Heading into the NWP

August 20th – already!1-NWP 1

My maps are packed in their long black carrying tube, and my photos and presentations are printed and powerpointed.  I am ready.

Twelve hours from now I will be in Toronto where I’ll meet the gang for our trip.

I’m flying out with three other Ottawans who are also staff on the trip. I know Michelle Valberg, photographer on my 2014 trip, and Robert Comeau who was on the trip last year –both amazing people. I’ll meet environmentalist Peter Croal tomorrow morning, and the rest of the staff at the Gateway hotel at noon for the lowdown on the trip.

The meet and greet with the guests is at 18:00 (moving to nautical time now). All those new faces I’ll see tomorrow. That’s always a little intimidating, but that is part of the fun and adventure, learning about my fellow travellers. Soon they will be familiar friends.

If we have internet, I’ll post some photos and stories. If not, I’ll post it all when I get home September 7.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer.


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NWP – East to West

Trip 2017

Eight weeks from now I’ll board the Ocean Endeavour in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to head through the Northwest Passage. This will be my third voyage through the NWP, but the first time heading west into the passage — the route the British, Norwegian and American explorers took.

The plan is to sail north up the glorious coast of Greenland into Smith Sound, then cross over to Ellesmere Island. Ice conditions being favourable, we’ll stop in at Aujuittuq (Grise Fiord), the most northerly community in Canada. Then, we’ll head south and around Devon Island, travelling west to Melville and Banks islands, then south via Prince of Wales Strait to the community of Ulukhaktok (Holman) on Victoria Island before heading to our final destination of Kugluktuk. I know already how incredibly magnificent the scenery will be, and how wonderfully warm and welcoming the people we’ll meet there will be.

It’s going to be another amazing 17-day voyage! For more details, you can check out the trip on the Adventure Canada website: http://www.adventurecanada.com/trip/Into-northwest-passage-2017/#

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Monday, September 26

Kangerlussuaq – Sondrestrom Fjord
66°57’N  50°57’W
2 knot winds

Sept.26_2.jpgWe anchored at the head of Sondrestrom Fjord. Bags are packed and left outside our cabin doors to be picked up and delivered to the dock where we’ll catch the tour bus to Kangerlussuaq (population 515).


This little bird (a purple something, I forget) is a rare sight. It paused on the zodiac while we were waiting to take passengers ashore.

The folks going to the ice cap were the first to disembark. The rest of us take our last zodiac ride, remove our life jackets and stick them in the big blue bag, before getting on the bus for the Tundra Tour.


Last zodiac ride

I’ve been on the tundra tour twice, and was glad I could decline it this time. The bus drives up the silt roads to the top of the mountain opposite the town. It’s really beautiful, with amazing views, but I’m chicken about heights and not keen that the road up the mountain is close to the edge. However, the neat thing about the tour is seeing the Greenland ice cap in the distance.

Anyhow, the bus dropped me off near the airport and I tromped around the two gift shops in town, then met up with other staff hanging out at the airport. Before we knew it, we were hauling our luggage from the parking lot into the airport, standing in line to check it and get boarding passes, then finding our seats on the plane, and taking off for Toronto. From there, I caught the flight to Ottawa. Joe was waiting for me at the bottom of the escalator with flowers. Awww….

It was a remarkable voyage through the Northwest Passage. I think the inclement and rough weather really gave everyone a real appreciation for the Arctic. The climate may be changing and making it easier to get into the Arctic, but it still dictates travel in those northern waters.

It is an incredible place to visit, and I’m already looking forward with  excitement to going up North again.


AC staff at our last wake up call staff meeting

Trip Stats
151 passengers
34 staff
100 crew
1,000 cookies
364 litres of milk
700 bottles of juice
360 glasses of beer
680 rolls of toilet paper
2,850 nautical miles travelled

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Sunday, September 25, 2016


En route to Sismiut
67°35’N  54°09’ W
1°C  / 33°F
Light winds, four knots
Cloud cover, chance of rain
Sunrise 7:58, Sunset 19:23

We were woken at 02:00 with a quiet announcement that the northern lights were visible, but faint. I got up, pulled my wind pants and heavy parka on over my pjs, and lugged my camera up up on deck. The aurora was unspectacular, faint and white. There were a few other people out on deck, but we all headed back inside to our warm bunks when we saw how unimpressive the sky was. But then our 07:30 wake up call, came too quickly.Sept.25_1.jpg

We were scheduled to go ashore at Sisimiut. It would be a totally dry landing, as the Ocean Endeavour was going to come alongside the large, industrial wharf.  After our mandatory disembarkation briefing with Jason, the morning was occupied with presentations. Heather Beecroft discussed Inuit art, David Reid told passengers about his Bear Witness Arctic expedition to circumnavigate Bylot Island by ski. Our mandatory disembarkation briefing about tomorrow’s departure was followed by Scott Forsyth’s talk about photo composition, and Michael Crummey spoke about the Labrador Fishery.

We arrived at Sisimiut around lunchtime, and shared the dock with a fishing trawler. After lunch, we walked down the gangway to the wharf.  This was our first and only landing without zodiacs.  Plus, with the temperature hovering around a balmy 3°C, there was no need for rubber boots or heavy jackets — no binoculars, only cameras required today.

Sisimiut is quite hilly, so despite it being just a walk about town, we all felt we had a good work out.  We enjoyed the afternoon, exploring the museum buildings, the grocery stores, and shops in this scenic coastal town. The coloured houses brightened an otherwise grey day. sept-25_6Similar to the other Greenlandic communities we’d visited, the homes are raised on stilts or high concrete foundations built directly on the rock hillside. Many of them had marvelous views of the harbour and surrounding mountains.  Sept.25_10.jpg

There was a great little souvenir booth set up on the wharf that offered a good opportunity for folks to pick up a few last minute pieces of handmade jewellery.

We were all back aboard ship at 16:30.

At 16:45, we lined the rails of the seventh deck to see a kayak demonstration.sept-25_19There are 90 ways to roll a kayak. We watched as a local expert gave an impressive demonstration of almost all of them.  It was amazing how the way he held his paddle determined how he could roll over and get back up. The poor man looked petrifyingly cold by the end of the exhibition, though. We all shivered, watching him, the polar dippers knew exactly how cold that water was too. The rest of us imagined how cold it was.

The evening wound up in the Nautilus Lounge with a variety show, featuring talented passengers and crew who regaled each other with songs, dance, stories and overall good fun. Then we went to pack up our bags for the morning departure. sept-25_22

Not long after, an announcement came that the northern lights were visible and spectacular. Everyone went up on deck. A much larger viewing audience than at 02:00.

The lights were spectacular: green and flowing across the sky. This was the final check mark on the list of things that the passengers had wanted to see. We’d seen it all: polar bears, icebergs, and the aurora borealis. It was the perfect way to end our trip out of the Northwest Passage.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

En route to Ilulissat
69°13’N  51°36’W
-3°C / 25°F
Four km winds from the north
Partial cloud
Sunrise 7:14, Sunset 19:16

“It is better to travel alone than with a bad companion,” announced Stefan Kindberg at our 07:00 wake up call. There doesn’t seem to be any bad companions on this voyage, though.


Ilulissat’s busy inner harbour

We arrived at Iulissat (formerly Jakobshaven, population 4,500), which is 350 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. It’s renowned for the massive amounts of ice that calve off the glacier and are discharged into the ocean,  floating southward to the Atlantic.  At 09:00, we zodiaced to the small, busy dock in Ilulissat’s inner harbour for a full day ashore.

Landing at the dock was a great way to view the local maritime lifestyle. A man moored at the dock who had just come from a caribou hunt. He made a number of trips up and down the gangway from the dock to the wharf, carrying parts of caribou carcasses. He wore a set of hind legs slung around his shoulders while he carried the head.

Another gentleman dragged a seal up from his boat, tied it to the bumper of an SUV and drove off, dragging the seal behind him. These are not activities we southerners are accustomed to seeing.


I met up with passengers Kathleen and Paul  who were trekking through town towards the icefjord at the mouth of Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the Greenland icecap glaciers that reaches the sea. Apparently, the glacier calves off 30 billion tonnes of ice a year into the ocean.

From the wharf, we hiked straight up the hill to the centre of town, where there were souvenir shops and a restaurant that served the best bison burgers. We continued our hike out of town, past where husky dogs are tethered. A man arrived to feed his pack and the dogs set up a cacophony of howls. The road ended after the kennels, and a long boardwalk began that led directly to the ice field.

A sign at the end of the road announced this as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The boardwalk meandered over the tundra and field of grasses and Arctic cotton. The walkway descended between rugged bare rocky hills to the edge of the ice.



Mammoth icebergs, recently calved from the Greenland ice sheet, were corralled in a valley at the snout of the glacier before being released into the ocean. The ice is a spectacular sight, defying language and photography, though we tried to capture it with our cameras.

We scrambled over the rocky hillside to get optimal views of the sun glinting off the ice under the azure sky.  To the right where the icebergs met the ocean, we could see little fishing boats moving among the giant mountains of ice. A most dangerous prospect considering part of the glacier could break off without warning before you could say the word ‘capsize.’


Lynn and Kathleen and Paul on the boardwalk returning from the icefjord

We met Lynn leaving the lookout and we headed back to the ship together. In the early evening, we bundled up for a zodiac cruise through the icebergs. It was absolutely phenomenal.

The sun set in a golden swath across the sky, reflecting in the water and gilding the icebergs. sept-24_45The evening ride was made even more magical when three humpback whales surfaced near one of the golden tinted icebergs. Sept.24_62.jpg

All the stormy seas and times we couldn’t go ashore were redeemed in this stellar day at Ilulissat.

Sept.24_65.jpgWe finished up the night with a sing along and party in the Nautilus with the musically talented AC staff. And for those less musically inclined we had Last Days of the Arctic, the Explorer’s Club Film Festival movie.


Edna’s Inuktun word of the day was appropriately piqalugait – icebergs.

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Friday, September 23

Karat Fiord
71°24’N   54°2’W
-4°C / 38°F
Partial cloudy
Sunrise at 07:14, sunset at 19:25

Sept.23_3.jpgIt was a very early wake up, 06:30, but we planned to go ashore and explore Karat Fjord early. We sailed past towering icebergs during breakfast as we entered the fjord. Sept.23_6.jpg

We had incredible panoramic views from the top deck of  breathtaking snow dusted, rugged coastal mountains. Our landing was  bound to be spectacular.

The mountains were partially hidden by low lying cloud. The clouds seemed to droop lower as we got nearer our destination at the head of the fjord. Sept.23_11.jpg

Then the cloud settled down over the water in a dense fog and we stopped. We could see nothing, not even the icebergs nearby. We waited, hoping the fog would lift within the hour. It didn’t.

We had a couple of presentations to pass the time while we waited for the fog to lift. Latonia talked about Vikings in the Arctic. And fellow passenger Richard Harris told us about his 2009 expedition Crossing Greenland with Dogs.

The weather improved somewhat, and we ate a BBQ lunch on the aft deck.  But  as we needed to keep on our sailing schedule, we had to abandon Karat Fjord and weighed anchor to go in search of another suitable landing spot.

Just around the corner  we came upon a gorgeous beach with flat marshland behind, rising to gorgeous hills and peaks.Sept.23_42.JPG

It was called Hollænder Bucht (bay), and looked like the perfect landing spot. This was the first time Adventure Canada had landed there.


We went ashore, cruising past icebergs, and pulled up onto a black sandy beach. It was gorgeous. The bear monitors set a wide perimeter and folks enjoyed the opportunity to finally stretch their legs.

We wandered along the beach, picking up unusual black stones with white flecks in them. We also headed up to the plateaus beyond the beach where the remains of a sod house was identified. Farther up the hill was another Thule stone tent ring. The people who once lived in these houses certainly had a fantastic view of the bay and surrounding mountains. Guess real estate has always been about location, location, location.sept-23_32

Before heading back to the ship, we all toasted the icebergs in the bay with a glass of champagne on the beach.

Back at the Ocean Endeavour, about 40 brave passengers and crew did the polar dip  . Our fearless expedition leader Jason was one of the first to take the plunge. The rest of the ship’s company cheered and photographed the event from the upper decks. The water temperature was three degrees. Needless to say, everyone was out almost as fast as they went in and were very glad that the pool had reopened and was heated.


At recap, it was announced that we would be sailing past Disko Island during the night and so we would commemorate the event with a Disco at Disko. In preparation, we practiced singing Cruising the Ice to the tune of the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive.

After supper, everyone dressed in their disco finest and cut a rug to such classic hits as YMCA and Dancing Queen.  It was a great celebration of the Disco era in one of the most beautiful places in the world.


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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Still at sea in Melville Bay
73°42’N  61°06’W
4°C /39°F
Overcast sky, light winds from the southeast
Moderate swell
Clocks ahead one hour

We awoke at sea again. “Some of us are over the seasick stage and no longer want to die,” were Stefan Kindberg’s inspiring words to start our day. He was right, as the rolling waves had subsided greatly.


A northern fulmar in action

We enjoyed some terrific morning presentations. I went to hear Carolyn Mallory’s Survival of the Smallest. She explained how Arctic plants have adapted to the harsh climate and shorter growing seasons by being small.

After lunch, Milbry Polk spoke about her Expedition on the Trail of William Bradford up the Coast of Greenland. She ended up staying in Upernavik during that expedition, which is where we intended to land about 16:00.

The peregrine falcon is still with the ship. It is speculated that the bird will disembark when we get closer to land.

It has been my goal to take a good photo one of the seabirds in flight over the waves. They are so difficult to photograph because they keep flying around. However,  I didn’t get a clear picture of the peregrine falcon, even though it was stationary on board, but it spent most of the time behind the stored zodiacs.


The sun appeared as we got in the staff boat to go ashore in Upernavik. We had difficulty finding a landing place, though, as the floating dock had been removed for the winter. We cruised among the fishing boats in the harbour for 20 minutes, starting to feel a bit panicked that here we were near dry land after so many days at sea, and no where to go ashore.

We finally managed to snuggle up to a rocky spot beside the wharf.  It was a “dry landing,” which meant folks didn’t have to wear their rubber boots, though several inches of snow covered the ground. After two days at sea, passengers eagerly clambered up on shore to explore the town in the sunshine.


Upernavik, (population of 1,200) was beautiful, with its red and green houses staggered up the rugged hillside. We wandered up to the museum on the snow covered roads as children sledded down the hill passed us.Sept.22_12.jpg  A collection of old red buildings made up the museum, each containing artifacts representative of the history of the region. The view from there of the iceberg studded bay was incredible.


I believe this is the house Milbry stayed in when during her 2012 expedition.

Up the hill behind the museum was the snow covered cemetery where Peter Freuchen’s first wife Navarana was buried.


Navarana K’avigak’ Sorenson, the elder in Julia and Steve’s movie Vanishing Point, stands beside the graveside of her namesake, Navarana Freuchen.

She had been helping her husband and Knud Rasmussen prepare for the Fifth Thule Expedition when she contracted the Spanish Flu and died in 1921.  Higher up the hill was a larger, modern cemetery. Because of bedrock, graves are above ground and piled with stones. Each one marked was with a cross and lovingly decorated with artificial flowers. The view from this height was breathtaking.Sept.22_17.jpg







We wandered about Upernavik until the sun started setting, and we headed back to the ship about 19:30.

We wound up the day with a whiskey label contest. Passengers were to draw a label for a whiskey or write the wording for the bottle.


Arctic highlanders: Kevin, Carolyn, Mark, Isabeau and Pierre

We AC staff dressed in outlandish plaid Scottish garb and then marched up to the Nautilus Lounge, holding our noses and making a nasal drone in an attempt to sound like a bunch of bagpipers. The guests then presented to the full lounge, their design concepts for an Arctic themed whiskey. The winner was “Seasick Scotch,” with the label affixed to one of the sick bags stuck in the railings during the rough passage.

It was a hilarious end to a terrific day in Greenland.




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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Melville Bay
76°13’N   72°14’W
2°C / 36°F
30 knot strong southerly winds
Six to seven meter swells

Enormous waves and excessively strong winds continued though the night, resulting in little advancement in our travels. TV screens outside the lounge and dining room constantly  display the day’s itinerary and the ship’s track and position. Looking at the ship’s track from last night, it looked like a strange triangle. It appears we went south, then blown north, and are back to where we started.


Apparently, the winds along the Greenland coast, coupled with the number of icebergs in the waters make it dangerous. So we are travelling parallel to the coast, but not close to it.  Unfortunately, though, the waves are worse out  where we are in the open waters of Melville Bay.

At 08:30, as we planned to stop at Kap York, I gave a talk about the three large iron meteorites that came to earth there. In 1894, Robert Peary sought and located the meteorites that the Inughuit had used as a source of iron for their harpoons and knives for centuries. Peary went to great effort to remove/steal the meteorites and brought them back to the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

meteorite on board.jpg

The massive 31 metric tonne iron meteorite “Ahnighito” loaded on Peary’s ship in 1897 to bring back to New York. 

When I was in New York this summer, I visited the museum specifically to see these Greenland meteorites.There was a plaque about Peary removing the meteorites, but no comment on how shameless Peary was in his exploitation of people and things for his own purposes.

With the miserable sea conditions, we had to abandon our plans to land at Kap York. Instead, we decided to sail past Meteorite Island where Robert Peary had located the largest of the three iron meteorites for a look at the place of such thievery.

Lynn gave a presentation on Greenland’s glacial landscapes. The Greenland icecap is about 3,200 metres  (10,500 feet) thick.

Not surprisingly, attendance wasn’t as high at our morning lectures as in the past, mainly due to the pitching of the ship. Many folks preferred to watch the presentations from the comfort of their rolling bunks on the TV in their room.

The ship continued to plunge and rock through the sea.

sept-21_1 For anyone wanting to get a full sensory experience of the sea we were travelling through,the port side bridge wing was open.  I was one of the few who struggled up to take photos of the mighty waves crashing over the bow.  Lesley Ann from Newfoundland showed an impressive video at recap of an enormous wave rising right up over the deck and sloshing the camera lens. She definitely got wet during that shoot.



The peregrine falcon is still along for the ride. It has taken shelter at the top deck at the back near where the zodiacs are stored in racks, and is riding out the storm with us.

The sea was still too rough as we neared Kap York, so we stayed our course and didn’t venture closer to the coast.  Lots of afternoon presentations, such as ukulele lessons with David Newland. However, Carolyn’s watercolour painting class was cancelled due to the extreme rolling of the ship. Later in the afternoon, I joined Michael, Barney, and Carolyn, for a book, DVD, and artwork signing.


I bought Carolyn’s beautiful watercolour of Qilakitsok where we had visited in 2014, where the Greenland mummies were discovered.

At recap Jason promised to sacrifice himself in a polar dip for calm seas. Turned out we had endured gale force (not hurricane) winds ranging from 30 to 45 knots. –No wonder many passengers were green around the gills.The biggest swells we had were between seven metres high, or 21 foot waves. Imperial measurements seemed more impressive than metric.

The sun came out after 17:00, offering hope that the next five days would be stellar. Barney Bentall’s concert carried us over the waves.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

North Baffin Bay
76° 20’N   73°W
-5°C  / 23°F
35 knot winds, SSE
6 metre swells (18 feet)
Time change: clocks ahead one hour

It was a rough sea that carried us across Baffin Bay to Greenland. It was the worst pitching and tossing we’ve experienced so far.Sept.20_2b.jpg


Everything not anchored down in our cabins slid back and forth. My dresser drawer flew open and fell right out with a loud thunk. I hadn’t realized that there was a hook on the side to       keep it closed. Walking down the corridor was tricky. The  ready-to-use vomit bags mysteriously appeared stuck in the railings along the walls. Fewer people were in the dining room.  At breakfast, the spray from a huge wave sloshed the dining room window on the sixth deck. (That made me nervous.) The starboard side decks were closed.

The big swell delayed our arrival at Qaanaaq, formerly known as Thule, so we watched Julia Szucs and Steve Smith’s movie Vanishing Point. The lead character Navarana lives in Qaanaaq and is coming aboard today to travel the rest of the way with us.

The seas calmed a bit as we approached Greenland. Icebergs heralded the island before we saw the spectacular mountainous coast.Sept.20_6a.jpg We anchored a distance from the ring of houses along the bay that made up the hamlet of Qaanaaq (population 650) with its backdrop of brown hills. The water was still quite rough and the scout boat bounded over the whitecaps to the town. David Reid and the zodiac returned with Navarana, and the advice that the conditions in the bay were too dangerous to land.  Another shore landing was cancelled.  😦


Instead, we looked at the town from the deck, and snapped photos of the majestic icebergs against the stormy grey skies. Then the ship weighed anchor and headed out of the protected harbour back into the rough seas. Qaanaaq marked the highest latitude we would reach of the trip at 77°28’N.

The ship’s course was now charted for Kap York to the south. We took in an afternoon of presentations or enjoyed quiet time.

After dinner, there was game of Arctic bluff in the Nautilus Lounge. Another Explorer’s Club Film Festival movie was also shown The Norse: An Arctic Mystery, which was enjoyed with popcorn in the Aurora Lounge.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Lancaster Sound
73°58’N   83°06’W
-2°C / 28°F
13knot winds from the east
Overcast with a likelihood of snow

We got our wake up call as we were entering Lancaster Sound.  Stefan started our day with words of wisdom, “Every day is a good day above ground.” No one disagreed.1-Sept.191a.jpg

We had anticipated waking up anchored in Dundas Harbour, but the ice pan we encountered heading into Admiralty Inlet halted us during the night as we were heading out.  We were still in Admiralty Inlet. Through the fog, we could see the scattered ice pans. Once we entered Lancaster Sound, the sea got rougher.  There was more ice, bigger waves and fog all around. The water in the pool was sloshing so much with the ship’s rocking, the waves reached the railing of the deck above. It was drained shortly thereafter.



The ship headed northeast across Lancaster to Dundas Harbour on south Devon Island. Muskoxen were spotted on the Devon Island hillside. I don’t know how anyone was able to distinguish such small brown specks from rocks, but passengers with binoculars concurred they were animals.

We finally steamed into Dundas Harbour. The sky was heavy with impending snow and the land blanketed with it. I had hoped to see it on a clear day to compare it to a photo I have of the CGS Arctic  anchored in the harbour in 1924 when the RCMP post was being built there.

1-PA 102460-Arctic, Dundas Harbour 1925.jpg

CGS Arctic  in Dundas Harbour, 1924, [Library and Archives, PA 102460] 

After lunch, we loaded into the zodiacs to go ashore and visit the abandoned RCMP post. The snow was two feet thick, and we tromped it down to make a path up over the hillside to get to the post.




The abandoned post was built over a hill from where we landed in a valley dwarfed by stunning snow covered hills.  It was in rough shape, showing its age and years of neglect. The white paint has worn off the main building, revealing greyed wooden boards. sept-19_8Some of the broken windows are boarded with plywood.


In the main room, snow drifted through unboarded broken panes and covered the floor. Too many visitors had inscribed their names on the walls – funny how people feel the need to leave evidence of their visit. It’s obviously a popular tourist spot on Devon. Bed frames remain in the bedroom, but unlike at  Fort Ross, not much other furniture was left. A collection of books and empty old bottles sat on a cabinet in the main room. However all the signatures on the wall, dispelled the idea that the bottles had been left in situ by the departing police officers when they closed the detachment in 1951. Likely, the graffiti writers rearranged the bottles.

On the hill behind the post, the view of the bay and surrounding hills is breathtaking. But the little snow covered picket fenced graveyard there had a sobering effect. One of the RCMP officers took his own life only two months before he was scheduled to be posted back down south. sept-19_5Another shot himself accidentally while walrus hunting. There is also a marker for the little daughter of one of the Inuit special constables, but it wasn’t visible above the snow. The graveyard gave us a sense of how lonely this spot is.


It began snowing in earnest as we soberly trooped back over the hill to the zodiacs. A giant snowman built by enthusiastic passengers at the zodiac landing spot lifted our spirits. The abandoned RCMP post was a place we were glad to visit, but happy to leave.

Sept.19_4a.jpgBack on ship, a stowaway was reported. A young peregrine falcon had found a protective perch on the portside bridge wing. Its parents were circling above the ship. We were asked not to disturb it and the bridge wing was closed.

There was a fabulous post dinner sing-along with David Newland, Barney Bentall, Holly Hogan and Lynn Moorman. We had song books, so no one had the excuse of not knowing the words. Our enthusiastic rendition of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler carried us over the waves to Baffin Bay.

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