Monday, September 12, 2016

Dease Strait
68° 56’N  107°W
0°C / 32°F
Partly cloudy

Sept.12_3.JPGAwake at 06:00, I headed up on deck. The sky was an unremarkable grey, and in the distance over Victoria Island, dark clouds touched the ground with streaks of snow.  The islands and land are low, rolling humps of bare rock. We passed the blinking green lights of an unmanned Northern Warning Station. From 1957 to 1985, stations dotted across the Arctic known as the Distant Early Warning or DEW line, set up to alert American and Canadian military forces of an intrusion from the USSR.

The full company gathered in the Nautilus Lounge at 09:00 for a mandatory polar bear briefing. It was very clear we need to stay in a group on hikes. We all want to see a bear but not up close, and certainly not personal. Our resident archaeologist Latonia Hartery (who I’ve been with on all three voyages,) stressed the “Take only pictures and leave only footprints” landing rule.

During lunch we had an exciting announcement. erebus and terror2.jpgThe wreck of John Franklin’s second ship Terror had been located off the southwest coast of King William Island. The Terror lies about 90 kilometres north of where the Erebus was located in September 2014- and announced while I was on the ship, as well.  Our ship would be passing between the sunken wrecks during the night, as we head through Queen Maud Gulf to Gjoa Haven.

Sept.12_2.jpgAfter lunch, we got into the zodiacs for our first shore landing at Anderson Bay. It was cloudy and windy, but the landing on the rocky shore was smooth with minimum wading through water to the beach. Folks changed out of their Wellies into hiking boots, ready to clamber over the rocks and tundra.

The land was relatively flat, and very hummocky with tufts of lichens and groupings of round vegetationless patches.A skin of ice had formed on the little ponds we passed, reminding us that the Arctic winter was not far off.

We came across the bones and long hair of an old muskox carcass that had been torn asunder by wolves. Everyone composes photos with the skull in it.

sept-12_7

Tiny red and golden lichens were big subjects for photographs, as was the wide, stunning vistas of rolling tundra and moody grey skies. Snow started swirling and the wind picked up as we returned to the beach. The zodiac ride back to the ship was a bit rough with waves sloshing over the side. But it was exhilarating and part of what we came for, plus we were heading in the right direction, back to a warm cabin.

Before dinner we reconvened in the Nautilus Lounge for recap – a review of the day’s highlights with AC staff speaking briefly about specific things we had seen, such as birds or wildlife.  Lynn Morman talked about the fossils the beachcombers found that was evidence of the Arctic Platform and 550-million-year-old marine environment. Jason gave us an overview of what was planned for tomorrow.

I talked about who Anderson Bay was named after. I’d had to look it up on james anderson.jpgthe internet in the AC office beforehand. I found a James Anderson was sent by the HBC up the Back River to corroborate John Rae’s report that Franklin’s men were heading in that direction when they met their end.  I wasn’t 100 percent sure I had the right Anderson, but it was a story that seemed to fit. When I sat down afterward, a passenger came up to inform me that Anderson was a Presbyterian bishop John Rae knew. Hmmm, more investigation is needed.

Recap was followed by Captain Denis Radja’s welcome cocktail. We happily toasted the key staff he introduced – hotel manager, maitre d’, chef –  those who would make our stay comfortable and delicious.David Newland wound up the evening with his Northwest Passage in Story and Song, the show he has been giving to southern audiences about the NWP. What a unique perspective we had, hearing his music while sailing through the Passage.

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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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