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.
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!
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
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!)
Bed on a sled! The northern equivalent of an RV
Finally, a Saint Bernard that’s not out of place!
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.
This inquisitive seal came up to within a few meters of our boat and checked us out for 45 minutes
Another floating polar bear snack. This one is shy and duck-dives (seal-dives?) as we approach
Unfortunately our best polar bear sighting thus far (we seem to be the only boat in Nunavut that hasn’t seen 4 or 5)
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
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…
More of the infamous tins that did the Franklin expedition in
A French camp filming a historical documentary at Beechey. In the past 10 days the bastards had seen 5 polar bears!
Passing by the monuments at Beechey Island
Unfortunately, the best thing Dave’s caught so far. But you should have seen the one that almost…
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.
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!
Very cool Hudson’s Bay Company hut that is still kept operational
Creepy hut alongside the maintained hut. Great spot for an into the wild wintering experience in case you’re on the lookout…
Food of champions. Sprouting mung beans. Unfortunately the cold seems to be affecting them too!
Dave’s ingenious idea to insulate our boots. It’s great having an ingenious on board!
Life is tough on the tundra! A spiny little weed eeks out an existence
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.
Coffee? Cliff Bar. Nothing beats it after a long polar bear hunt
Plain crash near Resolute. There seem to be many of them rusting away in the desert.
Forget Hartebeespoort Dam. The new Choss-pile. Any interested Joburgers can contact us for directions…
Arctic cotton, used by the inuit to insulate clothing
Cool little anchorage in False Straight
The ultimate decor statement in the North, a polar bear rug
Dave, dancing through a snow storm that hit on our northern leg
A shore party to restock our water supply on Bylot Island
Polar bear training drills
Birds evacuating an iceberg
Dancing Narwhals. By far the coolest logo I’ve seen for a public library.
Curious ice floe shape at Port Ross
Andrew getting creative to keep the climbing muscles from atrophying too much…
Icebergs float by toy houses in Upernavik, Greenland
A husky dog waits idly for winter to arrive
Another iceberg floats by (i need a keyboard shortcut for that sentence!)
Desolate landscapes from Northern Canada