On Thursday, Oct 3rd at 5:30 Dianne Whelan and Louisa Robinson completed a 3500 KM paddle from Peace River, Alberta to Tuktoyuktuk, NWT.
They left June 6, 2019 and over the last 4 months encountered rapids, frigid temperatures, and bears unaffected and unafraid of human presence. This 3500 KM paddle is part of a 24000 KM journey called The Great Trail that filmmaker and author Dianne Whelan embarked on five years ago making a film called “500 days in the Wild”.
Since leaving Newfoundland July 2015 she has been walking, paddling, snowshoeing and mountain bike riding the longest trail in the world.
Dianne spent the first few years traveling solo but her partner Louisa joined her for this leg of epic paddle.
“I’ve never been so close to death as on this river”, she said.
She felt closes death the last few weeks than when she filmed her last feature film, 40 Days at Base Camp, on Mount Everest.
The journey’s environment was unforgiving. Dianne and Lousia had a standoff with a bear on the MacKenzie River that after several warning shots were fired—wasn’t afraid. Julien Gauthier, who was paddling the trail in front of them was mauled to death. Thomas Destailleur, who was paddling a few days behind them, drowned.
At times they didn’t have reception for up to 3 weeks and communicated for emergencies only by satellite phone. Their friends and family tracked them through a tracking app called ‘Spot’.
“We never saw another paddler on the river. It felt like everyone around us was dying. It becomes painfully aware that it could be anyone. At that point it is not just a physical challenge but a psychological one as well.”
Arriving Thursday evening right before snow and strong winds hit in Tuktoyuktuk, locals in Tuktoyuktuk said not many paddlers come this late in the season.
On the shores to greet them (as a surprise) was Robinson’s daughter, Janne Robinson. Janne decided last minute to fly from San Diego to the Arctic Circle to surprise her mother and her partner, Dianne.
She flew for two days and drove the last 160 KM’s from Inuvik to Tuktoyuktuk in a big muddy truck. Embarking on her own expedition to honor and give tribute to her mother and Dianne’s journey, and miraculously arriving only 30 minutes before they landed.
In the Instagram video (see here) Robinson shared you can hear her mother slowly realize and recognize her daughter. She begins shouting, “Janne! Janne!” as they arrive frozen to shore.
Louisa gets out of the canoe crying and embraces her daughter.
“At first I went — is that Janne?” Louisa shared.
“Dianne looked at me and said, ‘No sweetie — but we will FaceTime her when we get to shore’ but then I realized it was her when I saw her jump up and down.”
“Our hearts had been so hard. I hadn’t cried in 4 months. We had to be so toughand together out there. Seeing Janne broke our hearts open”, Dianne said.
The shared the story garnered a response from her audience that was stronger than anything she’s received in 5 years of working online as a writer, generating nearly 20,000 views in the first few days.
“I received hundreds of messages and comments from people saying it made them cry, and moved them to live with more courage. One woman said that she’s pregnant andhopes to create a relationship with her daughter with the same kind of love she witnessed.“ Janne noted.
“I realized that when my mother is ninety, lying on her death bed this is a moment I will want to bare witness to. Retrieving two of the women I love most from the waters of this great expedition felt important.”
Dianne Whelan’s film is a search for lost wisdom — featuring the voices of many indigenous elders in communities along the way. She believes what we need to know we have forgotten and is gathering knowledge of the land from those that remember. Dianne still has another 6000 KM’s left of the trail.
“Seeing Janne on the shore was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”, Dianne said.
“I left alone on this journey because the world stopped making sense to me. One of the things I’m coming home with is a family”.
About Dianne Whelan
Dianne is an award winning filmmaker, author and public speaker. She has made films on the world’s highest mountain, near the North Pole, and now the longest trail in the world.
For more information about Dianne’s film and her next 6000 KM’s here, check out her pages on social profile – @500daysinthewild, @diannewhelanphotos, and www.diannewhelan.com.
About Janne Robinson
Janne Robinson is a Canadian author, poet, film director, retreat leader, workshop lecturer, coach and CEO of ‘This is for the women’. Her poetry, films and first book, a collection of poems titled ‘This is for the women who don’t give a f**k’ have touched millions of people. Robinson’s work revolves around encouraging people to become accessible to their truths.
You can follow her on @jannerobinson
Amanda Holt, COO
This is for the Women
500 Days in the Wild