Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Latitude: 69˚52′ N                  Longitude: 99˚16′ W
Speed: 3.6 knots                     Wind: 13 knots
Temperature: 2˚C (35˚F)

During the night, the Vavilov continued up Victoria Strait, along the low coast of the Boothia Peninsula. It turns out to be a day at sea. Our intended destination is Coningham Bay on south-eastern Prince of Wales Island where we hope to make an early landing tomorrow morning. Coningham is a noted hang out for polar bears and beluga whales, so it will be a zodiac cruise in the bay and not a shore landing. It sounds like an amazing opportunity to see wildlife.

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My cabin mate Cathie gave the first morning presentation on Geology, Geomorphology, and Glaciology in the presentation room on Deck 1. Staff decided to try the actual presentation room in the bowels of the ship, as opposed to the top deck lounge because it has proper theatre seating and is set up for presentations. The lounge was lovely and bright, but not everyone could see well, and anyone wanting to skip the presentations and drink instead was out of luck.

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Cruise geologist and my awesome cabin mate, Cathie Hickson.

Cathie gave us the low down on the rocks, minerals and general geology of the islands we will be travelling through. Culturalist Susie Evyagotailak followed with a talk about her early spring journey by skidoo from communities Iqaluktuuttiaq to Ulukhaktok (Holman, NWT) on Victoria Island, in her presentation “Land and Sea Ice Journey.”

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After the presentations I go out on deck to the bow to watch the sea. Lots of ice crowds the water ahead of us, as we get into Franklin Strait. This is the Arctic I thought we’d see. It is thrilling to watch as the ship is steered through openings between the floes, and to listen to the ice as it grinds and crunches around and under the hull.

Great excitement ensues when David Reid and Capt. Vladislav Ionin simultaneously spot a polar bear on the starboard side, sitting on a chunk of ice on a large ice floe.

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The captain stopped the ship opposite the bear, and everyone crowded the top deck to take photos.

The bear and passengers spent a good 45 minutes watching each other from respective places of safety. The bear was certainly curious about us, and lay with his front paws stretched out looking back at us.

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After lunch, our fabulous photographer Michelle Valberg gave a valuable seminar about photograph composition. Later, John Houston gave a wonderful introduction to Andrew’s presentation on the “Introduction to Arctic Art,” telling how Andrew became part of the Pangnirtung print shop. Andrew is an incredible artist, and designed the Nunavut flag and coat of arms.

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Our daily 18:45 Recap is a fun gathering in the lounge. The day’s events are summed up humorously by our host David Newland and Stefan. Michelle shows photos taken during the day and passengers also submit outstanding photos they’ve taken. Stefan talks about the plans for tomorrow. We’ll be in the zodiacs before breakfast, having a 06:00 cruise through Coningham Bay. It has to be early because we are going through Bellot Strait and must be at the entrance to the strait by 10:30 in order to catch the tide.

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Dinner follows Recap at 19:30. All our meals are served buffet style. I am enjoying sitting with different passengers, and hearing about where they are from and what inspired them to take a cruise through the NWP. Seventy five strangers are becoming familiar friends.

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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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