Tag Archives: baffin island

Thursday 24th March 2022 – I HAVE BEEN …

… so busy today that I’ve only just realised that, as I’ve sat down to write up my notes, I’ve forgotten to transcribe the dictaphone notes.

And “so busy”? It’s been a long time since I’ve said that, isn’t it? Too early to go crowing though. One swallow doesn’t make a summer.

It didn’t actually start out very well though. When the alarm went off at 07:30 I turned over and went back to sleep yet again. It was at 07:50 when I sat bolt-upright and another minute or two before I fell out of bed.

At least I beat the alarm at 08:00 which was good news.

After breakfast and having made sure that the 3-column page was working correctly (thanks, Grahame) I carried on mounting the … gulp … 184 photos of that group that I saw back at the end of October.

And then came the acid test – would a web page work with three columns of all of these photos?

The short answer to that was “no”. And trying to find an error in 940 lines of code is not easy.

Eventually, I found not one, and not two, but three errors where either I’d missed out a line, missed out a tag or put in a tag somewhere other than where it’s supposed to go.

Eventually, it worked out and I split the page into four to make it more manageable.

So, does it work? JUDGE FOR YOURSELF.

As you might expect, in the semi-darkness and depressing lighting, many of the photos didn’t work out as well as they might have done under other conditions, and in fact some of them never even staggered onto the pages. But a few of them AREN’T TOO BAD.

That took me most of the day to do all that, but to be fair, there were several interruptions like a coffee break, breakfast, and stuff like that.

And lunch of course. And as I was quietly reading a report on a disappeared ocean liner which I was eating my lunchtime butties, I suddenly noticed the time. 13:22.

“Blimmin’ ‘eck!” I cried. “My Welsh revision lesson starts in 8 minutes”.

And despite my pessimism yesterday, that could have gone much worse than it did as well. It shows up how much I don’t know, of course, but at least I managed to struggle through two hours of it without making myself look stupid.

Mind you, I can do that often enough under normal circumstances without practising for it or speaking another language..

As soon as the lesson was over (for it was for two hours and over-run by rather a lot) I cleared off for my afternoon walk around the headland.

people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022First stop was, as usual, the wall at the end of the car park where I can look down onto the beach and see what’s happening.

The weather today was gorgeous and I actually could have gone out without a jacket had I so desired. And it certainly brought out the crowds this afternoon.

There’s probably a dozen people in this shot alone, including the person coming down the steps from the Rue du Nord. And any other shot of the beach this afternoon would probably have shown a similar number of people.

Meanwhile, out at sea, I couldn’t see anything at all. And that wasn’t the fault of the weather because it really was nice out there as well.

men working on medieval city wall place du marche aux chevaux Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022There was however quite a racket coming from over where they are repairing the medieval city walls at the Place du Marché aux Chevaux.

That prompted me to take a photo of it from over here and I was actually lucky enough to photograph a couple of the guys who are working there, just to prove that there is actually some work being undertaken there.

And then, joining the throngs of people on the path, I headed off down towards the lighthouse in the hope that I might see something of interest going on – but with no success. There didn’t seem to be anything out-of-the-ordinary happening today.

people on bench with dog cabanon vauban pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022With no-one playing around on the gun barrel at the lighthouse this afternoon I walked off across the car park and down to the end of the headland.

Today, we have yet more people sitting down on the bench by the cabanon vauban looking out at sea at absolutely nothing at all.

And I wondered what it was that was lying down underneath the bench. At first glance I thought that it might have been a polar bear but not even climate change could produce anything like that around here. It turned out to be a long-haired white dog of some variety or other.

So instead I wandered off along the path on the other side of the headland to spy out the land around there.

spirit of conrad le roc a la mauve 3 chantier naval port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022And after the frenzied activity of the last few days or so, it’s all gone quiet in the chantier naval.

The only boats still in there are Spirit of Conrad and the little Le Roc A La Mauve III. And by the looks of things, the latter won’t be in there for much longer and as I mentioned the other day, Pierre the skipper is keen for the former to go back into the water some time rather soon.

After all, he has plenty of work booked for the summer and after what he has suffered over the last two years with almost everything being cancelled, I’m sure that the sooner he’s back out there earning money, the better for all concerned.

joly france ferry terminal port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Meanwhile, over there at the ferry terminal is one of the Joly France ferries.

That’s the older one, I reckon. And you can tell that from the stern. The newer one of the two has a step in it. As well as that, the upper-deck superstructure on the older one is larger, although of course you can’t tell that until the two of them are side-by-side.

But it’s interesting in that if one of them is going to be moving and the other one not, it’s always this one that’s on the move, not the other. I would have expected the owners to alternate them so that they have an equal amount of use.

chausiaise ferry terminal port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022In front of Joly France is Chausiaise, the little freighter that they own that runs out to the Ile de Chausey.

It seems that they have plenty of work for her at the moment because usually she’s tied up in the inner harbour after the occasional trip here and there. Leaving her out here means that she must be off on another trip out sometime soon.

That might explain the sacks of builders’ material that we saw by the crane in the previous photo.

Pretty soon though, they are going to have to start thinking about some other arrangement. If they really are going to restart the ferries to the Channel Islands, as is suggested, they can’t be leaving ships moored up for too long at the ferry terminal.

l'omerta jade 3 port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022On the way back home I came across L’Omerta again, moored in the silt underneath the fish processing plant.

At one time she practically lived there. She spent day after day tied up without moving, and then we didn’t see her for a while. But now she’s made a comeback.

And interestingly, Jade III is behind her, also settled down on the silt. We saw her yesterday tied up in the inner harbour while almost everyone else was out at sea. But today she’s made it as far as the outer tidal harbour before she stopped and tied up again.

There’s something strange happening here and I wish that I knew what it was.

Back home, having ignored the glaziers’ van parked by the Porte St Jean, I made myself a coffee and finished off what I’d been doing with those web pages.

After a good half-hour on the guitar I spent some time editing a few more photos from the High Arctic 2019 and the dog that I saw earlier must have been a premonition because I ended up editing a few photos of a polar bear and her cub that I encountered on Baffin Island while we were wandering around in Buchan Gulf.

Tea tonight should have been taco rolls with the left-over stuffing from Monday but one look at the tacos convinced me that maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. They ended up being filed under “CS”.

But not to worry. Having worked out the other week what those mystery pies were and found that they were savoury vegan pies, I had the last remaining one with potatoes, veg and a nice thick gravy.

Thoroughly delicious.

So what about that then?

During a previous existence when I was travelling for months around Canada every year I was churning out tons of stuff that found its way onto a web page. But somehow, having been swept away in a tide of whatever it was that swept me away, I’ve done very little of what has been important.

So four in a day is something of an achievement. But as I said earlier, doing it on just one day is no big deal. Margaret Thatcher once said something like “anyone can do a good day’s work when they feel like it. But doing a good day’s work when you don’t feel like it is something else completely”.

Over the last few years i’ve had far too many days when I haven’t felt like it. So let’s see what tomorrow brings. There aren’t (officially, anyway) any distractions but something will probably turn up and knock me out of my stride.

And, on a final note, with 40 minutes to spare before bedtime, I transcribed the dictaphone notes. This was something to do with the Lord of Darkness and somehow there was a technique how you could make a car like you would make a crèpe – pour liquid over a hot surface and make some kind of metal. They had made an experimental version for one group of people from the afterlife. Now they were working on their masterpiece. The Lord of Darkness had appeared with his entourage and took his place inside his car. The first car was vibrating a little and there was a danger that the power would run out so they asked the Lord of Darkness how they would deal with it. he replied that you could fit another element of a battery in there because they were several 2-volt cells and you would put another several cells in there to keep it at 12 volt and increase the amperage so that the amperage would probably match what was in his car

And then I’d ordered some LPs from Amazon. They turned up on a van at something silly like 06:00. Someone had a look to see and they were due to be delivered between 07:00 and 11:00 but it made no difference because they were here and we were here. But he couldn’t put the albums in the box in which they were supposed to arrive. There was a plastic box with lid that had to be assembled to put these albums in but for some unknown reason they wouldn’t go in and the box wouldn’t assemble and stay together. He was there for ages trying to fix this. In the end he asked if I would object if he didn’t leave the box but took it back with him. I thought that if I did object, I’d be here for hours trying to assemble it so he may as well take it and go back on his round. He asked which way to go so I replied “go out of our drive, turn right to the end of the road, turn left down to the end of the road and turn right and you’re heading towards the M6. Someone else who was there started to try to give him some really complicated directions. I thought that delivery and van drivers don’t need complicated directions. They keep it simple so there’s less chance of becoming lost. being lost is losing money for them

Later on I was with two other people last night. One of them was my little Inuit girl from Uummannaq. But she hadn’t half put on weight. She had her little sister with her who was about 3 probably. We were doing something, the 3 of us and then it was time to go. The two of them, my friend and the other person who was with me went to sit in the front of the car. I took the little girl and went to put her in the back. One thing that she liked was to be covered up by something so I took a piece of paper, a sheet of a newspaper to cover her up but she already had one and was covered up in it. She was rather cross that I was going to cover her up with 2 things. I had to fold up this piece and put it away. The other 2 wondered what was happening because of the little girl being cross but I explained and that was that.

Finally I was at an auction sale last night. They were selling things like tins of Pemmican and so on. One was from something like 1758 and another was a few years later all the way through to 1933. It looks very much as if someone had raided some explorers’ caches either in the Arctic or the Antarctic or Northern Canada. They were spending a considerable amount of time discussing the provenance of this stuff. I was hoping that they’d hurry up and start the sale

Where as all of this energy and motivation come from just now? Whatever is going on with me?

Sunday 25th August 2019 – WE HAD OUR …

… first engagement with the ukelele today. During the evening’s recap different groups had to give a discussion about what they had learnt the other day, so we gave a rousing performance of “You Are My Sunshine”.

Unfortunately no-one passed around the hat, but then again that wasn’t a surprise because we are a long way from meriting it, but the Icey Arm 6 are on the road!

This was another night where I didn’t sleep as well as I would have liked, but then no-one is complaining because we had the “everyone up on the starboard bow” call. Sure enough, there on the bank at the side of Buchan Gulf was Mummy Polar Bear with baby. Too far away to be spectacular but we could see them quite clearly and take photographs.

The downside of all of this is that the bear and her cub were wandering about right where our landing site was to be in Icey Arm. She was there first so we had to leave and look for someone else. My suggestion that we make a list of passengers without whom this cruise would operate more smoothly and send them ashore on the first zodiac as bait was met with disdain

While we were turning round to look for another site I checked my photos. And to say that I was disappointed was an understatement. I resolved to speak to the photography guy but we were interrupted by the most magnificent set of cliffs that you could ever wish to see. Called “Executioner’s Cliffs”, they were over 1000 feet high and vertical. Marc the geologist and I spent a very happy hour or so examining the rocks and we even identified a volcanic cone.

That session too was interrupted. A pod of narwhals decided to join in the fun and while we couldn’t see their tusks we could see them cavorting about – after a fashion because once more I wasn’t up to the task with the photos.

After lunch, I button-holed the photographer. We adjusted one or two settings on the camera to improve the quality of the colour of the photo, but there wasn’t much that we could do about the lack of sharpness. Shaking about happens to everyone of a certain age and it’s nothing to do with the camera either.

He suggested that I ramp up the ISO to about 6400 – to let in plenty of light. Then, go for the widest aperture possible when taking telephoto shots – and then go for speed on the shutter. My camera had a capability of 1/8000 and that is what I should be aiming for, if you excuse the pun.

So I tried it, and for the first time in an age I managed to take a really good photo of a bird in flight from a distance. Some of the images are still not as good as I would like, but a rolling ship is not a very good photography platform. I can’t wait to get onto dry land and give it a go.

But one thing that I suppose that I ought to mention is that it’s not a case that the quality of my work is deteriorating. Far from it. it’s that being around other people, many of whom are professional photographers, I’m realising that my work has been rubbish all along and I’ve never felt the urge to work on my technique and improve it.

This evening at the recap we had our performance, and I’ve taken a ukelele to bed with me. I’m determined to have a good crack at it over the next week.

But not tonight. I’m off to bed. It’s a busy day tomorrow as we are heading to Dundas Harbour and the abandoned RCMP post there. But the bad news is that Rachel the Archaeologist tells us that we have a representative of the Canadian Parks Archaeological Service on board the vessel so everything is being done “by the book’.

No informality with the rules and that’s going to cramp my style an awful lot.

And we didn’t step ashore today at all.

Saturday 24th August 2019 – TODAY I HAVE BEEN …

… learning to play the ukelele. And furthermore, I now know four chords (C, G, F and Am) and can play two songs. And if Status Quo can tour the world for 50 years with just 3 chords, I can do far better than that.

Last night I was wide awake again just before 04:00 and it took an age to go back to sleep again. Mind you, I comfortably beat the third alarm out of bed.

As I intimated yesterday, all events are cancelled for today. There had been talk of going into a couple of fjords in order to spot wildlife and the like, but there’s a howling gale raging on Baffin Island right now and while it’s not enough to cause us many problems out here 25 kilometres offshore, it could be devastating in a narrow and uncharted fjord. We are going to stand to offshore until it all subsides and head on north as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Consequently we had a series of on-board workshops. This morning I attended the photo-editing workshop during which I came to the conclusion that not only is my technique rubbish but the program that I use is even worse, and both must be improved when (ever) I return home, if not sooner.

After lunch we had a lecture on polar bears, during which I fell asleep and then made a fool of myself by asking a question that had been covered during the time that I was away with the fairies, and then the ukelele session that I mentioned just now.

I also took advantage of the computer technician who has now managed to stop (but not remove) the Walmart splash screen that has been annoying me, and I also went to see the expedition leader about a project that I have in mind.

Tea was with the photographer and I had a curry that had been specially made for me by the chef. Later, I finished (hooray) editing the photos and now I’m up-to-date for the month of August. But they are all going to have to be done again as I’m far from satisfied with the output.

But not tonight though. I’m off for an early night. Everything starts back up tomorrow if the storm subsides.

Friday 23rd August 2019 – I’VE BEEN FOR A RIDE …

… in a police car today.

No surprise there, of course, as many of my friends will suggest. In fact I should have been a policeman given the number of times that I have had to help them with their enquiries.

Having adjusted the clocks by two hours over the last couple of days, it will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that I was wide-awake at 04:15 this morning. I did manage to go off back to sleep at one point, only to be rudely awakened by the alarm at 06:00.

With the medication and breakfast, this was followed by a lesson in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people. It’s not easy because isolation and geographical displacement has caused there to be several distinct dialects and of course we have Inuit on board who come from four different regions. But we did our best.

Canadian Immigration people came on board to check our passports. I was shocked, if not horrified, to learn that two immigration officers had been flown out here from Ottawa on a specially-chartered plane simply to check our passports and then fly back. The cost – no less than $50,000 – is charged to the company transporting us and, eventually of course, to us.

Why they couldn’t have come on a scheduled flight, or why the Immigration Service couldn’t simply have chartered a Canadian Air Force plane, totally escapes me. It sounds something like a “make-work” scheme to me, arranged to screw some money out of a captive audience.

Having done that, we could board the zodiacs to take us to the shore. And to our surprise, there was a guy sitting on a beach chair at the landing point checking us off as we stepped ashore.

We’re finally in Canada after all of our exertions, at the settlement of Qikiqtarjuaq, spelt “Kekertukdjuak” on my Admiralty chart of March 1908 and known to generations of Arctic explorers as Broughton island, here just offshore from Baffin Island.

Strawberry Moose and I went for a long walk around the place to see what we could see, eschewing the touristy attractions. There’s a viewpoint up in the hills overlooking the straits so we went there to see the view and present His Nibs with a few photo opportunities.

On the way back I encountered a father teaching his son, aged about four, how to use a sling properly in order to bring down a flying bird when they go out hunting in the future. Naturally, I stayed around to watch and to learn and also to have a good chat. Modern materials certainly, but I was very impressed with the fact that ancient tribal knowledge is being passed on. Father told me too about the effects of climate change on his village and how the snowfall has dramatically reduced and temperatures dramatically increased.

Walking around the edge of the harbour I fell in with Dennis, our expedition photographer. We were having a good chat when a copper pulled up.
“Are you photographers?” he asked.
When we answered in the affirmative he invited us into his vehicle. He was off to check something out in the hills at the back of town where the views are spectacular, and he would take us along for the ride.

It goes without saying that we accepted with alacrity. And I was so distracted that I forgot about the church that I was trying to photograph when the copper pulled up.

Back at the beach we had to present ourselves again to the guy in the beach chair. And I couldn’t help thinking about Brian Hanrahan and the famous “I cannot tell you how many there were, but I counted them all out and I counted them all back”.

Back on board The Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour after lunch I had a shower and a clothes-wash, and then we had a talk on kayak-building and then on the history of survival in the High Arctic.

After tea one of the Inuit guys played guitar and sang for an hour or so, and then I came back to my cabin. I’m having an early night. And I need it too. I’ve been at the photos again and I’m now up to almost 1200.

But I did find a really good photo of the young girl about whom I talked yesterday, which I had taken of her while she was standing perched on a rock, so I gave it to her as a little gift to cheer her up.

I told her that I admired how she had climbed up onto that rock.
“That was easy” she laughed. “Coming down was something else though”
I admired her spirit and sense of humour.

A lie-in tomorrow as we aren’t going far. There’s a storm blowing up down the road and we are going to loiter until it’s passed us by.

Tuesday 13th November 2018 – JUST FOR A CHANGE …

… just recently, I’ve had a profitable day and done a lot of work.

It didn’t start out like that though.

Waking up at 03:41 did me no favours this morning. And neither did reawakening at 05:46 I’m really going to have to do something about this.

But at least it’s taking me off on some astonishing voyages during the night.

Last night I was out in “The Wild West” in a homestead in an area where there were several other homesteads. And we’d been round o one of them for a bit of a hoedown, I suppose. We went home in our waggon in the dark after the event and reached home safely, only to find out that the people we had visited the previous evening had been massacred in their beds by the Commanches. And while we were looking around there for clues, we heard of another incident at another homestead so we went around there. I’ll spare you all of the gory details as you are probably eating your tea or something right now. Everyone started to talk about launching an offensive against the Commanche but I was busy loading my family into a waggon to take them to the fort. I was all in favour of launching an offensive but I wanted to make sure that my family would be safe before I went off.
Later on, I was round at Liz and Terry’s. We’d had a party of some kind and as Liz had to go off somewhere I said that I would do the washing up. Most of it was glass bowls and dishes and the like, and I was stacking them on the floor after I’d dried them, ready to put away. Someone walking past saw one of them on the floor and gave it a kick. He hadn’t noticed that it was the top of a huge pile of glassware, and ended up smashing a whole pile of the glassware. “Whatever am I going to do now to explain this to Liz?” I wondered. Anyway, after all of this, I went to bed. It was round about 700AD when I went to bed and when I awoke it was 1624AD – I’d been asleep for over 900 years. Liz was there by the side of the bed with an IKEA bag full of letters and post that needed signing and I had to go through them and initial them all. I apologised to Liz for sleeping so long but she said that I must have needed it and it must have done me good. In the bag were a few things that I hadn’t wanted Liz to see – after all, I’m entitled to a private life – so I had to distract her attention from them somehow.

With an early start like that, I had an early breakfast and then an early attack on Day Three of the High Arctic.

I had several breaks during the day – for a shower, a couple of walks, to make some muesli, lunch and so on, as well as a little … errr … relax during the afternoon, but nevertheless I’ve done about a third of the page. We’ve taken off from Yellowknife (twice in fact), refuelled at Pelly Bay and are now overflying Baffin Island well on our way to Mittimatalik.

Another couple of days like this and I’ll have this page finished. But can I keep on going?

bird in rock pool beach granville manche normandy franceLunch was taken inside again today, but maybe I ought to have tried to go out on my wall and eat it.

When I did finally go out for my afternoon walk today, rather later than usual, It was much warmer than it has been just recently and the wind had dropped dramatically.

I wasn’t the only one out there enjoying the beautiful weather either. There was some kind of seabird scavenging in a rock pool down below.

sun shining tidal port de granville harbour manche normandy france The sun was shining nicely too and we had some really clear skies to enjoy.

The view over the tidal harbour was really impressive this afternoon even if the tide was out and there wasn’t anything out there moving around.

Outside the building as I arrived back I bumped into one of the neighbours. We had quite a lengthy chat about nothing special at all. But I have to be sociable every now and again.

Tea tonight was stuffed taco rolls with rice and vegetables. With the stuffing that was left over from yesterday I added a tin of kidney beans, some olive oil, tomato sauce and hot cayenne pepper.

Totally delicious, it was.

moonlight place d'armes college malraux granville manche normandy franceOn my evening walk around the walls there was plenty of moonlight and with the skies being clear it was reasonably light.

From the top of the rise in the rue du Nord there was a view back down the street and across to the College Malraux at the back of where I live.

And this photograph has come out rather well too.

beach plat gousset granville manche normandy franceWhile I was out there I didn’t encounter a soul. And I mean that too. There was absolutely no-one around in the streets. They must have heard me coming.

The wind had dropped quite dramatically this evening and the sea was reasonably calm.

And with the tide not being quite fully in there were no waves tonight crashing up over the sea wall on the Plat Gousset

trawlers tying up port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThe tide was however in far enough that the gates to the innher harbour were open.

And so all on my own, standing on the top of the walls I was the only spectator of a beautiful nautical danse macabre as three trawlers came sailing in line astern into the inner harbour.

They swung round in a beautiful synchronised U-turn and went over to the quay at the back of the fish processing plant.

trawlers tying up port de granville harbour manche normandy franceI stood up there and watched them for quite a while as they tied up, presumably ready to unload their catch.

And I walked back to my apartment, musing on the fact that the amount of free and exciting entertainment that I’ve been having from the boats in the harbour while I’ve been has been rather impressive.

And now I might be going. To bed, I mean. I’ll be making the most of an early night, I hope. High time that I had a decent night’s sleep. I still live in hope.

Wednesday 31st October 2018 – THE BODY CLOCK …

… is working well again to day.

Never mind the awakening at 01:30 – that’s the kind of thing that happens quite regularly these days, but the being wide-awake at 05:20 can only be good news, especially as I needed an early start.

The downside of all of this is despite being off on yet another nocturnal voyage during the night, all that I can remember is that I was shepherding around another group of young ladies. But as for why, I don’t have a clue now and isn’t that disappointing when I’ve spend the evening with a bunch of bouncing beauties?

06:10 I was out of bed and it took me just 2 minutes to pack the rest of my stuff.

But not all of it.

I’ve lost the top off one of my little water bottles – one of the ones that I use to bring soya milk and fruit juice with me when I come on a Sunday.

Well, when I say “lost it” what I mean is that I seem to have brought with me the top off one of the bottles that I didn’t need and so threw away. And I must have thrown away the good top with the bad bottle, if you see what I mean.

louvain railway station leuven belgium october octobre 2018Anyway, by 06:30 I was on my way to the railway station and it’s a long time since I’ve been out and about this early.

And doesn’t the station look beautiful in the artificial lighting?

At the railway station, instead of catching the 07:09, the 06:36 was rather late so I hopped on that without having to wait around at all.

As a result I was early in Brussels, but the Carrefour in the station was open so that I could pick up some raisin buns and some fruit for breakfast.

thalys 4341 gare du midi brussels belgium october octobre 2018I didn’t have to wait long – just long enough to eat my breakfast in fact, before we were ushered up onto the platform for our train.

And on there in the windswept weather the train soon put in its appearance and we could clamber aboard. And just for a change, I was first on board.

And then we had to wait.

thalys 4341 gare du nord paris october octobre 2018dDe to the late arrival of the portion of the train that arrives from Amsterdam, the TGV was 12 minutes late leaving the station.

It was one of the same rather elderly TGVs but it was much cleaner and tidier inside than usual, although there was no water in the washrooms.

And the journey was so uneventful that I can’t remember a single thing about my seating companion

15 minutes late arriving in Paris Gare-du-Nord but the Metro was quite rapid and, for a change, half-empty.

sncf multiple unit gare de granville manche normandy franceAnd we were on the platform at Montparnasse-Vaugirard with 20 minutes to spare.

There wasn’t even enough time to have a look around. I’d only been there a couple of minutes before they called us up to the train. And I ended up sitting next to a nice young girl, but unfortunately she wasn’t interested in having a chat.

We set off on time too and for the first 30 minutes or so I caught up with my beauty sleep.

Once I’d woken up, I carried on with my “Voyages Of The Norsemen“.

Bearing in mind that the book was published 104 years ago, it’s a totally fascinating read.

For example, Hovgaard quote a beautiful story that “There is a tradition among the Eskimos in Labrador about a fierce race of men of gigantic size and strength, who delighted to kill people. But these men themselves could not be killed by either darts or arrows, which rebounded from their breast as from a rock”..

Can you think of a better description by isolated people of small stature when they talk about Europeans of the 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries dressed in breastplates? It’s now accepted unequivocally that Martin Frobisher did in fact reach and explore Baffin Island in the 1570s and breastplates would have been in his wardrobe, but it’s interesting to speculate about who might have been there before and dressed in breastplates too.

It’s a similar kind of situation that I mentioned years ago about the old Mi’kmaq legend of Glooscap building a giant canoe and planting trees in it, which can, from the isolated mind, be no better description of the building of a European ship by European people on the coast of Nova Scotia long before the arrival of John Cabot.

sncf employees dressed as pumpkins gare de granville manche normandy franceThe train pulled in on time at Granville station, which is always good news.

Here on the platform we were met by a couple of giant pumpkins. It’s nice to see the SNCF employees enter into the spirit of Halloween.

And that wasn’t all either. All the way down into town I was assailed by all kinds of demons and ghoulies. Someone whom I knew was chased into a pit by the demons, but was dragged out by the ghoulies.

On the way past the boulangerie I stopped to pick up a baguette for lunch. It’s been a long day and I’m hungry.

victor hugo port de granville harbour manche normandy franceOn the way up the hill, I looked over the wall into the harbour.

There was Victor Hugo moored up, all dressed in some kind of corporate advertising as if she had been hired to go off on a private excursion

I heard somewhere that one of the Channel Islands ferries had been broken down for a month during the holiday season and had cost the operators a great deal of money.

And regular readers of this rubbish will recall that back in the summer I did mention that I hadn’t seen her sister for quite some considerable time.

I had a very late lunch and then for the rest of the day I vegetated. I had a visit from the neighbours who invited me for a drink on Saturday, and I managed a walk around the headland later.

But it’s cold. 11°C in here and this would ordinarily be the signal to switch on the heating. Winter has arrived at last and it’s only going to get colder.

But I’m not. I’m going to be and I’m going to stay there. It’s a Bank Holiday so there’s no alarm tomorrow. I intend to have The Sleep Of The Dead, so just you watch someone come along and spoil it.

Wednesday 19th September 2018 – WE FINALLY STAGGERED IN …

… to Lester P Pearson Airport quite early – as in something like 02:20 or whatever. A far cry from our intended 20:00, wasn’t it? And then the interminable file through customs, immigration and baggage collection.

I was well on my last legs right now and so I was rather glad that no-one crossed my path.As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, I don’t really become tired when I’ve had a very long day. Instead of tiredness it’s my irritability that increases and I’ve had some interesting and exciting encounters after a 36-hour working day.

At the Sheraton Gateway hotel, check-in was easy and I departed to my room. By now I’d gone beyond the threshold of tiredness and couldn’t sleep. It was 04:00 when I finally tucked myself up under the blankets and waited for dawn to come.

Sometime during the night I must have gone to sleep because the 08:00 alarm awoke me. The 08:08 and the 08:19 alarms also awoke me. I was having a bad morning.

Something like 09:30 when I hauled myself out of the stinking pit into the shower. And then we had the dramatic search for the clean clothes which I was convinced that I had put into my rucksack, but apparently not. In the end, the dirty clothes had to do.

Breakfast finished at 10:00 so I made it with 30 seconds to spare – only to be told that it wasn’t included in my booking and that I would have to pay extra. I dropped my coffee and orange juice as if I had been scalded and legged it quick.

And then had to leg it back equally quickly, for I had discovered that I had left my camera back at my pseudo-breakfast table.

I went off to Tim Horton’s instead and made contact with the rest of the world. A mere 91 messages on my social networking site awaiting my attention. I dealt with about 5 and discarded the rest.

The coffee, orange and bagels did their best to cheer me up, and so I went for a walk around to see the sights. And there I bumped into Aaron and Deanna doing the same. We had a little chat and then just like the Knights Of The Round Table, we went our separate ways.

Checking in the suitcase was reasonably straightforward. I could even fit a few more bits and pieces into it to make my rucksack more manoeuvrable. The “security” was interesting too, with a few more of these jobsworths who don’t have a clue about what they are doing, trying to make themselves look important.

Having bought bagels to eat for lunch, I was surprised to encounter a “Subway” inside the security area. I bagged a footlong vegetarian to eat, and I can save my bagels for later

Our ‘plane to Fredericton is a Bombardier Q400 R003 – a much-more modern version of the Dash-7 that we had to go from Yellowknife to Baffin Island. Clean and tidy and comfortable (although the leather on the seats was showing its age).

I forgot to note its registration number so if I can see it on the photo I can tell you all about it in due course.

The flight attendant had a weird sense of humour – “if you don’t like the on-board service, there are four emergency exits …”. That’s the kind of humour that I appreciate.

It was something of a shock to arrive in Fredericton. It had been warm and sunny in Toronto but here it was wet and windy – and cold. In fact the cold was more of a shock than anything else. It had been cold of course in the High Arctic but a different kind of cold and it didn’t feel half as bad as I was feeling right now.

Rachel and I drove back into town where she picked up some things that she had ordered from Kent Hardware. I fuelled up her car for her and then we went for a coffee at Tim Horton’s, where she told me that while I had been away, my father had died.

I think that she was expecting me to show more emotion than I did, but the fact is that I ran out of emotion about my family a very long time ago, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

Anyway, I shan’t bore you with my problems.

We drove back here and Rachel rustled up something quick to eat. Meantime I had a chat to Darren, Amber and Hannah. It’s been a good while.

And then I staggered off to bed. It’s been a very long day with lots of interruptions and I’m thoroughly exhausted.

Sunday 16th September 2018 – JUST BY WAY OF A CHANGE …

*************** THE IMAGES ***************

There are over 3,000 of them and due to the deficiencies of the equipment they all need a greater or lesser amount of post-work. And so you won’t get to see them for a while.

You’ll need to wait til I return home and get into my studio and start to go through them. And it will be a long wait. But I’ll keep you informed after I return.
***************

… I fell asleep last night as soon as my head touched the pillow.

But not as long as I would have liked because by 04:00 I was awake again. Clearly my guilty conscience is acting up again.

However I did manage to drop off (figuratively, not literally) again until the strident tone of first David Bowie and then Billy Cotton dragged me out of my stinking pit.

We then had the usual morning performance and then off to grab a coffee and watch the sun rise over Disko Bay. Beautiful it was too.

Two of the crew came to join me for breakfast but they couldn’t stay long as the team meeting had been brought forward. So I ended up mainly on my own – the usual state of affairs these days seeing as I seem now to have upset almost everyone on board ship one way or another.

This morning’s entertainment was a ride out in the zodiacs. We’re right on the edge of Disko Bay where there’s a huge glacier that calves off into the water. The trouble is though that there’s a huge subterranean terminal moraine at the head of the bay and the icebergs are too deep to pass over it.

And so they have to wait until either they melt enough to pass over the moraine or else there’s a collision from behind that forces them to capsize so that they might float over the top

Consequently the bay is packed with all kinds of icebergs waiting for the chance to leave. And then they head north on the Gulf Stream until that peters out and they are picked up by the Labrador Current that floats them back south again past Ellesmere island, Baffin Island, Labrador and Newfoundland and on into the Atlantic for their rendezvous with the Titanic.

But if you want to see them, don’t wait too long. Global warming is such that the glacier here is breaking off and calving at 35 metres PER DAY. It won’t be very long before the glacier grounds out and then there won’t be any icebergs at all. It will all just slowly melt away.

However, I was feeling dreadful.

I’ve said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … that there have been times on this journey where i really haven’t feel like going off on an outing, and today was the worst that it got. I was flat out on the bed with all of my issues to comfort me. I wasn’t going anywhere.

But our team was last out and so by the time that we were called I was able to at least struggle downstairs to the changing room and dress for the weather.

It made me feel a little better, being out in the fresh air, and we did have a really delightful morning out, weaving in and out of the icebergs in the bay. Some were large, some were small, some were high, and they were all spectacular.

We had to return for someone who had missed the boat but once we were back out we stayed out for more than 90 minutes, freezing to death in the cold weather. But the view – it was totally spectacular.

Half of the boat was missing at lunchtime. They had gone on into town for restaurant food like Mooseburgers, walrus sausage and the like, at the invitation of the Tour Director. “Running short of supplies, are we?” The cynic inside me mused.

I stayed aboard though and was accompanied to lunch by the garrulous lady from a week or so ago and, true to form, I struggled to fit a word in edgeways.

I hadn’t changed at lunchtime because we would be first off in the afternoon. Heading for the town of Ilulissat on the side of the bay.

It took an age to reach there though. Our rather timid captain didn’t want to approach too closely for fear of the ice, so were were about 7 or 8 nautical miles offshore. That’s about 12-14 kms out so you can imagine the journey that we had. And in the freezing cold too.

But judging by the mass of blood on an ice floe that we passed, our passage must have disturbed a polar bear’s lunch break.

I can’t now remember if Ilulissat is the second or third-largest city in Greenland … "it’s the third-largest" – ed … but I do remember that it has a population of about 4,500.

Another claim to fame of the town is that it possesses the most northerly football pitch that I have yet to encounter, with the “grandstand” being a large and rather solid outcrop of rock.

There was a shuttle bus running around the town to take us to different places, but I went on foot for a good look around. Amongst the exciting finds that I made was an old DAB Silkeborg bus – a type that I haven’t so far encountered. After all, it’s been years since I’ve been to Denmark.

There were several memorials to various individuals and events and as my Danish isn’t up to much, I shall have to make further enquiries about them.

The docks was the place to go so I found the bridge where there was a good spec and took a few photos, including one of a chain suspension pipe – not a bridge.

There was also an exciting find where they had been widening the road. They had been drilling down into the rock in order to weaken it to break it off, and the drill bit had become stuck. And there it was, still embedded in the rock even today.

The boardwalk was the place to go, though. Up past the shops, the petrol station and the football ground. And then past the field where they kept the sled dogs.

Everyone whom I met told me how far it was, but I kept on going on foot despite the offer of lifts; and had a really enjoyable walk. I was really striding out now and it seemed that my worries of the morning had long-gone.

There were some antique sod-house ruins on the way past. And I wasable to identify them, much to the delight of our archaeologist. And some really stunning views too. But I climbed right up to the top with Strawberry Moose who had come along for the day out.

He had his photo taken on many occasions, including a few by me, and we all relaxed and chatted at the top for quite a while.

On the way back we missed our trail and had to retrace our steps for a while. I picked up one of the staff who accompanied me and she pointed out the UNESCO heritage sign as well as a few other things such as the home of the explorer Knud Rasmussen.

The dogs took exception to our leaving the area however and set up a howling cacophony of noise as we passed by.

Back in town, I had quite a laugh. A couple of young girls had bought a tub of ice cream (in this weather!) and, not having any spoons, were scooping it out with their fingers. One girl was rather timid but the other let me photograph her.

Our departure from the port was delayed as a Danish warship called, would you believe, Knut Rasmussen wanted to enter (he wasn’t bothered about the ice). And when we eventually managed to leave the port we were treated to the sight of a couple of men butchering three seals on an ice-floe.

It made me wonder about the earlier blood.

There were whales out here – we could hear them – but not see them. And we froze to death yet again as we raced back to the ship to miss the storm that was building up.

The Naughty Table was rather subdued tonight at tea. We had a new member who had been everywhere and done everything, and wasted no time in letting us all know, even to the extent of destroying the stories of another new member.

In the meantime, Yulia the bar attendant had seen His Nibs on the way out of the boat earlier today and lay in wait for a photo-bombing session.

Sherman was on the guitar later and we all had a good evening listening and joining in when we knew the words.

But I’m thoroughly exhausted so I’m off to bed.

The photos can wait until morning.

Saturday 8th September 2018 – IT REALLY DOES COME TO SOMETHING …

*************** THE IMAGES ***************

There are over 3,000 of them and due to the deficiencies of the equipment they all need a greater or lesser amount of post-work. And so you won’t get to see them for a while.

You’ll need to wait til I return home and get into my studio and start to go through them. And it will be a long wait. But I’ll keep you informed after I return.
***************

… when a person living in an isolated Arctic community on a remote Island in the Far North tells you, without any prompting at all, that the British are totally out of their minds about Brexit.

But never mind that for a moment. I’m wondering what would have happened had I not had a severe attack of cramp round about 05:30 or so – the first that I’ve had for a few days. Whether I would have slept on until 06:00

However I did stay in bed until the alarm went off. No polar bears to entice us out this morning. And after the medication I went for a walk. Not without an element of some panic because I appear to have lost my woolly hat – the one that goes on my woolly head.

Not that that’s too much to worry about because I’ve lost count of the amount of things that I’ve lost already and then subsequently recovered in my room. Nevertheless it won’t be long before something goes missing completely. You can bank on that.

I took my evening walk to the bridge last night. Imagine me – in short sleeves at midnight in the High Arctic in September. Binnacle pointing to 180° – in other words, due south.

But no midnight sun last night. And that’s hardly surprising because for the morning we are swathed in fog again. This weather is really getting me down but then again what did I expect up here in the High Arctic? Some explorers have been stranded for four or five years by the capricious ice and, as we know, hundreds have failed to return.

If it were a cake-walk to come here, it wouldn’t be half the adventure that it is now, would it?

I had breakfast this morning with a couple of members of staff – Christopher the geologist and young Michael the ship’s “go’fer”. He’s excited because Pond Inlet is his home village and the captain has invited his family on board for lunch.

As for our plans today, I’ve no idea what they might be. This morning, anyway.

This afternoon we’re visiting an Inuit community – the one at Pond Inlet and that seems to be a waste of time in my opinion because not only is it not a traditional Inuit community but more of a modern resettlement town, but we arrived there on a plane the other day so we’ve been here. And there are still plenty of other places to visit.

The cynic inside me is once more wide-awake and telling me that maybe someone on board the ship has an aunt who runs the local gift shop or something like that.

But on the other hand, for the last week or so Chris Farlowe has been singing to me “Don’t Start Chasing Happiness – Let It Take You By Surprise. Don’t Go Casting Shadows …”. I suppose that I ought to be adopting a more positive outlook, even if I don’t feel much like it right now.

One positive outlook is the fact that we have seen yet another candidate for Ship Of The Day. It’s useful having an AIS beacon reader on board, so I was able to discover that she is the MV Golden Brilliant.

She’s a bulk carrier of 41500 tonnes, built in 2013 and registered in Hong Kong. She left Gijon in Spain on 26th August and is en route for Rotterdam, and taking a major deviation to a stop called “Camni” in the fleet database – clearly some port that doesn’t have an AIS logger.

Its AIS track puts it up here anyway, so it’s the correct ship, and someone in the crew tells me that there’s a mine out here – the Mary River Iron Ore Mine.

This would seem to place Camni at Milne Port Inlet, 71°53’N 80°55’W, so that seems to fit the bill.

Although I didn’t take too much interest in many of the proceedings today, there was a brief class giving some kind of outline of the Inuit language, so I wandered in for a lesson. It’s really quite simple and some kind of, I suppose, shorthand symbols for the syllables, of which there are probably in the region of 60 – 20 consonants each with three vowel sounds, ee, ah and ooh. And every word is made up of one or more symbols, with various accents to emphasise or detract the sound.

That took us nicely up to our arrival in Pond Inlet. We had a discussion about the town and were given a slide show of the town with the various buildings that might be important.

Pond Inlet is situated at 72’42” north. It loses the sun in mid-November, and you have to wait until February until it comes back.

It was named by John Ross in 1818 for John Pond, the Astronomer Royal of the period.

And good-oh! It’s the village brocante this afternoon. How exciting! Mind you, the cynic inside me won’t be at all surprised if this has been arranged because one of the locals has heard that a cruise ship is coming in with a pile of gullible tourists and the rest of the villagers have a load of rubbish that’s awaiting disposal.

What was this about adopting a more-positive outlook?

The most important, certainly for Strawberry Moose, is the fact that Pond Inlet is the home of the most Northerly Tim Horton’s in the whole world.

If that’s not a good destination for him to make a public appearance then I don’t know what is.

Lunch was taken with the couple who seem to be quite interested in me, the fools. It was nice of them to ask me over to sit with them. I don’t understand my popularity these days.

But only with certain people. I am definitely persona non grata elsewhere, something that is entirely my own fault. It’s a desperate shame, but it’s no use crying over spilt milk.

We all piled aboard the zodiacs and headed out to the town. There was some kind of ad-hoc immigration control in place on the beach but of course none of that prevented His Nibs from gaining a foothold ashore.

An Inuit lady called Joanna was there to give us a guided tour of the town, not that there was an awful lot to see.

The first thing that caught my eye was all of the shipping containers all over the place. In that respect it’s very much like South-Western Newfoundland where the bodies off the old Newfoundland Railway wagons were auctioned off and now litter the countryside just about everywhere.

True garden-shed engineering.

And I had quite a laugh at the bus stop too. As if you really need a bus around a community of about 1600 people. Especially when there are so many cars all around the place. That was also something that astonished me.

It is however the time that Arctic cotton is in flower and that’s a useful commodity out here. It’s really a bunch of flowery seeds rather similar to how a dandelion works, and they are used here to make wicks for qulliqs – the soapstone oil lamps – and similar things.

The Catholic Church was quite interesting, if not tragic. It’s apparently the northernmost Catholic church in the world and a comparatively recent construction too. It will come as no surprise to any regular reader of this rubbish who will recall the almost-inevitable fate of most buildings out here in Canada.

What is the tragic part is that when it went up, it took with it the Catholic priest, Father Guy-Mary Rousselière who was probably the greatest of all of the anthropological and archaeological amateurs in this region, along with almost every single item of his work. All that remains was whatever he had managed to publish during his lifetime.

We were shown a sled that was built up on another larger one and which was built up on a third even larger. It was even covered in. The idea is that in the winter the father of the family would tow it behind his skidoo and if he kept on going at full tilt he could leap over small crevasses in the ice and the sled with all of the kids inside wouldn’t ground out.

There’s an RCMP post here too and it has at one time held as many as 21 detainees at one time. This must be a record for a small town like this.

Another asset of the community, now long-closed and replaced, is the Hudson’s Bay outlet. It’s now being used for mechanical repairs and is guarded by a couple of large dogs who have clearly seen better days.

All of the stuff littered around in the wooden crates is the stuff that has come up in the recent sea-lift.

The biggest employer in the town is the Canadian Government and they have some offices here. These ones here are the offices of the Canadian National Parks Service for the Sirmilk region, which is where we are right now.

There are several traditional habits that are still carried on here. The mothers still carry their babies with them in the hoods of their parkhas and it was quite amusing to see the tourists surrounding one of the aforementioned in an attempt to persuade her to allow them to photograph mummy and offspring.

I’m not sure where the quad fitted in with the traditional habits though.

One of the attractions of the town is the half-built sod house that is used to explain to visitors how the original inhabitants of the area lived. Today, they use 4×2 wood to build the frame for the sealskin roof, but in the past they used whalebone.

Lying around were some bones from a bow-head whale, the type of bones that would have been used in the olden days before wood became available.

They were brewing up too and making bannock. The latter isn’t for me, seeing as they use lard in the peparation, and a new kettle of water hadn’t boiled yet. But I was discussing Labrador Tea with Joanna and she, ferreting around in the box, came up with a teabag of Labrador Tea. And I shall be trying that tomorrow.

Of course, Strawberry Moose had to have a photo opportunity at the sod house, didn’t he?

There’s an Anglican Church in the community too and Joanna was regaling us with tales of the religious wars that used to go on here as each church tried to pinch the other church’s congregation.

One of the guys with her told us a story about how the boats have “evolved” over the years. Up until almost maybe 50 or 60 years ago, the Inuit umiak, made by a company in Trois-Rivières, would be quite common. But people slowly moved over to more modern “European” boats made of industrial materials.

And now the race was on as everyone tried to out-do his neighbour with e bigger, better, more powerful boat.

But the problem was that the smaller and lighter the boat, the easier it is to haul it out of the water in the freeze when the Inuit were on their travels. But with the bigger, heavier boats, they can’t and they are losing countless modern, heavy and expensive boats being crushed in the ice.

There’s quite a big school here in the settlement, and it flies the Nunavut flag. There’s a red inukshuk on it that divides the flag into two – one half white and the other half yellow. I was unable to discover if the colours have any significance.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall me complaining about the price of goods in Labrador but it has nothing on the price of goods here.

When you start to see a pack of toilet rolls, €2:49 in your average LIDL, on sale here at $36:99 you’ll understand the difficulty of supplying a remote community out here in the Arctic with just one sea-lift per year and the rest of the time flying it in by air from Ottawa or wherever. And this is just one example of countless similar prices.

But some other people don’t have the same issues. Pond Inlet is home to the world’s most northerly Tim Horton’s, and I unveiled His Nibs in here for a photo session. In no time at all we were surrounded by other locals who wished for a photo opportunity with himself. And I can’t say that I blame them.

What was depressing about all of this was the ship’s kitchen staff all congregating in a corner eating a bought pizza. What does that tell you about the cooking on-board?

I was told that there’s a scenic viewpoint here too and so I wandered that way to see. The North Pole is a mere 1932 kms from here and this may well be the closest that I shall ever be to it, unless things change dramatically.

It might also be the closest that His Nibs gets to it too, so he needs to have yet another photo opportunity too.

My reverie up here was broken by the sound of an aeroplane. Another Air Tindi plane has come in to land and presumably unload whatever it is that it’s bringing.

From here I went for a walk around the town (I decided to miss out on the brocante) and had a few chats with the very friendly locals. The number of times that someone stopped me to offer me a lift was incredible.

And it was here that I met my very vocal local yokel. He was renovating the old ice-hockey arena and had indeed been responsible for building the new one.

We discussed all kinds of things here and there, including the effects of a temperature of -50°C on engine and hydraulic oil and the monstrous folly of Brexit. I did also express my dismay that a cruise ship on a regular route around the High Arctic was manned … "PERSONNED" – ed … by Filipinos and Indonesians and the like, and not Inuit.

His opinion, which I simply relate without making any comment at all, was that the Inuit wouldn’t do the work, and he cited several examples from his own experience.

I carried on with my walk, found the health centre and the school (again) and ended up at the new arena so I nipped inside for a look. In the Community Centre there was an exhibition of Arctic sports so I stopped for a while to watch, but I was roasting in there so I went out for a walk.

At the Library and Information Centre a little girl fell in love with Strawberry Moose so her mother agreed that she could be photographed with him – provided that she could join in the fun too.

And why not?

A few other locals took photos of him too, and someone produced the Centre’s own mascot, a seal, who also wanted to join in the fun.

By now it was time to return to the ship so down we went, passed through Immigration which was now Emigration and sped back to the ship, having to do a U-turn as two of the passengers had forgotten their lifebelts.

I had a shower and washed some clothes, and then waited for the call for tomorrow’s briefing. But in the meantime crashed out and so I missed the first 10 minutes, of presumably all of the important stuff.

Tea was a riot though. The waiters were horribly confused and I’m still not totally convinced that I received what I ordered. And my table companions for today were extremely garrulous, which was very pleasant.

Later tonight, there was an impromptu concert. There’s a folk singer-musician, Sherman Downey, on board and one night he’d overheard another passenger playing the piano. A girl could also sing reasonably well so they had been rehearsing informally and decided to give a concert. I’d been asked but obviously with no bass on board it was rather difficult.

The surprise of the night was that we found another girl vocalist – Natalie who does the yoga. And while it was rather hit-and-miss, she had all of the emotion and it looked and sounded quite good. One photo that I took of her came out really well and really captured the emotion of the moment.

And if that wasn’t enough, we discovered a mouth-organ player in the crowd so by the end of the night we were all rocking away, and quite right too.

We have an elderly blind lady on board, and she had asked for a special request. So when they played it, I went over to her and invited her to dance. We did a kind of jazzed-up waltz which fitted the music, which is just as well because it’s the only dance that I know.

At one point we must have hit the open sea in the Davis Straight because we were swaying around quite considerably. It certainly added a certain something to the dancing.

My midnight ramble was once more taken in a tee-shirt (much to the astonishment of Tiffany wrapped up on the deck as if in a cocoon) and we are heading out at 4° on the binnacle. That’s definitely north, so if all goes according to plan we might be pushing on.

I hope so, because these continual delays are really getting on my nerves.

Monday 3rd September 2018 – AND THE ANSWER …

… to last night’s question was almost “back in Yellowknife” because we took off, did a circuit around the town and landed again. Apparently there was a “maintenance issue”. And even I could smell the exhaust fumes coming into the cabin.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 c-guat yellowknife airport out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018And that’s because the plane that we are on is probably the oldest in which I have ever travelled (remember that the Avro Lancaster in Ontario
never left the ground).

You might think that this aeroplane here is a De Havilland DHC-7-103 Dash 7 registration number C-GUAT, and built as recently as 1978 but it’s actually the Vickers Vimy of Alcock and Brown recovered from the bog in Ireland specifically for the purpose of moving us on.

Piloted by Orville and Wilbur Wright, the flight attendant was Amelia Earhart and I had to move Charles Lindbergh’s sandwiches off my seat.

And that reminds me – who was first to fly the Atlantic non-stop?
“Mike Tyson”
“No, it was Allcock and Brown”
“That’s what I said, wasn’t it?”.

But returning to our moutons as they say around Quebec, I’m not sure whose idea it was for The Vanilla Queen to take me out at 23:30, long after we had all been tucked up in bed, to go to look for the Northern Lights.

We tramped miles but without very much success. A faint glimmer in the sky was all that we saw – nothing like the multi-coloured spectacular that you can see(but I have never seen at all) on occasion.

So we went back to the hotel.

The alarm call was due at 04:00 but I was wide awake at 02:35 – sleep issues again. And when I finally left my stinking pit I had a few things to do;

I’m not relying on coffee at the moment but I had a beautiful, warm shower instead. And not having unpacked my suitcase I was ready in moments.

A brief moment of hilarity when the shuttle bus collided with the canopy supports outside the hotel and knocked the brick fascia flying, and we were loaded and off to the airport.

first aid station coffee yellowknife airport out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018First thing that I noticed in the departure lounge was a sign saying “First Aid Station” – and underneath it was a large flask of coffee with a collection of paper cups.

“How very appropriate” I thought. But as you might have expected, it was empty.

Our spirits were somewhat aroused when someone came to take it away, but dashed when it never returned. We are of course only a couple of hundred miles from the Arctici Circle and even the basic necessities of life here are luxuries

mackenzie highway yellowknife northwest territories out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018 We’d been told that the earlier we arrived at the airport, the earlier we would leave, and so earlier we arrived we did. Our flight was due to depart at 06:15 but that was clearly a Spanish 06:15. Despite our early arrival it was in fact closer to 07:00 when we set off.

We did a lap or two around the airport and had a good view of the Mackenzie Highway underneath us – probably the nearest that I’ll ever come to it – and then we had to come back to Yellowknife Airport for repairs.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 c-guat yellowknife airport out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018It would come as no surprise to learn that the interior of the plane is quite primitive.

We are told that it was originally owned by Air Greenland and the livery would bear that out, and so it’s probably outfitted for hunter/trappers, Inuit and komatik teams rather than commercial passengers.

Huskies, muskoxen and courreurs de bois would certainly be much more at home in here than the likes of us.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 c-guat yellowknife out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018While I was wandering around in the aeroplane I also had a good look at the controls that the flight attendants would use in the passenger cabin.

We had rocker switches of the kind that you might have found in an up-market car of the early 1960s and a bakelite telephone that looked as if it dated from the 1950s.

Still, it’s one step up from baked bean tins and string, I suppose

Not only that – the on-board toilet is an Elsan chemical toilet – and I haven’t seen one of these fitted on board an aeroplane for centuries.

But we have to make the best of it. We were told (and I don’t doubt this for a moment) that we were lucky to find this plane for hire.

Mind you, after we had been flying for an hour or so the exhaust fumes in the cabin seemed to clear. Either that or I’d become accustomed to them.

And no special meal for me either. I’m not so much annoyed that I didn’t have my meal because this is rather an ad-hoc arrangement – but what annoyed me was that no-one had said anything about it. Had they done so, I could have made my own arrangements. I have stuff in my suitcase that I could have eaten.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 cockpit controls  c-guat out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018One thing that was quite surprising was that we were given a visit to the controls. You don’t get that these days on a scheduled flight of course.

The captain was there rather nonchalantly looking at a video on his phone while the autopilot was doing the work. No idea where the co-pilot was.

This would have been an ideal moment for Strawberry Moose to have had a photo opportunity by taking over the controls. And he would have done well too because there is nothing hi-tech about this machine.

But he’s locked up in the hold with his bottle of whisky – and you can hear the sea shanties from here.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 c-guat out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018After all of this, I needed a coffee. And I wasn’t the only one either, with The Vanilla Queen making frantic coffee-like gesticulations.

But, quite unsurprisingly, we had run out. No more coffee at all and that filled me with even more dismay, gloom and foreboding, especially as we still had four hours of flight to go.

I settled down for a snooze instead, and I can’t say that I didn’t need it after all of my nocturnal ramblings.

out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018Wherever it is that we are heading, we aren’t going to make it all in one go. These Dash-7 aeroplanes aren’t made for long-hail flights and the range is not what you might expect from a modern aeroplane.

We had to put down for refuelling and there’s a suitable airstrip at the foot of the Simpson Peninsula at a place called Pelly Bay

And I’m glad that I managed at least to reach Pelly Bay, because it is one of the most famous, if not controversial places in Arctic history. It was here in 1854 that the first definite news of the lost Franklin Expedition came to light.

pelly bay Kugaaruk out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018When the British Government finally stirred its stumps to send relief expeditions to look for Franklin, they were all sent spectacularly in the wrong direction.

It was Doctor John Rae, with no connection to any of the expeditions but leading a surveying party on behalf of the Hudsons Bay Company, who on 21st April 1854 encountered a wandering band of Inuit carrying relics of Franklin’s expedition

They gave Rae an account of the final days of the sad remnants of Franklin’s expedition including graphic descriptions of cannibalism amongst the party.

Rae made his report accordingly, and which was picked up and published by The Times on 23rd October 1854. And for daring to suggest that White Men had deliberately stopped so low as to eat their fellow human beings, he was abused and shunned by Society.

However, subsequent expeditions that followed up the report of Rae found the observations of the Inuit to be perfectly correct. Modern re-examination of several remains has only served to substantiate the case.

kugaaruk pelly bay out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018We put down for fuel at Pelly’s Bay – otherwise known these days as Kugaaruk (the little stream) – at the western foot of the Simpson Peninsula.

This had been one of the potential sites for us to have been rescued, but it’s at the head of a bay and the north wind has blown a pile of pack ice down to jam up the entrance, so we’re having to go on elsewhere.

We could have waited here for the weather to clear but as you can see, there’s nowhere here to wait.

pelly bay Kugaaruk out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018While the aeroplane was refuelling we had a wander around the airport terminal, such as it is.

There is nothing in the way of food or coffee here, and the queue for the two washrooms was enormously long. To such an extent that it took much longer for everyone to visit the bathroom than it did to fuel up the plane, and the plane had to wait for the passengers.

And a visit to the bathroom was necessary because the Elsan on the plane is now full and out of bounds.

calm air atr 72 c-fcrz pelly bay Kugaaruk out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018There was a cargo aeroplane unloading, a Calm Air (whoever they are when they are at home, if they ever are) aeroplane C-FCRZ, whatever that might be, and I’ll check that when I can find a decent internet connection… “it’s an ATR 72-202(F)” – ed.

It had brought in a rather banal pile of supplies that were being taken away in the back of a pick-up truck.

This shows you the immediate supply difficulties of communities out here in the wilds of Arctic Canada and explains some of the high prices that you see.

Because, believe it or not, we are now beyond the Arctic Circle and I bent down and rubbed my hand through all of the gravel in celebration, because this kind of thing is important to me.

Once we were all ready we took off again again again.

Apparently our next stop is going to be Pond Inlet on Baffin Island, and we might even get there too because we did actually manage to take off again – and flew out over Pelly’s Bay and headed out north-west across Committee Bay – the stretch of water that separates the Boothia Peninsula and the Melville peninsula

And if anyone is in doubt about global warming, all they need to do is to look at my photographs of the area here, nice dry weather with no snow whatsoever, and then read the accounts of the 19th-Century explorers as they struggled through the ice and snowdrifts with man-hauled sledges at a similar time of year.

icebergs gulf of boothia out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018Way down below us, and we weren’t flying high (because you can’t in a Dash-7), over the Gulf of Boothia, we were starting to see icebergs in some of the bays down here.

These will have calved off the glaciers on the western coast of Greenland and taken north by the Gulf Stream

They will then have been picked up and then brought down here through the Prince Regent Inlet by the caprices of the Labrador Current.

floe ice gulf of boothia out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018It wasn’t long before we began to encounter floe ice. Not very substantial, it has to be admitted, but nevertheless it was there.

And from here it might not look as if it would stop a substantial ship, but we’d been shown a video of a ship being piloted through by an icebreaker, and how quickly the wind was blowing the ice back, closing in behind the icebreaker, making passage no more easy for the ship.

And this what what was causing us all of our problems.

fury and hecla strait out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018At one point we flew over a strait that was very narrow and confined.

It conformed to all of the descriptions that I had read of Bellot Strait – the key to the North-West Passage. But of course we aren’t going that way. That’s further to the north up the Boothia Peninsula

It’s actually the Fury and Hecla Strait that we are flying over, between the Melville Peninsula and Baffin Island.

baffin island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018It’s not quite what I was hoping to see of course, and certainly not from the air, but it’s impressive all the same.

But 165 years ago we wouldn’t even have seen it at all, for we were now in, for Doctor Rae, uncharted territory.

His 1854 map of the area left the coastline and interior of this region totally unmarked. There wasn’t even guesswork or a rough estimation of whatever there might be around here.

cliffs baffin island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018Amongst the many claims to fame of Baffin Island, one of the things for which itis famous is its magnificent cliffs.

And we were treated to them in all their glory. You can really understand why the Norse and many other subsequent explorers had failed to set foot on this point, and why it remained uncharted even in the days of James Rae.

Who would want to climb right up there after a landfall that would in itself be very uncertain indeed?

cliffs baffin island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018Our pilot offered us a treat. He told us that there were several ways into Pond Inlet, and one of them was to circle around the mountains and come in up the channel – Eclipse Sound – that separates Baffin Island and Bylot Island.

And as we rounded the headland and were hit full force by the turbulence of a strong wind that was roaring up the cliffs and causing us to bounce around like a rubber ball,

I was reminded of the pilot of Air New Zealand Flight 901 who offered his passengers a scenic circuit of Mounts Erebus and Terror in similar conditions and circumstances in November 1979. Of the 257 people on board there were no survivors.

And I’m not sure about the wisdom of doing this with an overflowing Elsan either. I’m glad that I wasn’t sitting by the toilet door.

iceberg eclipse sound baffin island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018But we survived, which was just as well, and I’m glad that we came this way because our pilot spotted a rather large iceberg floating down the strait.

The pilot offered us a circuit of it so that we could photograph it, which was rather a tall order at such a low level in a rather elderly, creaking Dash-7 and I had a feeling that all of this was going to end in tears.

But circle it he did and we could see it in all its splendour and it looked magnificent.

russian cruise ship eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018As we approached the coastline, a cry went up from two different parts of the aeroplane.

Someone had seen what they reckoned would be the ship that was going to take us off on the next stage of our adventure (because, if you haven’t already guessed, this flight is merely the beginning).

However, on closer inspection it turned out to be a Russian cruise ship that was navigating the waters around here.

And The Vanilla Queen let out quite a cry too, and almost blew out my eardrums. She has a thing about narwhals and sure enough, there was a school of them swimming about below.

I wouldn’t recognise a narwhal if I were to trip over one in a floodlit football stadium, but by the time we came into land I think that everyone on the ship was a narwhal-spotting expert thanks to her.

And this is the beauty of travelling in a well-informed and well-educated group of diverse people.

mittimatalik airport pond inlet out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018So here we are then at Pond Inlet, or Mittimatalik as it is called these days. It’s on the North-East tip of Baffin Island, deep in the Arctic.

We have to have the obligatory photo of the airport of course, just to say that we finally arrived, even though this wasn’t anything like where we were supposed to be.

The Vanilla Queen wanted me to take one of her next to the sign – but that’s on her camera so you won’t get to see that.

mittimatalik airport pond inlet out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018The party that had been stuck on the ship for a couple of days waiting for us to relieve them gave us all a resounding cheer as we entered the terminal.

Whether it was to reward us for our perseverance or whether it was a cheer of relief that they could all now go home I really don’t know.

But it was totally unnecessary and rather overwhelming.

An ancient school bus – even more derelict than our aeroplane and that’s saying something, took us down to the waterline.

zodiac mittimatalik pond inlet out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018There’s no dock here and it wouldn’t ordinarily be a stopping point, but it’s ice-free and has an airport, and that’s so important when you are considering this kind of thing.

Instead, there was a fleet of inflatable zodiacs waiting to take us out into the Eclipse Strait.

While we were kitting ourselves out in our wet-weather gear, three little Inuit girls came to say hello to us and show us the little baby puppies that they had hidden inside their jackets to keep them warm.

ocean endeavour eclipse sound mittimatalik pond inlet out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018As we were about to climb into the zodiacs, the wind shifted dramatically as it does in the Arctic, and we had to move a short distance down the coast and behind an outcrop of rocks to shelter.

And there we were treated to the sight of our ship.

She’s the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour and it’s quite clear, as we came closer and closer towards her that she is a former car ferry – with a welded rear drop-down door.

eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018That makes her at least 25 years old if she was formerly an EU ship, as their commercial licences are usually withdrawn at that age.

The zodiac ride was exciting. The winds were such that we were thrown around on top of the waves and it was much more interesting that anything that you would pay for in an adventure park.

I was all for going back and doing it again.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018While you admire a few more photos of Eclipse Sound, with Bylot Island in the background, let me tell you a few more things about the ship.

We were welcomed aboard by the reception staff, and then our floor steward took me to my room. it’s a tiny 4-berth cabin – and I do mean “tiny”.

There are two berths side by side, two fold-down booths above, a table and chair, a wardrobe and a tiny shower room with all mod-cons.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018And I am on my own, which is just as well because I don’t do company as I’m sure that regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

Except for Strawberry Moose of course. And he’s quite happy with his bed anyway.

One day he’ll get to meet the rest of the passengers.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018And of course, if the company is young, female and friendly. And then sleeping isn’t all that much of an issue, is it?

There was a reception organised for the passengers. And once more, there was nothing vegan on offer. I buttonholed the Captain and complained about the whole set-up.

The service manager came to meet me and he was most gracious in his apologies and told me that he would make it up to me. Would I like a complimentary bottle of wine?

He was most put-out when I mentioned that I didn’t drink.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018As for the evening meal, I made myself known to the restaurant manager who comes from Budapest (so we had a good chat about Budapest and Hungary). He asked me all kinds of questions and we arranged that when there’s a set meal, I should speak to him and he would speak to the chef.

I ended up with lentil soup, a salad with bulghour and some kind of black beans, followed by fruit. That suited me fine.

We had a lifeboat drill and were introduced to the team. I made the acquaintance of a team member called Latonia who is a specialist in Labrador and the High Arctic and we had a chat.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018And then I went off to take some photographs before we lost the light.

Not that that’s something over which anyone needs to lose much sleep, if you pardon the expression, because at this time of year at these attitudes, the light isn’t totally lost.

This photo was taken just before 23:00 and there is still some light left as you can see.

eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018So now I’m alone in the bar writing up my notes.

I’ve taken Strawberry Moose for a good walk around in search of some exciting places for him to be photographed.

This was a likely spot, suitable for him to make his debut appearance on the ship.

After all, just like any important celebrity, he needs to spread his fame about.

Sunday 2nd September 2018 – HAVING GONE WEST …

… yesterday, I was hoping that we would be emulating Richard Barnes today and, getting rather tired of Southern Comfort we would “Go North”.

early morning plane landing edmonton airport canadaAnd it must be my really bad conscience telling me something, or else the tension has totally swept me away, Or else it was the early night. But I was wide-awake at 02:25 this morning, looking at the aircraft coming into land at the airport.

By 04:00 I was out of bed working, having given up the idea of sleep a long time previously. I really need to do something about this otherwise I’m going to have a catastrophe.

After all of the alarms had rung, I went and had a good shower. And gathered up all my things.

Luckily, at the check-out I managed to locate a coffee machine so I was able to fuel up. Maybe I’ll feel a little more like it when it starts to work. Who knows?

At the baggage check-in at the airport I noticed that I’m definitely losing my touch. My suitcase weighed a mere 16.6 kgs and that included Strawberry Moose. It’s not like me at all. I could have taken a couple of extra children in my baggage allowance.

Security was another total farce. We had probably the surliest member of the Canadian Government Service that I have ever encountered (and I’ve encountered a few, believe me, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall).

And then my boots rang the alarm bells at the barrier so I was told (not asked, told) to take them off. And so I made an acerbic remark about the fact that I’d rather take my chances with the freedom fighters than the Security Services, which led to my being “selected for special screening”.

The guy then couldn’t make the explosives detector work so I sat down on his table to rest, to which he took a great deal of exception. My response was that I wasn’t going to hang around like this while he messed around with all of his useless equipment, and we had something of a stand-off as I dug my heels in.

In the end, I was waved through, but not before they confiscated my bottle of water. For some reason or another they took exception to my book too and we had a little argument about that as well.

I really don’t know what’s the matter with these people. It’s almost as if they go around looking for a fight. So the best that I can do is to make their day and oblige them.

While I was sitting down, I started to make a list of the things that I don’t remember packing. I can see it being another one of THOSE voyages. And I must remember to find a large bin-liner in which to wrap His Nibs, otherwise he’ll be rather wet.

bae 146 avro rj85 rj100 canada september septembre 2018Our aeroplane is one of the old British Aerospace BAe146 voriants, either an Avro RJ85 or an RJ100, and the only way to tell them apart withour a tape measure is to have one standing alongside another.

You can tell from the registration number too, but I can’t see it on my photo. It’s a charter flight operated by a company based in Yellowknife and there weren’t all that many people on it, which makes me think that it might be an RR100.

I ended up sharing a row of seats with an elderly British lady who has lived in Canada for 75 years, and a rather garrulous British guy who had clearly had more than just a whiff of the barmaid’s apron.

A meal was supplied on the flight and I was rather dubious about whether it was really as vegan as it was supposed to be.

After a nice relaxing flight we came in to land at Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories for a refuelling stop.

That’s a decision that seemed to me at the time to be a rather strange decision, knowing the likely range of a BAe 146. And the cynic inside me was not assuaged by the news that we received here.

It seems that, once more, we had been confounded by the weather. Instead of blowing stuff away from us, is blowing stuff towards us and blocking our passage, which can be very painful if you have forgotten to bring your ointment.

The bad weather conditions mean that we can’t go on yet again, and we are now stranded here in Yellowknife for a while. Looking at the positives, because I need to adopt a more positive outlook, at least, I can say that at 62°27N this is the farthest north point that I have ever reached, beating Finland 1981 by a good 100 or so miles.

But will we make it any farther north?

That positive outlook didn’t last very long, did it?

While things are being organised, I went for a walk outside the airport.

Straight away, I stumbled across a paid of really old Douglas DC3 “Dakotas” parked up at the end of the runway. I knew that there were some that had been abandoned here but I didn’t think that I would be lucky enough to find them.

douglas dakota dc3 c-gpnr buffalo air yellowknife canada september septembre 2018This one here is registration number C-GPNR and it was apparently built in 1942, construction number 13333 and ex-USAAF serial 42-93423.

It’s a DC3-S1C3G variant, which seems to indicate to me that it’s fitted with two 895-kW Pratt and Whitney R-1830-S1C3G Twin Wasp radials rated at at 1200hp, so it’s much more powerful than the versions fitted with Wright Cyclone engines.

But it doesn’t look as if it will be going very far in the near future as from what I can see, its last airworthiness certificate that I could find expired on 23rd May 1996

douglas dakota dc3 cf-cue buffalo air yellowknife canada september septembre 2018This one is a Douglas C47 version – the Skytrain – of the DC3 Dakota.

Her registration number is C-FCUE, built in 1942 as construction number 12983 and fitted with two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines. It’s claimed to be the first aeroplane to have landed in Yellowknife and can count among its celebrated passengers the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

It’s also been suggested and one very vocal local yokel told me that one of these two aircraft was involved in the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944

But it’s a shame to see them here slowly disappearing into the landscape like this. Someone ought to do something about saving them.

There’s another aeroplane here too, away in the distance. This one is on display on a plinth. Yet another obliging local told me that this was the first aeroplane to have landed on the North Pole and so I went to see that too.

arctic fox bristol mk31 freighter north pole yellowknife airport canada september septembre 2018And, lo and behold, it’s Arctic Fox, registration CF-TFX.

She’s a Bristol Mk31 freighter and you will have to look long and hard to find another one of these aeroplanes anywhere in the world because there can’t be more than a dozen remaining.

She was built in 1953 to a wartime design as a freighter as you can tell from the clamshell front doors for transporting machinery and vehcles.

arctic fox bristol mk31 freighter north pole yellowknife airport canada september septembre 2018She was bought by Wardair in 1958 and used for the transportation of freight around the North-West Territories.

But her claim to fame is much more important and personal than that, because she was the first ever wheeled aeroplane to land at the North Pole, a feat that she accomplished on 5th May 1967 under the control of a pilot called Don Braun.

It was purchased from Wardair in 1968 and installed here as a monument on 22nd June 1968

I went back to the airport afterwards to see what was going on, and eventually we were picked up by a shuttle bus and driven to our hotel. We’re staying in the Days Inn in the centre of the new town, up on the hill.

And much to my surprise, I don’t seem to be alone.

The Vanilla Queen, whom I mentioned yesterday and who is named for all those of you who know your Dutch rock music from the early 1970s – is the Québecoise who was on my plane from Montreal to Edmonton yesterday. She was then in the hotel last night, again on the ‘plane this morning, now on my shuttle bus and she’s staying in my hotel.

We had a lengthy chat and what she told me caused me to give her all of my adulation. She comes from Montreal, south of the river, and had the urge to go to live in the Arctic. So one day, she just upped sticks and moved to Iqaluit, the principal town on Baffin Island, beyond the Arctic Circle.

And how I admire people like that who have that kind of courage.

She’s a hair stylist (NOT a hairdresser) by profession, so I joked that she would have loads of fun trying to do something with what remains of the hair that I still have.

For lunch I wandered off into town and came across a Subway. That’ll do me nicely.

demolition of old wooden building yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018But not before I’d witnessed the total demolition of an old wooden building here.

Half of the town was out watching it, and I thought that it was the highlight of the year, but it turns out that it was a silent protest as almost everyone in the community was up in arms about the whole affair.

Mind you, someone whom I met later said that in her opinion it was a derelict wreck and about time that it went.

On the way back I noticed a sign saying that the town had been built on the oldest rocks yet known in the world,, so I recounted to one of the officials on our voyage the story of the rocks being 4,000,004 years and three months old.

But as Alfred Hitchcock and Kenneth Williams once so famously remarked “it’s a waste of time telling jokes to foreigners”.

great slave lake yellowknife north west territory canada september septembre 2018A little later, there was a guided tour of the town organised so I leapt on board. And so did The Vanilla Queen, and we had quite another chat.

I was expecting to see the sewage farm, the rubbish dump and the brand-new bicycle rack but instead we ended up on the rock at the Bush Pilots’ Memorial where there’s a magnificent view over Yellowknife Bay on the Great Slave Lake.

It was well-worth the climb because You could see for miles from up here over some really beautiful views.

modern town yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018Yellowknife is actually two towns in one.

The original settlement that was founded in the 1930s is down by the lake but when the North West Territories were incorporated in 1967 and the region’s administrative offices were located here, these buildings were constructed up on the hill away from the water.

A modern town, complete with all facilities, to house the staff who came here with the Government grew up around the buildings. Today, about 20,000 people live here.

hotchy yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018We walked back down the hill towards town in the company of another couple of people who had spent some time in the town and who knew their way around.

There were several exciting things to see on the way down, including this little photo prop at the side of the road.

It’s the kind of thing that is always worth a good photo opportunity

ad hoc sculptures yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018On our way again, we hadn’t gone all that far when we were sidetracked by some of the most extraordinary people you would ever wish to meet.

Down at the edge of the lake we ended up at the old original settlement of the town. Here we met a guy who makes sculptures by collecting all kinds of abandoned objects and balancing them on top of each other.

Having lived here for a considerable number of years, he told us a whole host of interesting and exciting stories about life down here.

houseboats great slave lake yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018He also pointed out a route along the lake shore where we could see many interesting things, such as house boats that float on large iron pontoons.

Rents in the town are quite expensive, but the lake is actually outside the city boundary so people can live here on a houseboat without paying rent or any local authority charges.

This can on occasion lead to quite a considerable amount of controversy. There are of course no services available to those who live in the houseboats and so they take advantage of those available in the town – without usually paying for them of course.

jolliffe island houseboats great slave lake yellowknife great slave lake canada september septembre 2018Many of the local residents and indeed the town council are none-too-happy about this situation and on quite a few occasions the farces of law and order have been involved.

Access to the houseboats is of course by boat during the summer but in the winter the lake freezes over and access is on foot.

And the ice on the lake is so solid that residents can even bring their vehicles right up to the front door.

ragged ass road yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018One of the most famous roads in the town is called Ragged Ass Road.

When the access to the waterfront properties was by water, what is now known as Ragged Ass Road was the rear limit of the properties and at was against this line that all of the outside toilets of the residents were situated.

However there are some people who reckon that this story is at best apocryphal.

Another famous street in the town is Lois Lane. In case you haven’t guessed, one of the houses in the street was for a number of years the home of the actress Margaret (Margot) Kidder.

While we were down in Ragged Ass Road we met a woman who told us that she was a computer programmer and that she had developed the computer program that Sue was using on her tablet.

international harvester r150 yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018In the garden of a house right by where we were talking, there were a couple of abandoned lorries.

I thought that this one was exciting. It’s an International Harvester R150 that was gradually being overwhelmed by Arctic Willow.

This is quite a rare vehicle because as far as I could discover, they were only made from 1953 to 1955. The whole range totalled about 250,000 of which well over half related to just one model, the R110.

air compressor tools and drills yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018That wasn’t all that was exciting around here either.

This is an old mining area and as well as the old Ingersoll Rand air compressor that was lying around, there were loads of old air tools and machinery lying around too.

Someone had taken full advantage of all of these to create a very interesting art-deco sculpture that spanned several gardens in the street.

gold miners cabin yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018I mentioned that the original site of the town was down here on the waterfront.

It consisted of loads of of old ad-hoc wooden cabins assembled by the miners who came here in the late 1930s in search of the gold that had been discovered in the area in 1934.

There are still a few of the original cabins remaining and this was pointed out to us as being one of them.

Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018By now our little group of people had whittled itself down to just two of us and so we wandered off to the museum of local life, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

This was certainly quite an interesting place and there were lots to see. We certainly learnt a great deal about local life amongst the indigenous people.

I was very keen on the Polar Bears while The Vanilla Queen fell in love with a stuffed Muskox.

parliament building council offices yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is situated in a very beautiful location on the edge of the city in a small park, in the same area where the Parliament of the Northwest Territories is situated.

We still had plenty of time after the museum closed and so we were able to admire the Government Offices in all their glory in the evening sunshine.

This isn’t the kind of traditional view that you would associate with life on the tundra so close to the Arctic Circle.

Our evening meal at the hotel across the road had been put back by half an hour and so we had plenty of time left on our hands. But there was a beautiful lake at the back of that hotel which looked very inviting so we went for a walk.

And I must have been very distracted because I don’t seem to have taken any photos of it. I’m sure that that can’t be right.

inuit throat singing yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018We had a nice buffet tea, with plenty of choice even for me which makes a nice change.

And after tea, we were entertained by some Inuit throat musicians giving a fine demonstration of their art. It was certainly different.

But the procedure was interrupted by an announcement from the admin of our trip that with a change in the direction of the wind we are going to try to go on tomorrow. But to where, we really don’t have much of an idea

So off we traipsed to our hotel and bed. Alarm calls at 04:00 and on the bus at 05:00

And where will we be stranded tomorrow?

Saturday 1st September 2018 – IT WAS HARD THIS MORNING …

… to haul myself out of the stinking pit. But then, what do you expect at 04:00 in the morning? at least I beat the morning chorus of the air-conditioning and the fridge compressor.

But having made my butties and packed my bags last night, a quick wash and a few other things and I was ready for the road.

I hadn’t gone more than 100 yards when I was totally drenched in one of these sudden storms for which Montreal is famous. But it went just as quickly as it came so it wasn’t too much of a problem.

And it’s a good job that I was early at the bus stop. The advertised time of departure is 04:54 but at 04:54 we were already half-way down the Boulevard Rene-Levèsque, doubtless to the annoyance of a few people, I should imagine.

The airport was the usual Dorval chaos. As Alvin Tofler predicted 40 years ago in his classic book “The Third Wave”, it’s all self-check-in stuff now. The passengers don’t have a clue half the time as to what they might be doing, and it’s all very well for the staff to tirer la tronchewhen the labels are stuck on the suitcases incorrectly or something like that, but what do they expect?

While “security” might ordinarily have been somewhat painless, I was still marked out for more personal attention – probably because they found the tube of Aloe Vera, for which I had paid a small fortune yesterday, in my backpack. They even closely examined the peak of my cap.

As I have said before … “and you’ll say again” – ed … I’d much rather take my chances with the freedom fighters than the airport “security” personnel.

They had a call for hand luggage to go into the hold, and just for a change I sent mine down, having removed the laptop and the book. I remember that I was rather overwhelmed with stuff on the journey over, and it’s only a couple of hours on the plane (said he, having forgotten about the two-hour time difference).

airbus A320-200 air canada august aout 2018Today’s aeroplane is an Airbus A320-200, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a flight in one of those.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see its serial number so I can’t tell you anything about it.

But what I can tell you is that, much to my surprise, there wasn’t a meal offered on the flight – and it was over 4.5 hours too. That was bizarre.

Plenty of coffee though, so I fuelled up on a couple of occasions. And being stuck in the middle of a row (no aisle seats available yet again) I had to disturb this rather nice Oriental girl sitting next to me.

hotel renaissance edmonton airport canada august aout 2018But as for the hotel itself, I’ve never ever seen anything like it. It even puts the one in Tunisia to shame.

The staff are overwhelmingly polite to the point of being obsequious and I found that very disagreeable.

But there’s absolutely everything that you could want here, even down to an electric iron and a shoe polishing kit.

edmonton airport canada august aout 2018I’m right at the top, on the 8th floor to be precise.

And on the side that has a beautiful view right over the terminal building and the runway too. I could sit and watch the planes come in to land all day, but I have plenty of thigs to do;

Like reorganise my luggage.

subway sandwich bar near edmonton airport canada august aout 2018But first things first.

With there being no food on the aeroplane I need to organise some lunch, and one of the advantages of having a good internet connection is that these days one can call up a map of the area to see what’s about.

And just about one kilometre away across the car park is a Subway sandwich bar.

These days they offer falafel so I braved the biting wind and went over there for a falafel and salad butty. And it was hard work trying to persuade the rather elderly “sandwich artiste” to make me what I wanted instead of what she wanted to sell me.

But when I finally received it, it was very nice. And with it being this week’s special offer too, it was very realistically-priced.

electric block heater socket canada august aout 2018The walk back through the car park was very interesting indeed, and for a whole variety of reasons too.

Do you remember all those years ago when we first started to come regularly to Canada and we saw these electric plugs dangling out of the engine compartments?

We decided that they were engine block heaters and, sure enough, here on the car park at Edmonton Airport are the sockets in which to plug them in winter.

nissan quest edmonton airport canada august aout 2018No what about this car?

This is one that I’ve never seen before, and yet it looks kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

It’s actually a third-generation Nissan Quest, made between 2004 and 2009 and in my opinion it bears more than just a passing resemblance to the Dodge Grand Caravans that we used to have in the good old days before Strider, doesn’t it?

genesis edmonton canada september septembre 2018And here’s something else that we Europeans won’t ever have seen.

It’s a Genesis, and in case you are wondering what that might be, it’s really a Hyundai but quite a luxury one.

With the Hyundai name being usually associated with more plebeian vehicles, it was felt that offering a luxury car under that name was not such a good idea – hence the branding exercise.

luggage edmonton airport canada september septembre 2018I went for a walk around the terminal building.

I was intrigued by the fact that, for the domestic flights at any rate, the baggage carousels decanted themselves right into the middle of the Arrivals terminal.

That’s not such a good security idea in my opinion – anyone could grab your suitcase and walk off with it without any check whatsoever.

Another good advantage of having a decent internet connection is that you can watch the football. In the Welsh Premier League today, the televised match was Cefn Druid v Llandudno and I managed to catch the second half.

Llandudno had most of the play but weren’t as well-organised as the Druids, and the 2-1 scoreline in favour of the latter was about right.

But judging by the style and quality of the play, it’s clear to see why these two clubs are at the wrong end of the table.

I had a shower and a wash of the clothes that I had been wearing, and then I had to go to a meeting to discuss our future.

There were 170 of us in this little room all told, including The Vanilla Queen – a nice young girl whom I had noticed on the aeroplane coming up here. The presenter of this meeting gave us all some very bad news.

Not the news that I was hoping to hear, I have to say, but it can’t be helped. No-one can legislate for the weather at all and you get what you are given and like it.

As a result, all of our plans have now changed and I am really disappointed. And what didn’t help was missing my aim and biting a huge chunk out of my lower lip. It’s swollen up like nobody’s business right now.

But there’s always a bright side to everything. I had a long chat with she named The Vanilla Queen. She’s a hairdresser, so it seems, and lives on Baffin Island. And she’ll be on my aeroplane with me (and about 50 other people) at … gulp … 06:00 tomorrow morning.

And so yet another early start. I’m going to bed.:!!