Tue 05/07-2022 Day 684

Pos: 71.3009,-156.7683
Loc: Barrow
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 49,8 km
Start: 10:15 End: 22:35

We sleep a little longer this morning, not feeling any pressure to get going in the morning fog. The wind will stay light today, and the evening hours are usually good until the mist falls again. Twenty-four hours of daylight does not restrict our schedule either. I am keen on trying my new warming soles today. I stick them inside my Gore-Tex dry suit booties and wear my regular Smartwool socks on top of them. It seems to keep my feet warm for longer than usual, maybe until noon.
A first stop is at a wooden shack whose roof hangs down to the ground on one end while a wall has fallen over. It is not much of use anymore. The ocean looks free of ice as far as we can see. Another stop at a wide-open friendly-looking river mouth among the ever-continuing mud cliffs has an intact open private cabin, which everyone in an emergency can use. We have a brief look and leave everything untouched.
We start hearing the first shots and motorboats out there around the offshore ice shelves. People are hunting for seals. We also see them walking on the ice, likely retrieving the prey. Native people are allowed to hunt seals to keep their lifestyle living off the land; white people are not.
In the distance, a tower on the edge of another river mouth lurks us for the third stop. We also see something looking like a modern tent, but it turns out to be Marvin’s quad cart wrapped on one side in a tarp against the wind. He is keen to hunt caribou but spots them, unfortunately only on the other side of the river, which is too deep for him to cross on the rising tide. Quite a sniper gun lays in an open gun case by his cart, and a sizeable long knife hangs down from his belt to the side. We chat for a while and got a lot of useful local information, also about the Will Rogers memorial up the mud cliff.
The ice we see now on the ocean looks not nice anymore for us. The wide open-water lead at the shore is gone, and a large ice shelf spreads out wide to sea. The other day, we were successfully rounding such a sticking-out ice field with not many issues other than the fear of polar bears. We think we also see here the end of the shelf and open water behind it where we can quickly get back to shore on the other side. But there is also somehow n open water passage on the shore, but blocked in some spots with ice. Peter votes for going smoothly around; I fancy the inside course. It will be more effort to get in and out of the kayak, but we would stay safe on the beach.
I am not sure why I agreed with Peter going around the outside. I should have listened to my intuition for the safe but rougher side. We aim for the larger ice bergh bordering the open water and the outer shelf edge. But we find ourselves quickly and almost trapped in fast-moving ice floes once we try rounding the bergh. No good place for us out here! Why the heck are the ice pieces suddenly moving so fast – and who is moving? The bergh, the floes or ourselves? We just about turn around in time to escape the worst thing happening – to be trapped and squeezed between moving ice. We assume the last time rounding the other shelf, the tidal flow was slack, and there were also not so many free-floating pieces around.
Back to shore, thirteen kilometers before Barrow, we now have to work our way along the coast in shallow open water leads, mixed with short passages of ice where we have to get out of the kayaks and drag them over the ice. It is going easier than expected, only my warming soles quit the work, and my feet get cold as always. But the rest of the body and hands heat up on the sporty effort. At kilometer six before Barrow, we run into two groups of seal hunters who came by truck to the beach. They shoot seals on the ice closer to shore and set over the lead by a small sit-on-top plastic kayak or tiny boat. The first group is two white men with their families, escorted by a native guy for the ‘legal’ seal shooting. They are reluctant once we land for a chat but melt up when we tell our story. A pile of butchering rests on the beach shows successful hunting activity. But that pile looks not as if they took all valuable meat pieces home, which is against the native ethics to use just every part from the animal once taken as prey.
The second group, a native family, is chatting friendly with us and passing on more info. They also confirm this shore fast ice shelf stops at the next point with a large tank on top of the hill. Thank goodness!
We paddle the last five kilometers to Barrow in dense fog. We text Traci about our arrival and soon find the beach spot with the house of Carmen and Alex. They, meanwhile, are back home, and Traci sleeps in their guest room. We have no choice but to sleep on the beach in our tent by our kayaks. We even ask Traci to shift the third kayak she picked today, still wrapped from the flight, down to our camp spot for better surveillance. No problem, we are used to sleeping outside. Traci comes with a hot soup Alex has prepared for us, and we chat for a while inside our tent.
Unfortunately, the night is too good for people not to launch and land continuously with their boats right here, and a handful of youngsters on quad bikes and offroad carts enjoys fast rides up and down the beach. I cannot fall asleep until three o’clock in the morning. Peter has earplugs in and snores already happily. What a day!