Friday, August 17, 2018

67°00′ N, 50°72′ W
12°C, Overcast


08:00 hrs – Here we are, last morning of our Arctic Safari, anchored in Sondrestrom Fjord, 20 kms from Kangerlussuaq. Up on deck, the surrounding low mountains reach down to the water through mist. Small boats bob in the bay, and a larger cruise ship like ours is anchored here too.

Officials from the airport, customs officers, come on board to check passports and bags. Passengers on the first flight file down to the mudroom with their bags. Each passenger picks up their passport at the entrance, checks in with the airport official who tags their luggage. Then, as they pass through the other side of the mudroom, the crew takes their luggage to the gangway where it is put in a shipping container on a barge, transferred to a truck on shore, and taken to the airport. We won’t see our luggage again until we land in Toronto.


Low tide at the wharf at Sondrestrom Fjord. The Ocean Endeavour is on the left.

At 11:00, we staff head ashore. The passengers follow soon after. First, we are going on a tundra tour up the mountain on the other side of town. I’ve done this tour before.  The buses are waiting at the wharf. This time there are tundra buggies with big wheels, not just greyhound-style buses.


I’m assigned to one of the tundra buggies. The passengers climb aboard through a door at the back. The driver tells me to sit in the front. I clamber up. There is a window behind my seat, between me and the passengers, so they can hear the driver’s commentary. Everyone looks like they are enjoying themselves. The buggy jolts off down the roughly paved road towards Kangerlussuaq.1-P1020412

The driver talks about the area as we bump along. The rocky hillsides we pass alongside are three billion years old.  I can’t tell the difference between the old and younger rocks, but am amazed people can.  The roadside is covered with low bushes and moss and grasses. The long fjord is beautiful, but the silt left by the receding glacier winds down the valley like a riverbed.

We drive through Kangerlussuaq, which was established as an American airbase in 1941, but sold to Greenland for $1 US in 1992.  It now has a population of 1,000 during the summer and 700 in the winter. Surprisingly, the driver says it is ranked #2 in the world for having the most days of sun –300. Las Vegas is #1. However, today must be one of the 65 sunless days. 1-P1020431

We cross over the rushing river on a wooden bridge that seems barely wide enough for two-way traffic. The buses stop and we all get out to peer over into the ravine at the silty gray water charging beneath us. There is no sidewalk or railing here. I find it a little nerve wracking– 200 people climb out of the buses and to look over the edge.1-P1020419

Then back in the buses to drive up the hillside. The roads are made of silt and there are no barriers along the edge. Just yellow oil barrels, joined by cable. The river valley drops off beside us. I’m not big on heights and this trip up the mountainside is always my least favourite part of the entire expedition.


The view at the top of the road is worth the trip up, though. 1-P1020433

From here you can see the tops of the mountain peaks and off in the distance — the Greenland ice cap.


Johnny Issaluk  got out of our tundra buggy with his drum and beat a haunting rhythm on the mountain top as the other buses arrived.

Everyone got out snapped photos for 20 minutes, and then back on the buses to head down to the airport. No muskox spotted, though our driver mentioned that the possibility of seeing them was high.

The buses dropped us off at the airport. And Jena and I go off to explore the little grocery store. Lots of jars with Danish labels.1-P1020458

Back in the airport, I buy two cups of tea and a danish for something like 450 kroners. I receive enough change from my $20 CAN to buy a bag of Haribo gummies for the plane.

At first it looks like I will land in Toronto in time to catch an 11:30 connection to Ottawa.  But the planes coming from Canada with the Into the NWP folks are delayed.


I have a seat on the second plane with the rest of the staff, but because of a delay with the arrival of the first plane, our plane leaves first. But it takes off closer to 6:00 and so there is no longer a possibility of catching a connecting flight tonight.1-P1020465.JPG1-P1020475

Finally on board and airborne, flying westward to Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson Airport. Amber is my seat mate.

We’ll overnight at a hotel near the airport. Tomorrow morning, Amber will catch a flight to Calgary and make her way home to Revelstoke. I’ll catch a plane home to Ottawa, in time to see my daughter’s soccer game.1-P1020473

As we fly over the ethereal clouds into the setting sun, I reflect on the last two weeks. We didn’t get to all the places we thought we would, but that’s Arctic travel. You go where the weather and ice dictates and enjoy the adventure.  Without a doubt, this was an exceptional one. I highly recommend it.


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Thursday, August 16

Nordre Stromfjord
67˚35′ N, 54˚0′ W
4C˚ – Overcast
10-15 knot winds, calm sea1-P1020350

Woke up on the Greenland side of Davis Strait. The crossing had been so calm, like sailing across a lake. 08:30 wake up call — practically a sleep in, except we put the clocks ahead an hour, so it was actually a 07:30 wake up call.

I go up on deck to see the view. The clouds here are also hanging wistfully partway up the mountains. It is another stunningly beautiful spot.


We are planning a hike on the land this morning. AC staff have never visited this area before, so two scout boats are sent out to check out opposite sides of the fiord.  By late morning, a spot is chosen on the east side and the staff boat goes ashore. We hop out and the zodiac is hauled up onto a rocky beach. We take this time to set up the landing spot before the passengers arrive. The bear monitors head up the hill to scout the surroundings for Mr. White.  Staff who are going to talk about aspects of the landing spot – rocks, plants, birds, archaeology – figure out the best place to station themselves. Just up from the beach, I help set out the big, blue bags that will hold the life jackets while folks are onshore. Then I have a few minutes to explore up the hill before the pax arrive.

We are situated in a valley surrounded by rocky outcrops. The beach rises to a hummocky hill with a creek that has forced a crack down the centre of the land to the water. 1-P1020385The view from further up the valley is amazing.  Grasses and vegetation seem slightly taller and more abundant here. Evidence of animal life is apparent too with  caribou antlers and a vertebrate from something lying up from the shore.


I am called back to the beach, as the passengers are coming ashore. I greet them as they scrabble across the rocky beach, help remove their life jackets, and deposit them into the blue bags. Then they spread out across the valley. We use the number of life jackets to count the passengers. So, if there are any life jackets left when passengers return to the ship, we know a passenger or two is still exploring. There has been the odd occasion when we are short a life jacket for staff, and wonder if someone has inadvertently stuck one in their backpack — or worn two back to the boat.


When everyone is ashore, MJ asks if I’d like to learn to drive the zodiac. Of course, I would! Amber and Robert are also interested drivers-in-training.  The three of us climb into a zodiac with David Newland as our instructor. Out in the next bay, we each get a turn standing at the back of the zodiac holding onto the motor’s tiller.  We practice steering, turning, and just controlling the speed with the throttle. It’s as difficult as it looks, and my respect for the zodiac drivers deepens.1-P1020391

It’s soon time to head back to the landing spot. Jena has built a little fire with grasses and moss  beneath a small ring of rocks she has assembled. She’s placed a cast iron frying pan on top and is cooking bannock. Unfortunately, it takes longer than anticipated to cook and many of the pax return to the ship before the bannock is ready. Those who going back in the last zodiacs, though, are the lucky ones who get to enjoy her treat. Yum, nothing better than fresh, hot bannock.1-P1020368

The last zodiac arrives back at the ship at 14:30. Don gives a presentation in the Polaris Lounge about Narwhals. Mari tells us that this part of Greenland is renowned for being where Qivittoq live. They are people who have committed “social suicide.” They are social outcasts or hermits who isolate themselves and live  off the land. Apparently, there are rumours that a kayaker was travelling in the area a few years ago and disappeared. He was rescued many days later without clothes or his kayak. He told how a wild kind of man had stolen his stuff. Fortunately, we don’t meet any Qivittoq or see any evidence of one.


We have a disembarkation briefing in the Polaris Lunge at 16:00. Hard to believe we are already preparing to head home. Then the staff all gathers in the mud room to remove the rubber boots from the lockers, take the name tags off them, ready to be returned to the boot storage room in preparation for the next group of passengers to try on. After dinner, most folks spend time in their cabins packing their bags. Tom Kovacs gives his last concert –such a great last evening.

The ship heads south. It will sail up Sondrestrom Fjord to Kangerlussuaq as we sleep.

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Wednesday, August 15

Isabella Bay
69˚41′ N, 67˚30′ W
3˚C – partly cloudy
5 knot wind, calm sea1-P1020184-001We awake at anchor in Isabella Bay, which is part of Ninginganiq National Wildlife Area, about 120 kilometres south of the community of Clyde River on Baffin’s north-east coast. The area is a renowned bowhead whale habitat. In fact, Isabella was a whaling ship that visited the region in the early 19th century for ‘economic’ purposes.

05:30 hr wake up call. We’re up early to do a couple of zodiac cruises in Isabella Bay with the hopes that we can do some whale spotting. The first cruise is at 06:00.

©Season Osborne

Early morning zodiac cruise in Isabella Bay

It’s a lovely morning: blueish sky interspersed with puffy grey clouds. Lots of photogenic icebergs to see, but no whales on the first cruise.1-P1020221

Laura Adams is our zodiac driver, navigating the hour-long cruise around the islands in Isabella Bay. The Inuktitut word ninginganiq translates into “the place where fog sits.” And the low hanging cloud around the island explains how the wildlife preserve got its moniker. The clouds hanging halfway up the island’s mountains look like a filmy cotton ball line.1-P1020181

About 45 minutes into our cruise we come upon a couple of zodiacs rafted up to each other. As we approach, we see what the attraction is. Linda Kuprat is serving Baileys and hot chocolate to pax in the middle of Isabella Bay.  We come alongside, and styro cups of hot chocolate are passed across to each of us. It is a welcome treat to warm our innards. (No baileys for the staff – Laura has to steer the zod straight.)

After we return the first passengers to the gangway, we have a bit of time before the next cruise. So the zodiacs join up, side by each, and we staff enjoy a floating brown bag breakfast.

We began picking up pax for the second zodiac tour at 07:30. We take a slightly different route through the icebergs and islands. Coming around one side of the largest island, the water is shallow and beautifully clear, we could see the ocean floor a few feet beneath us.


Unfortunately, no whales are spotted on the second cruise either. Everyone agrees it’s nice to get out on the water and enjoy some fresh Nunavut air.

We’re back at the gangway by 09:00.  Zodiacs are lifted aboard, as is the anchor, and we set sail. The rest of the day we’ll spend at sea, heading east across Davis Strait to Greenland.

At 10:00 presentations begin to offer passengers info about the Arctic that they might not otherwise have an opportunity to learn.


I give a talk about Arctic whaling, which fit nicely with our latest stop. Between the 17th and 20th centuries, more than 29,000 whaling voyages were made to Spitzbergen, Baffin Bay, Davis Strait and Hudson Bay. Most of these were single season whaling ventures that involved 6,340 ships. Over 28,000 whales were killed for the oil that could be rendered from their blubber and for the balleen in their mouth that was used for riding crops and umbrella ribs. Of those, 18,000 whales were taken in the Baffin Bay/Davis Strait whale fishery alone.

By 1915, Arctic whaling ended. Petroleum had replaced the need for whale oil, but also there were no more whales to catch.  In 1931, Canada put a moratorium on whaling by non-Inuit — a little too late. Today, it is estimated that there are between 8,000 to 12,000 bowhead whales with 90 percent of this endangered species summering in the Canadian Arctic.


Passengers’ art created in Laura’s acrylic painting class.

At 14:00, James Raffan, Andre Gallant, and I sign our books outside the Polaris Lounge. I am delighted to autograph seven books.

Workshops are offered to folks throughout the afternoon while we sail across Davis Strait. The water is calm, like a lake almost, which made things easier for the painting and beading workshops.

At recap, we learned that a seal makes 180 dives in 24 hours to depths of 80 metres. Imagine the intense cold water it travels through constantly. Our polar dip doesn’t seem half so impressive by comparison.

The captain delivers his farewell speech, and we toast to it with champagne. After dinner, we all gather in the Polaris Lounge for the Adventure Canada Variety Show.  It’s a great demonstration of the diversity of talent the passengers have. It was their opportunity to sing, tell poems and jokes. It’s a fun last evening of entertainment. Tomorrow night everyone will be packing up their bags to depart. 1-P1020318Then, we sailed off ‘out of’ the sunset to Greenland.

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Tuesday, August 14

Buchan Gulf
71˚56′ N, 73˚59′ W
2˚C, Thick Fog
4.5 knot wind, calm sea1-P1020116

No wake up call in the cabins this morning, but AC staff met at 07:30. It is a foggy day. We are in Buchan Bay on Baffin Island’s north side. The plan is to pass Executioner Cliffs (no idea why their called that) and enter Icy Arm Fiord. A shore landing is planned but it is too foggy for the bear monitors to secure a site, as they can’t see anything. So that plan is abandoned.


One Ocean’s cruise ship Hansiatic joins us in the fiord. The ship offers scale at the base of the immense cliffs.

The cliffs of the fiord we sail into are high and dark, but partly obscured by the fog. It is a gorgeous spot made eerie by the fog. It doesn’t lift but rises slightly to hang like a cloud about 20 feet above the water.

Narwhals are spotted and announced over the loudspeaker.


There really is a narwhal in this picture. Note the small hump in the center near the beach.

Everyone rushes on deck to have a look and the ship drops  anchor, so we can watch them. There are several groups (are they called pods?) swimming near the shore. It looks like five or six in each pod, but they are far away and fast, so hard to tell. Apparently, they are rubbing their skins off on the rough gravel in the shallow water, – exfoliating. Looks like we’ve stumbled upon an Arctic spa! I can only see their backs cresting the water, but can’t see any tusks – the thing everyone wants to see.

After lunch we are encouraged to take the polar plunge. David Newland, our host, encourages us to swim with the narwhals, but not touch their tusks. I decide to take the plunge. I have shied away from the idea of jumping into the Arctic Ocean on purpose, since I fell in by accident in 2014. But that was five summers ago, so I’ve got my courage back. Sixty-four white robed swimmers meet in the Polaris Lounge for a pep talk by our fearless leader Mr. Newland before heading down to the gangway. One by one we jump/ dive/ belly flop into the green, frigid 2˚C water. Man, it’s cold, but I get out so fast – almost before I even have a chance to catch my breath. davA shot of vodka is handed to me by one of the crew as I come up the metal gangway stairs. However, it doesn’t warm me at all.  At recap before dinner, we polar swimmers are awarded a badge for our courage, or foolishness.

After a hot shower, I give my talk — The Ins and Outs of the Northwest Passage, which is a synopsis of the European expeditions in search of the NWP.  I am both in awe and scornful of those glory seeking travellers. Yet, I admire their courage and venturing into unknown icy forbidding waters. And of course, I love every second being on a journey through those waters myself.

After our polar dip, the ship weighed anchor and headed out into Lancaster Sound. The fog still hangs around the coastline, but the sun brightened the sky above it, making the enormous icebergs we sailed past shine.


The ship charted  eastward along Baffin’s north coast, heading to Isabella Bay. The sun slid through the clouds like God’s light — a gorgeous view of Baffin Island.



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Monday, August 13

Croker Bay
74˚47′ N, 83˚11′ W
3˚C, Overcast/calm wind & sea

croker105:30 wake up call.  We are anchored in Croker Bay on Devon Island’s south shore, a kilometre from the glacier that stretches across the end of the bay. It doesn’t seem so wide, but only because we are far away. It is 4 kms wide and 50 metres high.

We are doing a 06:00 hr cruise along the face of the glacier. Brown bagged breakfasts are waiting for us staff members on a table at the gangway. We take our breakfast bags (English muffins with egg and bacon), and eat in the zodiacs.

m&S croker b.JPG

Martin and Steve (geologist) ready in the zod for passengers

I’m in zodiac #11 with Devon as the driver. Each zodiac has a driver and one staff member. We float around near the ship, waiting our turn as passengers get into each zodiac.  Passengers in the blue, orange and yellow groups are in the first glacier cruise. The white, green and red groups are in the 7:30 cruise.


The glacier is amazing.  The imposing wall of jagged ice ranges in colour from shades of white to mauve to blue with fissures of dark blue and brown.

croker4The zodiacs keep twice the height away from the ice for safety. One smallish piece splits off  down the bay, and it makes an explosive gunshot sound. It tumbles into the water,then minutes later, waves ripple out towards our  craft, reminding me of being on a lake in a canoe when a big motorboat rips by.  Over the radios, we hear that a mother and two cubs are spotted down the west end of the glacier.  We strain to look for them, but their white heads are difficult to follow, particularly from a distance. We catch glimpses through binoculars of them as they swim along in front of the face of the ice. croker5

Seals heads bob up out of the water all around us. They watch us. I suppose they keep their eyes on the bears too. Between zodiac cruises we are served hot chocolate. What a treat.croker bear

Laura is in the safety zodiac keeping an eye out for hazards — big white furry ones. She spots one up the beach at the end of the glacier. The bear stands watching us from the shore, as if it knows the people in the idling zodiacs are taking its photo.

It’s a chilly morning sitting for 2.5 hours on a rubber raft, and at 8:30 we are back at the gangway, and ready for a hot cup of tea. Soon the ship weighs anchor and heads east along the south coast of Devon Island towards Dundas Harbour — Talluruti. It is one of my favourite historic sites.


There are floating bits of ice in Lancaster Sound, clear reminders of why the ship couldn’t get into Resolute Bay farther to the west.

We have a quick lunch at 11:30 and are redressed in warm gear, ready to get in the staff boat by 12:15. There are several hiking options planned for Dundas. There is a Thule site at the end of the peninsula that folks can walk to for a longer leg stretch. I’ll be posted at the abandoned RCMP site. The staff except, photographer Andre, one of the photo journalists, and I, stay in the zodiac, as we’ll get dropped off closer to the post.

There is an enormous beautiful iceberg in the bay and Martin, the  zodiac driver, tours us around it. The camera shutters click like rapid tiny machine gun fire.

I’ve visited the post twice before. Once when there was 2 feet of snow covering everything, and last year when it was dusk. It is beautiful  in daylight with no snow, though lots of ice in the bay. Dundas Harbour operated as an RCMP post from 1924 to 1933. Then from 1934 to 1936 the Hudson Bay took over. In September 1945, the RCMP  reopened the post in order to maintain a patrol presence in the area, but it permanently closed in 1951.

Dundas Hrbr5

The Dundas Harbour post was established by the RCMP as a flag detachment keeping watch over the entrance to Lancaster Sound. The navigational beacon (above), was set up by crew of Labrador in 1954 on its NWP expedition.


The location of the post in a valley on a bay is spectacular, but desolate and lonely.

The three room house still has a pot belly stove — made at Findlay Foundry in Carleton Place, where my brother worked 30 years ago.  Two metal bed frames still remain in the single bedroom. The windows are broken and the place is in a state of unfortunate decay. There are a couple of bottles and books left on shelves in the main room, but not even as many books as when I was here a couple of years ago. There is also graffitti on the walls, which is disheartening. I wonder why people feel like they have to leave evidence of having visited a place?  Up behind the post is a white picket fenced-in graveyard of two of the Mounties. One died by his own hand,the other shot himself by accident while walrus hunting.

Jena, one of the culturalists on the ship, told us that her grandmother was born at the post. It was an emotional visit for her. It is a moving place to be and I can understand  how someone can have a strong connection to it.  — An amazing place to visit.

1-dundas hbr1

The location of Dundas Harbour is called Talluruti after the lines down the mountain behind the post that are reminiscent of traditional tattoo lines on a woman’s chin.

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Sunday, August 12

Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik)
72˚41′ N, 77˚ W
4˚C, overcast

Pond Inlet

07:00 wake up  call. We dropped anchor in Pond Inlet, excited to visit our first Canadian Arctic community. Actually, it is the only community we will visit on this side of Baffin Bay.

Bylot Island

Pond Inlet (population 1,600) is a stunning community on northern Baffin Island. Bylot Island, directly across the bay, offers an incredibly beautiful view from anywhere in the hamlet.

Staff went ashore early to meet the tour guides. Two of the ladies, Nellie(below left) and Rosie (right), had gorgeous caribou and seal  skin amautis on. One lady showed me the beautiful, tiny hand stitching she did, sewing it together.

I called my daughter shortly after I landed, as I’m back in Canada and no crazy roaming charges. It was only 08:30, but I wanted to wake her up and hear her voice.


A narwhal is suspended from the beautiful cathedral wood ceiling of the Nattinak Centre.

Passengers came ashore and were divided into 10 of groups of 20 for a  tour of the town and a visit to the Nattinnak Centre, where they have a library and terrific displays about the history and culture of the region.  Then the passengers were split in two groups for a cultural performance at the community centre. My group was attending the second performance, so we planned to visit the carver. However, three cruise ships had visited Pond that week, and he had sold out all his carvings. The Co-op was closed because it was Sunday. So, folks were disappointed not to get any souvenirs or check out the store. Instead, we walked about town and took in the sights.

It is a very photogenic community and we all had our cameras out. We met Alvin (above)and his adorable baby daughter.

At the top of the hill, a school bus stopped and Roger, the driver, offered us a drive back to the community centre. He’d visited the ship earlier and had breakfast on board, so this was his way of thanking us for AC’s hospitality. We gratefully boarded the bus and he drove us to the highest point above the town where there was a great view.

We got out to take photos, of course. And our guide Joanna (below) showed us these little bushes that you could eat the round red  leaves. I ate a couple of the leaves. They were sweet and peppery at the same time, and very yummy.


At the community centre, we were treated to drum dancing. A little boy was dancing and he was really terrific. A woman lit the qudliq and a little girl (maybe her granddaughter), climbed on her lap to watch. Kids are so cute, no matter where you go.

Afterwards, we headed back to the ship for lunch. 1-P1010215The  ship weighed anchor and headed west around Bylot, through Navy Board Inlet up to Lancaster Sound.

Workshops on beading, painting acrylic Arctic landscapes, watercolour, or writing your name in Inuktitut syllabics were offered to passengers who didn’t feel like being out on deck while we cruised along.

Then the call went over the PA system that a bear and her cubs had been spotted on a small ice pan eating a seal.

The ship halted while everyone came on deck with cameras and binocs. It was the best photo opp ever. We watched them eating, then mother jumped in the water and her large cubs followed. The seagulls were excited to finish off the left over seal.

I was hosting a table at dinner while we headed up the west side of Bylot Island. I got word that we were nearing Canada Point where Capt. Bernier claimed Baffin Island for Canada in 1906.

#34- PA-139394.jpg

Capt. Bernier claimed Bylot Island for Canada on August 21, 1906. (LAC-PA139394)

The rock that the man with the chisel carved is still there with ARCTIC 1906, chiseled into it. When we got closer to where I thought the spot was, I dashed out on deck and snapped a bunch of photos. However, I couldn’t tell where the point was or the rock. That was a wee bit disappointing. But the views of Bylot were spectacular.

It was another remarkable day.1-P1010463

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Saturday, August 11

Baffin Bay
71˚42′ N, 63˚1′ W
Calm sea, foggy
15 knot wind

Baffin BayAt sea. Gentle roll, pretty calm water, no big waves like last year’s crossing.

Staff was taking turns out on deck with binoculars to look for wildlife, but heavy fog descended, so not much to see.

Lots  presentations and workshops are offered to pax throughout the day to pass the time. Robert Comeau gave a presentation on building a kayak and Marc Hebert talked about polar bears. I enjoy these times at sea because then I get to hear what other people are interested in and passionate about.

ships track

Track of the Ocean Endeavour – right smack in the middle of Baffin Bay

There is a women’s dive group on board, Sedna, whose goal is to scuba dive the Northwest Passage. They are along on the ship to get experience diving in Arctic waters and drum up funding for their big NWP dive expedition. One of them is a prof at a university in Florida. I went to hear her talk about ‘Frankenstein’ and how the Arctic was reflected in 19th century literature. Turned out I was misled, it was a synopsis of her curriculum, which touched on Mary Shelley but didn’t go into the Arctic stuff as I thought. However, this is Frankenstein’s 200th anniversary!

Late afternoon, we had our Nunavut Welcome. There are seven enthusiastic young Inuit on board and they gave us a wonderful sample of their culture. Jena lit the qudliq and Ashley tended it.


Ashley tends the qudliq at the Nunavut welcome

We had a great throat singing demonstration. Nancy Saunders told us that her mother did not learn Inuktitut, but she was. It was an important way to keep her culture alive.

Johnny and Robert gave a fabulous drum dancing and Inuit games demonstration. These young culturalists made us all feel so fortunate that they were sharing their culture with us. It was one of the best welcomes I’ve seen, and I think it’s because they were all so passionate and proud about being Inuk.

Then the waiters came around  the Polaris Lunge with plates of appetizers: samples of country food like seal and muktuk- beluga blubber with a bit of skin on it. I always enjoy opportunities like this to try local food that is a delicacy and important to the people who live here.

After hours, it was the crew party. The AC staff joined the crew in their living quarters below, on the third deck. A couple of the crew guys were celebrating their birthdays. There was wonderful food prepared for the party in their mess and and there was terrific (but loud) Spanish music in their lounge. The captain is a ballroom dancer and a couple of the guys have that Latino flare for smooth dance moves. It’s quite an international crew, hailing from the Caribbean, Columbia, Phillipines, Russian, eastern Europe.

Although we didn’t get off the ship, I felt the day was as full and interesting as if we did.

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Friday, August 10

70˚40′ N, 52˚7′ W
7˚C – sunshine, blue skies
wind – 10 knUummannaq I awoke just as we were coming into the bay outside Uummannaq. It is a stunning spot — colourful houses built right on the rocky hillside and dozens of icebergs in the surrounding bay.

Everyone is happy to have a sunny day to walk  about the town and beyond. Three different hikes are offered – long, medium, and shorter town walk. I am assigned, along with Amber (our awesome paramedic), to take the medium walkers up the hill behind the town.  I’m not exactly sure where the path is but follow the long walkers, with the plan to turn around after an hour and retrace our steps. About 20 pax follow with Amber pulling up the rear. Uummannaq is an island with a huge mountain in its centre. All roads end at the town limits and we are walking over rocky terrain. The sites are more spectacular the higher we go up hill behind the town.

The hike ends back at the town and everyone heads off to explore on their own. Amber and I check out the blubber house.


Which is a sort of museum with different artifacts. I believe it was the building where the whale blubber was rendered and stored, but there is no sign explaining that. The best part is the whale made of lights on the second floor.

1-P1010051The field in front of the old church is a profusion of daisies. It seems this flower  grows everywhere.

We wandered up a side road and discover the dump and where the helicopter pad is.  The road drops off steeply to the bay where the sun glints off the water and icebergs.  We head back to the wharf and the zodiac does a detour among the icebergs before heading back to the ship.

It’s lunch time and we enjoy a BBQ on the aft deck in the glorious sunshine,  surrounded by icebergs with an incredible view of Uummannaq. David serenades us with his ukelele. And I discover icecream doesn’t melt outside in the Arctic.

We then weigh anchor and head west…1-P1010176

…across Baffin Bay to Canada.


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Thursday, August 9

69˚15′ N, 51˚17′ W

5˚C –overcast, calm waters


Awoke at 06:00, we were slowly steaming through broken, slob ice towards the port of Ilulissat.  All this ice has delayed our arrival by several hours. We start the day with a zodiac cruise through the icebergs close to where the mouth of the Sermeq Kujalleq (Jakobshavn) glacier discharges the  35 billion tonnes of ice into the sea annually. Because there are 200 passengers, we have two one-hour zodiac cruises, 12 zods with 10 passengers in each. The passengers are split into colour groups: yellow, white and green are in the first cruise. Red, blue, and orange colour are in the second. Like the other staff, I am fortunate to be on both cruises.

Ilulissat iceIt is extremely overcast, almost like a fog has descended. And everything looks dull: grey sky and lighter, grey/blue ice. The greyness makes it feel colder. I dress in my thermals with several layers of fleece. It’s cold sitting on the rubber side of a zodiac surrounded by ice for more than two hours. Still, it’s so awesome to float among these giant hunks of ice. There are only five passengers in our zodiac for the second cruise. Some people have chosen not to come out.  It surprises me. It’s not like you get to do this every day.

We are fortunate though, there are humpback whales around this time.humpback

We hear an exhale, a blow of water in front of an glacial icy wall.  The zodiacs all stop, and idle. Everyone looks around, anticipating, searching the water in front of the glacier for another blow. Then we see a dark arc as a whale surfaces and dives. A ring of ripples spreads on the surface where the whale was. They are humpbacks. Several groups of two or three swim together in front of an enormous iceberg.1-P1000743

It is thrilling to see even glimpses of these enormous animals. We keep our distance, and though some passengers want to get closer, I’m glad we don’t. I am always conscious that we are in their territory, intruding.  Then they are gone, and we head back to the ship.

After lunch we zodiac in to the Ilulissat port. The inner harbour is too small for large ships and there are no wharves to come alongside here. But there are many small fishing boats at anchor.

Knud Rasmussen museum

Some of the photos, paintings and artifacts that belonged to Knud Rasmussen, Greenland’s famous explorer and ethnographer.

Folks have the opportunity to wander about the town and out to the board walk to see the ice fjord. It is so overcast, I wonder how the view of the glacier will be without the sun glinting off all its many icy facets.

I’m stationed at the museum where the famous Greenland explorer Knud Rasmussen was born. Not as many pax come to the museum as the one in Sisimuit – only three. The ice field is infinitely more appealing. But it’s a nice place to hang out. An old three story house with little rooms onthe second floor that feature Knud Rasmussen’s explorations of Greenland.

One of his most famous expeditions was his Fifth Thule (1921-1924) expedition where he headed west across the Arctic to Siberia, conducting ethnological studies to find the origins of, and the connections between, the Inuit who lived across the Arctic. He and his seven man team collected an enormous amount of valuable ethnographic, archaeological and biological data.

The views across from the museum are breathtaking – a red church overlooking the iceberg studded ocean, colourful kayaks lying on turf by the the kayak club, houses perched on the rocky shore.

1-P1000792On the way back to the ship, we passed the Sergei Vavilov at anchor. That was the ship that AC leased in 2014 for the Out of the Northwest Passage trip — the first trip I was on. Fun to see it again. Glad I’m on the Ocean Endeavour, though. The gangway was scary on the Vavilov with it’s rickety metal stairs descending down the side of the ship.


We weighed anchor, setting a course northward up the coast. The sky was still gloomy and overcast and we watched enormous icebergs gliding eerily out of the mist and pass alongside us.

The sun finally came out before dinner. The icebergs were breathtaking with the sun glinting off their plastic sides.

You can never see too many icebergs.


Greenland iceb ergs

Thirty-five cubic kilometers of icebergs calve off the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier every year.



Dinner is usually from 19:00 to 21:00. Afterwards, there is usually a concert in the Polaris Lounge. Tonight, we dressed in the best 70s garb we can find in the plastic tickle trunk and hit the dance floor for a disco, as we passed Disko Island. –A fun salute to pure silliness.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

66˚56′ N, 53˚ 41′ W
6˚C, overcast – rainy
wind – 5 knots


Woke at anchor in the port of Sismiut – 75 km above the Arctic circle. We were supposed to have docked, but then a larger ship needed to come alongside, as it had 800 passengers and no zodiacs. The passengers had to disembark on a gangway, whereas we could get ashore in zodiacs. (You can see the big ship on the top right. Ocean Endeavour is the smaller ship just to the right of that.)

At 08:30, I went ashore in the staff zodiac with 200 museum tickets. Biologist Don Bowen and I were stationed at the museum up the hill, and were to give tickets to the passengers as they came to visit. The museum is consists of a collection of houses and buildings that made up the original Danish town (Holsteinborg) until the 1950s when Inuit moved in off the land.


Bowhead jawbones stand as an archway to the museum. In 1905, the whale was killed up the coast, and two metres were cut off each jawbone so they could fit into the boat transporting them to Sisimuit.


Sisimuit is the second largest town in Greenland with over 5,500 people. The hilly town is made up of beautiful coloured houses all built on rock. Originally, each building’s colour meant something: yellow was for a hospital; blue for fish plants and factories; red for merchants, green for government; and black for police.

The little blue church that is part of the museum was built in 1773 in Denmark and assembled in Sisimuit. It is no longer used for services anymore as the town has far outgrown it. A larger church was built higher up the hill.

The interesting thing about the museum church is the display inside. There are two  interactive screens.  One has a life-size Danish priest on it, the other a Greenland shaman. On the touchscreens below each man are the same life questions, but when you select the question, each tells the answer according to his faith. Frankly, the Inuk’s version of how the world was created and what to do if your wife doesn’t have children makes more sense for the world the Inuit lived in than the Danish priest’s version – probably still does.


Don and I gave out 137 tickets to Adventure Canada passengers who trudged up the hill to see the museum. But we met many Pax from the large British cruise ship.  One couple carried a bag of stuffies – teddy bears and  such – that they had brought on their travels around the world. I didn’t ask if their bears enjoyed the museum.

Sisimuit 4

One of the exhibits in the     museum that I thought interesting was this comic. It would never be posted in a Canadian museum. Angakkoq Papik, I understand, was a shaman who made a spiritual journey to the moon.

After several hours, it got chilly standing around  on top of the hill outside the museum. As  there was a long break between visitors, Don and his wife Elizabeth and I walked up (literally up) the street to a little coffee shop and had real Danishes. Yum. We had to dash back when more AC Pax were looking for museum tickets.

After we got back to the ship, we had a kayak demonstration by Emmanuariq, the 30-year-old kayak champion. Sisimuit kayakerHe demonstrated 90 different ways to roll a kayak. He did one roll six times continuously. The water was 2˚C.

Word of the day was Qujanaq = Greenlandic for kayak

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