part of our everyday lives

aluminium in the arctic

Aluminium is most certainly part of our everyday lives, all around us, all the time – and it was no different for two adventurers when they embarked on a journey of a lifetime in the Canadian Arctic.

Two home-made aluminium kayaks were one of the key ingredients in the success of the young Australians who crossed, by foot, the ninth largest island in the world. It was an adventure that was completely different to any polar, mountaineering, or river expedition ever before attempted, as they hid from polar bears and got chased by wolves. The expedition was supported by Alcoa.

With virtually no prior experience 21 year old Chris Bray and 20 year old Clark Carter set off on Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic, travelling 1000kms across perhaps the most extreme and diverse landscape in the planet.

Travelling without a support crew, across previously unexplored territory, Chris and Clark hauled everything they needed behind them in their home-made wheeled aluminium kayaks. When filled with the basics, each kayak weighted a quarter of a tonne.

Knowing the kayaks would weigh a reasonable amount once packed full, Chris and Clark knew from the start they had to use a light-weight material for the kayaks - and aluminium was the ideal choice.

“Aluminium is just such a workable, versatile, strong material - I love it. I grew up on an aluminium yacht that my parents built, so not only did we have a garage well equipped for aluminium work, but I have been playing with it since I was a kid,” Chris explained.

“We built a few parts of the kayaks from steel - such as the tow-point - and amusingly (although not at the time) these steel things were the only things that broke! The aluminium in the kayaks themselves performed really well.

58 days into their first crossing attempt, they were forced to abandon the journey. But the pair was undeterred and spent the next three years learning new skills, redesigning their equipment and in 2008 returned to the Island to finish what they started – and they did.

But of course along the path there were many moments when they felt like giving up, and Chris said it was their iPods (which also contain aluminium) which helped the pair to battle on.

“We just turned them up a little louder, put more up-beat music on, or even a Harry-Potter audio book, and just tuned out from all the pain and suffering we were going through.”

Alcoa donated the aluminium which the pair turned into their kayaks.

"While Alcoa wasn't one of our 'major' sponsors, the company’s support was invaluable. Alcoa was our first sponsor, and this 'first one' is so critical in getting others to follow and support us too,” Chris said.

“We were very proud to have a name like Alcoa behind us and it definitely spurred us on.”

You can read more about the adventure in Chris Bray’s Book ‘The 1000 Hour Day’ which will be released in November 2010 and is available from Murdoch Books, or online at www.chrisbray.net.


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