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NUNAVUT NEWS/NORTH, Monday, October 5, 2015


Adventurer completes solo row


Trip through Northwest Passage ends in Pond Inlet after 6,000 km travelled in 165 days


Enookie Inuarak and friends were returning to Pond Inlet from a hunting trip on Bylot Island when they saw something on the water.


"We thought it was a plane crash," said Inuarak. "It looked like a plane on the water, without the wings. It was just there on the water, and nobody was there. Then out of nowhere, a guy just pops out."


The memory makes him chuckle.


What Inuarak encountered was French adventurer Charles Hedrich, 57, who was rowing the Northwest Passage solo in his six-metre, 60- kilogram rowboat with a living space of about one square metre.


"It's tiny," said Inuarak. "The guy was pretty big. Just looking at it, the way it's shaped, I guess it must be big enough inside. But it looks small from the outside."


In fact, Hedrich spent a lot of time inside, in that small space, anchored and waiting out wind conditions.


Hedrich started from the Bering Strait in 2013. He rowed around the coast of Alaska and left the boat in Tuktoyaktuk for overwintering, after rowing 3,000 km. On June 12, 2014, he resumed his adventure, departing from the Beaufort Sea. He managed to reach Taloyoak, with

a total of 2,000 km rowed, where he left his boat for one more winter. He had 1,000 km remaining to fulfill his goal of rowing the Northwest Passage solo.


On Aug. 13, weather conditions finally allowed him to take off from Taloyoak, although he had to wait another seven days at sea for the wind to blow in the proper direction.


When Inuarak came across Hedrich, the end was so close. For a motorized boat, such as the one driven by Inuarak, the remainder of the trip is two hours to Pond Inlet. For Hedrich, who manages an average speed of five km/h when the wind is down, it would take a few more days.


"We chatted with him," said Inuarak. "We were asking him where he was coming from. He said he rowed from Alaska. We were quite amazed. We were in awe just looking at him. We chatted a bit. He said he was fine and had food. Then we just went on our way."


During this final leg, Hedrich did have a couple of close encounters, one with fire and one with a polar bear. "I caught fire on the boat," Hedrich told Nunavut News/North on the phone from France. "I was without heat last year, but this year I wanted to make hot coffee." He managed to extinguish it.


But this small emergency pales in comparison to his run-in with polar bears.


"I was 20 metres from shore, watching a mother and kid. They were very relaxed," said Hedrich.


Then a big male suddenly appeared from nowhere and headed toward him. Hedrich was outside of the small vessel and his Winchester was inside the living space.


"The only thing I could do was go away as soon as possible."


This he did, returning to his journey before finally arriving at Pond Inlet where he met Inuarak again.


"He made it to Pond and we saw him there again. People were at the beach and helping him pull his boat to shore. People were amazed how far he rowed. He was a nice guy. He gave me rope and a small anchor, because he was flying his boat out," said Inuarak.


Almost attacked by bear


"He told the story that he almost got attacked by a polar bear."


After 6,000 km, 165 days at sea and three summers, Hedrich said, "Amongst all my adventures, this has been the most difficult. In terms of difficulty, in terms of the little canoe, it has been the most dangerous."


He said the weather forecasts are unreliable and cannot be predicted. Wind and ice are mighty enemies.


But he adds: "Of all my adventures this one has been the most beautiful. In terms of wildlife, the most beautiful I've ever had. And the relations with the communities has been very great."


With this adventure under his belt, he said it's possible he might consider the Northeast Passage.


"I know there are plenty of things to do."





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