Moving farther north, above landscapes of ice and rock

Twin Otter fixed-wing aircraft get the team, equipment and supplies in the vicinity of their field sites. This photo from a previous expedition shows the terrain of Ellesmere Island, typical for Arctic islands in this region It's the rock outcrops that most interest the team. (Photo by Ted Daeschler)

Left Pennsylvania 36 hours ago, now 500 miles above the Arctic Circle. Each step has gone like clockwork, still one step to go, so I hope I haven't jinxed it.

First step was an eight hour drive to Ottawa where we got a few last provisions and ate the last fresh food for a while. This morning we started with a 3-hour flight to Iqualuit, the capital of the Nunavut Territory.

As we moved north at 31,000 feet of altitude and 450 miles an hour, the immense size and emptiness of northern Canada became obvious. By the time we crossed over the entrance to Hudson Bay and began to cross Baffin Island, we were well above tree line. Iqualuit (formerly called Frobisher) has a bustling frontier-town feel and we all commented on the growth since the last time we were there a few years ago. Nunavut seems to be booming as resource extraction is receiving more investment, and perhaps access becomes easier with longer summers without pack ice.

In Iqualuit, we boarded another aircraft and started heading further north along Baffin Island, crossing the Arctic Circle within the first hour of the flight. The landscapes from the air are abstract patterns of sea ice, rock, water and snow, quite the entertainment for those of us who spend most flights gazing out the windows.

A quick layover in Arctic Bay on the north end of Baffin Island was a welcome chance to stretch legs, then north again, crossing Lancaster Sound, the eastern end of the northwest passage. The pack ice was mostly gone and the sea was open, glistening in the late afternoon Arctic sun.

Into Resolute, we are now well above the Arctic Circle. This is where we have staged all of our previous expeditions and we feel very much at home here, although as usual things have changed and there is more activity here than ever (research, commercial, and military).

We've reunited with equipment that we stored at the base since our last trip, and the food we shipped from Philly last month. All is well and we're ready for the last leg of the trip tomorrow, weather permitting, when we'll be shuttled off to Devon Island on a Twin Otter plane and eventually a helicopter to bring us to what we hope will be a productive area for our fossil exploration.

It's 10 p.m. and the sun is still high in the sky. I won't see the sun set for a few weeks!