While American novelist Jack London is best known for The Call of the Wild and White Fang, he is also inextricably linked with the Canadian Arctic. So, when British filmmaker Ben Page ventures north, he seeks an adventure of solitude spurred by London’s assertion that “any man who is a man can travel alone.”
But the romanticism of the Arctic can overshadow the risks. This week’s video, The Frozen Road, follows Page as he wraps up the first section of his round-the-world trip by cycling to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, in the winter. Reflecting on themes such as loneliness versus solitude, the importance of feeling small, and the realities of going alone in such a formidable environment, Page provides an honest account of the highs and lows of the journey.
Following the frozen Peel River, Page encounters unexpectedly stormy conditions and is forced to push his heavy bike for days through thick snow. “Romantic solitude had turned into a nightmare of isolation,” he admits, especially due to reports of wolves in the area. The seriousness of the situation becomes evident when two members of the local search and rescue team, fully equipped with rifles and a sled, come to find Ben in response to his lack of arrival in town.
The final stretch of Ben’s journey takes him to the end of the road where, instead of rejoicing at the Arctic Ocean, he reflects on the trip in a warm public restroom. Is it true what London said, that “any man who is a man can travel alone?” Examining what looks like patches of frostbite on his cheeks and sitting on a closed toilet seat lid, it’s evident that in his quest for solitude, perhaps finish lines are, for some, better shared.
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