Saturday, October 08, 2011
Paddle to the Arctic/ Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak
There's enough adventures here for more than one book, and in fact two did grew out of this expedition: Starkell's Paddle to the Arctic, and Jason's Kabloona in the Yellow Kayak. And if you've ever wanted to experience a "he said, she said" version of how a kayaking expedition can go wrong, this is as probably as good as you're going to get.
It's clear from his book that Starkell was a driven man, and seemingly would let almost nothing get in the way of completing his expedition. Not even his paddling partners. He consistently and often rudely ignored advice from his partners and from the local residents and indigenous peoples who knew how to survive in this remote and dangerous part of the world. Despite years of planning, he made mistakes like neglecting to pack all the charts required or checking that his kayak compass was working correctly before setting out. In one notably gaffe, he lead himself and Jason over 100 km off course by paddling east when he though he was paddling west. Even the sun rising from the totally opposite side of the horizon than it should was not enough to convince him that he might be wrong. I lost count of how many times in this book the phrase "Instead, I decided to play a hunch" was followed a page or so later by "It didn't go the way I expected."
I'm not suggesting this isn't a good book -- it is -- but you will be pulling your hair out as Starkell's situation goes from bad to worse. To be fair, Starkell seems to realize that many of the obstacles were of his own making, and he is a much humbler man at the end of the book.
These books are the classic example of what can happen when not understanding your partner's motivation to for paddling. In this case, one was paddling for the experience of it, while the other was paddling it apparently just for the sake of doing it. As Neil Peart once wrote in a Rush song, "The point of the journey is not to arrive."