St Albans canoeist leads team into Yukon wilderness

PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 May 2016 | UPDATED: 14:27 10 May 2016

Ian Finch is canoeing the Yukon River as part of the 'Pull of the North' expedition

Ian Finch is canoeing the Yukon River as part of the 'Pull of the North' expedition

Photo supplied

A former marine left Britain last weekend to embark on an epic journey along the Yukon River, canoeing 2,000 miles through Canada and Alaska.

Ian Finch is canoeing the Yukon River as part of the 'Pull of the North' expeditionIan Finch is canoeing the Yukon River as part of the 'Pull of the North' expedition

Ian Finch, who leads British military fitness classes at Verulamium Park, will be swapping press-ups and training runs for three months in a canoe, leading a team of four on the expedition to meet the native Athabaskan people, and create a film and photo study about the changing culture of Alaska’s first inhabitants.

The explorers, who expect to paddle for three months through the remote wilderness, will also be collecting water samples to help scientists measure levels of micro-plastics in the river.

Ian told the Herts Advertiser: “We will be filming the journey from start to finish, focusing on the human story of the people we meet, our story of the experience and about the beautiful Yukon wilderness around us. We are aiming for this to be a festival-worthy short documentary.”

Asked how the team had prepared for the expedition food-wise, the fitness trainer explained that meals had been organised in advance.

Ian Finch is canoeing the Yukon River as part of the 'Pull of the North' expeditionIan Finch is canoeing the Yukon River as part of the 'Pull of the North' expedition

He added: “To start with, we have prepared 45 days worth of food. This is rice meals, pasta, freeze-dried meals and fruit and most importantly - chocolate!

“We will also be sending food parcels on to towns and communities and collecting them along the way - basically resupplies.”

The team will be drifting through the vast Boreal Forest, which stretches around the northern tip of the globe, and through the mountains and glacial valleys of British Columbia and eastern Alaska.

Apart from bears and wolves they may encounter along the way, the canoeists will also have to be aware of the water temperature and river speed.

Ian said the journey would help them learn about the first nation and indigenous cultures that still resided along the river.

He added: “For thousands of years, after crossing the Bering land bridge from Asia, the first settlers of the region have been alongside the Yukon or beside the surrounding rivers.

“Today, life is somewhat different but the ancestors of these people still live alongside the river and are connected to it in many ways - for food, family and a spiritual connection to their ancestors. The expedition will look at the human story of the people and what the river means to them.

“We will also be researching how the communities are changing in negative and positive ways due to environmental and cultural forces at play.”

Water samples will be collected to test for the presence of micro-plastics in the river system and sent for analysis.

Ian left Britain last Sunday, May 8, with the expedition starting on May 17. He hopes to return about August 17.

He was formerly a commando in the Royal Marines where he qualified in mountain and arctic environments.

Past journeys have taken him to Greenland to spend time with Inuit hunters, to Tibet, Iceland, Nepal and China to learn about first nations cultures, and he recently walked from north to south through the remote Outer Hebrides islands.

For more information and to follow the trip click here and here.

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