Ulukhaktok (Holman), Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Located on the west side of Victoria Island on the Amundsen Gulf in the Northwest Territories, the small Inuvialuit hamlet of Ulukhaktok (meaning "place where one finds material to make ulus") is named for the ulu knife

Located on the west side of Victoria Island on the Amundsen Gulf in the Northwest Territories, the small Inuvialuit hamlet of Ulukhaktok (meaning “place where one finds material to make ulus”) is named for the ulu knife and has a population around 400 people, Canada

 

The small Inuvialuit hamlet of Ulukhaktok (meaning “place where one finds material to make ulus”) is named for the ulu, a traditional blade used by Inuit people.  Ulukhaktok is located on the west side of Victoria Island on the Amundsen Gulf in the Northwest Territories and is home to fewer than 400 residents. The town, originally named Holman – until 1 April 2006, was founded as a Roman Catholic mission in the 1930s.  The community’s deep understanding of Arctic wildlife is reflected in their creative silkscreen prints and crafts.  Ulukhaktok is known for its fine prints, musk ox wool woven clothing, especially ear muffs, and musk-ox horn carvings.  Ulukhaktok is also famous as the home of the world’s northernmost 9-hole golf course (each summer it hosts the Billy Joss Open Golf Tournament, named after the creator of the golf course, played under the midnight sun).

 

Once ashore (by Zodiacs, for a wet landing) a small group of us had a guided tour of the main section of town with visits to the Art Center (where local crafts and arts were sold) and then the community center where we had the opportunity to taste local foods (Arctic Char stew, Arctic Char crudo and the local fried bread – all of which were delicious).  Also at the community center we saw local artists who had traditional crafts for sale.  We were met by three women elders in the youth community room where we were given lessons on how to sew the local seal mittens, trimmed with rabbit fur.  We each hand-sewed a pair of felt mittens (as seal products cannot be imported into the U.S.A.) with the rabbit fur trim, under the elders’ supervision and with their assistance (see photographs, below).  A very unique souvenir of a wonderful visit to a very friendly local community.  What better way to start to gain an appreciation for their culture than to taste some of their local specialties and sew with the elder women?

 

Our Zodiacs landed on the gravel beach at the edge of town, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Our Zodiacs landed on the gravel beach at the edge of town, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Typical homes in Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Typical homes in Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

A polar bear skin drying in the front yard of a local hunter and trapper, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

A polar bear skin drying in the front yard of a local hunter and trapper, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

The Ulukhaktok Arts Center, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

The Ulukhaktok Arts Center, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

A local stencil print for sale at the Ulukhaktok Arts Center by local artist Susie Malgokak, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

A local stencil print for sale at the Ulukhaktok Arts Center by local artist Susie Malgokak, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

The art center provided this biography of the artist: “Susie Malgokak was born in Ulukhaktok (formerly Holman), Northwest Territories in 1955.  She studied the shaded stencil printmaking technique and practiced until she had perfected it.  Her attention to detail is visible in the beautiful prints she creates, many of which are inspired by the stories of her father.  Her prints feature scenes from her past and capture the essence of a traditional lifestyle enjoyed by the Inuit.  Susie’s husband Peter Malgokak, her brother Peter Palvik, and her sister Mabel Nigiyok, are all involved in printmaking in Ulukhaktok.”

 

A second local stencil print for sale at the Ulukhaktok Arts Center by local artist Susie Malgokak, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

A second local stencil print for sale at the Ulukhaktok Arts Center by local artist Susie Malgokak, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Another typical home in Ulukhaktok; note the two critical vehicles in the front yard – a quad bike for the summer and a skidoo for the winter; Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Another typical home in Ulukhaktok; note the two critical vehicles in the front yard – a quad bike for the summer and a Ski-Doo for the winter; Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Sitting in the front yard of the home, above, was the great aunt of our guide, the leading ulu knife maker in Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Sitting in the front yard of the home, above, was the great aunt of our guide, the leading ulu knife maker in Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

A church in Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

A church in Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

The Ulukhaktok Community Hall – note that the sign is an enlarged ulu; Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

The Ulukhaktok Community Hall – note that the sign is an enlarged ulu; Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

One of three elder Inuit women who graciously conducted a sewing demonstration and class for a small group of us in sewing the local winter mittens with rabbit fur trim at the Ulukhaktok Community Hall, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island

One of three elder Inuit women who graciously conducted a sewing demonstration and class for a small group of us in sewing the local winter mittens with rabbit fur trim at the Ulukhaktok Community Hall, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island

 

Using an ulu knife for cutting the rabbit fur trim for out mittens at the Ulukhaktok Community Hall, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Using an ulu knife for cutting the rabbit fur trim for out mittens at the Ulukhaktok Community Hall, Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

All-purpose ulu knives have a unique design which increases dexterity and leverage, making fine cuts simple and chopping easier.  The blade is made of stainless steel (originally slate) and has a large, easy to grip wooden handle (originally made of caribou antler or muskox horn).  The Ulu knife (pronounced oo-loo) comes from Alaska, and has been used by Native people of the Arctic for centuries.  Ulu knives are utilized in applications as diverse as skinning and cleaning animals, cutting a child’s hair, cutting food, as a weapon and, if necessary, trimming blocks of snow and ice used to build an Igloo.  They are prized possessions in the Arctic communities and are passed down from generation to generation. Ulu knives have been found dating back as early as 2,500 B.C.

 

A farewell photograph of the point of Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, as we sailed into the Amundsen Gulf, heading west for our final four days of sailing to complete the NW Passage

A farewell photograph of the point of Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, as we sailed into the Amundsen Gulf, heading west for our final four days of sailing to complete our unassisted (i.e., no icebreaker support) transit through Northwest Passage on to the Beaufort Sea and the Bering Strait — a strait of the Pacific, which separates Russia and Alaska slightly south of the Arctic Circle at about 65° 40′ N latitude — to reach Nome, Alaska, in 24 days after our expedition began in Nuuk, Greenland

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Port Epworth (the Tree River area on the mainland), Nunavut, Canada

Stepping ashore at Port Epworth, southwest of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island in the Canadian High Arctic region of Nunavut, was our first outing on the “mainland” – the terrain near the strait was tundra littered with erratic boulders

Stepping ashore at Port Epworth, southwest of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island in the Canadian High Arctic region of Nunavut, was our first outing on the “mainland” – the terrain near the strait was tundra littered with erratic boulders, and, further inland, sedimentary rocks and outcroppings with lakes and rivers dotting the area teeming with ground plants (the tallest willow tree we came across was about 18 inches / 0.5 meters) tall – a giant compared to the ground cover willows on Baffin Island three weeks ago)

 

From Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island we sailed west and entered Coronation Gulf, leading into Dolphin and Union Strait.  Another narrow section of the Northwest Passage between Victoria Island and mainland Nunavut in Canada, the strait is named for the Dolphin and the Union, two boats from the second Franklin land expedition.  Overnight we passed the infamous Franklin Cape and “Point Turnagain,” where the Franklin party was forced to literally turn back twice after two failed attempts through to the westernmost portion of the Northwest Passage.  Several rivers flow into the gulf.  Together with being a place of great natural beauty, the Tree River area on the mainland – across from Victoria Island — also known as Port Epworth, is rich in Inuit history.  Port Epworth is part of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement – Kugluktuk Inuit-owned land in Nunavut (on the mainland).

 

We once again saw evidence that it was “fall” in the High Arctic, as signaled by the bright red color of the bear berry plants all across the tundra, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

We once again saw evidence that it was “fall” in the High Arctic, as signaled by the bright red color of the bear berry plants all across the tundra, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

 

Further evidence of fall what appears to be snow in the distance, but were already frozen shallow lakes, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

Further evidence of fall what appears to be snow in the distance, but were already frozen shallow lakes, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

 

A panorama of a portion of the slowly eroding sedimentary rock outcropping, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

A panorama of a portion of the slowly eroding sedimentary rock outcropping, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

 

Fall colors in the tundra under the sedimentary rock outcroppings, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

Fall colors in the tundra under the sedimentary rock outcroppings, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

 

Our guest geologist pointed out the layers of these sedimentary rocks (a beautiful abstract “painting” on their own) indicated the layers of sediment that were deposited on the ocean floor with algae trapped in successive layers_

Our guest expedition geologist pointed out the layers of these sedimentary rocks (a beautiful abstract “painting” on their own) indicated the layers of sediment that were deposited on the ocean floor with algae trapped in successive layers millions of years ago, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

 

“Port Epworth is a place where visitors can see and touch the petrified remains of primordial mounds of algae, formed during the dawning days of life some two billion years ago by the very organisms responsible for producing the oxygen we breathe today.  These are stromatolites – a word constructed from the Latin roots for “mattress” and “stone”…” – “Cruise geologist inspires Atwood’s latest work”, Randy Boswell, Vancouver Sun, 17 Dec 2011

 

To read Margaret Atwood’s short story, “Stone Mattress”, in The New Yorker on December 11, 2011 – inspired by her cruise to the Canadian Arctic and Port Epworth — see:  https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/12/19/stone-mattress

 

Some of the basalt (slate) rocks that are now slivers pointing upwards were originally horizontal layers, moved upright by years of cryogenic forces (the freezing and unfreezing of water in the cracks of the rock layers), Port Epworth

Some of the basalt (slate) rocks that are now slivers pointing upwards were originally horizontal layers, moved upright by years of cryogenic forces (the freezing and unfreezing of water in the cracks of the rock layers), Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

 

It was very late in the summer season to find these yellow flowers in the tundra, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

It was very late in the summer season to find these yellow flowers in the tundra, Port Epworth, mainland, Nunavut, Canada

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

Before going into the town of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island in the central high Arctic region of Canada, we took a long hike along the stone beach waterfront with an Inuit expedition guide from Pond Inlet, Baffin Island

Before going into the town of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island in the central high Arctic region of Canada, we took a long hike along the stone beach waterfront with an Inuit expedition guide from Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, who gave us excellent insights into the Inuit hunting and fishing traditions

 

Cambridge Bay is located on the southeast coast of Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada.  The traditional name for the community is Iqaluktuuttiaq, which means “a good place with lots of fish.”  Archaeological sites in and close to the community show that people have lived in this area for at least 4,000 years.  In the 1920s the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police established posts at Cambridge Bay, attracting local Inuit who settled nearby.  The construction of a Distant Early Warning Site in Cambridge Bay in 1955 attracted more people to the area, and it has since grown in size.  Cambridge Bay is currently the administrative center for the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut.  The May Hakongak Community Library and Cultural Centre and the Arctic Coast Visitors Centre feature displays on the local culture and history.=

This protected harbor on the south coast of Victoria Island was historically a convenient meeting place before crossing the Dease Strait.  Now the largest community in the region, it is home to about 1,766 residents and is the logistical hub for the central Arctic.

Cambridge Bay is also home to the new Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), illustrating how traditional Inuit life and the modern scientific age meet in this bustling Arctic community.

 

Vacation fishing shacks on the beach at Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada, built from plywood shipped in from southern Canada, as there are no trees in the tundra regions of the northern central Arctic region of Canada

Vacation fishing shacks on the beach at Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada, built from plywood shipped in from southern Canada, as there are no trees in the tundra regions of the northern central Arctic region of Canada

 

A traditional Inuit fish drying rack on the beach – here the Arctic Char is being air dried (a local delicacy) in the wind with temperatures around freezing as we walked by, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

A traditional Inuit fish drying rack on the beach – here the Arctic Char is being air dried (a local delicacy) in the wind with temperatures around freezing as we walked by, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Also on the drying racks were caribou meat on ribs and other bones that is eaten like American beef jerky and fish on the lower racks; Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada – all traditional Inuit techniques

Also on the drying racks were caribou meat on ribs and other bones that is eaten like American beef jerky and fish on the lower racks; Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada – all traditional Inuit techniques

 

The signage is universal – a beach outhouse shack, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

The signage is universal – a beach outhouse shack, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

This is a special Inuit food – air dried reindeer hoofs (a tradition in our guide’s family, although she had not personally eaten it), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

This is a special Inuit food – air dried reindeer hoofs (a tradition in our guide’s family, although she had not personally eaten it), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

One-half of a caribou antler in the front yard of one of the beach fishing shacks, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

One-half of a caribou antler in the front yard of one of the beach fishing shacks, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

“Downtown” Cambridge Bay has many large public facilities on the main street such as the arena and curling rink pictured here, along with the public health center, one of the two town grocery stores, and the town government offices

“Downtown” Cambridge Bay has many large public facilities on the main street such as the arena and curling rink pictured here, along with the public health center, one of the two town grocery stores, and the town government offices, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The Canadian communications company’s office in town has quite a bit of modern equipment and antennae on the property, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

The Canadian communications company’s office in town has quite a bit of modern equipment and antennae on the property, Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The copper clad exterior of the main research facility of CHARS, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, that opened in late 2017 after very ecologically-minded construction for the whole complex that cost about $250 million Canadian

The copper clad exterior of the main research facility of CHARS, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, that opened in late 2017 after very ecologically-minded construction for the whole complex that cost about $250 million Canadian ($188 million US), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The state-of-the-art research facility at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) is designed to optimize innovation in the field of Arctic science and technology from ecosystem monitoring to DNA analysis with, at its core, a focus on Indigenous knowledge.  We had an opportunity to visit the knowledge sharing center modeled after a traditional tupiq (Inuit sealskin tent) ringed by glulam columns and the large-scale floor art by Inuit artists.  We met with one of the lab managers to learn about the genesis of CHARS and insights into the research projects underway in its first years (the center opened in late 2017).

 

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) main research facility has an excellent collection of local Inuit art; pictured here is a duffel and felt quilt by local artist Mabel Pongok ETEGIK (born 1943) titled “Present Day Cambridge Bay”

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) main research facility has an excellent collection of local Inuit art; pictured here is a duffel and felt quilt by local artist Mabel Pongok ETEGIK (born 1943) titled “Present Day Cambridge Bay”; Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The CHARS main research facility is open to the public with an excellent art collection, focused on local Inuit artists, and quite a bit of information about the environmentally-friendly and conservation-minded construction of the center in a sensitive tundra region.  One of the placards was educational for both children and adults:

DID YOU KNOW?  Daylight is precious in the High Arctic.  Depending on the season, there can be 0 to 24 hours of sunlight in a day.  The total yearly daylight time in the High Arctic is approximately 1,730 hours/year, compared to Ottowa, Canada at 2,084 hours/year.  In Ikaluktutiak (Cambridge Bay), the sun stays below the horizon for 40 continuous days during the winter months.  During the summer months, the sun does not set for approximately 62 days.

 

Instead of a selfie with the polar bear, your blogger figured you’d just rather see this fine local resident of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

Instead of a selfie with the polar bear, your blogger figured you’d just rather see this fine local resident of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS), Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

Aerial view of the Nakyoktok River that flows into Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

Aerial view of the Nakyoktok River that flows into Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

From Peel Sound [see our previous blog post “Peel Sound (pack ice and polar bear), Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada”] we sailed south through Franklin Strait and then Victoria Strait and passed between King William Island on the east and the eastern side of Victoria Island, then through the Dease Strait to Coronation Gulf and Johansen Bay on Victoria Island where we anchored for hiking and helicopter flights over the tundra.

 

Aerial photo, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada, #2; note how flat the overall terrain (tundra) is beyond the small mounds along the river bank

Aerial photo, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada, #2; note how flat the overall terrain (tundra) is beyond the small mounds along the river bank

 

Johansen Bay is on the southern coast of Victoria Island, west of the main town of Cambridge Bay [see our upcoming blog post].  The Nakyoktok River waterway is important for both wildlife and the Kitlinermiut (Copper Inuit) people who have lived in the region for centuries, using copper gathered from the Coppermine River and Coronation Gulf.  We explored the Nakyoktok River by Zodiac  and, upriver, made a wet shore landing and went for a hike ashore.  We were very fortunate to see two white Arctic foxes on the hills nearby, along with numerous birds – the area is a prime habitat for loons, willow grouse and other birds of the high Arctic.  While not seeing any of the local musk ox, we did see their dried up excrement (feces).

 

While Johansen Bay is presently uninhabited, there are remains of old hunting sheds and a former farm along the Nakyoktok River waterway, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

While Johansen Bay is presently uninhabited, there are remains of old hunting sheds and a former farm along the Nakyoktok River waterway, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The terrain around the Nakyoktok River is all flat tundra except for the low rise rock piles pictured here, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

The terrain around the Nakyoktok River is all flat tundra except for the low rise rock piles pictured here, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Beautiful orange lichen on an “erratic” boulder (left by a glacier eons ago), Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

Beautiful orange lichen on an “erratic” boulder (left by a glacier eons ago), Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

We hiked to the lakes pictured, crossing flat tundra littered with erratic boulders, Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

We hiked to the lake pictured, crossing flat tundra littered with erratic boulders, Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

On the first of September it was already fall here, as seen in the red color of the bear berry plants on the tundra, Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

On the first of September it was already fall here, as seen in the red color of the bear berry plants on the tundra, Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

On a very cold, windy day, we were very happy to have the sun peek out once in a while, offering a little bit of warmth for a short spell, Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

On a very cold, windy day, we were very happy to have the sun peek out once in a while, offering a little bit of warmth for a short spell, Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Lichens are the oldest life forms on the tundra, pictured here on an erratic boulder, Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

Lichens are the oldest life forms on the tundra, pictured here on an erratic boulder, Nakyoktok River waterway, Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

It was very cool to be flying in the helicopter after our ship had left anchor and was sailing eastward to Cambridge Bay – even cooler to land on a moving helicopter pad on the forward deck!; Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

It was very cool to be flying in the helicopter after our ship had left anchor and was sailing eastward to Cambridge Bay – even cooler to land on a moving helicopter pad on the forward deck!; Johansen Bay, Victoria Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Peel Sound (pack ice and polar bear), Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Our first encounter with pack ice was in Peel Sound on our Northwest Passage journey through Nunavut Territory, Canada

Our first encounter with pack ice was in Peel Sound on our Northwest Passage journey through Nunavut Territory, Canada

 

Sailing south from Beechey Island (and Devon Island) we entered Peel Sound, the waterway between Prince of Wales Island to the west and Somerset Island to the east.  Here we encountered the first pack ice, a great spot to hunt for polar bears living on the ice (eating seals for their sustenance).  We were fortunate and did spot a polar bear, just after it had caught and killed a seal (the half-eaten, bloody carcass was on the ice a short distance from the bear who had blood on its front right leg and its face).  In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to sail through the pack ice in Zodiacs, looking for polar bears (unsuccessfully) and enjoying the innumerable ice forms.

 

We came across this polar bear on the pack ice just after it had caught and killed a seal and eaten quite a bit – notice the blood on its front right leg and its right cheek, Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

We came across this polar bear on the pack ice just after it had caught and killed a seal and eaten quite a bit – notice the blood on its front right leg and its right cheek, Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Polar bear # 2, Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Polar bear # 2, Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #1 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #1 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #2 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #2 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #3 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #3 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #4 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #4 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #5 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #5 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #6 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #6 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #7 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #7 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Pack ice #8 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

Pack ice #8 in Peel Sound, Northwest Passage, Nunavut, Canada

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Beechey Island (off the SW corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

Looking down to the “beach” of Beechey Island, the most notable historic site of the Northwest Passage exploration, as it was here that during the 1845-46 winter, Sir John Franklin’s ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror over-wintered

Looking down to the “beach” of Beechey Island, the most notable historic site of the Northwest Passage exploration, as it was here that during the 1845-46 winter, Sir John Franklin’s ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror over-wintered on this inhospitable island

 

A small island on the southwest corner of Devon Island, Beechey Island is the most notable historic site of the Northwest Passage exploration.  Named for Frederick William Beechey of the Royal Navy, it is only an island during high tide; and offers an excellent anchorage.  During the 1845-46 winter, Sir John Franklin’s ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror over-wintered on this inhospitable island.  Three of the crew died and are buried on the island.  Franklin left a cairn with a prominent mast on the plateau summit.  From here the expedition departed for Peel Sound, never to return.  In 1903, paying respect to Franklin, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen stopped here at the beginning of his successful Northwest Passage voyage.

 

Three crew members of the Franklin expedition died in early 1846 -- when the expedition’s 129 men and two ships over-wintered here -- and are buried on Beechey Island (off the S.W. corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

Three crew members of the Franklin expedition died in early 1846 — when the expedition’s 129 men and two ships over-wintered here — and are buried on Beechey Island (off the S.W. corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

 

“FRANKLIN CAMP:  Sir John Franklin of the Royal Navy and his crew of 129 men entered the waters of Lancaster Sound in search of the Northwest Passage in July 1845.  Although they were never seen again by Europeans, Franklin’s party was the largest and best equipped sent by the British Admiralty to the Arctic Archipelago in quest of a navigable northern route to the Far East.  The Admiralty’s search for the missing expedition began two years later and continued until 1880.  The expedition’s progress has been traced from its first over-wintering harbour on Beechey island to Starvation Cove on the mainland where the last survivors perished.

 

“After exploring Wellington Channel to 77 degrees North Latitude, the crew passed the first winter at this camp.  The following summer, Franklin probably sailed along Peel Sound and the strait which now bears his name.  His ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, were beset by ice to the north of King William Island in September 1946 and remained until April 1848 when they were abandoned.  Franklin died on 11 June 1847.  Led by Francis Crozier, Captain of the Terror, the remaining 105 crew members traveled south along King William Island toward the mainland.  Many died of starvation on the route.  A small band of about thirty men crossed to the mainland and finally perished at Starvation Cove.

 

“A tent camp, navigational cairns and posts, and the graves of three crew members mark the expedition’s stay on Beechey Island” – signpost at Franklin Camp on Beechey Island

 

Another photograph of the graves of the three crew members of the Franklin expedition (towards the hills) and a fourth grave belonging to a searcher from an 1854 search expedition, Beechey Island (off the S.W. corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

Another photograph of the graves of the three crew members of the Franklin expedition (looking towards the hills) and a fourth grave (on the right) belonging to a searcher from an 1854 search expedition, Beechey Island (off the S.W. corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

 

“Beechey Island is best known for containing three graves of Franklin expedition members, which were first discovered in 1850 by searchers for the lost Franklin expedition.  The searchers found a large stone cairn, along with the graves of three of Franklin’s crewmen – Petty Officer John Torrington, Royal Marine Private William Braine, and Able Seaman John Hartnell — but no written record nor indication of where Franklin planned to sail the next season.

“In 1852, Commander Edward A. Inglefield arrived at Beechey, along with a physician Dr. Peter Sutherland.  John Hartnell’s grave was opened, damaging his coffin, and Hartnell’s memorial plaque on the coffin lid was removed.  During a later expedition, a searcher named Thomas Morgan died aboard the vessel North Star on May 22, 1854, and was buried alongside the three original Franklin crew members.

“In the 1980s, during two separate expeditions to Beechey, Canadian forensic anthropologist Dr. Owen Beattie examined the three bodies and found them (externally) remarkably well-preserved.  Autopsies determined that lung disease and lead poisoning were among the probable causes of death; the lead appeared to come from the thousands of lead-soldered tins of provisions with which the Franklin expedition had been supplied (although later studies would suggest that the unique water distillation system used by the ships was the major source of lead poisoning).  Later research, however, found through hair sample comparisons between the Beechey remains and those of expedition assistant surgeon and naturalist Harry Goodsir (who died on the expedition a year later, and would therefore be expected to have yet further exposure, under the lead poisoning hypothesis) that the lead in the three men’s remains, while indeed present at high levels now recognized as deleterious, was no higher than Goodsir’s, and thus evidently mostly the result of exposure prior to the expedition (due to high everyday lead exposure common in the 19th century), and consequently was unlikely to be solely responsible for their deaths.

“In the 1990s, due to the deteriorating condition of the Beechey grave markers, all markers were replaced with bronze memorials. — Wikipedia

 

The Franklin Camp memorial, containing several plaques, Beechey Island (off the S.W. corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

The Franklin Camp memorial, containing several plaques, Beechey Island (off the S.W. corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

 

A close up of the Franklin Camp memorial, Beechey Island (off the S.W. corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

A close up of the Franklin Camp memorial, Beechey Island (off the S.W. corner of Devon Island), Nunavut, Canada

 

The large horizontal marble memorial is in memory of Sir John Franklin.  The dark metal marker shaped like a hat or bell has the following inscription: “In the memory of Lieut. Bellot of the French Navy, who lost his lfe whilst nobly aiding in the search for Sir John Franklin, in the Wellington Channel, where he was drowned on the 18th August 1853.  This tablet to record the sad event was erected by his friend John Barrow, A.D. 1864.  Reproduction 1977”

 

The detritus on Beechey Island, surrounding the Northumberland House (see below), contains the remains of tin cans (food) and barrel staves (food and supplies) from 1854, Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

The detritus on Beechey Island, surrounding the Northumberland House (see below), contains the remains of tin cans (food) and barrel staves (food and supplies) from 1854, Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The weather-worn remains of the 1854 Northumberland House built by the crew of one of the search ships, optimistically stocked in case any of the lost men from the Franklin Expedition of 1845 found their way back

The weather-worn remains of the 1854 Northumberland House built by the crew of one of the search ships, optimistically stocked in case any of the lost men from the Franklin Expedition of 1845 found their way back, as well as to help supply other search ships; Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

“Northumberland House was built in 1854 by the crew of one of the search ships.  With no trees available, they salvaged wood from a wrecked whaling vessel.  It had been seven years since the last sighting of Franklin’s crew by the whaling ships back in Baffin Bay, but the building was optimistically stocked in case any of the lost men found their way back, as well as to help supply other search ships.  But 165 winters have taken their toll.  The roof has long since disintegrated and the remaining upright walls cling to various states of decay.  The coal barrels and cans of food with which it was once stocked are now rusted and scattered across the beach, and a number of monuments to Franklin and other explorers have been erected beside the depot’s remains.” — Sarah Hewitt for BBC Travel, “The island of lost explorers”, http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170223-the-island-of-lost-explorers

 

A view of the Northumberland House set against the high cliff behind the beach, Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

A view of the Northumberland House set against the high cliff behind the beach, Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

An excellent, illustrated, brief account of the Franklin expedition and the graves of the four men buried on Beechey Island by Sarah Hewitt for BBC Travel, “The island of lost explorers” can be found at: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170223-the-island-of-lost-explorers

 

The most moving of all the memorials at Franklin Camp for us -- a memorial plaque placed by His Royal Highness, Prince of Wales, KG, GCB, April 1975, commemorating all the valiant explorers who searched gallantly for the Northwest Passages

The most moving of all the memorials at Franklin Camp for us — a memorial plaque placed by His Royal Highness, Prince of Wales, KG, GCB, April 1975, commemorating all the valiant explorers who searched gallantly for the Northwest Passages, Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

The most moving of all the memorial plaques at Franklin Camp on Beechey Island was the one above.  It reads: “’IN THOSE NORTHWEST VOYAGES WHERE NAVIGATION MUST BE EXECUTED IN MOST EXQUISITE SORT’ – John Davis 1594, ‘The Seaman’s Secrets’.

 

“COMMEMORATING THE HEROIC ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE MANY GALLANT MEN WHOSE VOYAGES OF DISCOVERY IN THE HIGH ARCTIC, TO FIND THE NORTHWEST PASSAGES, CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF AND CHARTING OF THE UNKNOWN PARTS OF NORTH AMERICA.  This scroll is deposited here by His Royal Highness, Prince of Wales, KG, GCB, April 1975”

 

Rusted barrel staves outside of the Northumberland House, our sad last reminder of the heroics, daring, determination and sacrifices of the many hundreds of explorers who, over five centuries, braved the Arctic summers and winters

Rusted barrel staves outside of the Northumberland House, our sad last reminder of the heroics, daring, determination and sacrifices of the many hundreds of explorers who, over five centuries, braved the Arctic summers and winters to find the route that we are following in their footsteps on our passage across northern Canada from Greenland to Nome, Alaska, Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Historical note: 290 recorded complete transits of the Northwest Passage have been made by 222 different surface vessels as of the end of 2018.  “[In] 2012 [a] Bahamian-flagged private residential vessel… completed an unsupported [i.e., no icebreaker assistance] eastbound transit from Seward to New York, becoming the largest vessel to transit the whole passage at this time.” – The Northwest Passage: Atlantic to Pacific: A guide to the seaway by Tony Soper, 2019

 

Our ship, having completed the aforementioned 2012 eastbound transit, will become the first passenger ship to complete the Northwest Passage in both directions, as this westbound transit takes us from Greenland to Nome, Alaska (later this month).  Along the way it has been extremely educational to learn from our expedition team’s lectures and on-site explanations of the history of the sites visited about the history of so many of the many explorers and expeditions that sought the Northwest Passage.

 

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

Radstock Bay, a scenic anchorage dominated by the sheer cliffs of Caswell Tower, an imposing isolated peak, is at the western end of Devon Island, Canada, the largest uninhabited island in the world

Radstock Bay, a scenic anchorage dominated by the sheer cliffs of Caswell Tower, an imposing isolated peak, is at the western end of Devon Island, Canada, the largest uninhabited island in the world, situated in the middle of the Canadian Arctic on the route of the Northwest Passage

 

Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island in the world, with an area slightly smaller than the country of Croatia.  Robert Bylot and William Baffin were the first Europeans to sight the island in 1616.  It was named North Devon (after the county in England) by William Edward Parry as he charted the coastline in 1819-20; the name changed to Devon Island by the end of the 1800s.

 

On the western end of Devon Island is Radstock Bay, a scenic anchorage dominated by the sheer cliffs of Caswell Tower, an imposing isolated peak.  This is one of the most important denning areas for polar bears. They are studied from a small hut at the summit providing an excellent view across Radstock Bay and Lancaster Sound beyond.  From this elevation, ancient raised beach shorelines are visible along the coast, showing how the landscape is rising, still recovering from the burden of the last Ice Age.  At the base of Caswell Tower, 90 million year- old fossils and a fascinating archeological site of Thule houses with roof beams constructed of whale bones can be found.

 

Our Zodiacs took us ashore in pretty poor weather for “summer” – temperatures near freezing and gusting winds with heavy overcast skies that during our hike dumped a drizzle, then sleet, then some snow, giving us a taste of what so many explorers in their quest of the Northwest Passage experienced.  It was hard for all of us to completely fathom the conditions the 129 men of the Franklin expedition on the ships Terror and Erebus experienced when they overwintered nearby — three sailors who died in the winter of 1845-1846  were buried on Beechey Island [see our next blog].

 

The terrain, while barren, was marked by interesting concentric circles of gravel, Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

The terrain, while barren, was marked by interesting concentric circles of gravel, Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Radstock Bay is dominated by the sheer cliffs of Caswell Tower, Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

Radstock Bay is dominated by the sheer cliffs of Caswell Tower, Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Our hike came by a lake that reminded us of the Blue Lagoon in Ireland – the bluish color was due to minerals coming into the water, Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

Our hike came by a lake that reminded us of the Blue Lagoon in Ireland – the bluish color was due to minerals coming into the water, Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

 

Our ship was docked in Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, near where the Franklin expedition ships Terror and Erebus overwintered 1845-1846

Our ship was docked in Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, near where the Franklin expedition ships Terror and Erebus overwintered 1845-1846

 

After our morning hike on the shores of Radstock Bay, our ship sailed a short distance to Beechey Island, a site of historical importance in the exploration and search for the Northwest Passage.  See our upcoming blog on our visit to Beechey Island for more details on the ill-fated British Franklin expedition of 1845.  After more than 400 years of failed attempts to discover and sail the fabled Northwest Passage, it was in the four- year period 1903-1906 that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen successfully transited the passage in his small ship, the Gjøa, after overwintering in the Canadian Arctic three winters.

“IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ROALD AMUNDSEN:  It was 114 years ago that Roald Amundsen was the first man to sail through the Northwest Passage. Undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in history, Amundsen set sail in 1903 in Gjøa with a crew of six men, and had made good progress across Baffin Bay, through Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait and reached Beechey Island on 22 August 1903.  For two winters Amundsen and his crew dedicated themselves to scientific experiments in the area in relation to the magnetic north pole.  When they set sail once more on 13 August 1905, passing through Simpson Strait to the south of King William Island, Amundsen encountered a whaling ship from San Francisco coming in the opposite direction.  It was then he knew he would complete the journey and wrote in his diary: ‘The Northwest Passage was done. My boyhood dream — at that moment it was accomplished.  A strange feeling welled up in my throat; I was somewhat overstrained and worn – it was weakness in me — but I felt tears in my eyes.’  On this 114th anniversary of his successful campaign, [our ship] embarks on Beechey Island in the footsteps of Amundsen.” – ship’s notes before sailing to Radstock Bay and Beechey island

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.