Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Latitude 71˚45′ N       Longitude: 74˚30′ W
Speed: 8 knots             Wind: 11 knots
Temperature: 0˚C (32˚F)

During the night we cruised east along north Baffin Island to Buchan Gulf. The rugged mountains, incredibly, were once under the Laurentian ice sheet that covered North America. Out the portal I see cliffs covered in snow. We have not yet had wakeup call. I go up on the bridge to see that we were slowly passing between two mountains which rise out of the water. We are entering Icy Arm Fiord.

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The fiord is truly magnificent, especially from sea level. We have an awe-inspiring two-hour zodiac cruise in the fiord after breakfast. Glaciers spilled down the side of 3,000 foot cliffs and mountains. A thin coating of  snow clings to it all. I was in Andrew’s zodiac. The seven other zodiacs were cruising along the left side of the fiord, but Andrew slowly veered toward the right. He kept raising his binoculars. Then very quietly said, “I see some bears in the water.”

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A mother polar bear and her two cubs were swimming along the shore. The hillside was steep here and she was looking for an easy point of egress.  We watched them for a couple of moments before Andrew radioed the rest of the zodiacs.

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Polar bear expert, David, urged caution. He didn’t want to panic the mother into trying to get out at a place that might be difficult. The zodiacs hung back and cameras clicked away, as we watched the bears climb out of the water and walk up the side of the mountain. 1-063-IMG_2107

The mother also kept watching us, stopping to turning and look at the black things in the water as she led her cubs along the hill.

Further down one end of the fiord we saw an avalanche of snow skid down the mountain into the water.

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On the way back to the ship, we idled the zodiacs at the base of a hill and watched an arctic fox part way up, feeding on what little remained of a seal that was probably killed by the polar bear for her cubs. There was great speculation as to why she would drag the seal so far from the water’s edge. A raven arrived and attempted to snatch some food away, but the fox chased it off.

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Reluctantly, we returned to the ship. It was a cruise visually rich with scenery and wildlife. Embarking after our chilly zodiac ride, we were warmed with hot chocolate and coffee with Baileys on the aft deck.

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During lunch, I stood on the top deck just to be out in the midst of this fiord. I watched an iceberg float by with a patch of red blood on it and small tracks in the snow around the top. I radioed Stefan about what had caused it. He surmised that a raven had managed to escape from the fox and fly off with a piece of the seal to enjoy out of the fox’s reach on the berg. Interesting how three different species lived off the one kill.

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After lunch, we were all on deck in the sunshine to watch as we left Buchan Bay, and head out to sea towards Greenland.  Entering Baffin Bay there was some discrepancy as to when Baffin Bay becomes Davis Strait, as the waters mix together. No definitive answer to that.There is a storm approaching off Greenland and we are hoping to miss it in our trip across.

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After dinner we watched People of a Feather, A film about the people of Sanikiluaq in Hudson Bay whose existence greatly depends on the eider duck population.

Inuktitut word of the day: Tiriganniaq = arctic fox

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Leaving Baffin Island behind to cross Baffin Bay

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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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