Hicks and Bullard prepare for launch, carrying their modified Inuk kayak 18
GREENLAND LEG 1 Knighton Bay – Iceland 180 miles LEG 2 Iceland coastal hop 380 miles ICELAND N A V I G A T O R LEG 3 Iceland – Faroe Islands 270 miles DEVIL’S DANCEFLOOR FAROE ISLANDS LEG 4 Faroe Islands transit 70 miles LEG 5 Faroe Islands – North Rona 160 miles LEG 6 North Rona – Cape Wrath 50 miles NORTH RONA SCOTLAND The first leg from Greenland to Iceland went as planned. We had to cross 45 miles of pack ice before we reached the shore. We were then lucky to have weather conditions that allowed us to complete the first 138 miles at sea in 40 hours. With 24-hour sunlight, day and night don’t exist. All you have is good and bad weather. This meant that we were always dependent on that right moment for a window to open before we could leave Iceland for good and get ready for our dance with the devil. Crossing the Devil’s Dancefloor from Iceland to the Faroe Islands predictably turned out to be tough. As an open ocean crossing, we were looking to spend six days and nights in the kayak, again we were highly dependent on the weather being absolutely perfect for the whole stretch. Our window of opportunity finally arrived and we set off, but after 36 hours at sea we were again overcome by an unexpected change of weather and urgently had to find a way to get back to Iceland. We were lucky to cross paths with a passing fishing boat, which took us back. Safe again, we regrouped and rested, but not for long. A week later we were back dancing with the devil and this time, after four days and nights at sea, we made our way across and finally arrived on the Faroe Islands. This mystical archipelago became our home for three weeks while we again waited for Mother Nature to play our game. After another false start and return she eventually succumbed to our wishes. With our beards growing and exhaustion creeping up on us, we began the passage. With our soggy kit and nothing but the North Atlantic horizon ahead and behind us, it was a real test of endurance. Even with our goal nearing, we began to understand that we had underestimated the exhaustion and the monotony of paddling for hours on end, but giving up was never an option. When you Above left: the route from Greenland to Scotland covers more than 1,200 miles at sea. Right: the Land Rover that carried the team’s kit and kayak are in a kayak on open waters hundreds of miles from land, you really only have one choice: to continue paddling, no matter what. ‘Paddle or die’ became our mantra. So continue we did. After 65 hours on the open waters, sleeping just three of them, we were again forced to play to the forces of weather and faced with the agonizing decision to not head home but divert to North Rona, a tiny island, just 40 miles off the Scottish coast. Again, our window of opportunity had slammed in our face; it wasn’t time for us to reach home just yet. Salt-encrusted and fatigued we fi nally arrived on North Rona, almost four centuries after the original Finmen arrived to stun locals and create a myth that lives on today. Ahead of us was just a final push and we would be home, safe and sound, and an incredible experience richer, although putting off paddling for some time to come! Getting in the kayak the first time was part of our challenge, but not the biggest. Getting back into the same kayak day after day, week after week, with the same damp equipment, and often in foul conditions was where we came to learn just how arduous this journey was – and perhaps also why no one has intended to imitate it since the fi rst Inuit tribesmen arrived in Scotland. Still, it was worth every stroke and each cold night at sea. As an adventurer, I am drawn to these expeditions; pioneering adventures that have never been attempted or completed before. Surely that is why we are here: to push ourselves to discover our planet and explore what lies beyond? 19
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