Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fort Ross
71°58’N   94°21’W
-4°C / 25°F
No snow
15 knot winds

Sept.15_2.jpgWake up call at 06:45, so we could be ready and geared up at 08:00 hours to go ashore at Fort Ross. However, the scout boat’s attempt to get more than 100 metres from the ship was aborted due to high winds. The weather just wasn’t cooperating with us.

There was no shortage of terrific entertainment on board while we waited for the wind to subside, though. Robert Comeau’s knuckle hop during the Inuit games demonstration was a highlight. For this, the participant holds the plank position but he leans on his knuckles and then hops forward on them for as far as he can. Youch, our own knuckles hurt just watching. Then Julia Szucs and Steve Smith had an early morning screening of their film Arctic Cliffhangers.


Fort Ross: we can see it, but can’t get to it.

After lunch, the wind had subsided sufficiently for us to go ashore. The staff zodiac arrived  about 15 minutes before the passenger to scout the region for bears.

I wandered up the rocky beach to Leopold McClintock’s monument before the passenger zodiacs arrived. McClintock’s expedition had set up a depot here in 1858 and used it as a base for his Franklin search expedition. He subsequently named this Depot Bay.

I hadn’t seen the monument on my previous visit in 2014. It’s a stone memorial erected in 1979 by Francis Leopold McClintock’s descendants in honour of his discovery of the fate of the Franklin expedition in 1859. It’s quite an impressive to think they carted this headstone-sized monument all the way here from the UK.

I then scrambled up the snow covered hill behind the post to McClintock’s cairn so I could tell the passengers about it.

Although, the pile of rocks is attributed to McClintock, the one built by his men was destroyed by bears, and this one was rebuilt by passengers of the Nascopie in 1937 while the HBC men were erecting the post. The majority of passengers made it up to see the cairn, but no one was inclined to linger there where the winds were gusty. But from that vantage point the 360 degree vista of stark rounded hills was breathtaking. sept-15_13We could see snow greying the distant skies beyond the ship in the dark teal bay. The mood of the post was of incredible isolation.

After the last passenger had visited the rock pile, I headed down to the  post buildings. The Hudson’s Bay Company built the Fort Ross in 1937, thinking it offered good hunting and new fur trading opportunities. It  was abandoned in 1948 because ice in the strait and bay made it difficult to get to.

A path bordered with stones led from the storehouse to the manager’s house. sept-15_9Skiffs of snow had drifted through the broken windows and across the floor. A stove, fridge and large pieces of furniture were left in the house; easier than taking them back down south. A rusted pot belly stove still stands ready to warm the place, while two decrepit armchairs, devoid of stuffing,  brazenly expose their springs through  the snowy upholstery.

sept-15_18We poked our heads into the HBC store. It is the better preserved of the two existing buildings. Cans and non-perishable items sit on shelves, and bunk beds along the wall are evidence that the place is still used by travellers from other communities.

Everyone paid particular sept-15_19attention to the letters over the doorway “Hudson’s Bay Company, Incorporated 2nd May 1670.  David Newland had pointed out at recap last night that the words are not painted on the wall, but each metal letter is individually attached.


Capt. JE Bernier hanging out with Capt. Highliner

The day ended on a high note with a fabulous party in the Nautilus Lounge where we convened dressed as our favourite famous Canadian. Margaret Atwood, Emily Carr and Dr. Frederick Banting were in attendance with a large contingent of other colourful Canadian characters.


About Season Osborne

I am a writer with a love of 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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