Monday, September 19, 2016

Lancaster Sound
73°58’N   83°06’W
-2°C / 28°F
13knot winds from the east
Overcast with a likelihood of snow

We got our wake up call as we were entering Lancaster Sound.  Stefan started our day with words of wisdom, “Every day is a good day above ground.” No one disagreed.1-Sept.191a.jpg

We had anticipated waking up anchored in Dundas Harbour, but the ice pan we encountered heading into Admiralty Inlet halted us during the night as we were heading out.  We were still in Admiralty Inlet. Through the fog, we could see the scattered ice pans. Once we entered Lancaster Sound, the sea got rougher.  There was more ice, bigger waves and fog all around. The water in the pool was sloshing so much with the ship’s rocking, the waves reached the railing of the deck above. It was drained shortly thereafter.

 

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The ship headed northeast across Lancaster to Dundas Harbour on south Devon Island. Muskoxen were spotted on the Devon Island hillside. I don’t know how anyone was able to distinguish such small brown specks from rocks, but passengers with binoculars concurred they were animals.

We finally steamed into Dundas Harbour. The sky was heavy with impending snow and the land blanketed with it. I had hoped to see it on a clear day to compare it to a photo I have of the CGS Arctic  anchored in the harbour in 1924 when the RCMP post was being built there.

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CGS Arctic  in Dundas Harbour, 1924, [Library and Archives, PA 102460] 

After lunch, we loaded into the zodiacs to go ashore and visit the abandoned RCMP post. The snow was two feet thick, and we tromped it down to make a path up over the hillside to get to the post.

 

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The abandoned post was built over a hill from where we landed in a valley dwarfed by stunning snow covered hills.  It was in rough shape, showing its age and years of neglect. The white paint has worn off the main building, revealing greyed wooden boards. sept-19_8Some of the broken windows are boarded with plywood.

 

In the main room, snow drifted through unboarded broken panes and covered the floor. Too many visitors had inscribed their names on the walls – funny how people feel the need to leave evidence of their visit. It’s obviously a popular tourist spot on Devon. Bed frames remain in the bedroom, but unlike at  Fort Ross, not much other furniture was left. A collection of books and empty old bottles sat on a cabinet in the main room. However all the signatures on the wall, dispelled the idea that the bottles had been left in situ by the departing police officers when they closed the detachment in 1951. Likely, the graffiti writers rearranged the bottles.

On the hill behind the post, the view of the bay and surrounding hills is breathtaking. But the little snow covered picket fenced graveyard there had a sobering effect. One of the RCMP officers took his own life only two months before he was scheduled to be posted back down south. sept-19_5Another shot himself accidentally while walrus hunting. There is also a marker for the little daughter of one of the Inuit special constables, but it wasn’t visible above the snow. The graveyard gave us a sense of how lonely this spot is.

 

It began snowing in earnest as we soberly trooped back over the hill to the zodiacs. A giant snowman built by enthusiastic passengers at the zodiac landing spot lifted our spirits. The abandoned RCMP post was a place we were glad to visit, but happy to leave.

Sept.19_4a.jpgBack on ship, a stowaway was reported. A young peregrine falcon had found a protective perch on the portside bridge wing. Its parents were circling above the ship. We were asked not to disturb it and the bridge wing was closed.

There was a fabulous post dinner sing-along with David Newland, Barney Bentall, Holly Hogan and Lynn Moorman. We had song books, so no one had the excuse of not knowing the words. Our enthusiastic rendition of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler carried us over the waves to Baffin Bay.

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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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