Last week, as the Duke and Duchess of York embarked on a private two-week canoeing holiday in the Northwest Territories, the British press relished the pair’s roughand-ready attitude. Indeed, four London tabloids carried identical headlines: “Fergie Crockett—Queen of the wild frontier.” But they also expressed concern about the dangers that Sarah and Andrew would be facing. Declared Today’s Martin Phillips: “As the Royals head east, they will pass woodland where moose lurk. In the Barren Lands, the danger will be from grizzly bears, wolves and caribou.” The Daily Express also fretted about the climate in the tundra where, it reported, “temperatures can soar into the high 80s during the day and plunge to zero at night.” Although environmental experts said that such accounts were exaggerated, they acknowledged that the couple would experience some risks and discomfort. Their route remained an official secret, but it was widely assumed that their 300-mile trip would take them down the Thelon River to Baker Lake, less than 200 miles west of Hudson Bay. According to Douglas Heard, an N.W.T. government biologist, it is a spectacular voyage—“but it is not a walk in a park.
The water is cold, cold, and they’ll have to negotiate fast rapids and three monster lakes.” The route also means portaging around several waterfalls. Still, Andrew and the six friends accompanying the couple — some from the Duke’s school days at Lakefield College near Peterborough, Ont.—are experienced canoeists, and “if they exercise good judgment they should be okay,” Heard added.
And although the climate is not as extreme as the -18°C to 30°C range cited by the Daily Express—average temperatures this time of year range from 6°C to 16°C—cold fronts coming down from the Arctic islands could bring wet, cold and windy weather. But the royal pair seemed undaunted by such challenges. At the so-called July 27 “splash-off” from a site on the Hanbury River about 500 km northeast of Yellowknife, Andrew and Sarah paddled about and chatted cheerfully with reporters. At one point, Sarah read off the words from a sticker pasted on her canoe: “Never underestimate the strength of this woman.” Declared Sarah: “I’ve adopted that as my motto for the holiday.”
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