Sunday, September 14, 2014

Latitude: 73˚21′ N      Longitude: 84˚57′ W
Wind: 35 knots           Speed: 13 Knots
Temperature: 0.5˚C (32.9˚F)

We woke to a rough sea in Lancaster Sound.

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As soon as the ship gets a bit rolly, vomit bags magically appear stuck in the corridor railings.  I don’t mind the waves. Actually, it’s kind of fun. I went out on the deck to take photos of the waves and told David when I came in that I thought it was exciting. He said some of the passengers wouldn’t agree with me. So I publicly curbed my enthusiasm.

The waves subside once we cruised into Admiralty Inlet en route to Arctic Bay (Ikpiarjuk, the pocket). The views are spectacular. Red rocky hills, but the sky and sea are varied shades of slate grey. It’s cloudy but the sun slides through in shafts, shining on the dark waves.1-IMG_1528

The morning presentation by Carolyn Mallory, “Introduction to arctic plants and their adaptations,” highlighted how adaptive plants and mammals are to their environment.

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We cruise into Arctic Bay past majestic red cliffs. I see the rocky outcrop with the little cairn that Bernier’s men built when they overwintered here in 1910. Bernier was a staunch Catholic and it was built to support a huge cross.

I understand it was called Holy Cross Point until someone took offence and cut the cross down in the 1990s. Then it became known as Holy Chopped off Cross Point.

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The Vavilov anchors a distance from the town at the end of the bay. A zodiac heads to shore to pick up a small group, the mayor and some other folks, who come aboard for lunch.  After lunch, we load into zodiacs and head to the spit, about two kilometres outside of town, that has a backdrop of stunning red marble cliffs. 1-047-IMG_1674

Here we are treated to a wonderful performance by two young women throat singers, a drum dancer, and an elder performed an ayaya song. One of the passengers, Deepthie Rajapakse, stepped forward to sing a Cree song, accompanied by the drum.

Despite the skiff of snow, a few tiny, hardy plants are still flowering. Carolyn identified a number of them, including mouse ear tickweed and poppies.

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Dogs tied near the shoreline and qamutiks (long wooden sleds) make interesting photo material.

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There are also about 12 Thule houses along the shore. Latonia points out that they were situated close to the cliffs because the stone was used for making harpoon heads and ulus (knives for flensing skins). This was precious rock to the Thule who lived in the area 4,500 years ago.

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A school bus arrives and takes people into town. Carolyn and I decide to walk the few kilometres. It’s lovely with the snow covered hills. We look at the plants poking through the snow and come upon a rocky little graveyard near the water’s edge. The passengers apparently are stopping at the Visitors Centre and souvenirs seeking at the Northern Store and the Co-op. Apparently, both stores sell furs, though the beaver pelts are an example that they aren’t necessarily local. Ree met a hunter who had two spiral narwhal tusks, about 5′ and 7′8′′ in length. The tusks grow from the male narwhal’s gums like a tooth, and are highly valued, fetching about $1,000 a foot.

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Carolyn and I wound our way down to the beach where the zodiacs were. A bunch of kids showed up. One little guy with a very runny nose carried an enormous bag of M&Ms in both arms. Another little boy had a little purse, which had tiny inch-high little sealskin kamiks in it. His mother had made them and he was selling them. He took one of these wee boots out to show me and said the price was $50. I thought that was a bit steep. But after showing his wares to other tourists he came back with the much reduced price of $20.

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I asked a little huddle of boys if I could take their picture, thinking they’d pose angelically together for me. But they immediately started roughhousing and my picture was of a pile of arms and legs. Boys universally being balls of uncontained energy, a snowball fight soon erupted. The children were lively entertainment for the passengers loading into the zodiacs.

Not long after Nate radioed the bridge that all zodiacs and passengers were on board, the ship weighed anchor and we headed back up Admiralty Inlet to Lancaster Sound.

Tonight after dinner, we were part of a special event. Our author Shelley Wright launched her book, Our Ice is Vanishing: Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq, in the lounge. This is the first book ever launched in the Northwest Passage. Indeed, a most auspicious place to celebrate a new book about the Arctic.

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About Season Osborne

I am a writer with a passion for Arctic history. After finding a photo of Capt. Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, who claimed the Arctic for Canada in 1909, I was inspired to write my master’s thesis on Bernier’s contribution to Arctic sovereignty. This ultimately led to extensive research into Canadian and ‘foreign’ expeditions to the North, which morphed into my recent book, In the Shadow of the Pole: An Early History of Arctic Expeditions, 1871-1912.
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