Thursday, December 24, 2015

Norwegian student spends six months alone in Canadian NWT wilderness

Kristoffer Glestad, a 26-year-old mechanical engineering student from Norway realized his childhood dream of living alone in the remote wilderness of Canada's Northwest Territories.

He and two friends originally intended to go together for an entire year so they could observe all the seasons. They picked a remote lake about an hour's flying time from the community of Norman Wells, population around 800, a good sized town for the North West Territories. Norman Wells was very active during the second World War when it supplied oil for the military and there was the long Canol Pipeline and road of the same name. The pipeline and road shut down after the war.
The North West Territories used to be much larger, larger in area than India, but in 1999 eastern portions became the territory of Nunavut. Population density is a mere 0.04 people per square kilometer or 0.10 per square mile. In other words there is only one person for every ten square miles.
The lake Glestad chose to stay by is not even named in English on the map and there are no communities nearby. Glestad's dream of traveling to the northern wilderness in Canada was inspired by his reading about Norwegian adventurers such as Helge Ingstad when he was a child. This is not his first adventure. In March of 2014 he and a Norwegian comrade set off to ski to the North Pole but the mission had to be aborted.
Glestad said he just wanted to go and live off the land and enjoy seeing nature. Travis Wright, the pilot who flew Glestad to the lake had never heard of it before. He wondered to himself what Glestad thought he was doing and feared a tragic outcome. The family-run North Wright Airways had been flying prospectors, fishermen, hunters and others around the area since 1989 but this was his first visit to the the lake where he flew Glestad.
In June of this year Wright flew Glestad with 150 kilograms of equipment and supplies to the secluded lake. He helped Glestad unload his equipment which included an axe, a rifle, a saw, a tent and rations but no camp stove. The air was thick with mosquitoes.
Glestad's first task was to put on his bug suit and gloves. He then built a raft to ferry his gear to a better site for camping. He then built without nails a simple log cabin with spruce trees and grass for a roof. Glestad was in the more southerly part of the territories below the tree line. Conditions would have been even more severe if he tried to camp out further north above the treeline where there would be no wood to build a cabin or for fuel. He fished to provide himself food but also had dry rations.
As time passed, Glestad had trouble keeping himself occupied. When he wasn't chopping wood for fuel or foraging for food he had to find ways to entertain himself. He tried singing but it was so bad he gave that up and then tried talking to himself. This made him feel foolish. He then spent time recalling his past life. He did have a satellite phone which he used to check in with his family, a doctor, and his co-ordinator in Norway, He looked forward to these links with the outside world but used the phone only about three times each month.
By November winter was well upon him and darkness came quite early each day and lasted until later in the morning. He heard wolves close to him one night when he was sleeping in the tent. Glestad enjoyed just viewing his surroundings. Becoming ever more lonely and as the cold closed in, Glestad phoned his co-ordinator in Norway to tell him he was done.He had to wait three weeks for the ice on the lake to freeze thick enough so that the Cessna 206 could land on the lake on skis.
When he landed, Wright the pilot, said that it was incredible to see Glestad again after six months. He had worried that he might have problems. He was surprised to see the cabin that Glestad built. Most expeditions, Wright said, rarely last more than two months.
Bearded, shaggy and 45 pounds lighter, after six months living out his childhood dream alone in the remote wilderness, Glestad was flown back to Norman Wells. He has now returned to his family farm in Oslo in time for Christmas.
His stay in the wilderness revealed to him that people are not made to be alone all the time. He said: "I knew I liked my family. I knew I like being with friends. I didn't know I cared that much. That I could long for being with those people so hard,"

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