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Expedition Update #8

Yellowknife, NT to Lynn Lake MB
Canada

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After resting in Yellowknife, and spending an entire day on the ground, the 5intheSky crew was ready for another adventurous flying day, and that’s exactly what we got!

 

We departed uneventfully from the Yellowknife airport and were cleared southbound towards Fort Resolution (CYFR). Yellowknife is on the north shore of Great Slave Lake and a direct route to Fort Resolution would mean 70nm of flying over the lake. As such, we tracked around the east shoreline of the lake, approaching Fort resolution over the delta formed by the Slave River (flowing northward from the Peace River region of Alberta) entering Great Slave Lake. This eastern shore is dotted with islands and is very picturesque. 

Great Slave Lake is the second largest lake in the Northwest Territories (after Great Bear Lake) and the tenth largest lake in the world and remains at least partially frozen for about 8 months of the year. The lake's name is derived from the First Nations people of the Dene family, called the Slavey.

 

It was a brief stop at Fort Resolution and we were soon back in the air following the wide Slave River valley south for another brief stop at Fort Smith (CYSM) before continuing on to Fort Chipewyan, Alberta (CYPY) on the western edge of Lake Athabasca. Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan are connected by winter road only, that extends onwards to Fort McMurray, Alberta, however Fort Smith is connected by year-round road to Hay River and beyond.

 

We were happy to have now stopped in another Province (Alberta), and before the day was over, we would have also stopped in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We had spent the last 5 days in the Northwest Territories, visiting 14 different communities, and had started to hatch a plan for the 5intheSky team to try and visit every Province and Territory in Canada as we crossed the country.

Our next goal was to visit the Athabasca Sand Dunes so we stopped in Fort Chipewyan for a break and also to mount our 360 GoPro and GoPro Hero 10 to either wing of the AirVan in advance of flying over the sand dunes.

The Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park contains the most northerly active sand dune formations on planet earth, and they are spectacular. The dunes stretch across almost 100km of the southern shore of Lake Athabasca, and while Lake Athabasca is located in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, the dunes are solely in Saskatchewan. They are estimated to be approximately 8,000 years old and were formed near the end of the last glacial period. 

 

We took off from Fort Chipewyan and flew east along Lake Athabasca’s southern shoreline until we finally saw them in the distance about 30 minutes later. Chris was the first to say he could see dunes, as a yellow mirage on the horizon slowly formed into sand dunes as we approached them.  We spent a good amount of time banking turns over the dunes and exploring every corner of the Provincial Park. There is no road access to the park, so there are limited numbers of visitors, and it’s highly likely we were the only ones there on that day. 

“With outstanding scenery, dunes as high as 30 meters and a unique ecosystem that's rich in rare and endemic (only found here) plants, scientists consider the dunes an evolutionary puzzle” (Tourism Saskatchewan) 

 

This park has been on Samantha’s bucket list for a while now so she was pretty excited to have been able to check it off the list!  

After exiting the Athabasca sand dunes we flew straight to Fond-du-Lac airport, Saskatchewan (CZFD) and landed there for a short rest and to stretch our legs and make sure that the GoPro had actually been recording (we’ve made that mistake before and definitely won't be repeating it). We checked weather and planned a route toThompson Manitoba, as our destination the following day was Churchill, Manitoba on the shore of Hudson's Bay, to try and sight Polar Bears.

 

It was a smooth takeoff and we were on our way to Stony Rapids, SK (CYSF).  During the flight we stayed fairly low, below 2000 feet AGL as we followed the lake to the east and stopped at Stoney Rapids to refuel both airplane and crew.

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Pictures from around Stony Rapids

Thompson was further than we really wanted to go for the day, but we had tried in vain to get permission to land at one of the plethora of private airstrips in Northern Manitoba. We continued south-east and landed at Wollaston Lake (CZWL) on the southern shore of the lake with the same name. We parked and walked into the village, finding a decent motel advertising rooms for rent, but we couldn’t contact anyone on-site or by phone. There was no terminal building at the airfield and we were thinking of staying and camping, but made the regrettable decision to keep going to Lynn Lake, Manitoba.

 

Roughly an hour later we landed at Lynn Lake (CYYL), completed our tie down procedure and started to walk into town. It was the first airfield we had visited for a while where another aircraft (a helicopter) was at the field with us overnight. We are used to less than deluxe accommodations, but the street scene of boarded up buildings on the main street in Lynn Lake was worrisome, and after reviewing the options for accomodation, we opted to sleep with the AirVan at the Lynn Lake airport.

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Samantha and Christopher sleeping in the airport terminal

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The helicopter at the field was active just after dawn, so we were up early again, with both dinner and breakfast consisting of trail mix and water.  We hoped for a meal in Thompson, Manitoba, but when we arrived we realized the 5intheSky team had a more pressing issue to deal with before we could continue on to Churchill. 

 

By the time we reached Lynn Lake, Manitoba, after a long day of flying, the 5intheSky team had flown a total of 3,500 nautical miles (6,480km) and logged 34.5 hours of airtime, stopping at 29 different airports since leaving Vancouver.