Heart of the Arctic – Day 9

Saturday, July 25, 2015
Davis Strait, 63˚39′ N  57˚70′ W
Overcast, good visibility,   8˚C

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Somewhere between Baffin Island and Greenland, while crossing Davis Strait.

No one minded that it was overcast, as we were at sea crossing Davis Strait, and a good day to be indoors. Not much ice in sight, but a minke whale was spotted and numerous fulmars.

It was a quiet day, and I think folks enjoyed a chance to take it easy and ponder their trip, and maybe their life, thus far.

Pootoogook continued  his carving.  A large contingent turned out to the meeting to sign up as soccer players and cheerleaders , and strategize for the upcoming match in Itilleq, Greenland, where we are scheduled to play the town team. The film Vanishing Point was shown in the Nautilus Lounge after lunch. Lots of onboard presentations. Judy continued her beaded mitten making workshop.

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My unfrozen Arctic char, ready for painting.

I went to the Gyotaku workshop, which is the Japanese art of fish printing – I mean, using real fish. Remember that Arctic char I was given in Kangiqsujuaq? This is where it had its moment of glory. Up on the very top deck is the smaller Meridian Lounge, a perfect place to bring a book and settle in a comfy chair and look out at the scenery through the many surrounding windows, or paint a fish.

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The fish I chose to paint.

I found Ree getting ready to give her gyotaku class. Tubes of paint and brushes were lined up along the bar and dozens of pages of rice paper were sitting on a table ready to be printed on. She had five small tables set up around the bar with fish on them. Three of the fish were plastic replicas, but two were originals, one was my recently unfrozen Arctic char, the other was a little pudgy  fish that a little boy had caught in Kimmirut and given to us. I forget the name of it, but it had a pouty face and big fins and tail.

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Ree Brennin Houston and John Houston, demonstrate the Japanese art of gyotaku before a live audience.

So, Ree and John demonstrated how to brush paint on the fish, then carefully press the paper on it to absorb the ink and get the fish detail. And then slowly pull the paper off to reveal brilliantly, coloured, unnatural likenesses of the fish.

The art started with Japanese fishermen in the 18th century who wanted to prove to their peers (or is it piers?) that they had a caught a rare fish. Because the fish was rare, the fishermen didn’t want to keep it. So they quickly coated the fish with ink, then pressed paper on it, and tossed the fish back into the ocean still alive.

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My char painted.

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Beautiful Arctic char prints.

Everyone got into painting a fish, and then hung the paper with wee clothespins to a little string line that Ree had strung across the corners of the room. 2-P1140066I chose to print the pouty fish because the char was rather dull and unappealing. However, the stunning, beautiful char pictures that people did were amazing. After everyone had painted and printed their fish, the fish were washed, including the dead ones. They were tossed overboard while the fake ones were put back in boxes for future workshops.

After breakfast, Ben, the tour guide from Road Scholars, asked if I could come and talk to his group about Franklin. The Road Scholars  is an American travel organization that booked to come with Adventure Canada.  But they maintain their own tour guides and stick together on shore landings. So at 4:30, I returned to the Meridian lounge at the top of the ship where 10 Road Scholars pulled chairs in a circle, with the backdrop of drying fish prints. I gave them a  Coles Notes version of the Franklin expedition search for the NWP, , the monumental search organized when his ships didn’t return, and their unsuccessful attempts to find Franklin and his men. What happened to the Franklin expedition is a mystery that still endures, and culminated in the discovery of one of his ships last September. It was an interesting chat about an interesting topic.

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Me and Murray Waghorn, Adventure Canada’s most frequent passenger.

I met Murray Waghorn from New Zealand on my way downstairs. He is a very shy gentleman. And on his first trip in 1998, Matthew Swan announced at Recap that Murray was their first kiwi guest. When Matthew said Murray was a sheep farmer, the entire ship’s company started baaaing. Murray said he laughed so much, and it made him relax. He returned again and again to the Arctic. This is his fifteenth Adventure Canada trip and the thirteenth to the Arctic.

Tonight everyone was invited to come as their favourite piece of art to Recap. Theme night was a huge success. A variety of recognizable and obscure pieces and artists were present at recap, from  the Girl with a Pearl Earring to the American painting of the farmer with the pitchfork and his wife.

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Gwen, Dave, Daniel and Dawson Freeze came ensemble as Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Does that then make the Freeze family ‘ice Scream’?

Artists were also present, such as Andy Warhol and Matisse. Van Gogh was there with a field of sunflowers. I fit right in with that couple as I was dressed as one of Van Gogh’s vase of flowers. (Lee helped me get potted. She pinned flowers on me and taped a garbage bag vase over the stems.) Everyone paraded up to the front of the stage and some of the costumes were very authentic looking.1-Heart of Arctic_LNarraway_-260

Afterwards I was invited with some of the staff to attend Chef Tojosan’s sushi night in the Aurora Lounge. It was fun to go a second time and again roll our own sushi. I started the dinner in my vase outfit, but a stem from one of the sunflowers jabbed me in the back, so I had change. After dinner, there was a big party in the lounge with dancing and singing and more conga line dancing, that carried on until 2:00 a.m. – with the two hour time change. After a day at sea, I think everyone will be ready to go ashore tomorrow.

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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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