Heart of the Arctic – Day 8

Friday, July 24, 2015
Frobisher Bay, 66˚56′ N  62˚25′ W
Sunny, clear visibility,  8˚C

So, how many of you can say you have dined beside an iceberg? Just as I thought, only a handful.1-IMG_5190

It was an amazing day that started off  gorgeous and sunny… yet again. We have been so lucky with great weather and calm seas. I have yet to see any throw-up bags stuck in the corridor railings, as on my last trip. Thank goodness.

We woke to find we were cruising through scattered ice. The itinerary, as mentioned, had been changed last evening when we got the news that we couldn’t get into Cumberland Sound.2-IMG_5199 The sound is blocked with 9/10s ice, which means that between 90 and 100 percent of the sea is frozen. I believe 10/10s would be 100 percent ice, which occurs in winter and nobody gets  through it, not even icebreakers. So Cumberland Sound is pretty much choked with ice, so we are not going there. Instead, we are just going to spend the day cruising alongside the edge of the ice. This morning we were parallel to Frobisher Bay.

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A very blue salt free pond on an ice floe, with a gull flying near it.

The morning was spent out on deck with binoculars, scanning the mass of frozen ice pans we’re sailing through. 4-IMG_5204It is quite beautiful. As far as you can scan the horizon in all directions, there is nothing but sea and floating hunks of ice. The ocean is dark navy, (I see where that name originally came from). The sky  is an azure blue and we are surrounded by ice. The ice is floeing past us in big chunks. Sometimes bits crunch under the ship’s prow, or girnds along the sides. The top of these ice bits is covered in granular snow, but closer to the water the ice reveals different shades of blue, aqua and turquoise. Apparently, that is the older part of the iceberg. Over time, the air is compressed out of it, and it gains an azure blueish green tinge. Quite stunning.

The only wildlife sighted was birds — many of them, including fulmars, glaucous gulls, pomarine jaegers, and one peregrine falcon, which was spotted by someone other than myself, and I again missed the seeing the coolest wildlife of the day.1-IMG_5269.1

We passed a couple of large icebergs. One huge tri-pillared iceberg in the distance seemed to take ages to get closer. We came parallel to it about 11:30. It was enormous – the height of a six story building. It had three towers that were obviously joined below the waterline in one great submerged iceberg.  1-IMG_5347The pillars, or towers, were varying colours of blue. You could see strata and layers that was evidence of how the iceberg was formed, and worn by water and wind into three sections.

2-P1140015The ship stopped just parrallel to the immense berg. Everyone came on deck with binoculars and cameras. Then the ship’s staff set up tables on the aft deck and BBQs, and grilled sausages and burgers, and put our salads and fabulous summertime fare. Then we had lunch sitting out on the ‘back deck’, anchored near a glorious iceberg.

The sun was strong. There wasn’t much breeze and it was light jacket, almost balmy, weather.  A couple of boxes of Hawaiian style accessories were brought up on the aft deck by Adventure Canada staff.  And I helped hand out leis, grass skirts, and flowered shirts to the passengers as they came out on deck for lunch.

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That’s me on the right in the purple grass skirt. I look a little plump because the skirt is hiked over my wind pants. Ree Brennin, looking appropriately Hawaiian, is on my right.

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Tyler, attired as a Hawaiian polar bear, heated up the aft deck on the sixth level, playing boogie woogie piano tunes.

The afternoon was originally scheduled with workshops and talks, but then with the iceberg showing up, there was a spontaneous decision to give folks a closer look. 1-IMG_5472After lunch, we had zodiac cruises to the iceberg. It was amazing. We did it in two sessions again. I was again with awesome zodiac driver Dawson. 1-IMG_5500

I dressed in my thickest fleece pants and top with more than three underlayers, as I knew I’d be out in the zodiac floating amongst ice for three hours.1-IMG_5398

It was truly awesome. We motored between big and small sheets of floating ice towards the iceberg. 1-IMG_5416It was farther away than it seemed. We kept our distance of twice the height of it away, in case it flipped.1-IMG_5403 It’s not so much the mountain of ice toppling on us we were keeping back from, but the enormous wave that would ensue if it capsized. It was an amazing photo opp, and folks got a chance to photograph the berg from all sides, as we slowly circumnavigated it.

The sky was starting to grey up by the time the second lot of iceberg tourists came down the gangways for their zodiac cruise. 1-IMG_5452This made the trip around the berg more ominous. Sunshine is great, but there is nothing that creates moody atmosphere then for grey sky and shifting dark clouds. The temperature got cooler, as well and for a time a very dark patch of sky in the distance looked like it might hold snow. We were spared flurries however and had another spectacular circumnavigation of the tri-pillared iceberg.

1-IMG_5441-001We were all glad to get back onboard ship and have a hot drink of two, and change clothes.

After dinner Tom got people up dancing with his concert, All want is an Internet Connection. Is that too much to ask? He was joined on stage by Tyler and  Brian. Everyone was up tripping the light fantastic and a conga line even formed and snaked through the Nautilus Lounge.  A warm way to end a fabulous unexpected day of visit to an iceberg.

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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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