7 Thousand miles. 7 Rivers. Zero fuel. -- I'm heading to the Arctic Ocean... with a fatbike, a packraft, & some ultralight camera gear.
The original minimum was definitely a minimum to get this off the ground in bare-bones fashion. EVERY CENT OVER THE GOAL WILL GO DIRECTLY TO THE EXPEDITION PROJECT.
The cool part is that things are now fully in motion and your backing is going to a green-lit project!
All I want is to do epic stuff across the face of our amazing planet, then tell you about it so you can do the epic stuff you want to do. Is that so much to ask?
In the last week of March 2012, I'm heading north to the Arctic Ocean on foot, fatbike, and packraft. The estimated duration of the expedition is 6-8 months, but may vary significantly due to ice, ocean, and ground conditions throughout.
- 7,000 Miles
- 7 Rivers
- Zero Fuel
- 2 Oceans
- 4 Mountain Ranges
The project is a film documenting the adventure. It would be naivete or hubris to pitch you a plotline before I've left. I'm confident that my mind will be sufficiently blown, and I'll do my best to translate that into something that will inspire others to experience the sublimity of wildness and wilderness.
*route is counter-clockwise (larger map. external link)
I hope that most of the awards are self-explanatory. Here are some details that probably aren't obvious:
-Hyperlithic. Over the course of the last two years, I found myself in need of increased physical training to pull off my adventures. Since I called a sailboat my home for most of that time, suggestions including cr***fit and regular gyms weren't workable. Being the geek and guinea pig that I am, I started experimenting, reading everything I could online, and digging into scientific journals with names like The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research and Journal of Applied Physiology. Hyperlithic is the culmination of that quest.
*Anybody who donates above the $25 level can get the HD documentary download w/ bonus footage. With the way Kickstarter is set up, I'd have to delay all the earlier dates if I officially included it.
Fatbikes are the latest in the evolution of mountain biking. Most mountain bikes have tires approximately 2 inches wide. A small group of bicycle manufacturers has started building frames what will accommodate tires up to 4.5" wide. While originally designed for racing in snow, the massive increase in width and tire flotation allow fatbikes to thrive in conditions that would turn most bikes into dead weight. If you've ever tried to take your mountain bike on a soft beach or off the beaten path, you've probably experienced the limitations to the promise of past mountain bikes.
Packrafts are whitewater capable single-person rafts that roll up and pack to about the size of a 2-person tent. They weigh in at only about 5 pounds. The combination of durability, compactness, and light-weight unlock massive adventure potential as a primary means of transport, and allowing the crossing of otherwise impassable bodies of water.
Bikerafting is the combination of regular bicycles with packrafts. Typically, the wheels are removed and stacked on the bow (front) of the raft.
Fatbikerafting simply leverages the increased exploration potential of fatbikes and bikerafting. It optimizes distance and terrain options in ways no other inland combination can. Fatbikerafting is the closest we can currently get to the sailing aesthetic inland. Of course, leaving the bike out of the equation slightly increases the terrain one is able to traverse, but distance is more limited.
I'm a huge fan of the tradition of exploration in human history. Polar explorers are particularly remarkable. A significant portion of my planned route follows in the footsteps of Arctice explorer and anthropologist Vilhjamlur Stefansson. The year 2012 coincides with the centennial of the completion of his famous study of various Inuit bands. Additionally, the route traces portions of Roald Amundsen's expedition that was the first to sail the Northwest Passage, and also portions of the Iditarod Trail. Without the knowledge and accounts of such people, I would have approximately zero chance of success.
Roald Amundsen Arctic Expedition 1903-1906
"Gjøa is a yacht 46 tons, 73 feet long, 20 feet wide, and draws 10 feet when loaded. She is not especially built for Arctic ice covered water but has lately been strengthened by oak planks - cross beams & knees, & everything else that can serve to break the ice. She has a petroleum motor of 13 horse powers..." - Roald Amundsen, 1903
Vilhjalmur Stefansson Arctic Expedition 1908-1912
"We loaded the sloop and our whale-boat to their full capacity with about five tons of our own goods..." - Vilhjalmur Stefansson 1908
I have managed to get my provisions to something a little less than 5 tons. I'm looking at about 30 pounds of bike, 30 pounds of pack, and 10 pounds of raft stuff. Hey, that's not even 1 ton!
Documenting the Fatbikerafting the Arctic project relies on a few pieces of commonly available, but not exactly free, pieces of technology. High Definition video cameras are relatively inexpensive these days, but my challenges are keeping them powered every day, and having enough data storage to hold months and months of footage and images. Oh, and... keeping the weight ridiculously low so I can carry it on my own power.
I try to learn as much as possible from those who have successfully pulled off sorta similar expeditions...
"The task of supplying a polar expedition these days is not a piece of art - if one has enough money. One has to take advantage of previous experience as an example." - Roald Amundsen 1903
As far as provisioning and budgeting, I've scrutinized dozens of expeditions. For context, here's one example that you're probably familiar with: Lewis & Clark. A conservative estimate of their expedition was $38,722.25. That's in 1803 dollars, which works out to about $811,100.41 in 2012 US dollars. Since their party numbered 33 (more or less), that works out to $24,578.80 per person. Their expedition was much longer than mine, but keep in mind that they hunted without restraint, and expedition costs tend to be largely up-front costs. Woohoo! I'm coming in well under L&C's budget!
-Data storage. I won't be taking a computer to interface with the cameras, and hard drives aren't feasible to pack. Thus, I'll have to take a bunch of tiny memory cards. Even if I can somehow transfer the data when I hit towns, I won't be able to do it online; it would require mail. I'll need at least 25 cards at around $45 a pop. Estimate: $1125.
-Solar power.Wherever possible, I'll be using gear that takes AA batteries. I'll need a solar charger that can charge AAs and other cameras on standard USB voltage. Estimate: Solar panel and charger $125.
-Bicycle power generation. Because of the amount of electronic gear I'll need, and because the sun's intensity will be lower at such high latitudes, I'll need other means to keep juice flowing. Estimate: $350 dyno hub. Electronics charging adapter $205. Custom wheel and tire build $350+. Wheel Total: $905
-Satellite communication. Most of the expedition will be wayyy off-grid. I'll be alone in extreme environments, and away from towns, for weeks at a time throughout parts of the route. I'll need to be able to communicate for safety purposes. Also, some segments are subject to change in direction and duration. I'll need to be able to reach my team for logistics. Part of this strategy is satellite text messaging capability. Estimate: $550 hardware + $700 (minimum) data fees. Total communications: $1250.
-Fuel & Logistics. Not fuel to burn for transportation, but fuel for the film crew (me). I'm budgeting 4,000+ calories per day. Because of the challenge of food that's light enough to, and doesn't need refrigeration, human fueling adds up quicker than you might think. My estimated budget for human fueling and a whole bunch of logistical nightmares is $4,375.
-Estimate Total: $7,780. I have two $5 bills sitting next to me under a pile of library cards, so let's just chop that down to $7,770 (see what I did there with the 77Zero?). In reality, the total cost of the expedition is probably double that figure. I haven't added in the thousands of dollars of rafting and bike gear, specialized clothing, and a zillion other seemingly little things that add up ridiculously fast. This Kickstarter is about filling in some gaps, especially for the documentation part, not funding the whole enchilada.
I can't yet divulge specifics, but during the expedition I'll be working with Adventurers and Scientist for Conservation to aid in research related to the areas I'll be traveling through. Like Roald Amundsen, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Douglas Mawson, and many other explorers, I think it's important to add to the body of scientific knowledge in the unique way that only expeditions can.
Fatbikerafting the Arctic is one component of my ongoing project, 77Zero. The overarching slogan is "7 Continents. 7 Seas. ZERO Fuel." That is intended to imply multiple ideas. The first is my goal to explore as much as the planet as I can without burning fuels that have been dug up or grown on farmland. The second layer is the vision of a world in which humans are freed from the reliance on burning dead stuff for energy. In other words, it's a global adventure with sailing, cycling, paddling, and hiking.
"Hey Andrew, speaking of sailing... umm... What's up with no sailing in this expedition?" The port where my boat was awaiting repairs was one of the three on the U.S. West Coast that sustained [relatively] heavy damage from the Japan Tsunami. Can we talk about happier things now? :)
1) I generally have a "plastic shmastic" attitude.
2) In a quick survey on the 77Zero facebook page, about 78% said they didn't want that option.
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