circumnavigation of the globe planned for next year.

“The reason we are on this trip now is to confirm if it’s possible to drive from Yellowknife to Resolute because the rest of the route various members have already done,” Comrie-Picard said.

The 16-member team is made up of Russians, Americans, Ukrainians, Canadians and Icelanders. They provided updates during their journey in detailed Facebook posts.

“Route is amazing. Route is rough,” says one post, while the team was 45 kilometres from Resolute Bay. 

The team travelled 2,200 kilometres between Yellowknife and Resolute Bay. (Photo courtesy of Transglobal Car Expedition)

They were stopped there by mechanical issues and massive blocks of ice.

“We couldn’t see past the closest pack ice blocks (some 15 feet tall!) and despite valiant efforts at breaking them up, we had to make a principled decision and call it off for the night,” states another post.

The expedition did see one casualty — one of the group’s 2021 Ford F-150 trucks.

It went through thin ice near the Tasmania Islands, in Franklin Strait, while the group was retracing its route back to Cambridge Bay, Comrie-Picard said.

Nobody was hurt, and the group had Kenn Borek Air on standby, in case a helicopter evacuation was necessary. The team plans to geolocate the submerged truck on its way back to Cambridge Bay, and eventually recover it.

Nunatsiaq News reached out to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, the lead agency on this case, to ask about environmental concerns posed by the sunken truck but hadn’t received a response from that department as of press time.

Comrie-Picard said one of the team’s goals is to feed the Indigenous ice database siku.org with data its members collected during the trip, including information about thin-ice areas like those around the Tasmania Islands.

“We are hoping that on this trip, the ice data we are collecting will be helpful to communities as the ice pack is changing so quickly,” he said.

The Transglobal Car Expedition team made international headlines in early March when a plane chartered by one of its Russian members was grounded in Yellowknife. Canada had closed its airspace days before to all Russian chartered, owned and operated aircraft, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Expedition members eat and camp inside the vehicles. From left to right: Alexei Zeitsev (Ukraine), Andrew Comrie-Picard (Canada), Eyjólfur Már Teitsson (Iceland), and Anton Ershov (Russia). (Photo courtesy of TransglobalCar Expeditions)

The plane was chartered by Vasily Shakhnovsky, a Russian citizen who is credited on the Transglobal Car website as initiating the expedition. He originally planned to take part in the trip, said Comrie-Picard, but that did not end up happening.

“Ironically, had he flown commercial, he would have been fine,” he said.

Comrie-Picard says the incident is a lesson learned for the team and admits its members could have announced their arrival to the N.W.T. a little better, seeing as the territory has multiple Indigenous governments and organizations interested in details of the expedition.

It’s also a consequence of the fact that this journey happens to be unfolding against a geopolitical backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“There is a feeling of concern going on more than anything about their lives being disrupted and being vilified,” Comrie-Picard said about how the war is affecting expedition team members.

“Everybody in the whole world thinks Russians are bad and the truth is, they’re the best people I’ve ever worked with. Grassroots people, truck drivers and mechanics and explorers.”

But everybody on the ground is absolutely focused on the task at hand, said Comrie-Picard, which this week has been training and searching for open water outside Resolute Bay.

The team plans to leave Saturday, and if all goes well, will do it all again next year, as part of a larger journey.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    “Nunatsiaq News reached out to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, the lead agency on this case, to ask about environmental concerns posed by the sunken truck but hadn’t received a response from that department as of press time.”

    How much do you want to wager that this spill was not reported?!?

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    • Posted by Huh? on

      What “spill” are you taking about? I didn’t noticed one mentioned in the story

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      • Posted by Fuel on

        The truck would have contained fuel (gasoline), oils. Who knows what was in the truck. More fuel in jerry cans? There is federal legislation about this type of contamination in our oceans.

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    • Posted by The real 867 on

      To the OP, please find another moniker.

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  2. Posted by high arctic on

    they gonna go tru some areas that have a lot of polar bear denning areas and the people going on this trip when asked about the polar bear dennings area , they walked away n looked back at us as if to say ‘ who r these eskimos trying to tell us what to do ‘ turns out they dont care about the enviroment n the animals that live up here

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    • Posted by Derpy Doo on

      I’ll believe it when I see it. Caribou herd populations rising would be one thing that makes me believe that Inuit truly care about stewardship of animals.

      When there isn’t snowmobile and quads piled up and left to rust and rot on the tundra wherever they die, I’ll believe it.

      When the shores of our communities aren’t filled with rotting green seal pelts and the god awful, sickly sweet, and distinct smell of carcasses left to rot I’ll believe it.

      When I am no longer seeing dogs slaughtered as nuisance pests in Nunavut communities I’ll believe it.

      But let me guess, my qaluna ass just doesn’t understand it up in the north. Doesn’t understand loose dogs getting dragged to death by their necks, taken to the dump and getting dispatched with a hammer.

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      • Posted by 867 on

        Do you work for Travel Nunavut? This paints a pretty gruesomely accurate portrait

        It is odd that so many “land defenders/environmentalists” claim that roads and railways will completely disrupt caribou populations, but will gladly use extremely polluting and noisy snowmobiles across herding grounds with zero regards for the impact that these machines may also have on wildlife migration routes and populations.

        In Yukon and Alaska it is mainly illegal to travel across the fragile tundra on ATV’s, but here in Nunavut it a god-given right and questioning the damage that snowmobiles and quads incur on the land is out-of-question.

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  3. Posted by John WP Murphy on

    Why was t this project shot down in Yk?
    This was a Russian sponsored and includes 2 Russians.
    One Russian went home from YK

    Obviously, sanctions mean nothing to Canada, the NWT or Nunavut

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    • Posted by jawbones on

      Yes, the Russians now know that Canada has nothing to defend the Arctic with in terms of Military and Military infrastructure presence.

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      • Posted by 867 on

        Sitting ducks now…

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      • Posted by Canada the Free Rider on

        Not much, but then again we are part of NORAD and NATO. Despite the fact that we are mostly a free rider the North is protected until the US decides it doesn’t care or loses the capacity to protect the continent.

  4. Posted by Cambridge Elders on

    Who bestowed this person with an Inuktitut name? Is there a committee of elders who decide? What are the criteria?

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    • Posted by Northern Inuit on

      I know one well known poster from our Region who could should be called Itek

      well, maybe, maybe not. can we vote on that?

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  5. Posted by Thomas Shelby on

    I want to know why this is even a story, there are so many Skidoos that go through the ice every winter and are NEVER recovered with all the gas and oil still in them. At least these guys are going to recover the vehicle and not leave it there like many do here in the north.
    Also the Russians already know we have nothing to protect ourselves, its called Satellites duh!!!

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    • Posted by Yoddle on

      People love a good moral panic

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