Tag Archives: iceberg

Saturday 19th March 2022 – AFTER ALL …

old car communal rooms place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022… of the excitement yesterday at the Communal Rooms, red carpet and all, it kept on going today.

When I went into the dining room to make a coffee, an unearthly rattle told le that there was something exciting about to happen. And sure enough, an ancient car from the 1920s limped into the courtyard.

Furthermore, there was some high-ranking communal official waiting there to receive them, as you can tell from the tricolour sash worn by the person standing at the top of the steps on the right.

All that was missing in fact was the red carpet and the cameraman and that was something of a disappointment.

Incidentally, there was nothing in the news yesterday about the purpose of the red carpet. Not that I thought that there would

people on beach place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Also extremely interesting today was the big crowd of people down on the beach.

It has to be said that it was a lovely day but even so, it’s a long time since I’ve seen so many folk down there. even Rover was having a good time.

That’s more than I’ve had today because you’re going to have to suffer another long moan and whinge as I talk about my day today.

Once more, I struggled to leave the bed when the alarm went off. I nearly missed the second alarm too.

But after breakfast I went for a shower and put the bedding in the washing machine to wash, and then headed off to the shops.

Noz didn’t have much – just a few varieties of alcohol-free beer that I like so I bought a few packs. Now I think that I have more in stock than they do.

There wasn’t anything special in LeClerc either, but it still ended up being expensive, mainly because they had coffee on special offer so I bought a pile of it. I seem to be going through it quite rapidly.

suzanga spirit of conrad chantier naval port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022On the way back, seeing as I had no frozen food in danger of melting, I went to the chantier naval for a close look at the trawler that was in there.

It’s actually Suzanga, the new trawler that arrived here last August. It was interesting to have a closer look at her because this is the first time that we’ve seen her out of the water.

In the background of course is a bit of Spirit of Conrad. She’s been here for a week or two now being prepared for her summer season.

Back here I hung the washing up to dry and made myself a coffee. Then there was a disaster. I’ve eaten the last of the magnificent coffee cake that I made for my birthday. How sad is that?

Settling down with my coffee I transcribed the dictaphone notes from last night. I was on my holidays going south. I was in some kind of vehicle. I came to some sort of tunnel that we had to go through. It was very narrow and very low so there were traffic lights where you have to stop to wait for your turn before you could go forward. I stopped but someone pulled up alongside me on the outside which was strange. Someone in a black suit and black hat rather like an Orthodox Jew came along and tried to sell me a bottle of spirits, absinthe or something like that. I said “no” but he insisted so I told him that I didn’t drink. Then he started to offer me all kinds of other things. While he was doing this, the lights changed and a whole load of people went past into the tunnel. I couldn’t shake off this guy or the car that was parked alongside me on the outside. I was in a left-hand drive vehicle but for some reason I was driving on the left. I went through this tunnel. By now I was on foot pulling my suitcase and my computer bag and other bits and pieces. I came out into a room in a large town where this tunnel ended. There were all these people there who had gone past earlier, loads of nuns and kids and so on. I had to renew my travel permit which I did. I went outside but dropped everything. I found to my surprise that as well as a magnifying glass I was carrying an extremely large sharp knife so I was trying to pick up all these little things like the knife and the magnifying glass and put them in my pocket while I was walking with my suitcase but that wasn’t easy and I was making a great mess of it.

Later on, a group of people from Runcorn were coach operators. The have a company called I-Coaches. They were running out of money so they decided that they would do a few hold-ups to try to bring some money in. They were not particularly successful. The guy who was leading them, his 3 friends were criticising him. In the end one of them said that he would lead the next one. Just then someone came down the hill in a car so they flagged him down. When he stopped, he was eating an orange. The guy who was now in charge pulled out a gun and shot him. Of course this led to all kinds of arguments between the 4 and they split up. 2 went one way and 2 somewhere else. We were back in Runcorn town centre and what was then happening was that there was a police cordon or something and the 4 people there in their groups of 2 suddenly noticed the town was being filled with police. There was a coach involved in it but I don’t know where this fitted in. The two, including the guy who had committed the murder tried to slip through the cordon but the police closed right in on them. The other 2 were there watching knowing that it was going to be their turn next to be pulled up. In court it was a woman in a wheelchair who was prosecuting them, the first lawyer in a wheelchair in the Uk

And then I was at work last night. I had a meal. We all ended up going for this meal, a huge group of us for a formal dinner. I was sat on a table with someone and we were discussing a report that had been prepared. There were 3 groups mentioned and the guy who was on my table was trying to work out who to send them to. He thought that 2 of these names were relevant because of their connection but the third one wasn’t. I said “if that’s what you think, send them there”. But he wanted this lengthy discussion and I was sure that we would arrive at the same conclusion no matter how long we spent talking about it. Then the waiter came round with some of the starters which was thin-sliced cold beef. I explained to him that I was a vegan so he took my plate away and it looked then as if I wasn’t going to have anything to eat. When everyone had finished their starter they started to mill around. I bumped into a colleague of mine and we ended up in a small group chatting. he explained about how when I was in a bad mood I’d drive to Nantwich and just sit and meditate. I wondered how he knew that. Then the waiter came round again putting a bottle of beer at everyone’s table for them to drink. Before I could stop him he disappeared. Knowing what had happened with the starter I knew full well that if I complained about the beer he’d just take it away and not leave me anything so I gave it to my colleague for him to drink.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I promised you some excitement today. And I lived up to my promise as well! At LeClerc they had carrots at €0:79 a kilo so I had bought a kilo. After I’d finished the dictaphone notes I went into the kitchen, diced them, blanched them and put them into the freezer to freeze.

Now how exciting is that?

Actually, it must really have been something because after lunch I came back in here, sat down and promptly crashed out. I’d gone for a good hour too, right out of it. Probably the deepest sleep that I’ve had for several weeks too and there I was, thinking that i’d gone past this stage.

people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Anyway, I managed to pull myself together and stagger off outside for my afternoon walk around the headland.

As I mentioned earlier, there were crowds of people out on the beach this afternoon. There really were too, as you can tell from this photo.

There was plenty of beach to be on too, with the tide being well out, and it was quite a nice, warm day for the time of year.

Nothing going on out at sea that I could see though. There was quite a thick sea-mist despite the wind and everything was obscured. Visibility was only a couple of miles out to sea.

f-guko Grob G120A baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Nothing going on out at sea but just like Thunderclap newman, there was something in the air.

This is a new aeroplane for us – the first time that we’ve seen her. She’s F-GUKO, a Grob G120A. That’s a type of aeroplane about which I know very little, except that it’s a type used by the Royal Canadian Air Force and a few other air forces as a basic trainer.

She took off from Granville airfield at 16:07, flew north for a while and then headed south to Avranches where she landed at about 16:43.

Her previous recorded flight was yesterday, so seeing as I took the photo of her at 15:59, this must have been an unrecorded flight below the level of the radar.

le loup baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Several people on the path on top of the cliffs too so I had to dodge the crowds as I walked down to the end.

Le Loup, the marker light on the rock at the mouth of the harbour, was looking quite nice this afternoon framed by the trees and the signboard.

You can tell how high the tide comes in from this photo. We’ve seen the water well up to the higher of the two red rings when we’ve had a very high tide.

You can also see how thick the sea mist is today. You can make out the Pointe de Carolles in the background but that’s about it. You can’t see any further than that.

peche a pied pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022With the tide being so far out today, there’s plenty of scope for the pèche à pied.

The people in this group have all come very well-equipped with all kinds of stuff that they will need for a successful afternoon. They all have a couple of buckets each.

But it was the guy in the fluorescent orange waterproof gear that caught my eye. He’ll stand out from the crowd on any beach dressed like that.

He rather reminded me of a press release that we received from the Paris police when I worked for a major holiday company in the UK in the late 80s –
“The policeman who stands in the middle of the Place d’Etoile directing traffic will from now on be illuminated to make sure that motorists don’t miss him in the dark”.

It was round about here that I had an encounter with a couple of tourists.
“Can you see the Ile de Chausey and Jersey from here?”.

So I pointed out to them the Ile de Chausey that you could just about see through the mist and I explained that in this fog, seeing Jersey, at a distance of 58 kms from where we were standing, would be pretty much impossible. I did however indicate the direction, in case they are about some other time when the fog has lifted.

le roc a la mauve 3 suzanga spirit of conrad chantier naval port de Granville harbour Manche harbour Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022Having dealt with the tourists I headed off down the path towards the port.

Earlier in the day we’d been in the chantier naval where we had seen Suganza and Spirit of Conrad. They are of course still in there, as is Le Roc A La Mauve III with its shiny coat of white polyeurethane paint.

She’ll be ready to go back into the water quite soon, I reckon. But then again, regular readers of this rubbish will recall what happens when I make predictions like that.

One thing that has gone though is Joly France. She was moored over at the ferry terminal yesterday but she’s not there now. The ground’s all flat.

It’s not really the right kind of day for a trip out to the Ile de Chausey and certainly not if you are going sightseeing, but if the service is advertised, they have to go. It’s a Saturday and the seasonal occupiers of the houses will gradually be turning up.

objects on quayside port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo March 2022On my way home, I noticed this huge pile of equipment by the side of the crane in the bay where the gravel boats used to tie up.

Despite enlarging and enhancing the photo, I’ve still not been able to work out what it all is. Ordinarily I would have gone down for a closer look to satisfy my curiosity but it’s been a good 12 months since I’ve been well enough for a quick jaunt like that.

Back here there was a nice surprise. The postwoman has been. And so not only do I have my new course-book for the third year of my Welsh course, I have the new dictaphone too. I can’t wait to try that out.

And so I’ll probably not go off on a voyage tonight, simply out of spite.

This afternoon I’ve had another good session on the guitar, and then I edited some more photos of my trip to the High Arctic in 2019. Right now we’re in the Davis Strait on our way north-west to Lancaster Sound.

There were plenty of really good subjects for photography such as THIS ONE but as you might expect, they were all either early in the morning or late at night when the light is poor, and so when you are on board a moving ship in a lively current, the results are … errr … questionable.

Tea was a couple of those small breaded quornburgers with potatoes and vegetables, all cooked in vegan margarine. And as usual, it was delicious.

But I’m almost running out of those now and I don’t know what I’ll do when they are finished because I haven’t seen any in Noz for ages. I used to buy them in Belgium years ago, and so I suppose that next time that I’m in Leuven I’ll have to go out on the prowl and cast my net further.

Bedtime now, much later than usual as I’ve had a quiet relaxing evening. A nice lie-in followed by a good breakfast with plenty of strong coffee. Hopefully that will set me up for the week but whether it will or not remains to be seen.

Only 11 more days than I’m off on my travels.

Wednesday 7th July 2021 – I’M FED UP …

… of this perishing weather.

rainstorm place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThis afternoon I didn’t have the chance to go out for my afternoon walk because it was raining like it had never rained before.

Even in all my wet-weather gear I wasn’t going to set foot outside the building in all of this. Torrential rain had nothing whatever on what was coming down when I wanted to go for my walk.

The irony of it all was that there was a Welsh conversation on-line tonight and I was bent on joining it. And while we were chatting, the sun came out and there was some blue sky too. But the moment the chat finished, down came the rain, right on cue, and that was that.

Last night was another rather late night because something came up on the Old-Time Radio – an Agatha Christie play concerning Hercule Poirot – so I stayed up and listened to it. If it meant for a bad night and following morning, that’s rather a shame but for me I ought to be having some pleasure out of life somewhere.

As a result it was rather a struggle for me to raise myself from the bed when the first alarm went off, and some time after I’d taken my medication and come back in here I’d crashed out, sitting on my chair. And for about an hour and a half too. I must have been tired.

When I’d recovered I made myself a coffee and then had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. I’d bought some item of clothing and it was going to be for me only and it was very special. I was living at Coleridge Way at Nerina’s. Somehow this thing was picked up in her washing and washed along with everything else and hung out on the airing trolley things. I was wondering how on earth I was going to get it back. I had to wait for a moment when everyone was out of the house. I waited for a period of over a couple of days until everyone had gone and I went downstairs and into the living room where all of these clothes were on airers. There had been a bed made up on the sofa. I crept over there to see and it was an empty bed. I thought that with the bed being on the sofa there was something strange going to happen and so I slowly made my way round to where this article was. Then I heard voices in the house so I waited thinking that the way to distract these people whose voice this was would be to leap out and startle them, and that way to forget what it was that was going on. That was what I did, and it turned out that it was my youngest sister and someone else, another female of our family. They’d both been involved in a car accident so I immediately went to console them both and tell them “it doesn’t matter – it’s only metal” and so on. Another guy was there. he was trying his best to console them as well. All the time this article that I wanted was still up on the clothes airers and I was in a very great danger of actually losing it again to someone else who wasn’t going to be careful about what they packed up and what they put away.

Tater on there was another long and rambling dream that went on and one and on. What I can remember was that some girl was having to have lessons. My brother had been giving her lessons but was unable to do so so I was now having to do it. We were living on the Wistaston Green estate and I had to find out where to go. They said that on Saturdays she lived at home but on Sundays she stayed at someone else’s house. On the Saturday it was somewhere on the Wistaston Green estate but no-one actually knew where. We knew where to go and where to park the car ans one of my sisters thought that she knew which house it was but every time I asked for the number it was “oh you just go there and park your car” and so on. The Sunday was a little clearer because I remember taking the phone call when she was changing it to her relative’s house. I could vaguely remember something about that. But there was tons to this and it just went on and on and I can’t rememner any of it.

While I was asleep on the chair though I was working in an office in Stoke on Trent. They had come along and cleared all of the files in the store room and sent them off to a central repository, which I thought was the strangest decision that I’d ever heard. Every time someone rang up or wrote in a letter you had to write to the central repository to get back the file before you could deal with their query. I’d had something to do with one particular case which I’d been working quite regularly but the file wasn’t there so in the end I went into the basement, couldn’t find this file there so a guy whom I used to know and I went off to the central repository which was in Stoke on Trent. He said that he knew his way around so off he went. I ended up just sitting there for a couple of hours and I was totally fed yp so I decided to go back home again. Back to the van was past a compound with all of these big Bentley 3-litres in it. Then there was a place wirh 4 or 5 Isetta bubble cars all mangled, it was that kind of place. Just as I was getting into Caliburn to go back, he appeared. He said that he couldn’t find the file but he’d found one of his big old buckets that he’d had before and went to empty it over the edge of this drop so that he could take it back but he almost ended up going over the drop with all of the rubbish that was in this bucket thing before he could stop himself.

It must have been a really deep sleep on the chair if I’d wandered off like that.

So having organised myself and grabbed my breakfast much of the morning up until lunchtime was spent dealing with the photos of Greenland in August 2019. I’m not about to go for a wander in a zodiac to look at the icebergs in the Davis Strait and Disco Bay just off Ilulissat. And this, I remember, is the day that I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me.

But one thing about editing these photos – it makes me want to go North again.

My work this morning was interrupted by a couple of things. Firstly, I crashed out yet again for half an hour or so, and secondly, I had a visit from the postie. The first of the deliveries from my mega-Amazon order. And so immediately after lunch I went into unpacking-mode.

A pair of batteries for each of the NIKON D500 and NIKON 1 J5 cameras. And I bet that I still end up down the street with flat batteries too at some point or another.

But interestingly, the new generation of chargers work off 5-volt USB connectors rather than the mains current. So that means less gadgets to haul around with me

The new Dashcam came too, and that took ages to work out how to initialise it, and the new multi-caddy that I’ll be using for back-up storage. The memory is here too, as is the new USB 3.0 multi-connector but that’s all a job for next weekend after I come back from Leuven when hopefully, the two new hard drives for the computer will be here.

rainstorm rue du roc foyer des jeunes travailleurs Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallBy now it was time to go for a walk but the lousy weather put the brakes on that, as I told you earlier.

Going back upstairs I stuck the camera out of the rear window overlooking the Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs to take a photo of the weather out there as well. I wasn’t going to end up being soaked just for the sake of a couple of photos.

Instead, I came back here and did some more work on my trip down the coast on board Spirit of Conrad last year. This is a pretty slow process because there’s about 400 photos and I don’t really know what to write about most of them – although that has never stopped me in the past of course.

There was a Welsh chat on Zoom this evening so I wanted to join, but the tutor had sent me the wrong link so it took a while for me to be connected. But a couple of things that I noticed, namely

  1. this particular tutor is a lot more disorganised than the two that we have had so far
  2. this was a mixture of people from several groups and the people from our group were much more confident than the people from the other groups

Tea tonight was chips with burger and baked beans followed by chocolate sponge and coconut soya stuff. I’ll be back to making chocolate sauce for the next few days now.

But not right now because I’m off to bed. It’s shopping tomorrow of course, if I don’t fall asleep, and there might even be more toys from Amazon. Won’t that be nice?

Tuesday 20th August 2019 – YET ANOTHER …

… bad night.

Not at all helped by the fact that I had to get up and go hopping around the cabin for 10 minutes to try to overcome a really bad attack of cramp in both ankles. No idea why that might be. maybe it’s because I don’t have enough salt, and watching one of the staff sprinkle salt all over his chocolate ice cream this evening and tell us all just how wonderful it is, then maybe I ought to try it too – except that I don’t eat ice cream of course..

With no rush for the morning, I was in no rush either and I was comfortably beaten by the three alarms. But it’s been weeks since I’ve had a proper Sunday lie-in and a real day of rest so I reckoned that I deserved it.

We’re now in the fjord at Ilulissat, famous for its icebergs. And there are plenty in here too. They are all ground out on the terminal moraine that’s at the entrance to the fjord and it’s only when they melt a little, when there’s a really high tide or when there’s enough force in the congestion behind them that they can pass over into the sea.

They move something like a maximum of 35 metres per day but that’s not a daily total. It’s a daily average over a period of several weeks. Sometimes they won’t move at all for days.

We went out in the zodiacs to look at the icebergs but ended up whale-watching instead as a pod of fin whales and then a pod of hump-backs decided to strut their stuff right by where we were sailing. It all gave quite a surprise to the fishermen who were hauling in their long lines with halibut.

After lunch we went to town – literally. I’ve been here before but I still like the place so Strawberry Moose and I had a nice long walk out down the boardwalk to look at the ice congestion in the fjord. It really is so spectacular.

And much to my surprise I could remember the short-cut back home again.

There’s a museum in town – the birthplace of Knud Rasmussen, who probably just about beats Vilhjalmur Stefansson to the title of “Last of the Famous Polar Explorers”, so I went in there to have a look around. It was extremely interesting to me, and His Nibs found a couple of photo opportunities there.

There is an old church in the town too so on the way back to the ship I took myself over there to see it. It looked quite interesting too but it was locked up so it wasn’t possible for me to go in to inspect it.

While we’d been down at the boardwalk another cruise ship had come in. It was the MSC Orchestra with a capacity of 3200 passengers.

Watching them try to unload with a series of lighters and tenders was amusing – the weight of 240 passengers at a time on the jetty was causing it to sink below the waterline and they were wetting their shoes. They had gazebos to protect the poor dears from the sun (in the High Arctic!), all of that, and an endless procession of guides.

But 3200 visitors in a town of about 4500 is impossible, and the situation at the boardwalk must have been ridiculous.

On arriving back on board The Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour I had a good shower and clothes wash, and then carried on the photos while we had the debriefing. And I fell asleep too.

After tea I went up to the top deck lounge and carried on with the photos until fatigue brought me back down again. I’ve now reached 19080553 from the late afternoon of 8th August. Still tons to get through but I’ll just have to keep on trucking, won’t I.

But not tonight. I’m off to bed.

Wednesday 17th July 2019 – THIS EVENING …

… I was standing at the top of the stairs, lost in Space
“Do you need any help?” asked the waitress
“I’m thinking” I replied. “I need all the help that I can get with that!”.

Last night was another depressing night. I’m certain that the ship’s engines stopped at something like 04:00 because the silence awoke me and I didn’t hear the familiar rumble. In fact, I wondered where I was.

A trip down the corridor later, I was back asleep but only for about an hour or so before I was awake again. But absolutely flat-out tired and it was a real effort to beat the third alarm.

After the usual morning procedure I was up on deck. The sun was quite low, trying its best to peek through the clouds and so I took a couple of photos of what should have been the early morning sunrise to start off the day.

Breakfast was rather later this morning and we were there for quite some considerable time having a good chat, before we attended to the business of the day.

It was a very strange morning. There was a very low sea-mist drifting around so one moment we were swathed in a thick mist with some beautiful rainbows, and the next minute we were bathed in a bright warm sunshine.

So warm was it that we actually sunbathed on the rear deck for quite a while in the company of another couple of people.

And then the fun began.

“Thar she blows!” came the cry from the starboard side. And there cruising along at the side of our ship was a bottle-nosed whale. He accompanied us for a while before disappearing down into the deep.

Five minutes later we had another “thar she blows!”, this time from the port side. And there, performing a couple of antics was a sperm whale. He swam along the surface for a while and then with a swish of his tail he plunged downwards too.

By now we were insight of the Greenland coast. Just briefly because the mist closed in again at that moment. So that was that.

We went to a lecture on glaciers which took us up to lunchtime.

Lunch was interrupted by a “glaciers on the starboard bow!”. The mist had finally lifted, for good too and there up along the Greenland coast were some rather large icebergs waiting to catch the current.

We had a briefing later, and then we all crowded onto the observation deck to watch the scene as we negotiated into a deep fjord. Kangerluluk or something like that, it’s called “The Awful Fjord”, basically because there is nothing here. No landing, no grass, no wildlife, nothing at all.

but I do know that since the installation of AIS systems in ships, only one other ship had ever been in this fjord. And with a name like that, it’s hardly any surprise.

But this afternoon while we were positioning ourselves, we were having some really beautiful sunshine, which is something of a surprise in Eastern Greenland, so it goes without saying that for a half-hour or so I was on the back deck of the ship on a comfortable chair … err … rather relaxed.

Tea tonight was a buffet, and quite early too. And while we were sorting ourselves out, they were putting the zodiacs in the water. We dressed up in our winter woollies and then went for a cruise. There were three-hour cruises and one-hour cruises but we opted for the two-hour cruise, for reasons that every male my age will understand.

This took us to the head of a couple of glaciers where we saw some small icebergs and we were lucky enough to see a calving. No spectacular icebergs, merely a few small blocks of ice, but it was a calving just the same.

We then went across the fjord to inspect a few more icebergs. These were big ones and here was plenty of evidence of frozen rainwater and silt. There was even a glacier with a perfect band of soil. Had I seen that in Iceland I would have immediately thought of a layer of volcanic ash at some time during the formation of the glacier, but I’ve no idea of its significance in Greenland.

The most interesting find however was one that vindicated the President of the American Public Enquiry into the sinking of the Titanic.

He had asked the question “just what is an iceberg made of?” and was ridiculed, and even lampooned, because of what many people considered to be a ridiculous question. But here in the fjord there was a glacier that was studded with large rocks. Just the kind that might split open the side of a large ship.

There was a pit-stop for hot chocolate laced with Bailey’s for those that wanted it, and then back here on the ship we had hot soup and bread for supper.

It’s time for bed now so I hope that I have a decent sleep. But at least I know that my winter gear passed its first test. I was quite comfortable out there until the driver put his foot down to return to the ship.

Quite a pleasant evening all round.

Friday 12th July 2019 – LAST NIGHT …

… I mentioned the overwhelmingly thick fog that we had encountered coming out of Seydisfjordur. This morning when we awoke, the situation hadn’t improved and we were swathed in a rather thick blanket of nebulous nonsense.

I heard the alarm go off at 06:00 and then again at 06:07. However I did manage to beat the 06:20 alarm, although there wasn’t all that much in it.

The weather wasn’t all that good for photography but I took a couple just to be on the safe side, and then went in to breakfast;

After breakfast we put on our winter clothing and headed out to the zodiacs. The sea was calm but visibility was pretty poor and it was trying to rain. We made it ashore at the small town of Djupivogur without any major mishap, but we aren’t staying here. There are a couple of buses waiting for us to take us onward. One of them was an elderly MAN-engined Bova Futura, tri-axle and 15 metres long. Quite naturally I leapt aboard.

After about an hour’s drive we stopped at the Foss Hotel for a toilet break as we were not so equipped on our bus. It gave me an opportunity to have a little wander around and take a couple of photos of the Icelandic scenery. Here on the east coast, the coastal alluvial plain is very good farming country, although it’s compressed up against the mountains in the same way that the land is on the western coast of Newfoundland.

Back on our bus we headed off to the glacial lagoon. Here at the foot of the VatnaJokull ice field, a glacier discharges its icebergs into a lagoon and we had come here to witness it. After all, ice fields, glaciers and icebergs won’t be around for much longer at the current rate of global warming.

We were really lucky too. A huge part of the glacier had calved off a few days ago and the lagoon was littered with icebergs waiting to melt down so that they would be small enough to drift out to see on the meltwater current. There’s a submerged terminal moraine that stops them floating straight out.

First item on the agenda was a good walk down to the lagoon and around its edges looking at the ice. It really was so spectacular down there; A little further around I found a ruined, collapsed bridge. It would be nice to think that it had been brought down by an iceberg or an ice field, but that is extremely unlikely.

Lunch was arranged for us too, and they did me proud with a vegan carrot soup followed by ratatouille. No complaints at all there, except that a second helping would have been delicious.

Once lunch was over we donned more wet-weather gear and headed off to one of their zodiacs. A young Czech student took us out for a ride around the lagoon to see the icebergs, the ice face and to tell us all about the place and the history. And it started to rain while we were out there.

Our zodiac was almost the last back so our bus was last to leave. And on the way back we were waylaid for 15 minutes by a pack of harbour seals on a gravel bank just offshore. One of them was having a whale of a time floundering and flouncing about in the water, giving all of us quite a performance.

With a pit stop too back at the Foss Hotel, we were definitely the last back at the quayside and the zodiac crews had gone to sleep. There wasn’t time to put on our wet-weather gear because we needed to leave our anchorage pretty smartly, so we all ended up rather damp, as by now it was raining quite heavily.

Back on board, I headed for a shower. Not because I needed one but because it’s the quickest way of warming me up. And I washed my clothes too. They were quite wet anyway with the rain so they would benefit.

After tea I lounged around for a while but there’s a late breakfast on offer tomorrow so now is the time for an early night, I reckon and I can catch up on my beauty sleep.

If only …

Thursday 15th November 2018 – I’M FEELING …

… a little better right now.

After having a couple of really good days, it was odds-on that sooner or later I would have a bad one. And yesterday evening I could feel myself sliding down into the abyss.

By the time that I had finished writing my blog from last night, at about 22:00, I was feeling so miserable that I went straight to bed.

It didn’t take me long to go off to sleep either. And apart from one brief awakening, and I’ve no idea when that was, I slept right the way through to the alarm.

The first time for a while that I have had a decent sleep, and as you might expect, when I awoke, I felt even worse. But that’s not really due to the sleep, but due more to the fact that I was having a health crisis.

It took me a considerable while to tear myself out of bed and an even longer time to force my breakfast down.

Eventually I went into the bathroom for a shower and a shave and a good clean-up for it’s shopping day today. In Caliburn too and for several reasons, not the least reason being the fact that on Saturday we might be having a few blockades on the road so I needed to do a big shop today.

LIDL had nothing special, but the next stop – the Leclerc drive-in – certainly did. I’d had an e-mail on Tuesday to say that my printer had arrived and needed picking up. Today was as good a day as any.

At NOZ I swapped the glasses that were broken, and I bought a few other things. Including a 2-foot high Christmas tree complete with 6 silver balls and a set of fairy lights – all for €3:99. I’m really getting into the Christmas spirit, aren’t I?

Leclerc itself came up with nothing special and I was soon back home again, to find that I’d had a power cut while I was out.

However by now I didn’t even have the strength to put away the shopping. There was some coffee in the pot so I poured one out and came to sit down in here – where I promptly crashed out. And I was gone for an hour or so too and it was very uncomfortable.

This meant that I had a rather late lunch. Inside the apartment of course because it was quite misty outside.

This afternoon I had a very pleasant surprise. The people who had organised our voyage to the Hugh Arctic had sent me a promotional video of our journey. And it brought back many happey memories. There was a beautiful shot of Yours Truly and His Nibs on our way to the Brother John Glacier at Etah in Greenland.

And not only that, one of our party was lucky enough to be filming an iceberg when it suddenly capsized in front of her – and she had a beautiful film of it going over. She sent it to the company and they have sent it to us. It is really phenomenal and when I finally manage to organise myself I shall post a link to it.

This afternoon I started to feel a little better and I made some more progress on my third day in the High Arctic

gathering shellfish in rock pools granville manche normandy franceWe had the usual afternoon interruption for a walk. I have to keep this up as best as I can.

The tide was slowly going out and there were several people down there on the rocks searching in the rock pools for crustaceans and molluscs and so on.

Which, I imagine, they share with their friends because, as I have said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … that one mustn’t be selfish with one’s shellfish.

fishermen pointe du roc granville manche normandy franceThey weren’t the only people out there interested in the local marine life.

Out there just offshore close to the old diving platform were two men in a boat. One man and a dog short of Jerome K Jerome’s famous story of his trip up the River Thames.

I’ve no idea what it is that they catch just down there. One of these days I’ll catch a friendly fisherman and make suitable enguiries.

triumph thruxton motorbike pointe du roc granville manche normandy franceThere was much more excitement on the car park round by the lighthouse on the end of the Pointe du Roc.

Parked up there was a pretty rare Triumph Thruxton.

I remember very well the original Thruxtons from the late 1960s – a series of Triumph Bonneville motorbikes specially modified for competition. However the modern reincarnation of the company launched a limited range of sports motorcycles with the same name in 2004

Back here and back on the High Arctic pages, and t won’t be long now, I reckon, until Day Three is finished. Always assuming that I can find it because the laptop has now crashed and it won’t restart at the moment. I’m having to type this on the laptop that I use as the media centre.

All of this took me up to teatime and I had a nice plate of steamed vegetables and vegan sausages. But once again, the vegan cheese sauce failed to thicken. I notice that I’m using a different brand of soya milk to the one that I usually use, and that might account for it.

moonlight baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy franceI went out for my evening walk as usual after tea.

Despite the fact that the moon is a long way from being full, there was plenty of moonlight about. I hadn’t taken the tripod and the zoom/telephone lens with me so I had to make the most of the equipment that I had

Considering that it’s a hand-held shot, it hasn’t come out at all too badly.

Around the corner, I nearly collided with someone lurking away in the darkness. But he was the only person whom I saw, apart from the people loitering around at the bar and the pizza van.

But now I’m off to bed – something of a late night I’m afraid. I’ve managed to get the laptop to fire up but that’s all that it’s doing. Using a technique that I dredged from the back of my mind with good old T223 at the Open University, I’ve been able to force access to the files and I’m now copying them onto a back-up drive.

I can see me having to do this every couple of hours rather than every night. I don’t want to be losing work like this.

fishermen pointe du roc granville manche normandy france
Fishermen in a boat near the old diving platform at the Pointe du Roc

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.

Friday 14th September 2018 – WELL, WHAT A NIGHT!

*************** 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 was off on my travels yet again, and on a couple of occasions too. Up in the High Arctic with a couple of my fellow-passengers. And I wish that I could recall what was going on in there because it was certainly exciting and also very important. I remember thinking that I need to be able to recall this when I awake

But fat chance of that!

Up on the deck there were a few icebergs floating around. Flat top and sheer sides, just as they had calved off from the glacier. The ones with more extravagant shapes have been at sea for quite a while and have had the time to erode, either by sun, rain or wave action.

And while I was admiring everything, I suddenly realised that I had yet to take my medication. So I went back down to do it.

Back up here, I was just in time to see the light as the sun came up behind the mainland of Greenland. Nothing special unfortunately – we can thank the low cloud for that.

My bad night had caught up with me yet again. We had two lectures this morning – one of the Power of Observation which was really nothing more than an egocentric (of which there are more than enough on this trip) photo exhibition, followed by a talk on tectonic plate theory and the Movement of Continents. And I fell off to sleep on a couple of occasions.

But by now we had entered the Tasiussaq Fjord. This is our destination for today. Our rather timid captain managed to find his way in up to a certain point, despite how narrow it was, and we all enjoyed the manoeuvring.

I went for my lunch and ended up chatting to three people whom I didn’t know. And they didn’t stick around very long either. I have this affect on people, don’t I?

They ran out of zodiacs to take us ashore. There was an extreme hiking party out and also a kayaking group. That latter sounded exciting but it’s been 50 years since I was last in a kayak and that was on a canal. Sea-kayaking at my time of life with my (lack of) recent experience is maybe not the way forward.

We had to wait until the first load came back and meantime, I fell asleep. And I could feel myself rising out of my body and floating upwards, and it’s been years since I’ve last had an out-of-body experience.

However we were soon off and into a really impressive fjord. It’s been a long time since I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful.

On shore, we had a little climb up to the raised beach, and then it was something of a hike across the isthmus to the other side of the headland.

Over there, there was a Thule village of sod houses – some from about 600 or 700 years ago, one reasonably modern-ish Inuit sod-house and a couple of indeterminate age in-between.

The archaeologist with our party delighted us all by recounting a lovely little story about how she went on an exploration of a village of sod huts, going from one to another to examine them, and walked into one to find that it was still occupied! And the occupant offered her a mug of tea.

There were several caches for keeping meat – one cache for each kind of meat apparently including moose, and we also discovered what might have been some kayak stands or may even have been umiak stands.

Inuit and Thule houses, and even Dorset houses depend upon flat land and a sea view. And this sea view here couldn’t be better. There was even a little beach at the foot of it, but not the kind of place where you would be in your bikini or your cozzy.

There was an alternative way back, around on the far side of the lake so Strawberry Moose and I came back that way.

I’d forgotten to say that he was with me, and indeed he had had some really good photo opportunities. At least he had a good time.

And so did I. I bet that it was the first time that Everyone Is Everybody Else has ever been played in Tasiussaq Fjord. And the timing was perfection itself.

We managed the trip back to the ship without encountering a storm today, and I came up to my room to have a shower and a clothes-washing session. And at the de-briefing, I fell asleep yet again.

It’s been a long day.

For the evening meal I was once more at the Naughty Table and we all disgraced ourselves thoroughly, much to the chagrin of a woman who had come along quite by accident. And here I am, not fit to be seen out without a keeper and even I can’t keep up with the rest of them.

We have a very early start tomorrow so the little music concert that we had with Sherman Downey didn’t last too long, and Strawberry Moose was unlucky in that he didn’t get a dance. Mind you, no-one else did. it was one of those evenings.

Back down to the cabin to put His Nibs away, only to find that for some reason or another I’d managed to lose my room key. I was also ambushed by our Entertainments Manager about my ETA for when we cross back over into Canada, whenever that might be. It’s lucky that Rhys printed out a copy for me last year. I was able to brandish that.

A few days ago, Ashley, one of the Inuit girls on board, told us all an Inuit legend about a woman who could change herself into a fox in order to taunt her lover. Of course, Liege And Lief, and in particular, Crazy Man Michael sprung immediately to mind so I invited her to listen to it. And she enjoyed it tremendously.

Now, I have work to do in order to catch up with stuff that’s dragging. And I’m in a rush because it needs to be done fairly quickly for, as I said just now, we have a very early start tomorrow.

I’ll have to get a wiggle on.

And in other news, I’ve now gone well over the 1,000 photos for this voyage. I did that the other day and forgot to mention it.

Thursday 13th September 2018 – WITH THE TIME-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.
***************

… today it’s thrown out my sleep rhythm yet again and now I’m not doing even as well asI have been doing just recenly.

No chance of getting out of bed on time today. I had to wait until all three alarms went off before I stirred my stumps.

And I’m glad that I did because the view was splendid. The rising sun, a clear blue sky, and icebergs. Thousands of them. Small sharp growlers and massive mega-monoliths, and all sizes in between.

So enchanting was it that not only did I forget my morning coffee and leave it to go cold, but I forgot my medication too.

At breakfast, I had dozens of people coming up to me to congratulate Strawberry Moose on his outfit and his dancing last night at the Viking Disco.

I tell you – he’s far more popular than I ever have been. My morale has been totally undermined, being upstaged by a moose!

After breakfast (which I took with Heather) I went back to my room and crashed out for an hour or so. During that time I was interrogated by Laszlo (the maitre d’hotel on board ship) as to why I hadn’t done my homework. And so I dashed off some work in rather a hurry and sure enough, I saw him a little later while I was in the company of another girl (and who it was now I really can’t remember) and just as he was about to talk to me about my homework – or rather, the lack thereof – I handed him my papers. It wasn’t without an air of disappointment because I’m sure that I could do better than what I did but I was far too concerned with my new companion than with anything else.

Once I was back in the Land Of The Living we spent the morning photographing icebergs, of which there were more than enough, in Melville Bay, said by some to be the most treacherous waters in the Arctic but we had a good passage. And each time that I said to myself that I had more than enough photographs of icebergs, something even bigger and better would go sailing past.

It was probably the most astonishing spectacle that I have seen – some kind of nautical danse macabre of solid masses of fresh water that fell to earth as rain probably 20,000 years ago and which we as humans are cascading into the sea in the matter of a generation.

Lunch was again taken at The Naughty Table (I really don’t know why I’m so popular with some people – I’m not the kind of company that I would choose were I ever to have the choice) and then this afternoon we had another series of lectures.

The photography was once more something that attracted my attention and I sat right the way through it. I’m not sure why though because there wasn’t an awful lot that I didn’t know. But I ought to be doing something, I suppose.

But I was annoyed completely by one of my fellow group members. Someone went to sit on an empty seat in front of someone else and asked if they might be in the way of this woman, as a gesture of politeness and nothing more. Her response was “you’re right in my way” in such an aggressive tone that it startled some of us.

I’m not sure why she didn’t just sit in the seat in front if she was so concerned about having The Perfect View. “Hmmmm. American …” I mused to myself.

A little later I sat in the corner doing some of my own stuff, looking at someone who was quite obviously totally iceberged-out and I was listening to a couple of staff rehearsing for a concert in a few days time. But I had been slowly noticing my change in mood as I drift into a deep depression and this is usually the signal for a bout of ill-health to come on.

I can read the signs now, I reckon, so I headed off to my room while I was still able to do so and crashed out on the bed. An hour or so later I awoke with a panic attack (which I haven’t had for quite a considerable while) which led immediately to an attack of cramp.

Somehow I had it in my head that I had missed my evening meal so I dashed upstairs to find that my body clock had pushed the time on a couple of hours. Still 90 minutes to the evening meal. I’d had a good sleep but the deep depression was still there and I couldn’t shake it off or snap out of it.

I suppose that it was inevitable that I would sink into the pit at some time during this voyage. I’ve been hovering on the brink for the last 10 days after all.

Back at The Naughty Table for tea. I had a vegetable samosa which was delicious and when I return I’m going to make a few if I can. They were that nice and it’s high time that I set to with a will and expanded my culinary repertoire.

I’ve finally found a lounge where there is a good selection of power points. It’s rather public so it isn’t much good for during the day unfortunately but in the evening it seems to be fine and the view is impressive. Once more, I’ve put Colosseum Live on the playlist while I get on with some work.

Not that I was there for too long though. We had a change of time zone last night and moved the clocks back one hour. This evening, we have to do the same again. So once the fatigue started to creep in I decided to call it a day.

No point in waiting to see if there would be any northern lights tonight either. The sky had clouded right over and it was really difficult to see anything at all. Certainly no Arctic twilight either. I did make it onto the bridge though and we are steering course 133° – that’s almost directly south-east.

The kids were still up though. They had been for their hot tub splash and were having fun in the rear lounge. Good luck to them, say I. I stayed for a few minutes and chatted about nothing in particular – I’m usually far too unsociable, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

And so to bed. Not much sleep tonight so I’ve just pulled the alarms back half an hour. I’ll do the other half-an-hour tomorrow night and see how that fits in with everything.

Wednesday 12th September 2018 – WHAT A …

*************** 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.
***************

… horrible night!

About 00:45 when I finally settled down to sleep. And something awoke me at 03:30 – no idea what it was – and that was how I stayed, drifting in and out until the alarm went off at 06:00.

A beautiful morning with some lovely streaks of light. Several icebergs and a couple of islands away astern too. Have we reached Greenland already?

As a true measure of my popularity I took breakfast alone this morning. It seems that I’m the rattlesnake in the Lucky Dip again. I wonder who I’ve upset today. And more importantly, how?

At least I managed to have a chat with Jerry Kobalenko about Labrador. Apparently I can find out much more information by looking in his book, “obtainable in the gift shop”. I suppose that my explorations are pretty much small beer compared to the routes that he has travelled.

My morning caught up with me though, and pretty quickly too. By about 08:45 I was flat out on the bed and there I stayed until about 09:45. Dead to the world. The only trouble with this though is that I feel worse now then I did before I crashed out.

At least there was a nice view of Greenland through the fog and that might cheer me up a little. An iceberg went sailing past at one point, hard up against the Greenland coast and so I went out to take a photo or two.

There was a lecture on “the Vikings” – not “the Norse” – and Latonia started completely on the wrong foot, telling everyone that Lindisfarne was on the north-west coast of England.

Another discussion that we had was on the failed Adolphus Greely expedition of the 1880s. And what annoyed me about this was that we were just 30 miles or so from where they came to grief and there was no proposal whatever to take us there.

With all of the disturbances and failures that we have had with our voyage, I would have thought that they would have done what they could in order to make our journey more exciting and instead of this messing about in Lancaster Sound, we could have come up here instead.

I’m dismayed about all of this.

At lunch I sat with Natalie and Deanna and we chatted about last night’s entertainment. And good that it was too – the chat as well as the entertainment. I threw in a few tales from Carry On Matron too while I was at it.

By now we had arrived off the coast of Etah in Greenland. This is the last place on our list – the farthest north at 78°18′, 1300kms (750 miles) from the North Pole and I was half-expecting to be turned away from there too.

But we clambered aboard the zodiacs and off we went up the fjord. It’s long, narrow and also shallow so the ship couldn’t go too far up there. Instead we were treated to a 45-minute zodiac trip. And it’s just as well that we did because we went past three herds of musk-oxen.

We stopped to take photos of them. The best estimate is that there were about 20 of them in total.

Etah was the farthest-north permanent settlement in this part of the Arctic. The first Europeans to visit here were John Ross and William Parry in 1818 and in whose shoes we have been travelling.

Ross called them his “Arctic Highlanders” and attempted to signify his peaceful intentions towards them by holding aloft a drawing of an olive branch. Which considering that there were no trees in this part of Greenland, never mind an olive tree, was a rather strange thing to do.

After several minutes of bewilderment on both sides, the holding aloft of a basket of presents did the trick.

Etah really was right on the limit of what was possible in the way of permanent settlement and even in the late 19th Century the inhabitants were just clinging on in there, declining rapidly in numbers. Two separate expeditions of Isaac Hayes, in 1854 and 1861, noted the rapid decline in numbers of people living there, comparing the latter with the former.

There are the remains and mounds of a considerable number of huts here, and one that I inspected still had the furniture and the cast-iron stove in there. These were apparently from a failed attempt to resettle the area in comparatively modern times.

I found a considerable number of pottery shards scattered about and in the absence of a measure, I recorded the length using the camera zoom lens.

Another thing that we saw were bones. from the odd bone even down to several skeletons – mainly of musk-oxen but of other stuff too. More caribou horns than you could shake a stick at.

Once the beach area had been cleared, we could walk down to the glacier.

It’s called the Brother John Glacier, named by the celebrated and famous (or infamous) American explorer Elisha Kent Kane – he of the Margaret Fox and spirit-rapping fame – in honour of his brother

It looks quite close but it was actually not far short of three kilometres. And on the way down there on the path flanked by the polar bear guards we encountered an Arctic Hare watching us from the rocks.

Strawberry Moose had a really good time there. I took a few photos of him, and several other people insisted on photographing him. It does his ego a great deal of good to be the star in other people’s photographs.

Including aerial photography. There was someone filming the glacier with a drone and His Nibs features on some of the film.

I did some serious photography myself. There’s a couple on board who are making some kind of profile of themselves for some kind of modelling assignment, and I used their cameras to take a few pics of them

On the way back I went the long way around. A lap of the lake and it wasn’t as easy as it seems. Not only was it all “up and down” there were several piles of loose scree everywhere and I had to negotiate them clutching a moose. It wasn’t easy.

Another thing that I had to negotiate was a woman lying prone on the path. Apparently she was smelling the Arctic plants, so I was told.

And then we had the stepping stones over the river. That was exciting clutching His Nibs.

All in all, the walk back around the lake from the glacier was interesting and exhilarating. And probably the first time ever that Golden Earring has been played at Etah.

One thing that I did do – you might think is bizarre – is to take off my boots and socks and go for a paddle in the Arctic Ocean. Well, although I intended to, I went in quicker and deeper than I intended due to a wet slippery rock upon which I was standing.

Absolutely taters it was – far colder than in that river in Labrador this year. I must be out of my mind.

Hot tea was served and I was so busy talking that I almost missed my zodiac back to the ship. And they waited so long for me that it had grounded and it took a while and several people to refloat it.

But that wasn’t as bad as one of the other drivers. He had struck a submerged rock in his zodiac and broken his propellor.

There was a storm brewing in the distance and it was touch and go as to whether we would make it to the ship before we were caught in it. Of course, we were soundly beaten and arrived back at the ship freezing, soaking wet and covered in snow.

In my room I had a shower and a clothes-wash, and then after the resumé meeting I went for tea. With my American friends again. She’s a former gymnast and did in fact judge the gymnastics at the Olympic Games;

Tonight there was a Disco – a Viking-themed one and although I didn’t do all that much, I had spent some time getting His Nibs prepared for the show and he won a prize, which cheered me up greatly.

I had several chats, several dances and the like but, as expected, His Nibs had more success with the ladies than I ever do.

They are still dancing and Disco-ing in there. I’m writing up my notes and ready to go to bed. I’ll go for my midnight walk to check the compass and the twilight, even though we are now ahead one hour seeing as we are officially in Greenland.

There’s a pile of the younger ones in the hot tub where, apparently, they have been for some considerable time, enjoying the water and also the Arctic twilight which is magnificent tonight

Tonight’s binnacle heading is 144°, which is slightly south of south-east. So that’s it then.

We didn’t make 80°N or any of the farthest-north outposts of Arctic exploration, or even Annoatok (the farthest-northerly seasonal settlement which is only 20 miles further north than here and where Frederick Cook set out on his alleged attempt at the North Pole), but having hit John Ross’s farthest north we are on our way home. And I’m so disappointed that we have accomplished so little of what I wanted to do.

I set my foot on Ellesmere island and also at Etah, but the rest has been a big anti-climax.

You can’t win a coconut every time but just once every now and again would do fine for me.

I’m off to bed.

Monday 10th September 2018 – ELLESMERE ISLAND …

*************** 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.
***************

… at last. 76°07”N already and pushing on towards the 80°N mark. And who knows? With the progress that we’ve made overnight we might even make it too.

I took several photos of the midnight twilight too, but how do you take photos from a rolling ship into a fog with a zoom lens in the half-light? There’s no chance whatever of taking a really sharp photo that does justice to the view.

Just for a change, last night we had another Sleep Of The Dead. I wasn’t sure about this though for just after I had settled down my neighbour returned to his room, from somewhere I have absolutely no idea where, and decided to switch on the TV. That made more noise than I was wanting so it’s a mystery to me how I managed to drop off to sleep.

And also a mystery to me how I managed to stay out so long. A deep sleep too and my sleep patterns might be slowly starting to return because I was off on a nocturnal ramble last night.

And in something that will come as a surprise to regular readers of this rubbish, the first since I’ve been on board ship. However, I’ll spare you the gory details. After all, you’re all probably eating your breakfast right now.

While we are on the subject of breakfast … "well, one of us is" – ed … I had my breakfast in the company of an elderly woman. Now I know that I can talk … "surely not! Perish the thought!" – ed … but I’m afraid that I wasn’t any kind of match at all. It’s not very often that I have to admit defeat, but here I am today …

One thing though. Judging by the description of the arrangements that she has made in her room in order to accommodate her affairs, I can see that she is a kindred spirit.

And after the warning that we were given last night about the weather, I was half-expecting to find the dining room crockery scattered all over the floor and smashed into smithereens, but nothing of the sort. Something of a false alarm that was, I reckon.

Can’t have been more than a Storm Force 8

Somewhere over there in that vicinity is the settlement of Grise Fiord, Canada’s farthest-north civilian settlement. It’s an artificially-created settlement and it’s really a political thing. There’s this idea about the Arctic islands of “use it or lose it” and with the oil and mineral discoveries in the Arctic, possession of territory is of vital importance in order to give a country a right of claim.

And so the settlement here on Ellesmere Island, to confirm a claim to the territory.

We had a discussion about marine mammals in the Arctic, and I learn quite a lot, despite not really having a great deal of interest in animal life.

Chatting to the crew a little later, the question of the good sleep soon resolved itself. Apparently I’m lodged right over where the anchor is and when we are stationary during the night, they haul it up as first light, which is about 05:15 or so.

Last night though, we kept moving so there was no anchor-hauling at all – hence the silence.

We had a kind of multi-workshop thing going on this morning. about 7 or 8 different ones, and I wanted to go to about half-a-dozen. In the end, I settled for the one on the Inuit language and the one on photography.

And while the language one was interesting and I can now write my own name and those of my friends (both of them!) in Inuit, the photography one was in a sense a little disappointing because while the leader was teaching us how to organise and archive our images, I find that he uses the same technique as I do – albeit on a much higher level due to the nature and amount of his work.

Lunch was a mystery to me. I sat with Lois the Inuit guide and a guy who had been with me at the photography lecture. He gave me the names of a few freeware programs that are available that might help with my image-editing plans, and I’ll look those up when I return home, if I ever do.

But it wasn’t without its excitement because, having finished the lectures early, I went down to my room for a quick 5 minutes rest and awoke 20 minutes later. right out, I was. Definitely feeling the pain, I am.

This afternoon we had a quick briefing and then we were off.

We’re at South Cape Fiord and peninsula which is on Ellesmere Island. Although this is one of the most southerly points of the island, the farthest north point of this island itself is one of the farthest north masses of land in the world. So we are now really and properly in the High Arctic – nothing north of this island except the North Pole.

The ride out to the shore was much calmer than yesterday’s ride, and it was walmer too, so I brought His Nibs for a day out.

And he proved far more popular than I ever am – loads of people stopped to talk to him and have their photos taken with him, and I suppose that he enjoyed every moment of it.

The beach here is very interesting. With the land being heavily depressed by glaciers in the past and slowly liberating itself from the heavy weight, it’s rebounding. Our resident geologist reckons that he has counted as many as 10 raised beaches which were formerly washed by the tide at one point; And with global warming melting the glaciers even more, who knows how many are now submerged yet again?

There were still plenty of glaciers to see, and plenty of icebergs drifting into and out of the fjord. And while it didn’t quite have the same effect as yesterday’s leisurely stroll in the blizzard, I reckoned that it was one of the most beautiful places on earth.

One of the most wild too if you ask me.

We had our polar bear guards here again and I found myself in trouble … "yet again" – ed … for straying out beyond the bear cordon. If you disappear beyond the cordon, the guards can’t see you or what might be creeping up on you. There have been enough encounters, some of them rather terminal and not for the animal either, with people wandering carelessly out of sight of others in the High Arctic.

But I stood on a ridge overlooking the sea for quite a while admiring the icebergs, of which there were plenty, and taking photos of our ship silhouetted against the tidal glacier across the fiord. It was all rather spell-binding and somewhat emotional.

Not as emotional as it might have been for the passengers on one of the zodiacs. A fuel line burst and they were stranded in mid-fjord. A rescue party had to go out to recover them and tow them in.

Three hours was the time that had been allotted for our visit ashore. And in that time I had done about 108% of my daily activity scrambling over the rocks, and I was well-nigh exhausted after my exertions. I was warm too. All of my jackets were unzipped and I had rolled my hat back. I’d have divested myself of a few layers had it been practical.

There were some strange animal tracks that i encountered. Rather like a trident with a very long shaft. No-one could decide if they were lemming or bird. Bird was the general opinion but there were a lot of them and they walked for miles so I’lm not sure.

One of my fellow passengers is a Japanese guy. He doesn’t speak much English but he’s certainly adventurous. He started out on our series of walks by staying on the beach but as time has progressed he’s walking further and further along in order to enjoy the whole experience. I bumped into him up on the high ridge.

You won’t believe this either but as I neared the coast, with a beautiful view of the fjord and the icebergs, I disappeared into a fold in the ground. And when I emerged, one of the guards on the hill shouted to me “did you see it? Did you see it?”

Apparently in just that simple moment when I was out of the view of the sea one of the big icebergs had capsized. And I had missed it!

More tea was being served up on shore so I took advantage of it. And once again, it went cold in an instant.

Aaron the historian was in charge of our zodiac taking us back to the ship and he proposed a sightseeing visit to the capsized iceberg. Everyone voted in favour so off we shot.

Magnificent it was too, especially the bright blue bits which had until 20 minutes ago been under water. It’s hard to believe that all of this is rainwater or snow that fell to earth thousands of years ago long before there was any pollution.

And I can add that today is probably the first time ever that Fairport Convention and Liege And Lief has been played on Ellesmere Island.

I had a shower, a coffee and little relax for a few minutes and then came out to do some work. But ended up assisting in a promotional “arctic dip” sales pitch run by Michael and Breanna. That was quite fun, I’ll tell you.

For tea I was invited to sit with my American friends and a couple of others, and I ended up being involved in a silly argument. I’d noticed the other day that they had said on board ship that they need to bring the Inuit in more to benefit from the economic advantages of tourism, and yet the ship was crewed by Filipinos and Indonesians.

I commented on this fact this evening, and then was treated to a very long diatribe as to why this should not be allowed. Lots of colonial paternailsim in their argument (such as “it’s wrong to take them out of their environment” – which means that it’s right to leave them in despair and on welfare) but that wasn’t the point.

As they say, irony is not the strong suit of most North Americans, and this clearly was the case here,

There was a film later on – “Martha From The Cold” by Martha Flaherty, grand-daughter of Robert Flaherty, he of the Nanook of the North fame.

It concerns the resettlement of the Inuit from Northern Quebec to Grise Fiord and the injustices that surrounded it. Of course, it’s almost word-for-word the same story as that of the Inuit, Innu and Métis in Labrador, but I was interested just the same;

We had a round-table discussion afterwards and of course I interjected the story of Williams Harbour and Black Tickle to show that the policy is still going on, and much more insidiously too.

In the end there were just four of us left. John Houston the animator, Yours Truly, some Korean guy and a girl. The Korean had a large whisky in front of him and the further down the glass he went, the more animated he became;

In the end, there were just the girl and me remaining.
“He was sailing close to the wind” said the girl.
“Sailing?” I retorted. “He’s positively steaming!”

At midnight I went off for my evening walk. Outside we have another Midnight Arctic Twilight and 105° on the binnacle. However we are stationary so I might have some sleep tonight.

We can always live in hope, I suppose.

And I’ll sort out the photos tomorrow. I’m off to bed.

Sunday 9th September 2018 – LAST NIGHT …

*************** 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.
***************

… round about 00:35 I was just gathering up my things ready to go to bed when I caught out of the corner of my eye a strange reflection on one of the windows.

Turning dramatically round, I could see lights really close by on the starboard beam (said he, coming over all nautical-like)

Grabbing the camera I dashed outside and sure enough another ship, very likely a cruise ship, was sailing past not 500 metres from us in the opposite direction.

Forgetting that the camera was on a low-light setting, I blazed way and ended up with a horribly over-exposed shot of it as it sailed past. But by the time I had corrected my settings, it was already some way astern so that came out rather under-exposed. It’s clearly not my night for anything, is it?

But very strangely, I was asleep quite quickly once I finally managed to heave myself into my stinking pit, and that was exactly how I remained until the early-morning cacophony.

We had the usual morning ritual, and then up on deck where I hoped that a hot coffee would bring me round sufficiently to do more than grunt at people.

A thin sliver of land on the horizon away over to our left tells me that we aren’t quite in a sea as open as I would like to be, but nevertheless we are still going north. 74° 58’N on the AIS plot – rapidly approaching the magical 80°N, which is farther north than almost every explorer had reached 200 years ago before Ross and Parry, but it’s almost certain that whalers such as William Scoresby and countless others had pushed on well beyond this.

Their reports of “seas open one year, closed the next” which were dismissed by the Admiralty as total fiction but which proved to be absolutely correct cannot have been mere guesswork.

We had breakfast and this was followed by a series of presentations. And can you imagine how disappointed I was when I discovered that the “10:00 – Dog-Sledding in the Nautilus Lounge” was just a discussion.

But I really wasn’t paying too much attention. We’d run into an ice belt at one time during the morning and there were loads of stuff drifting by.

At one moment there was a beautiful iceberg off the starboard bow so I took up a really good position to take a photo of it. And then the captain altered course and it slid off in the distance to port.

But that wasn’t the best of it either.

There was a discussion on the health and welfare of the Inuit population. The speaker was talking about mental health and how something was “the tip of the iceberg”. And just as she said that, right on cue, a really large iceberg went sailing past. You couldn’t have had the timing any better than that.

I dashed out and took a photo of it, and then dashed back in again.

And this talk was quite interesting too for another reason.

They were talking about Inuit people being encouraged to keep their ethnic identity when they move out of the community and “go south”. That’s the kind of thing that contrasts sharply with the situation where people coming into Canada are expected to integrate into their new environment and leave their ethnic identity behind.

And if that isn’t enough to be going on with, they were discussing the new opportunities that tourism was bringing into the region and how this might help go some way towards resolving the chronic unemployment and poverty issues amongst the Inuit people. And here we are on a cruise ship visiting the High Arctic and being manned … "personned" – ed … by a mainly Filipino and Indonesian crew.

What might help the Inuit community would be if the Canadian Government, these cruise companies and tourists on board stopped treating the local people as nothing but tourist attractions but as people and actually engaged them in the economic regeneration of the region.

Lunch was the usual salad for me and I sat with Dylan, the pianist from last night. I complimented him on the event and we ended up having a good chat about music. He also plays the bass too but hadn’t brought his axe with him.

This afternoon we went off on another excursion. There’s an island in the Davis Strait off the coast of Devon Island called Philpot’s Island and our ship had never visited there.

It’s known to be a haunt of polar bear and, more importantly, musk-oxen, so we decided that we would all go ashore for an exploration. We tried to get into one bay but the wind conspired against us and heaped up the ice across the entrance so we had to find another bay.

The bay that we chose was apparently un-named on any of the charts that we could find, and so Tennyson’s “There is nothing worth living for but to have one’s name inscribed on the Arctic chart ” came straight into my head. Who do I see?

Cold comes in three categories – cold, freezing and Jesus! And this was Jesus! cold. We were wrapped up in all that we could fit on underneath our windproof and rainproof clothes and scrambled for the Zodiacs.

The sea was rough and churning too with a 15-20 knot wind, so we were told. And there was fog and a snowstorm too. But then again, if you can’t cope with any of that, you shouldn’t really be in the High Arctic.

By the time we reached the shore we were totally wet and bedraggled, and that was just the start of things.

We were divided into four groups, Expert, Advanced, Intermediate and Leisurely, with a few people who just stayed for a walk on the beach. The days when I could go off on an Expert hike and then go back and do it again are, unfortunately, long-gone, as regular readers of this rubbish might recall.

Instead I chose the Intermediate walk.

Off into the wilderness we went, in several long crocodiles as each group went its separate way, accompanied by our armed polar bear guards. Our way took us in a crescent-shaped circuit around the south-western quarter of the island.

And while we’re on the subject of crocodiles, I remembered the leader of our expedition telling us at one stage that he wasn’t going to tell us what animals he might see because that would be the Kiss of Death and we would never ever see them. And so the idea that was running around my head was that he should say that we would see crocodiles, lions, camels and the Loch Ness Monster.

And as for the polar bear guards, their guns are loaded with rubber bullets. But they do have live ammunition in their pockets in case the rubber bullets don’t stop the animals.

We picked our way through the snow, through the snowdrifts and the howling wind that blasted along our trail, stopping frequently to pause for breath along the way. I was going to say “and to see the sights” but you couldn’t really see a thing in this weather.

At one point we stopped and did some deep breathing exercises; And then our leader proposed that we lie down in the snow to meditate. Most people immediately refused, but I decided to give it a go. And so I lay there in a snowdrift and let all of the thoughts drift out of my mind – not that there are so many thoughts in there these days that it takes too long.

It was harder than I imagined but after a couple of minutes I could feel myself sliding off somewhere. There was an eerie wind and the patter of snow on my jacket but apart from that I don’t think that I’ve ever felt so peaceful. In fact I was so disappointed when he called us to order again.

We carried on, coming across some lemming tracks on our way but even though the tracks were fairly recent there was no sign of the critters who had made them.

At a certain point the sun looked as if it might start to come out and I took a photo of it. But all that I picked up was a pale yellow disk and a flurry of snow on the lens.

Eventually we arrived at our destination and the more athletic amongst us scrambled up the rocks to the top of the headland that overlooks the sea. And the ship was out there somewhere – we could vaguely make it out in the distance through the fog and driving snow.

Up there in the wind we scanned the horizon for any sign of wildlife but that was something of a failure. There was nothing to be seen. We loitered around for half an hour or so to see what was going on, but in the end we gave it up as a bad job and started back.

Pretty much the same routine on the way back, stopping regularly for breath. And our “long pause” was animated by Lois, an Inuit woman who was accompanying us who told us tales of life on the trail and how easy it is to become disorientated and lose one’s way in weather like this.

Back at the beach, we learned that at least one group had encountered musk-oxen. A shame that it wasn’t ours. We’d seen some musk-ox droppings, and fresh ones too, but no actual beast. Still, you can’t win a coconut every time, as I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed.

There was a long queue to go back on the zodiacs, so I went off and had another meditation session, lying almost buried in a snowdrift. And this time, as well as the feelings that I had had before, I managed to go off. I could see blue sky and smell something completely different, something that I couldn’t name. It was the most extraordinary feeling that I have had for many years, just lying there flat out on my back in a snowdrift in the middle of an Arctic snowstorm.

Hot tea was available before we boarded a zodiac. And you’ve no idea how quickly hot tea goes stone-cold in this kind of environment. These explorers who go off into temperatures of -40°C and try to make tea and other hot food must really be on a hiding to nothing. I don’t envy them for a moment.

I was last on the zodiac and so was put at the front on the side into the wind. And we hadn’t gone far before we were treated to an astonishing spectacle. An ice-floe calved off with a most enormous splash right in front of us.

We did a U-turn to go to look at it but we were far too late to take a photo of anything spectacular. But just then, I heard another “crack” from another ice-floe nearby. I swivelled round and clicked the shutter just as another calving took place and a huge lump of ice cascaded into the sea.

By now the storm had increased and we were in for a really rough ride. There was quite a swell running with waves of a considerable height. And being on the side into the wind, I got the lot. I don’t think that I have ever been so wet in all my life by the time that I was back on board the ship.

I shudder to think what it might have been like had I not been dressed in rain and wind gear, and I was thinking … "which doesn’t happen all that often" – ed … that it was a good job that I hadn’t taken Strawberry Moose for a stroll ashore.

Mind you, several passengers had enquired about his whereabouts. He’s more popular than I am, which is not really a surprise given recent events. In certain quarters I’m about as popular as a rattlesnake in the Lucky Dip right now and I have only myself to blame.

Strangely enough, as I was writing this, I was listening to some Wishbone Ash and we had the “One Hundred Years In The Sunshine Hasn’t Taught Me All I Need To Know”. I’ll “try again to fight another day”, so God help you all.

Back in my cabin I had a surprise. Strawberry Moose has found a friend – an Arctic Hare. One of the cabin staff clearly has the right kind of sense of humour and I appreciate that very much.

So a really nice hot shower and washed some clothes, and then came back upstairs to the lounge.

Now, I’m fed up of saying that it’s a small world and getting smaller all the time. There’s a couple on this boat – and elderly woman and her son – who speak French and I’ve been having the odd chat with the woman.

Today, it ended up as being quite a lengthy chat and much to my surprise, I discovered that she is actually French and comes from near Gueret – which is only an hour or so from where my farm is in the Auvergne.

And if that’s not enough, her son lives in St-Lô, which is just about 45 minutes from Granville.

With this astonishing news, we had an extremely lengthy and involved chat, which came to a sudden halt as two rather large icebergs came drifting past. I dashed out into the fog and mist with the camera.

Back inside, I tried to start work but my heart wasn’t in it and I was constantly drifting off to sleep. In the end I gave it up as a bad job and went and crashed out in my room for half an hour. I can’t get away from this, can I?

We had a briefing about tomorrow’s events, and I just about caught the tail-end of it too. It looks as if we are in for a storm at some time through the night and tomorrow but it’s not the kind of thing that we can do rush to shelter and heave to, because we have icebergs to contend with. We’ll have to ride it out in the open sea and keep going, which is bound to upset some passengers, and upset them in more ways than one.

For tea, I was one of the first in so I sat at an empty table. I was quickly joined by two of the elderly men with whom I sat the other evening. It looks as if we have become a regular feature, something like the Naughty Corner at Lierse SK where I always seemed to end up.

This evening there’s a film but with having crashed out this afternoon I have too much work to do so I need to push on and do it. I’m in one of the comfortable chairs in the posh lounge as the film is taking place in the room where I sit.

When I’ve finished, I’ll go for my half-naked evening walk and see how the storm is developing. I hope that it’s an interesting one.

And it certainly was. It was snowing fairly heavily and the sea was rather wild. But I’ve known it colder than it was too. Upon the bridge I stayed and watched the storms, and then checked the binnacle. 357° – or in other words, ever so slightly west of North.

I walked round to the back of the ship, and found a little group of people huddled there. That’s the smoking quarter and there was Sherman Downey !:the musician, Michael the young go’fer and a couple of girls. I joined them and we had a good chat for half an hour or so, and then everyone slowly drifted away.

I drifted away too eventually. It’s way past my bedtime.

On a totally different note, I’ve just heard that Burt Reynolds has died.

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 19th June 2016 – NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT!

I had to leave the comfort of my stinking pit once during the night, but I was soon back in it and fast asleep. And the next thing that I remember were the bells of the local church summoning the faithful. I tried to count the peals of the bells but was easily defeated by the crazy campanologist so I had to look at my phone to find out the time.

Ohh yes, 09:47. That’s what I call a lie-in. When was the last time that I had a decent sleep like that?

I’d been on my travels too, driving a sports car in some kind of rally. as far as field positions had gone, we had finished down the field but bearing in mind the individual start times, we were well out in front in the classifications and I was expecting, with all kinds of confidence, to leave the field behind me the next day. But on setting off, the tractor-digger that I was towing behind me suffered a collapsed digger arm and that seriously delayed me as it wouldn’t raise back up. Of course, the idea of switching on the engine to start up the hydraulic pump never ever occurred to me.

After breakfast, I went for a pleasant stroll down to the boulangerie down the street – the one that I looked in the other day – for my baguette. I’ve run out of hummus so it’s vegan cheese, tomato and olives today for lunch. For a change, it was quite nice weather outside but it soon clouded over. The weather is really miserable right now and no-one would ever believe that it’s flaming June.

vegan deli vegan cheese carrefour belgiumAnd while we’re on the subject of vegan cheese, I forgot to post a photo of my exciting discovery from several days ago. So now’s the chance to catch up with the outstanding issue.

As you can see, it’s the same brand of vegan cheese that I discovered a month or so ago, but this time it’s a Cheddar cheese substitute. THis is quite an exciting discovery and will definitely make my cheese butties taste much better.

This afternoon, I’ve been on at the Titanic public enquiry again – the American version. Today, I’ve been reading a great deal of nonsense from some of the passengers – the most important part of the disaster according to one woman was a sailor sitting next to her in a lifeboat lighting up his pipe, and another passenger regretting that sailors were put in the lifeboats to row and that their places should have been given to some of the “gallant and heroic First-Class male passengers who gave their lives so that those wretches could escape”.

But I have said before that I have no time for Senator Alden Smith who chaired the enquiry, but this nonsense about “what is an iceberg made of” has finally been put to bed.

You remember that we said the other day that the American Press of the day ridiculed him for asking the question – on the basis that “everyone knows that icebergs are made of ice, which is water”. But we had an Arctic expert giving evidence today who stated that icebergs are full of rocks, and it’s those rocks that could easily split the iron sides of a ship and cause the damage that led to the sinking of the ship. So Senator Alden Smith had the last laugh after all, although you would never expect the American Press to apologise.

hercules motorcycle leuven belgiumIt was such a nice evening that I went for a walk into town. And I’m glad that I did because I encountered a motorbike that I didn’t recognise, so I went for a closer look.

This is a Hercules, a German make of motorcycle – a company that was famous for producing a Wankel rotary engined bike and which ceased production in 1996. There was nothing to indicate anything more about this bike, but it’s a single-cylinder four-stroke of about 125cc, something like that.

We don’t have a classification for old motorcycles so I’ll file it under “old cars”.

leuven town hall belgiumThe Town Hall in the city centre looked absolutely splendid in the late evening sun and was well-worth a photograph. It does make you wonder just how splendid the city must have been before the Germans burnt it to the ground in 1914 and blew it to bits in 1940.

Now that I have my vegan cheese I could go for a pizza, after all, it is Sunday. And I had a beautiful vegetarian pizza that went down well. And a lovely walk back home where I polished off the rest of the cake with some soya custard-substitute.

Now, I’m going to have an early night. I have a busy day tomorrow at the hospital.

Friday 17th June 2016 – THAT WAS A WEIRD TEA TONIGHT.

Yes, I should have had rice, bulghour, lentils and vegetables for tea tonight. But I mistakenly took a tin of vegetables for couscous with me, and ended up with chick peas and tomato sauce mixed in with it. The taste was unexpected, but not disagreeable.

You can tell that I’ve been to the shops today. I’m starting to run out of certain foods and so it was to the Delhaize supermarket in the town centre. Apart from the baguette, I bought some tomatoes, bananas and peaches, and then some rice, bulghour and vegetable stock cubes. All of the proteins in that lot should keep me going for quite a while. I need to concentrate on those as you know.

Apart from that, I’ve not done too much today. I was up early yet again, had breakfast and then spent most of the day on the laptop. I’ve been continuing the reading of the American enquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, which is extremely intriguing.

And I’ve managed to dispel one rather mischievous story about the enquiry, which has pleased me greatly. I have no time whatever for Senator Alden Smith, the chairman of the enquiry, but he was ridiculed in all of the Press for asking an officer of the Titanic “what is an iceberg made of?”. Especially when the answer of “ice, I suppose” was given.

But this is VERY VERY selective news reporting – for in fact at least two other witnesses gave evidence that an iceberg is made of ice plus stones plus soil plus all kinds of other things – with the idea that it was the stones caught up in the iceberg that damaged the hull of the ship, and one person even suggested that the shallowness of the Grand Banks was caused by centuries, or millennia of rocks and soil in the icebergs falling out of suspension and sinking to the bottom of the sea when the icebergs begin to melt. Alden Smith was simply trying to clarify the position when he asked the question and in my opinion, he has been unfairly pilloried.

I had a long chat with Liz on the internet too. She’s enjoying herself in Normandy in her little turret and having a good time by the seaside. Long may it continue.

So now I’m off to bed – not quite as early as I wanted, but never mind. I fell asleep listening to the radio last night and I’ll probably do the same again.

See you in the morning.