Beautiful wasteland: A visual update from the arctic islands

We sailed in to Cambridge Bay last night, relieved to pass painlessly through the normally ice-blocked Victoria Straight, historically the crux of the North West Passage.

IMG_2567.jpg

Personally, however, the triumph was bittersweet, tainted by the fading prowess of the arctic pack. Akin to knocking down a retiring champion in his final bout.

The ice-prone Bellot straight, clean as a whistle today!

IMG_2785.jpg

As of this writing, a vast expanse of open water occupies both the Peel and Larson sounds–an historically unprecedented ice-free corridor through.the heart of the northern passages. Sadly, one doesn’t have to look many years back to find year-round “chock-a-block” ice charts for this area. The ice is melting rapidly because of an effect known as arctic amplification, an unfortunate step-child of global warming (or more accurately climate change).

Given tipping-point effects, we may be just a few years out from an ice-free arctic in the summer (some think the blow-out summer of 2007 was that tipping point). At worst we have 3-5 years; at best, 50-100 years–which is still a disturbing length of time given how much ice has to disappear!

And yes, polar bears will bear the brunt of it! (as will many other less cute things and ultimately, of course, humans). Of the 25,000 bears alive today (all carefully avoiding us at this moment), only a handful, maybe a hundred, are predicted to survive. Polar bears can live on land, but they lose on average one kilogram per day (versus gaining two kilograms on ice, where the hunting is easier). Frankly they don’t stand a chance.

So, what’s the moral of the story? Well, the solutions are the usual culprets and they’re all right in front of us. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and such like. We just need to actually do it. That and voting for environmental leaders, of course. Global, climate-driven collapse is not a foregone conclusion (yet!)

Dave taking some time out from the rest of the crew at the masthead

IMG_3030.jpg

The gang hits town in Resolute, Canada, our most Northern stop on the trip. It’s been strange to come across sleepy, rough-edged settlements, completely unprepared for us, let alone the wave of arctic tourism that must surely be on the way. The business opportunities are astounding. (just make them eco businesses please!)

IMG_2734.jpg

Bed on a sled! The northern equivalent of an RV

IMG_2742.jpg

Finally, a Saint Bernard that’s not out of place!

IMG_2737.jpg

IMG_2740.jpg

Musk ox. A proud beast indeed. This one at False Straight was about 5 feet tall and probably weighed in at over 400 kg. Strategically, we placed ourselves right in it’s path so it was forced to walk within 20 meters of us. As it came near, it stopped every few paces to stare us down and snort defensively.

IMG_2820.jpg

IMG_2831.jpg

This inquisitive seal came up to within a few meters of our boat and checked us out for 45 minutes

IMG_3018.jpg

IMG_3024.jpg

Another floating polar bear snack. This one is shy and duck-dives (seal-dives?) as we approach

IMG_2933.jpg

Unfortunately our best polar bear sighting thus far (we seem to be the only boat in Nunavut that hasn’t seen 4 or 5)

IMG_0364.jpg

We woke up to a delightful dusting of snow one morning anchored off Beechey Island. There’s a lot of ice around but, being a desert, it doesn’t actually rain or snow that much

IMG_2588.jpg

IMG_2590.jpg

IMG_2649.jpg

Beechey Island, site of the first successful overwintering of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the most famous (infamous?) attempt at the North West Passage. Their next winter ending at starvation cove didn’t go so well with boots and then crew members showing up on the menu…

IMG_2708.jpg

IMG_2710.jpg

IMG_2602.jpg

IMG_2608.jpg

IMG_2595.jpg

IMG_2630.jpg

More of the infamous tins that did the Franklin expedition in

IMG_2668.jpg

A French camp filming a historical documentary at Beechey. In the past 10 days the bastards had seen 5 polar bears!

IMG_2698.jpg

Passing by the monuments at Beechey Island

IMG_2663.jpg

Unfortunately, the best thing Dave’s caught so far. But you should have seen the one that almost…

IMG_2988.jpg

IMG_2986.jpg

A piece of ice known as a growler (to distinguish it from the larger size-categories “iceberg” and “bergy bit” – yes that’s the official name!). These things don’t seem like much of a threat but can weigh several tons. No small threat to a fibreglass boat.

IMG_2980.jpg

First contact, at anchorage, and finally saying goodbye to our new friends at Nordwind, a 1939 86-foot racing ketch. Little did we know we’d get to know each other a LOT better in the coming week after both their main anchor and engine failed in 90km/h winds. It was great to have some company for a change, not to mention showers and whiskey!

IMG_2725.jpg

IMG_2865.jpg

IMG_2949.jpg

Very cool Hudson’s Bay Company hut that is still kept operational

IMG_2901.jpg

IMG_2908.jpg

Creepy hut alongside the maintained hut. Great spot for an into the wild wintering experience in case you’re on the lookout…

IMG_2883.jpg

IMG_2872.jpg

Food of champions. Sprouting mung beans. Unfortunately the cold seems to be affecting them too!

IMG_2470.jpg

Dave’s ingenious idea to insulate our boots. It’s great having an ingenious on board!

IMG_1157.jpg

Life is tough on the tundra! A spiny little weed eeks out an existence

IMG_2786.jpg

An old Inuit “hut” made of whale bones and turf. This dugout was built by one of 5 families of Native American forest-dwellers who were trans-located to the Arctic by the Canadian government wanting to claim the territory (sadly the government refused to honor its offer of returning them after a year if they didn’t like it). Amazingly they taught themselves to hunt whales and somehow survived, their descendents forming the local population of the town of Resolute.

IMG_0346.jpg

Coffee? Cliff Bar. Nothing beats it after a long polar bear hunt

IMG_2783.jpg

Plain crash near Resolute. There seem to be many of them rusting away in the desert.

IMG_0356.jpg

IMG_0357.jpg

Forget Hartebeespoort Dam. The new Choss-pile. Any interested Joburgers can contact us for directions…

IMG_2781.jpg

Arctic cotton, used by the inuit to insulate clothing

IMG_2091.jpg

IMG_2765.jpg

Cool little anchorage in False Straight

IMG_2762.jpg

The ultimate decor statement in the North, a polar bear rug

IMG_2746.jpg

IMG_2750.jpg

IMG_2747.jpg

Dave, dancing through a snow storm that hit on our northern leg

IMG_2720.jpg

A shore party to restock our water supply on Bylot Island

IMG_2427.jpg

Polar bear training drills

IMG_2656.jpg

Birds evacuating an iceberg

IMG_0810.jpg

Dancing Narwhals. By far the coolest logo I’ve seen for a public library.

IMG_2407.jpg

Curious ice floe shape at Port Ross

P8170050.jpg

Andrew getting creative to keep the climbing muscles from atrophying too much…

P8170079.jpg

Icebergs float by toy houses in Upernavik, Greenland

IMG_2081.jpg

IMG_2034.jpg

IMG_2042.jpg

A husky dog waits idly for winter to arrive

IMG_2085.jpg

Another iceberg floats by (i need a keyboard shortcut for that sentence!)

IMG_2000.jpg

Desolate landscapes from Northern Canada

IMG_2561.jpg

IMG_2564.jpg

IMG_2536.jpg

IMG_2570.jpg

IMG_2577.jpg

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: