Tag Archives: lancaster sound

Friday 22nd April 2022 – I’VE HAD ANOTHER …

… miserable, depressing day today when nothing seemed to go according to plan and I’ve no idea why not either.

Nothing to do with the fact that I was rather later than intended going to bed last night. I ought to ba able to cope with 7.5 hours of sleep. And even so, I managed to haul myself out of bed before the second alarm went off, so that’s progress of some sort, I suppose.

Not that you might think so because it still took me a good while to bring myself into the land of the living and start work today.

First job was to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. And I had actually been with TOTGA for part of it, somewhere in the UK. I was as usual trying to get my hands on her … “no surprise there” – ed. We were having a discussion about a few different things and the topic of acting came up. She said that I’d appeared in a play somewhere but I couldn’t remember where it was. She mentioned something about somewhere in the East Midlands. I remembered then that there had been a play but I had a walk-on minor role in it. I was sure that that wasn’t what she had in mind but it was the only thing that I could recall at the time when I’d actually been in a play.

Later on I was going to be doing some building work or woodwork and I needed some tools. I made out a list of what I wanted and asked Terry about it. Of course he’s not here so the list was passed on to someone else but I didn’t hear anything. Nothing ever changed. Someone else turned up who also knew Terry. We were chatting about the job. I was talking about the mix-up and it turned out that this wasn’t the chap to whom Terry had given the information. Of course we had to start all over again as he was there on the spot but I couldn’t remember what it was that I had ordered. I didn’t have a copy of the list. I was really stranded about ordering the stuff that I needed for this job and not knowing what I wanted.

Somewhere in the middle of this was a girl who was a football referee. We’d all had new facilities on board this ship. There were several ships that were fishing boats but they were quite small. However they all had had new facilities and with this woman being our skipper as well we asked her whether she had private facilities or whether she had to kick the crew out of this one and use the communal ones. She said that because she was an official referee she had her own private facilities. That made us wonder about what happened about the other women skippers in this fleet who weren’t football referees. While we were talking she said that she wanted me and would I be free the next afternoon.? I had one or two things to do but I told her that I could fit her in for what it was that she wanted if she would let me know.

And then we were back in the Middle Ages. There was some old man who was living his life quite rough, impolite, rude, and had incurred the King’s displeasure. The King had sent someone down to arrest him and bring him back. It turned out to be this guy’s son. Theyw ere having some kind of emotional struggle – the son had to take him before the king but he wanted his son to let him go. This went on for quite some time with all kinds of recriminations etc

There was also something about my tax return. I had to complete it but I didn’t have all the papers. I had to find the papers but there was a time limit. I had to apply for nationality but I’d been there 11 years so I had to take 11 steps on this stepping-stone footpath but even then I couldn’t apply because the downward path from there was so steep and there was nowhere to hold on to. It was something that was getting out of hand. And that reminds me that I have my own tax return to do sometime when I come back from my travels.

Actually, part of me is looking forward to my next journey at the end of next week, but part of me isn’t. That’s because there is going to be something of a showdown where something on which I’ve been working for 30 years might come to fruition, if I’m extremely lucky.

On the other hand, it could lead to a major disappointment. And knowing how things usually pan out when I’m involved, that’s more likely the case.

Most of the day I’ve been working on the photos from the High Arctic again and I’ve finally made it, after a couple of years of attempts, to land on Beechey Island.

Just now I’ve been to visit THE THREE GRAVES of members of Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition to discover the North-West Passage and having had an encounter with a gyrfalcon, I’m now picking my way through some mid-19th Century “Goldners” tin cans towards the remains of “Northumberland House”, the wooden shack that Pullen’s expedition erected in 1852-53 in case any of Franklin’s men should struggle back to Lancaster Sound.

It’s probably all of this that’s making me so depressed at the moment.

A few years ago I had an interesting discussion with a couple of Polar explorers about the Arctic, and I recalled a quote from someone called Judge Malone who had gone to search for the last resting place of his friend Leonidas Hubbard “I never had that feeling before on leaving the wilderness, but this country has exerted a peculiar fascination upon me. I understand what it was now that drew you … on and would not let you turn back”.

Yes, I have the bougeotte again, as they say around here, haven’t I? But there’s little prospect of that happening right now, the way everything is.

At the moment, the only way to deal with the bougeotte is to go for a walk around the headland and after the heady excitement of the last couple of days, even that was a disappointment today with nothing whatever out of the ordinary going on.

people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022The tape that was tied across the front of the building had gone today so I headed straight for the wall at the end of the car park to have a look down onto the beach.

And with the weather being so nice today, there were crowds of people down there this afternoon making the most of it. But that was no surprise really because the car park was packed with cars this afternoon.

Everyone was hemmed in pretty much close to the cliffs today because the tide hadn’t gone all that far out when I was out having a prowl around. They’ll have a couple of hours now to spread out before it comes back in.

repointing medieval city wall place du marche aux chevaux Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022But here’s a big surprise!

By the looks of things they have finished all that they intend to do with repairing the medieval city walls at the Place du Marché aux Chevaux and they have now moved the scaffolding further along the wall.

But I don’t like the look of that one little bit. There were a couple of mega-cracks in the wall and they don’t look as if they have done that much towards repairing them. I know when I was repointing my house back 10 years ago I wouldn’t have been very happy leaving any cracks like that in the wall.

fishing boat baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022While I was there I was also having a good look around out at sea.

Yesterday we saw a couple of fishing boats out on the Baie de Granville and as you can see, there’s one out there this afternoon. And you can tell by his wake that he’s just done a “U-turn” out there in the ocean.

The marker buoys for the lobster pots are still out there too but he’s a long way away from where they are.

And so dodging the crowds this afternoon I headed off down the path towards the lighthouse.

people on bench cabanon vauban pointe ru roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022The car park by the lighthouse was full to so I was expecting there to be crowds down there as well.

And this afternoon we had a couple more people on the bench by the cabanon vauban enjoying the sun. And that’s all that they were doing because there were no boats out there, and no fishermen on the rocks either.

Plenty of people on the lower path too having a stroll around but I wasn’t intending to join them. I’m having issues with the steps, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

Instead, I headed off towards the port.

people on sea wall joly france ferry terminal port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022And there was quite a crowd over at the ferry terminal as well.

At first I was wondering whether they might have been queuing up to go for a sail on the Joly France ferry that’s over there. But in actual fact I noticed that the crane is working, with a few heavy bags dangling from its hook.

It’s probably a reasonable form of entertainment for the people over there watching the action.

And there will be more action going on over there as of the 5th May (when I am of course away on my travels) because I have it on good authority that the sailings to the Channel Islands are to resume on that date.

We shall see.

cleaning pontoon chantier naval port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022And there’s yet another change of occupant over at the chantier naval.

Le Roc A la Mauve III is still there in what must surely be one of the longest-ever stays that I have ever seen, but she’s now been joined by one of the little harbour pontoons that float around in there.

She’s having a good pressure-washing right now and the guy in charge loos as if he’s having an enormous amount of fun doing it too.

It’s the kind of thing that will keep him out of mischief for a while.

ch714399 l'iris de suse port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022And the game of musical ships over at the Fish Processing Plant has taken a new twist today.

Neither Briscard nor L’Omerta is there today. The place is occupied by another inshore shell-fishing boat.

And thanks to her registration number being visible and the index of fishing boats that I found a while ago, I can tell you that she’s called L’Iris de Suse, whatever that is supposed to mean.

So what’s the betting for who will be moored there tomorrow? It’s a toss-up, I reckon, between Titanic and the Mary Celeste.

spirit of conrad charles marie anakena la grande ancre port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022But at the moment there are croowds of boats over there in the inner harbour.

There are a few that I don’t recognise but those that I do include Spirit of Conrad, Charles Marie, Anakena and la Grande Ancre.

Back here I had a coffee and then I had a few things to do. It had been a miserable day today with having fought off sleep for much of the morning only to have crashed out completely and definitively for an hour or so before going for a walk..

Nothing is ever going to be done if I don’t get a move on.

Tea was my sausage, beans and chips. And the chips were rather hit-and-miss. I think that I’m not shaking them up enough to move them around in the air fryer half-way through so a few are overcooked and a few others are undercooked. But I’ll keep on persevering.

However, generic French baked Beans are awful. I tried a different lot today and they were just as bad as the last lot. I’ll have to buy the bullet and buy full-price branded stuff.

But that’s tomorrow when I go shopping I reckon. Not that I need much because I’m off on my travels next weekend. Judgement Day is approaching rather rapidly.

Thursday 21st April 2022 – GLOBAL WARMING ANYONE?

When John Ross, the leader of the first European expedition credited with exploring the north coast of Lancaster Sound, came by here in 1818 and when William Parry examined it in 1819-20, they noticed what might have been the entrance to a bay, which Parry called Croker Bay after the then-Secretary to the Admiralty.

dry valley croker bay devon island canada adventure canada into the north west passage 2019 photo august 2019 eric hallThey weren’t actually sure about whether it was a bay or not because the whole coastline was covered in impenetrable ice so they couldn’t sail in to make sure.

And there I was 200 years later, 25 kms deep into what is quite clearly a fjord rather than a bay, at the mouth of a dry valley where a glacier once flowed and where there isn’t a single trace of ice.

If you want to look for the “Croker Bay Glacier” you need to travel another 5kms up the fjord and eventually you’ll reach it. Over the last 200 years or so, a belt of ice 30kms deep and heaven alone knows how thick has melted.

Anyway I digress … “yet again” – ed.

aeroplane 54aay baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022Outside this afternoon we’ve been having an aerial day but while you admire the light aeroplane 54AAY that flew past overhead making its debut on these pages, I’ll start at the very beginning … “a very good place to start” – ed.

And once more, it was a struggle for me to crawl out of bed again. I didn’t beat the second alarm, having gone back to sleep after the first one, but I was still up before the 3rd, even though it was “only just”.

And after the medication and checking my mails and messages, I had a listen to the dictaphone to see where I’d been during the night. And to my surprise I found that I’d stepped back into a dream not once but twice.

It’s becoming something of a habit.

yellow powered hang glider pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022One of my former work colleagues starred in this one. It was something to do with his retirement. He’d been called out for overstaying his retirement by some kind of sea creature so he went down to attack this sea creature and had a fight with it. He was stopped and they arranged a proper bour of either boxing or wrestling between the two of them. it was rather unfair because this sea creature had 4 arms instead of just 2 and it had to have its gills reinforced. The fight took place and eventually the sea creature won it. The person commentating said that it was a really good fight but he reckoned that every non-human and probably one or two humans as well really enjoyed the result and how it panned out

And then I started dictating the next dream in French. I was at home and had invited some friends round. They were actually grown-ups and I was only quite young. We ended up playing cards which I thought was a good game. They were 3 middle-aged men and one had a wife but she didn’t want to come. We dealt, and dealt for partners etc. They asked what I had to drink. I had a bottle of beer on the side from yesterday that I could drink. I looked in the drinks cupboard and they had one of these boxes of wine and there was some whisky etc so I started to put everything out ready for people to help themselves to alcohol

helicopter pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022That dream continued afterwards and I’d actually met the wife. They were living in a big detached house very much like UK 1930s but it was in France. She was dreading the start of the French school year because her kids were going to school. I asked her if her move to France was permanent. She told me 20 good reasons why it was. We were having quite a chat when her husband came up and said that when he had the house tidied up and the kitchen arranged I would have to come over for a cup of tea by the fire

Later on I was talking to Percy Penguin, and it’s been a while since she’s put in an appearance. She was being very cagey on the telephone about something. I could tell that there was something going on but she didn’t seem to want to expand on it very much. I couldn’t seem to chisel it out of her. At the same time I was talking to a footballer who lived on the continent. We were planning some kind of event together. My family came on the phone and I started to chat to them and happened to mention something about my youngest sister. They replied “haven’t you heard?”. I said “no” and they answered that she’d died. I was appalled. I asked how. It seemed that she and her husband had gone for a breakfast brunch somewhere. Some security guard had knocked her husband’s cup or something onto the floor so they had “had words”. A fight started and my sister had tried to join in but the security guard pulled out his revolver and shot her 4 times in the groin. At that moment he had been arrested.

Airbus A350-941 F-HTRE pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022We haven’t quite finished yet, but we’ll have an interruption to watch F-HTRE go past overhead.

She’s an Airbus A350-941 owned by Air Caraibes and first took to the air in July 2019. She’s flying TX514/FWI14J from Orly to Fort de France in the Caribbean and went past me at 38,000 feet and 498 knots at vector 272°

But in the meantime I was stepping back into the dream involving my youngest sister. Everyone was now round at my house collecting her stuff to take away. I was busy writing a note to my brother expressing my condolences etc.

Once again it took me a couple of hours to come to my senses, which is a surprise seeing how few I have these days, but when I’d come round I made a start on the photos from the High Arctic of 2019. By the time that I’d finished this evening I was up the end of Croker Bay pinned against a glacier.

There’s a huge batch of photos that I’ve dealt with over the last couple of days. But I’m not out of the woods yet. I have simply moved into different woods.

We had a whole variety of interruptions today, coffee and breakfast being not the least of them.

But on the subject of fruit bread, I had the last slice today.

home made fruit buns place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022That’s the cue for another load – this time it was fruit buns because there was nothing else to bake in the oven so I had the room.

And here’s the results. Enough to keep me going until I clear off next Friday, with a few in the freezer for when I come back too.

It’s basically a bread mix of 250 grammes with a pile of brazil nuts ground into a coarse flour, some dessicated coconut, raisins, sunflower seeds, chopped banana chips, some of those mixed dried fruits and a fresh banana all mixed in. And probably a few other things too that happen to be lying around.

And then when it’s all proofed, cooked for 40 minutes on a medium-high oven.

For lunch I took the remaining half-loaf out of the freezer this morning and it had been defrosting. And there’s nothing like fresh bread like that. I’ll have to make another loaf on Sunday, I reckon, while I’m doing my pizza and I’ll freeze half of that too.

taped off front of building place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022There was of course the usual afternoon walk around the headland.

However today I didn’t go very far before I came to a stop. Just outside the front door in fact.

There’s something afoot here just outside the building, and I’ve no idea what because I haven’t heard anything at all. But whatever it is, they have most of the front of the building taped off, presumably to prevent access.

The plot thickens, that’s for sure.

people on beach rue du nord Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022But anyway, we can leave that for a while. Let’s go and have a look down on the beach.

It was another quite nice day today and the crowds were out enjoying it. Down on the beach too there were plenty of people taking the air including a group of young women playing with a frisbee.

There were other folk down there too, poking around in rock pools, scavenging amongst the rocks and the like. We can tell that the tide is on its way out this afternoon.

And they had beautiful weather for it too.

trawler baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022While I was up here looking down onto the beach I also had my roving eye wandering around looking at what was going on offshore.

There was quite a haze today so I couldn’t see all that far but I did notice a couple of fishing boats out there. One that we can see here but there was another one further out as well.

And presumably they were working too because they were pointing away from the harbour and following the coast.

Of course, they are far too far out to sea for me to be able to identify them, especially in these weather conditions when I had to peer through a sea mist to see anything at all.

marker buoys baie de Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022That wasn’t everything either.

Just down there offshore is a collection of marker buoys. It looks as if someone has dropped a few lobster pots into the water just there.

Mind you, that’s not all that far out and I suppose that they will just come along later this afternoon walking across the sand to collect them and their catch because I’m pretty certain that where they have dropped them is out of the water when the tide is right out.

That speedboat roaring past didn’t have anything to do with them anyway

However that’s not my problem. Armes with my face mask, I went to fight the good fight amongst the crowds of people on the path.

people taking photograph pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a recurring theme that runs through these pages as that oe me taking photos of people taking photos.

But here’s quite a new twist on the subject. Down at the end of the headland I looked back and saw a guy setting up a tripod with his camera perched thereupon.

And having done that, he took up station with his beloved and the self-timer did the rest, much to the chagrin of one of the workers at the coastguard post who wanted to drive past there in his car and who was obliged to wait.

But they did make a handsome couple.

fisherman pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022It wasn’t just with lobster pots and trawlers that people were out fishing this afternoon.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen someone perched on the rocks with rod and line at the end of the headland but today we had one of the aforementioned.

And it still bewilders me that these fishermen don’t have a basket or anything in which to put their catch. However, regular readers of this rubbish will recall that in all the years that we’ve been watching them, we’ve yet to see a fishermen pull a fish out of the water with rod and line.

There were no spectators on the bench at the cabanon vauban either today. They must have known that I was coming.

le roc a la mauve 3 chantier naval port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022From the end of the headland I walked down towards the port to see what was happening there today.

And there has been another change in occupancy at the chantier naval today. Le Roc A La Mauve III is still there showing little signs of moving but Anakena seems to have finished her overhaul and she’s now gone back into the water, ready for her summer voyages to the frozen north.

And how I wish that I was going with her too, but I suppose that you are fed up of me moaning about that. It’s high time that I went out and got myself a life. I need to do something to start moving again but with these heart issues and knee issues it’s not so easy.

But I have the doctor to see next week and the heart specialist at the hospital to see on the 5th of May so who knows? Something might start happening soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

l'omerta port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric Hall photo April 2022Over at the fist processing plant it looks as if there’s a very long and complicated game of “Musical Ships” taking place.

Briscard was there but she went and L’Omerta came in her place. And then they swapped places, and today they have swapped back again. The excitement here is terrific and I might have to go and lie down in a darkened room.

Instead, I came home for a coffee, a session on the guitar and then (regrettably) I crashed out for a good while. I don’t know what’s the matter with me these days.

Tea was a curry made with leftovers, and delicious it was too. Tomorrow I fancy sausage, beans and chips, especially now that I have my air fryer. I’ve no excuse now for rubbishy chips

But that’s tomorrow. Tonight I’ll have a strum on the guitar and then go to bed. I could do with a much better night and then maybe I’ll have a much better day to follow.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was this about adopting a more-positive outlook?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True garden-shed engineering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And why not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 7th September 2018 – AND THERE I WAS …

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

… lying on my palliasse wondering whether I ought to heave myself out of my stinking pit.

I’d had a really bad night. For some reason I was very sensitive to the engine noise. It was constantly changing pitch and consequently constantly keeping me awake all through the night and I can’t recall if I ever managed to drop off to sleep.

And as the 06:00 alarm suddenly started to sound, a voice shouted down the loudspeaker system “Polar Bears at 3 o’clock”.

In my half-awakened state I thought to myself that he’s a good few hours late with this announcement, but then it clicked and I grabbed the camera, dashed out of my room, bumped into a lady, she screamed so I dashed back into my room and put on my clothes and then dashed back onto the starboard beam.

At first I thought that it was two polar bears on the ice floe but as events unfolded, I noticed that there were three. A mother and two cubs.

Mum was in position by a seal hole awaiting breakfast, and the two cubs were in their snow-bank den waiting for mum to come back with the grub.

She was totally unperturbed by the passing of the vessel even though it would keep away the seals, but the thing about living in the Arctic is patience. Never mind the “Ohh God, give me patience. And hurry!” – I once heard a delightful story about a group of Inuit who went to the Arctic meadows on Ungava for some hay, found that the grass hadn’t grown enough, so they pitched their tents there and waited.

And this was exactly what mummy was doing, perched by the seal hole. Not pitching her tent waiting for the hay to grow of course, but you know what I mean.

The photos are unfortunately rubbish but then it’s with the Nikon 1’s light-hungry zoom lens in the half-light from a moving ship when I’m not even half-awake. What did you expect? David Bailey?

After taking a score or so of photos, I went back to my room for my medication and other stuff.

And while I was sorting out my laptop, it reminded me of last night’s later events. The bearing on the binnacle was 121°, so we are going in the opposite direction. 0° is North, 90° is East, and so we are heading more-or-less south-east right now, back down Lancaster Sound.

Breakfast was in company of a couple of travellers who seem to have taken a shine to me, and I’ve no idea why because I’m not usually the kind of person whom others like, and we had a really good chat about this and that.

Not about the other though. That’s a rather sore point right now the way that things are. I think that Strawberry Moose is having more luck than me in that respect.

Later I was up on the bridge admiring the pack ice away in the distance to the south, and looking at the beautiful scenery of this corner of Devon Island. I’ve no idea where we are going next, and I’m not convinced that the crew and the captain know either.

Mind you I did manage to speak to a member of the crew about the ship that I keep on seeing. Apparently there’s another ship – the Fram – that’s loitering around the ice edge waiting for a gap to miraculously appear;

We’ve seen several icebergs go drifting past, some of them extremely impressive but none more so than this one with a hole in the middle, like a floating polo mint.It’s apparently called a keyhole iceberg. The hole is caused by some kind of subterranean river in the glacier

And while I was photographing that iceberg I noticed out of the corner of my eye a ship away in the distance. This time, it was no problem in the light to photograph it at distance and to crop it down to see what it was.

It’s indeed a Canadian icebreaker of the kind that would be on stand-by duty around here to watch out for icebergs and also for ships that might risk running headlong into the pack-ice. There are several ships in the channel and also several communities that have not yet received their winter provisions, so with the seas icing up so quickly already, they will be in for a tough time if the icebreakers can’t open up a channel.

We had a couple of discussion session, several of which didn’t interest me very much so I didn’t take part in them, and the one on the story of Franklin’s expeditions and the Erebus and Terror stories, but I didn’t really learn all that much that I didn’t already know.

I did however manage to buttonhole the camera guy and we discussed the camera, the images and my technique.

He had a good look at everything and had a few things to say about it.

Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with my technique except that with it being a lightweight camera, I’m pressing too hard on the switch and making the camera shake at the crucial moment.

Secondly, the images come out the same on his laptop so it’s not a fault of my laptop,

As for the quality of the images, that’s as good it can be. So the fault lies in the camera itself. Not that it’s a bad camera, but simply that it’s not designed to do what I want to do with it and I’m pushing it to the limit of its technical capabilities and even beyond.

It was then lunchtime so I nipped off and had a salad. And to be quite honest I spent more time talking than eating. The yoga assistant is a big fan of 70s rock music so I’ve invited her to come and listen to some of the stuff that I have on my laptop.

It sure beats etchings, doesn’t it?

On a totally different tack, does anyone still remember our trip to Red Bay in Labrador
and the Bernier?

There’s a girl on board ship – one of the staff – called Bernier so I asked her what she knew about the ship. Nothing whatever, she told me, but she did know that there was a very famous Canadian sea captain called Bernier and one of the pages on the Canadian passport depicts him.

Another member of staff told me that Bernier (the captain, not the ship) worked in the High Arctic and it was he who actually claimed Bylot Island – which we will be passing – for Canada in 1906 and he had his crew carve something emblematic on a cliff face.

I’m writing this now because everyone else is outside looking at a bird colony. But as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, the only birds in which I have any interest won’t be found clinging to a rock in the High Arctic.

And this is a fine time for the battery in the camera to start to go flat, and we’re off out in an hour or so. I’ve had to bung it on charge and of course, it’s now that we’re starting to sail through the ice. Good job that I have the phone handy, although what the quality might be like is anyone’s guess.

But it actually worked out, because the sea was so rough at this point that the water in the heated pool was going everywhere except where it was supposed to go, and I was able to take a few videos of it.

The phone didn’t last too long though. There was a huge iceberg away in the distance – more like a large sheet of float actually – and the phone camera will never do justice to that, so I’ve had to go down and fetch the Nikon.

They are still trying to do their best to entertain us seeing as everything that is planned is falling apart. And so we had afternoon tea while we played a kind of game where we had to find out bits and pieces about each other. I sort-of took part in it in a half-hearted way because I’m not really in to being sociable as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

There’s a National Park at Tay Bay on Bylot Island which is on our route and it’s been decided that we will go for an evening ramble around there.

We needed a briefing from Parks Canada (done vitually) before we could go and, much to my surprise, we were first to leave the boat. I had to get a wiggle on to get changed into my winter gear, and then there was an almighty panic as I couldn’t find my badge.

Nevertheless I did manage to find it and we struggled ashore onto our beach where the perimeter of our walk was guarded by Polar Bear watchers.

Strawberry Moose enjoyed his ride in a zodiac and he made many new friends. Plenty of photo opportunities for him too.

Introducing new species onto an island here is definitely not allowed and there are no moose here. But I shall be wondering what scientists will be thinking when in 1000 years time they are analysing polar bears with antlers or moose in white coats with claws and teeth.

And for me. I had a good walk around to kill the time, which the cynic inside me tells me is the reason for this stop. There were some exciting views of all kinds of things – nothing that I found really interesting though.

There’s a tent ring on the shore but that’s believed to be contemporary and not historical.

As an aside, anything over 50 years old is classed as historical and so that includes a great many of the passengers on board the ship. Me especially. I’m feeling like 150 years old right now with the weight of the world resting on my shoulders.

And there were several icebergs of some beauty. I even saw the sun, such as it was, disappear down behind the mountains and that was fairly spectacular too.

But I do have to say that, much as I enjoyed the pleasant walk, I’ve come here to do much more than this and it’s leaving me somewhat disappointed.

One thing though really stuck in my mind. There’s a young Inuit boy – probably aged about 20 but then again what would I know – on board the ship and I’ve had many a chat with him. He comes from the area and he was pointing out some of the glaciers to me. he was saying that even in his short life the glaciers have receded dramatically and how he was fearing for his grandchildren.

He told me a story about how, even today, he will come over for a large lump of glacier to take home to melt down as water. This ice fell as rain thousands of years ago when there was no pollution in the air and so is as fresh and pure as anything that you might find. It makes the tea taste magnificent, so he said.

It was a wet ride back to the ship, with His Nibs safely inside his plastic bag. And then there was an enormous queue at the boot-washing station as someone apparently decided to do a week’s washing.

A hot shower and a wash of the undies was called for, and then I came down to tea. In a change to my usual habits, I have decided to mingle with different people at mealtimes and chat about different themes seeing as I seem to be stuck in a big rut right now.

And a good chat I had too. We talked about exchanges as students, Switzerland, the Northern Lights and primitive aircraft. All in all, quite an agreeable time and I shall have to do more of this.

It’s quite late now. We didn’t return to the ship from the shore until late and tea was thus even later. I’ll loiter around for a while and then wander off. I doubt that I’ll be around until midnight or later this evening. I need to bring at least some kind of semblance of order into my life.

One thing that has tired me out though is that I had a very emotional, disagreeable and stressful task to do, one which needs to be done and done quickly too before things take a turn in escalating out of hand.

Rather like MacBeth and his “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.

This afternoon the opportunity presented itself so I bit the bullet and did it. The sooner I do it, the sooner it’s over.

It didn’t work out how I hoped that it would, but that would have really been clutching at straws. And in any case, it’s all my own fault for not listening to myself and all of my best counsels in the first place. Proverbs 19:21 is what I should have kept in my mind, isn’t it?

It’s not the first time that I’ve ended up in a mess like this. Far from it. Anyone would think that I would be used to it, but not at all. I fall into the trap on every occasion and it never turns out well. I always start off with the best of intentions, it all somehow goes wrong, I always end up saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong moment and it never ever comes out as I intend it to. In fact, usually exactly the opposite.

I am reminded of Sidney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon and “In the heat of the action men are apt to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away” and it happens to me all too often.

I really shouldn’t be let out without a keeper. But then, who would want to be responsible for keeping me?

Wednesday 5th September 2018 – THUS ENDS THE WEB

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

Despite it being 00:15 when I finally toddled off to bed, it was yet another miserable night. Not that I didn’t sleep of course – far from it in fact – but I was wide awake again at 04:30.

At 05:30 I gave up the struggle and after the medication routine, came upstairs. Too dark as yet to take any real photographs which is a shame, but I did the best that I could;

It’s also really foggy outside yet again. I hope that this means that our trip ashore isn’t cancelled yet again.

Anyway, in the comfort of the ship’s lounge, with no-one else about at all, I did some more work, catching up on where I’d left off a while back, as well as organising a few photos for His Nibs.

Breakfast as usual and then we had to organise ourselves for our day out.

We’re just off the coast of Devon Island, the world’s largest uninhabited island at 59,000 km². It wasn’t always uninhabited. The Thule people had various settlements here and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had an outpost here and it was these that we had come to see.

Mind you, it might not be possible to see anything in this kind of weather because not only do we have a fog we have a blinding snowstorm and it’s going to be quite uncomfortable out there today.

We’ve been divided up into three groups – the advanced hikers who are going off to visit the two sites and climb the mountain pass in between, the intermediate group who are going to walk to the two sites but have a boat ride in between, and the easy people who are just going to be dropped off on the beach for a wander around.

Had there been any archaeological ruins up on top or had there been any chance of having a good view, I might possibly have forced my way up to the top. But in this weather I’m not going to even consider it.

Instead, seeing as I want to visit the two sites, I’m going to go the intermediate way.

So we changed into our wet-weather and winter clothing (and I still think that telephone boxes would be appropriate for this kind of thing) and boarded the boat.

I took Strawberry Moose with me so that he could have a good photo opportunity. One of the cleaners very kindly found me a large bin liner in which to carry him out of the rain.

Having organised ourselves on shore eventually at Morrin Point (whoever Morrin was when he was at home if he ever was), we set off. The experts on this trip were scattered around the various sites of interest and we started off by being given a lecture on lichens. Not the kind of thing that would be of much interest to me but nevertheless it’s all included in the deal.

The experts weren’t the only people to be scattered around. Our group perimeter was constantly guarded by trained polar bear observers. We had to stay within the perimeter and not move out. And the bear observers had to keep the bears outside.

Not that we saw any, but that’s a situation that won’t last over the next couple of weeks.

Next stop was much more exciting.

There’s a Thule village with several houses dating from the 14th or 15th Century here on the headland and this is what we had come to see.

Thule people had several criteria that decided where they were going to build their houses. A piece of flat land, some shelter from the winds and a view of the sea were things that were so important to them.

And this is exactly what we have here. All three criteria come in to play.

There’s a walrus haul-out here on an island in the bay, and there were several meat-stores that were clearly (according to the archaeologists) for the storage of walrus meat.

They kept it in here until they needed it, and it was probably well-putrefied by the time that it came to being used, but to disguise the smell the Thule stuffed the cracks of the walrus cache with aromatic herbs.

As for the houses, they were stone and sod, with some kind of support structure such as whale bones that would support a covering made of walrus hide. That’s very thick and, of course, weather-proof.

All visible trace of that is now long-gone but no archaeological excavation has taken place at this site as yet to give any definite opinion of what went on here.

From here back to the zodiacs to go on the next stage of the journey, watching the advanced hikers disappearing off into the distance.

Just down the bay there was another beach and there we alighted and had to trek up a hill. And in the boggy terrain, the wind and the rain, I was feeling the strain I can promise you that. I was glad that I didn’t go on the advanced hike.

From the top there was a good view of the old abandoned Royal Canadian Mounted Police post.

The story behind this post is all to do with the question of Sovereignty in the High Arctic.

Much of this area was explored and claimed by the British until about 1880 and then given to Canada, who chose not to continue the explorations.

As a result, we had other nations such as the Americans and Danes exploring the High Arctic in this region and there was a risk that they would claim the Arctic islands for themselves. As a result, it was necessary to establish some permanent settlements

As part of this process, here at Dundas Harbour in the 1920s the Royal Canadian Mounted Police established a Post here and it remained active until the funding crisis of the Great Depression brought about its closure.

The Mounties were supported by a few Inuit Special constables and their families and hence a small settlement sprang up. Some Inuit were resettled here from Cape Dorset but they didn’t stay long.

The job of the Mounties was to set up cairns on the outlying islands to claim them for Canada and to generally keep an eye out for interlopers.

But it was a lonely life and hard on the inhabitants. One Mountie committed suicide and another one, who had gone off hunting walrus, was later discovered dying with a gunshot wound, although no-one was able to work out what had happened.

They are buried in a small cemetery up on the hillside at the back of the post. This is claimed by some to be one of the most northerly Christian cemeteries in the world

After the end of World War II the Cold War caused the post to be reactivated, but it only lasted a couple of years. By 1951 the post had closed down again, this time for good.

Strawberry Moose arranged to have himself photographed here a couple of times for the record. And quite right too.

After that, we all headed back to the zodiacs and retraced our steps to the ship. And not before time either because in the three hours that we had been ashore, the bay was starting to ice up.

Once I’d divested myself of my wet-weather and winter gear, I came up to my room and had a nice hot shower and washed my undies. They’ll be dry pretty quickly because the cabins are quite hot when they switch on the heating.

Lunch came along too after this. And today they managed to find me some chick peas to go with my salad. That was very nice.

And I had to laugh (even though I know that I shouldn’t) at The Vanilla Queen. She went up there for her food and some woman came up to talk to her. Even as The Vanilla Queen was collecting her food, this woman insisted on continuing the conversation. The Vanilla Queen then started to eat her food with her fingers but the woman went on and on (and on).

Eventually she said “well, I suppose that I’d better let you eat your meal” and then carried on the chat for another 5 minutes. By this time The Vanilla Queen was totally frustrated and I was almost in tears of laughter – which I know that I shouldn’t have been, but there you are.

This afternoon we started a series of lectures but the first one was interrupted when a cry went up from the Bridge “Polar Bear at 11 o’clock”. The lecture room deserted itself in the same fashion as the cry of “Gold Strike at Bear Creek” did in Carry On Cowboy.

Some people, including The Vanilla Queen, saw the bear but Yours Truly didn’t. So it’s one each right now, for those of us keeping the score.

The lectures eventually carried on, with everything running late of course, and with a freezing audience too, because it was cold out there watching the pack ice and the ice floes drift past.

I missed some of it as, overwhelmed by sleep, I went to crash out. Only to find that the feeling had passed by the time that I got onto the bed.

For tea tonight they rustled up some tofu and vegetables, and we had an interesting chat with the team’s historian about all kinds of things.

There’s mixed news about our future plans. The wind is shifting round, which means that the weather will clear a little. Some of the places that we want to visit will be clear of ice, but the changing winds will have blown the ice across Lancaster Sound into the harbours of other places in which we want to visit.

It is, apparently, the worst year for ice for many years and will continue to confound all of our plans.

Later that night we went out on the upper deck in the snowstorm to watch the midnight sun and the ice floes, as we are now back in the ice again. She’s convinced that she saw a seal but it’s no use asking me. I could hardly see a thing out there.

But one thing is for sure. Following the appearance of His Nibs on shore today, his cover as a stowaway has been well and truly blown.

But he’s been accepted as a bona-fide traveller. He’s been given his own name badge and allowed to share my cabin officially. He was even invited to take control of the ship for a while.

Furthermore, it’s been proposed that the official Expedition photographer will take some official photos of him.

And that can’t be bad.

But there’s also been a dramatic change in situation here on board the Ocean Endeavour

I have rather foolishly … “he means “recklessly”” – ed … allowed a certain situation to develop completely out of hand and my emotions have run away with themselves, like they all-too-often have a tendency to do.

if I allow it to escalate any further it will be to my own detriment, as has been the case on many occasions.

I’m not very good at forcing decisions, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall. My usual practice is to roll with the road and follow my star wherever it leads me, but this is neither the time nor the place for vacillation.

As Marillion once famously wrote –
“The time has come to make decisions
The changes have to be made”

And so I need to know precisely where I stand in this particular circumstance.

This evening there was the ideal opportunity – presenting itself in a moment of high tension. And so I grasped the nettle.

The result was not what I had optimistically hoped but it was what I had realistically expected, and it killed the situation stone-dead. Which is not really a bad thing, I suppose, because in all honesty I don’t really have the time for distractions. I have much more important things to be doing.

“Thus Ends The Web”

Tuesday 4th September 2018 – SO THERE I WAS …

fog lancaster sound croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018… leaping out of bed at the first alarm (well, almost) at 06:00 to perform the usual morning ritual with the medication.

And then ten minutes later diving upstairs for the sightseeing in the Lancaster Sound – straight into that curse of all Arctic mariners – a rolling fog.

I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face at first. I had to wait a good two hours before the fog lifted and I could see anything at all.

snowfall ocean endeavour lancaster sound croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018But an Arctic fog wasn’t the only issue that we had to deal with this morning

During the night we had had snowfall too and some members of crew were busily sweeping the decks. Not a very big snowfall, but a snowfall all the same and it’s a sign of things to come.

So much for an exploration today, then. I can’t see us going ashore in a zodiac in this kind of weather if we can’t see what we are going to collide with.

The morning was spent editing all of the photos and I have a feeling that I’m going to be setting a new record on this trip. Day one of our voyage and I’m on 132 photos already. This is going to be a long trip.

Breakfast was acceptable – cereal and fruit salad with water (no soya milk of course) with toast and jam. Orange juice and as much coffee as I could drink and then more.

ice floe lancaster sound croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018We had the usual welcome meeting to give us the day’s itinerary, but it was all interrupted as far as I was concerned because we found ourselves in the ice stream. And that was me, and a German lady, lost to the public as we went outside to take a few photographs.

And it was just as well that we did because by the time that the speech was over we had passed through the ice and gone.

Mind you, it wouldn’t have been much to miss because we will be encountering ice much more formidable than this. Or, at least, we better had because otherwise there is little point in coming on a trip like this in my opinion.

One of the things that has surprised me more than anything was that when they handed out the waterproof boots, mine fitted me perfectly. Usually, it’s a kind of Army thing where they bung you a pair of boots and you either have to cut off your toes or else stuff a few sheets of newspaper inside.

The next thing was a discussion given by different Inuit from different regions of the High Arctic, to make us aware of the different cultures through which we will be passing.

Someone else taught us a couple of works in Inuit, but it’s not going to help much because there are so many different words and so many different dialects that I am bound to use the wrong word at the wrong time in the wrong place.

soapstone oil lamp Qulliq Kudlik croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018We have several Inuit people from the local area on board the ship.

Their role is to explain the local environment and culture to us and to help us understand much better the way of life out here.

Susi had brought with her a soapstone oil lamp – a Qulliq or Kudlik. They have always played quite an important role i life in the High Arctic and I was really glad that I actually managed to see one.

It’s fuelled with seal oil of course and the wick is Arctic Cotton, a-plenty of which we shall apparently be seeing on our voyage.

Lunch was a running buffet and much to my surprise there were things there that I could eat.

There was bad news afterwards. There had been a plan to go to visit the long-abandoned RCMP post on Devon Island, but one look at the fog and snow outside was enough to convince us otherwise.

You wouldn’t be able to spot a polar bear until it was about 50 feet away in this fog, by which time it would be far too late to do anything about it. That kind of thing can’t be helped of course, but it’s just so disappointing that all of our plans are just melting away into nothing.

arctic map croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018Instead, Latonia gave us a very interesting talk on the different peoples of the High Arctic.

She also introduced us to a new cartographic way of looking at the Arctic that was certainly different for me.

Forget your Mercator’s Projection – this shows the Arctic regions in a much more realistic and accurate way and puts everything into the proper perspective.

glacier devon island croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018By now though, the fog, which had been slowly lifting during the course of the day as you have seen, was now sufficiently clear that we can see some of what we might be doing.

Unfortunately it was far too late to go back to the RCMP post on Devon Island. But just a stone’s throw away up an inlet called Croker Bay just round the corner there is a glacier that calves into the sea.

Everyone thought that that might be a good place to visit, as a way of breaking us into the High Arctic.

hotchy bordeleau zodiac orion croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018They proposed a procession of Zodiacs up Croker Bay to see it, and so we donned our winter gear and waterproofs because there was a wind and it was still snowing.

The Vanilla Queen is in a different team to me so she was off in one of the first boats and I was in one of the last so by the time we went out she was back.

And how she had cause to regret it too, as you will find out in early course.

zodiac croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018So we bid a temporary farewell to our ship as we headed off up the inlet on our zodiac, with the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour disappearing into the fog and snow flurries behind us.

This is how I always imagined life in the High Arctic to be, and I pictured to myself the several generations of Sailors in the 19th Century who were obliged to do this with oars.

And then regularly volunteered to come back with a subsequent expedition.

iceberg croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018All of the broken ice at the head of the bay told us that an iceberg had not long calved and fragmented.

And so we weaved our way in and out of the icebergs and growlers, looking at all of the spectacular shapes and forms that they can produce,

I have never been this close to an iceberg and so I was absolutely thrilled to see them.

seal croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018And we weren’t alone here in the inlet either.

As well as our good selves, the zodiacs and the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour were several seals swimming about, fishing in the water at the foot of the glacier.

They are all unfortunately very out-of-focus. You have no idea just how difficult it is to take a photograph of a small moving object from a moving boat riding the swell in a wind..

zodiacs croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018But what happened next was unbelievable.

One of the passengers on our zodiac was scanning the rock face with the binoculars and was convinced that she had seen something moving about.

One of the other zodiacs had spotted it too and called up everyone on the radio so we all headed down that way.

polar bears croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018And sure enough, there WAS something moving.

It was very difficult to see anything clearly so I took a long-range photograph of it so that I could enlarge it at my leisure.

It’s a good job that I had fitted the zoom lens to the camera before we started. It would have been a difficult thing to do in a swaying zodiac.

polar bear devon island croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018And it was as well that I did because I HAVE SEEN A POLAR BEAR. And not just a polar bear too, but a mummy polar bear with a cub in tow!

I suppose that it’s something of a cheat to say that I saw it, because I really didn’t know exactly what it was that I was seeing until I enlarged the photo, but it’s a polar bear nevertheless.

And I’m really hoping that I’ll see a polar bear much closer than this (although not too close of course) in due course but nevertheless it’s a good start.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018After this ten minutes of excitement we had to return to the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour.

There wasn’t a moment of silence on board our zodiac. We were all far too interested in discussing the polar bears that we had seen.

The seals on their own would have been exciting enough for one day but the polar bears really were something.

The whole thing was totally magnificent and I was so impressed. So impressed that I was prepared to say that this was one of the highlights of the journey – and we have only just started too!

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018As we approached the the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour we were lucky enough to witness the hoisting abord of the zodiacs who had returned to the ship before us.

We docked at one of the ramps at the side of the ship and we all clambered out of the zodiacs and on board.

I went straight to my room, had a quick shower, change of clothes and a clothes-wash and then back upstairs.

The Vanilla Queen was there so I showed her my photo of the bears. She was so depressed by it that I invited her to supper and negotiated a glass of wine for her to cheer her up.

zodiacs devon island croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018Later in the evening we all had to dress up again in our winter and waterproof gear.

One we were suitably dressed we all went for a moonlight (or what passes for moonlight here so high up in the Arctic) ride in the zodiacs up the the glacier once more.

And I did make the suggestion that they should equip the boats with telephone boxes so we could all dash in, spin around, and come out fully-changed like Superman … “superPERSON” – ed …” but for some reason that didn’t go down too well.

pirate zodiac devon island croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018No wildlife to speak of this evening. Just a few birds, but not of the kind that I’m ever likely to be interested in watching.

There was however a pirate zodiac manned … “PERSONNED” – ed …by buccaneers handing out hot toddies and hot tea to warm us up.

And you’ve no idea just how quickly hot tea goes cold in the High Arctic.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018Most of the ice that we had seen earlier had been swept out of the bay.

But the face of the glacier was really impressive this evening with a couple of enormous bergs almost ready to break off and float away

There were a couple of largish ones over in the far corner creaking ominously as they were on the point of breaking up even further. We listened for a while just in case we might hear the “crack” telling us that we would be lucky enough to see an iceberg calve.

No such luck though.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018We couldn’t stay out there all night waiting in hope. We had to return to the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour.

But it wasn’t where we had left it. Rounding an iceberg we discovered that it had moved off to one side of the inlet under the cliffs.

Apparently there was another cruise ship on its way to shelter in the inlet for the night. It’s like the M6 up here in the High Arctic right now.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018By the time that we arrived back at our ship, it was going dark. Or, rather, as dark as it gets around here at this time of the year.

But this evening the cloud cover is quite thick so we won’t have very much in the way of midnight sun tonight.

We tied up our zodiac and scrambled aboard. And having disposed of my wet-weather gear I went off to my cabin to change into clean clothes.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018Right now I’m writing up my notes and editing the photos of today. And staring out of the window at the other ship riding at anchor on the other side of the inlet.

Later on after everyone else has gone to bed, I’ll go for a walk around with Strawberry Moose and look for more photo opportunities for His Nibs. He deserves to spread his fame around.

And then I’ll be off to bed. It’s another long day tomorrow, with an early start.