Tag Archives: polar bear

7th November 2020 – THIS WEEK IS …

polar bear with cubs north west passage victoria strait canada Eric Hall… International Polar Bear Week apparently so I feel that I ought to join in the fun by posting a photo of a couple of mine.

In case you are wondering, this photo was taken last August in the North West Passage, in the Victoria Strait between the Royal Geographical Society islands and King William Island and is just one of the … gulp 2,500 or so exciting photos that I took while I was out there in the High Arctic and with which I shall regale you in due course.

That is, of course, my long-term project for the coming winter – to sort them all out, edit them and upload them to the internet. I’m hoping that once I clear out the arrears back to June, I can crack on with the High Arctic photos, although I’m not sure when all of that might happen.

At least, I didn’t actually fall behind even further today. Even if I slept through the three alarms and didn’t wake up until long after 10:00. It’s always like that when I return home, after all of the effort that I go through, and even more so when I didn’t return home until late.

Being in bed for as long as I was, there was plenty of time to go on several nocturnal rambles, and I must have travelled miles during the night.

I started off in the USA. I can’t remember exactly what we were doing but it involved my father and a whole group of other people whom I knew. There had been some big kind of political debate. Some politician had made a disgraceful affair and all the other politicians were standing up for him. Someone went to get into their car but found that the locks had been changed. This eveil politician had gone around changing everyone’s locks on everything. At that stage I became quite simply fed up and beat both of them into a pulp. I had to sell someone about something or other and I can’t remember what. It was to do with a car needing work or something. I got into my car which was a very new one. I managed to get in and drove away from the scene. As I came up to a set of traffic lights a police car pulled out of a side road right in front of me, blocked the road and put his stop lights on. When the traffic lights changed he went off presumably to drive round the block to come up behind me. But it was a really inconvenient place to stop. There was an abandoned fuel station just across the traffic lights so I pulled over there, of course bitterly regretting what was going to happen next – I was in no illusions. There were a couple of guys there getting petrol out of this abandoned fuel station. They said something about parking there. I said “that’s all right. I’m waiting here to be arrested”. They looked at me a bit wide-eyed so I said to 1 of them “yes the police are coming to arrest me”. He thought that he had better get a move on and do what he’s doing quickly and get out of the way. Just then I saw a group of my friends coming along. They were carrying an engine lift, tools and everything as if they were going to lift the engine out of a car somewhere after what I’d said to them. I thought “this policeman is taking his time isn’t he? I could nip off if I wanted to leave my car there.” But did I want to leave my car there? Did I want to nip off? Did I want to go? There was a cheap Honda Acty microvan things parked up and I was having a look at that.

Later on I was a kid, a teenager doing something with a house. We’d all been working on bits of it and I’d been painting the bedroom. The 1st coat hadn’t worked properly because some filling needed doing on it. I’d done most of that and painted what I’d already done. It hadn’t appeared too badly and I was reasonably pleased with it. Then the tutor came in and started to give me instructions about what he wanted me to do next but I reckoned that in view of the time factor it would be a good idea just to fill the rest of the wall where it needed filling and paint one coat over it to see where it was low. We could fill it again to make it up in the meantime and the coat of paint would be on it ready for the top coat. We had a lengthy discussion about that and in the end he agreed to let me do it as I wanted. He told me that I would have to put a curtain up somewhere over one part where the walls were uneven but I thought that that was going to be a silly idea – it would just draw people’s attention to it but he was pretty adamant so in the end we agreed that we would talk about this again. I did the calculations that by the time I had finished this room putting these coats and this filler on I would have had my A levels by then in which case no-one would be in a position to contradict me at all and I really could then do it as I liked.

There was something where I was doing something with a pile of musicians – it might have been a certain Welsh rock group friends of mine or something like that. We were just sitting around talking about drugs, all this kind of thing. One of them was saying that he hadn’t shot up for a whole 15 concerts but was quite busy taking the weed – the same with a few of the others. I said that I didn’t even know whereabouts to go to get it. I wouldn’t have a clue. They said “that girl who came to your party in your building. She sold us a bag”. I thought that was a bit if a shame because I liked her. Then we ended up at someone’s house after this – it might even have been this girl’s. It was a much nicer apartment than mine, on the floor below from where I was living. We were all getting ready to go places and were sorting through a pile of things and having to tidy everything up. I was sorting through these stones, I’ve no idea why. Some were precious and some weren’t and I was getting it all wrong. There were 3 gear lever knobs from a vehicle in there. It was a really confused thing that I had to sort through. Someone came over to give me a hand. He clearly knew what he was doing. I had to resort what i’d already done because it wasn’t right. I ended up going for a walk around and having a look at her garden which was really nice. On the way back I saw everyone else coming for a walk around the garden. I thought that I might as well have waited until they decided to come rather than go out on my own

Subsequently I was taping a concert of the aforementioned group, trying to get that organised but it was again something that I was only doing half-heartedly and missing most of the joins, thinking that I would have to go back and check it over again. The question of London came up, the question of a restaurant in the basement of a hotel that we go to near the railway station but it had moved down to South London. A girl I was with suggested that we should go there and have a meal. I thought ” that’s a long way to go for a meal and come back. It’s not as if it’s at the railway station where it used to be where we could be in and out in an evening. With this we have to hike most of the way across London to get to it and it’s not going to be the same, particularly with only another two weekends to go…

From there I was walking along Crewe Road into Sandbach and as I was passing the houses at the end of Park Lane I was thinking that I had to go to the bank. But the bank wasn’t where it is but in the street that runs about half a mile to the south, Hassall Road, so I had to find my way around like a deviation. In the end I got to 3rd Avenue and I remembered that I could walk through there that way. I walked down there – there were some kids playing netball in the school plating area there and a couple of boys playing football. I went on and came to a set of steps that I had to walk down. There were two young girls there who were rolling balls down it. Obviously whose ball rolled furthest down the most stairs won. They had a rake that they were using to pull the balls back up. One of them was pulling a ball back up and the rake swung back over her head and nearly impaled me as I was waling past so I made some kind of light hearted remark about it and they laughed. Then I noticed in one of the swimming pools in the back garden of a house round there was a skeleton so I asked “is that your last victim?”. They laughed again. By this time a woman had come down. She thought that it was funny as well so we had a chat. We got to the bottom and there was a really deep puddle. She was talking about the gypsies who lived in Sandbach and how they ahd sometimes washed their clothes in it. When we reached th bottom she said which way she was going, and I thought that this was the other direction so I said goodbye to her. I turned left and she went a little further on and she turned left too. We bumped into each other again. I said “I thought that you were going the other way”. She said “no, this way. I have to fetch some money from the bank”, a different bank. She started to ask “where shall we go from here?” so I said “hurry up and get your money” so she dashed inside the bank.
Later on I stepped back into this dream. I was walking back to the bus. I got on the bus by the centre door and for some reason I didn’t want to sit down at the front so I chose a seat right opposite the centre door where I didn’t have to go very far. Then this woman appeared, the one with whom I’d walked just now. I was hoping that she would get on the bus and come to sit next to me but that was when I awoke.

There was plenty of other stuff too but I can’t remember them. I know that at one time I caught myself dictating into my hand, but I can’t remember what it was that I was saying.

One thing that was rather disappointing was that I wasn’t joined by any of the usual suspects who I like to accompany me. With all of this and the distance that I travelled, I would have expected at least one of them to be there at some point. Instead, I end up with people from whom I spent 38 years trying to escape. It’s just my luck, isn’t it?

By now it was well into the early afternoon and so I ate the half-baguette that was left from yesterday evening. No chance of going out to the shops now – it was far too late.

woman going to swim Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallNot having done much throughout the day, I reckoned that I ought at least to go out for a walk this afternoon.

But no matter how little I had done and how much I thought that I ought to be doing, I wasn’t going to emulate this woman down here on the beach at the foot of the steps in the Rue du Nord. As I watched her, she marched slowly out to the water’s edge, peeling off her outer garments one by one.

And then she looked for a safe place amongst the rocks where she could leave them and her towel.

woman swimming in sea Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallHaving done that, she continued on her way out to the water’s edge, bent doan and soaked herself in seawater.

Once she was thoroughly wet through, she took the plunge and dived into the water, swimming away from the shore and out to sea.

It’s not the kind of thing that I would want to do. Even on a hot day I’m not all that interested in going into the water, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, even if in the past I have been swimming in the Mediterranean in November. But I’ve no intention of going into the water around here at any time of the year.

marker buoys english channel donville les bains Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallSo instead, once my water baby, I wandered off along the Rue du Nord.

With the number of people who were around, many more than I was expecting in the middle of a lockdown, I didn’t feel like showing myself up by breaking into a run. And it’s just as well because during my gentle walk, my eyes probing out to sea picked up something yellow bobbing about on the waves in the sea off the shore of Donville les Bains.

Closer examination reveals that there are in fact two of them, in a nice line across the bay. We’ve seen all kinds of buoys out there in the past, for all kinds of different reasons, and it’s not immediately clear exactly what their purpose is.

people having swam in the sea plat gousset Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallFurther along the footpath under the walls, I had a look down onto the beach round by the Plat Gousset.

And amongst the people wandering around down there were three young people in something of a state of undress. It looks as if we have had a few more water babies this afternoon, but I was too late to actually see them in the water.

But one thing that I did notice was the absence of face masks on the people down there. I know that it’s the policy on the promenade for the compulsory wearing of face masks, and I would have thought that now, seeing as we are in lockdown, that the compulsory wearing of masks would have extended further out from where it was before

house renovation rue le carpentier Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallWith crowds of people around, I wasn’t able to go for a run across the Square Maurice Marland this afternoon. Well – not with any sense of pride, at least.

But at the top of the Square I had a look at one of the houses in the Rue LeCarpentier. Just before I left, they had erected some scaffolding up around it. But now, the scaffolding is sheeted in a protected netting and it looks as if work has begun.

Interestingly, the company doing the work advertises itself as a “restorer of the country’s patrimoine – a word for which there is no obvious translation but which means basically the intrinsic cultural values and artefacts, whether it’s song, dance, old machinery and buildings, that kind of thing.

chantier navale port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallOne thing that is of course a compulsory activity is to check on what’s happening down at the chantier navale, seeing as I’ve neglected it for over a week.

The yacht that we saw in there the last time we looked is still present and it’s been joined by another boat. It’s not easy to tell from here what kind of boat it is. I shall have to sneak out later tonight for a closer look.

It goes without saying though that the huge mountain of gravel that was on the quayside has gone, and likewise has Neptune, the gravel boat that came into port as I was leaving town. She fetched up a couple of days later in Whitstable where she unloaded, and the last that I heard of her she had picked up a load of something in Dordrecht in the Netherlands and was on her way to Ridham, just down the road from Whitstable.

Back here this evening there was football. TNS were away at Bala Town in the Welsh Premier League, first away at second. It was a good, exciting match and while TNS were clearly the better team, Bala looked extremely dangerous at times and hit the woodwork twice with the keeper beaten and had Chris Venables had a decent touch on a ball in front of goal with Paul Harrison well out of position, Bala could have taken the lead.

As it was, TNS went into the lead after about 75 minutes only for Bala to equalise 5 minutes later. 1-1 was how it ended, a result which was about right altogether.

Tea was pasta with a couple of the burgers that I brought back from Leuven, followed by pineapple rings with chocolate vegan ice cream. No chance of going for an evening walk as there is apparently a curfew and it’s too late now.

Tomorrow will be really busy. I have bread to make – both “normal bread” and banana bread, as that which remained from last time didn’t survive. I have some kefir to make too, and for that I’ll probably use oranges this time.

The sourdough will need reanimating and feeding too, and then next week I’ll have a go making sourdough bread. I can’t use it this time because, having been in the fridge for a week or more, it’s still asleep.

Just like I’m going to be in a few minutes, I reckon. It takes me a couple of days to recover from my efforts in Leuven and I have plenty of work to do.

Monday 16th December 2019 – IT’S BEEN ANOTHER …

… one of those meetings up at the Centre Agora this morning. I’m not going to waste any of my time telling you about it because one of my former neighbours when I lived in Crewe had been to exactly the same kind of meeing once upon a time and he can tell the story far better than I ever could.

Mind you, I’m lucky that I actually got there at all. last night, unable to sleep it was well after 01:30 when I finally crawled into bed. And when the alarm went off at 06:00 (and again at 06:09 and 06:18) I wasn’t really in any kind of mood whatsoever to heave myself out of my stinking pit.

In fact I was all for turning over and going back to sleep but with the kind of willpower that I didn’t even realise that I had, I finally hauled myself out of bed at about 06:40.

After the medication, I sat down and extracted the files off the portable laptop and copied them onto the big desktop machine. And by now, as the medication had worked, I went for breakfast.

Once breakfast was done and dusted I sat down and began to transcribe the dictaphone notes for the period while I was away. There was even a dictaphone file from through the night. I was doing some stuff for the radio, doing all kinds of soundbites and sound clips and doing over a text – the whole idea of this sound thing was that I could cut bits out and paste them in over other bits so I could use the same bit of vocal recording for week after week after week but somehow it just wasn’t working out for some particular reason, but that’s hardly a surprise, is is?

Anyway, despite my eagerness to deal with the dictaphone notes, I broke off for a shower and noticing that my hair was starting to look as rough as I was feeling, I gave it a going-over with the sheep-shearer.

Back at my desk I carried on, only to notice that the time was suddenly 09:45. Where did the morning go? And I have to be at the Centre Agora in 15 minutes and it’s a 4 kilometre walk.

Even though it was raining fairly heavily I refused to go in Caliburn because now that I’m managing to hold off my illness and even fight back to some extent, I want to keep on fighting the good fight as long as I can.

dismantling installations repairing city walls Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne granville manche normandy franceAnd so I walked.

And I’m glad that I did because there was quite a lot going on here and there today. For a start, it looks as if they might be pretty close to finishing the repairs to the medieval city walls at the Boulevard des 2E et 202E de Ligne. They have dismantled all of the scaffolding and are removing the material.

It’s been a long job and while I can’t remember how long exactly, it certainly seems to be well over time.

cherry picker Rue du Commandant Yvon rue couraye granville manche normandy franceDown into town and into the rue Couraye, where I noticed that the Rue du Commandant Yvon was blocked off and there was a cherry picker in the way.

In the nacelle of the cherry picker was a guy wielding a huge SDS-type power drill busy bashing his way into the side wall of the building here. No idea what he was doing, so I’ll have to go down there in a day or so and see what he’s been up to.

But wielding an electric power tool in the rain like this is not something that I would do too often.

polar bear rue st nicolas granville manche normandy franceIt was 10:30 when I arrived at the Centre Agora but before I went in to the building I stopped in the rue St Nicolas outside the shops there too look at the Christmas decorations.

We’d seen a couple of inflatable polar bears in Paris yesterday but here’s a wooden one outside the shops. Or maybe it’s supposed to be three, I dunno. But whatever it is, it’s having a good nibble at the Christmas Tree here, which is of course highly unlikely.

At that point I went into the meeting and we had the performance about which Mr Bates told you just now.

Once it was done, I walked off (the rain had eased somewhat) to LIDL and did some shopping. Supplies are running quite low here with me not having been to the shops neither on Thursday nor Saturday.

Quite an expensive shop it was too, seeing as supplies were quite low. But some of the money was spent on a new pair of tactile gloves which they had on offer and which I need for photography purposes seeing that mine are in the pocket of my jacket that’s hanging up on a hanger in a hotel room in Calgary.

Some more money was spent on a new pack of 4 rechargeable AAA batteries. I have dozens here of course but many are over 10 years old and are starting to become rather flaky. The new ones ( I have three sets now all told) will come with me on my travels and the older ones will be used for powering up the equipment in here where they can be changed over rapidly and easily.

On the way back down the hill I called at La Mie Caline for my dejeunette and then came back up the hill to home.

bad parking rue des juifs granville manche normandy franceNot quite at a gallop because I was loaded up with stuff like carrots and pears and 3kg of apples that were on special offer.

And I do admit to taking a little break on my climb as I stopped, mouth wide open in astonishment, as I watched what can best be described as the worst piece of bad parking that I have ever seen. And, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, we’ve seen some pretty bad ones on our travels

Yes, this one beats the lot to date.

rue des juifs granville manche normandy franceHere’s some woman in a car unloading her shopping. There’s an empty car parking place right outside her house, and two other empty places 20 metres higher up the street. So what does our heroine do?

She parks across the road right outside her hose, blocking the pavement off to pedestrians, even though there’s an empty parking place less than 5 metres away from where she’s stopped.

What makes it even worse is that this is a bus route and service buses come up here. But don’t let that trouble madam here. She’ll far rather inconvenience the whole world given half a chance rather than walk 15 feet with a shopping bag.

fishing boat towing pontoon baie de mont st michel port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThe bad weather wasn’t preventing the fishermen from going out about their business.

Here’s one of the fishing boats heading out into the rough seas of the Baie de Mont St Michel. And the seas will be rougher where he’ll be going too, so he’ll have his work cut out with towing a pontoon or lighter out there behind him. I hope that the cable is strong enough.

Outside the building I fell in with Brigitte and we had a very lengthy chat. She was impressed with my Traversée de Paris yesterday (was it only yesterday?) but we had to break off our chat as the rain came hammering down again. But she did say that she will be requiring Terry’s services again in the New Year. She has more work that needs doing.

After lunch, I had some work to do. Jackie is going for her Official Translator’s exam very shortly and needed her trial pieces proof-reading. Of course, if anyone wants any poof-reading, tpying or speling checked, then in the words of the late, great Bob Doney, “I’m your man”.

Once that was out of the way I had other work to do. We’d been told today that the radio programme that we recorded with Heidinnguaq Jensen and her friends was being broadcast on Tuesday evening (that’s a lot of notice, isn’t it?) and we will be fitting in some of the Nive Nielsen stuff too if there’s time.

That meant telling Heidinnguaq of course, and also everyone else who knew her and Nive. And so I had to extract about 400 names and e-mail addresses from a spreadsheet and prepare a text file address list. I know that I should have done this ages ago but you’ve seen how much work I have on hand and that’s not the half of it.

Copy-pasting one by one is clearly impractical and there HAS to be a way of doing it in bulk. It’s one thing that I’ve not done before so it took quite a bit of trial – and more than a little error – to get it to work.

And eventually I was able to make a start sending out the invitations. And as you might expect, the e-mail server crashed in mid-send and so I had to do some of them again. So if anyone had the same e-mail twice then I’m sorry about that but I had to guess where the break-off point was and I’d rather over-estimate than under-estimate.

In mid-afternoon I broke off for my usual perambulation around the promontory only to find that there was no battery in the camera. The warning light had started to flash earlier so I had put it on charge – and then forgotten. Like I’ve said before … “and on many occasions too” – ed … Two things happen when you get to my age

  • Firstly, you forget absolutely everything
  • Secondly, I can’t remember what the second thing is

But I do remember that the rain started up yet again while I was out so I didn’t hang about for long.

Tea was a burger with pasta and veg and then my evening walk. It was teeming down outside so I wasn’t intending to be out long but by the time I’d turned for home on a dramatically shortened route I was so wet … “nothing new here” – ed … that I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb and went for a longer walk which included a couple of hundred metres of running. Must get back into shape.

trawler entering port de granville harbour manche normandy franceDespite the rain, I stayed out long enough to watch this trawler come into harbour.

The photo came out really nicely given the conditions, except for the lamp-post that somehow managed to fit itsself into the image. It was so dark out there that I hadn’t seen it

A few other things happened today that I ought to mention.

Firstly, there’s a “live broadcast” on Saturday night, the first that the radio station has attempted. Last Monday I mentioned that I was free on that evening but no-one took me up on the offer. Anyway, I mentioned it again and ditto.

So this afternoon I received a circular mail to the effect that “we’re having a meeting on Friday evening to discuss what we’re doing on Saturday”.
I wrote back “I assume that you won’t be needing me to attend seeing as I mentioned twice that I was free but no-one took up the offer of my availability”
Only to receive a hasty reply “of course we need you to help out and we’re looking forward to seeing you …”
But, we shall see.

Secondly, this “interview” that we are going to do with this musician on Wednesday. Apparently everyone can bring his wife, we’ll eat, we’ll sit round a table and talk, we’ll have music …. ”

What the heck is this all about?

  1. 20 questions typed out in French
  2. I ask them in English (not recorded, of course)
  3. The guy replies (in English)
  4. I overdub them in French with a nice British accent
  5. Then someone asks the questions in French, to no-one in particular but we record them
  6. We splice it all together

All done and dusted in half an hour and we all go home. I don’t have many hours left and I have so much to do and I won’t ever get these hours back that are being wasted.

Three times I’ve been dragged out halfway across Normandy to prepare for this blasted interview and nothing has been accomplished! Some people might have nothing better to do but I certainly have!

And that reminds me

That’s the last of my obligations dealt with now with this proof-reading. Tomorrow I can start with my own list of arrears.

  1. finish transcribing the dictaphone notes
  2. finish the blog entry for Saturday 10 days ago
  3. deal with the photos from Sunday last week onwards
  4. do another radio project (now I’m 3 weeks ahead I’m going to stay 3 weeks ahead)
  5. deal with all of the photos from when I was all at sea … “quite” – ed … for four months this year and from my nautical adventures last year too
  6. start to play the guitars again (which I haven’t touched for two weeks
  7. carry on searching for digital files for the vinyl and tapes that I have collected over the last 50 years

And that’s just the urgent stuff. There’s tons more going back to 2007 that needs to be dealt with although when I’m likely ever to get round to dealing with any of that given the rate that I’m currently dealing with things I don’t really have a clue.

So to start with, I’m going to try for an early night. There is nothing arranged for tomorrow so with luck I can sit down and have a really good crack at things here.

“Nothing arranged for tomorrow”. Yes, you just watch some basket come along and spoil that!

Monday 26th August 2019 – I DID MY FIRST …

… presentation today on an Adventure Canada ship and I was really pleased.

The subject of maps came up in the discussion and in particular Croker Bay where we were. it’s a huge, long fjord that branches off into two at the head. And so the question was raised. Why isn’t it shown on old maps?

The answer to that is simple.

The fact is that when this area was first surveyed in the mid 19th Century there was a glacier down it, as my Admiralty Charts tell me, and for that reason it was never possible to sail into it and explore it.

But when you see the fjord today, how long, wide and deep it is, it’s astonishing how much ice has actually melted away. Anyone who denies the existence of climate change needs to come here and have a look for themselves.

Last night I had a horrible night. Although I went asleep quite early on, I was awoken by I don’t know what at about 01:30 and that was my lot for the night.

Despite that, I still managed to beat the third alarm and was soon up on deck in the fog and mist. But a little later, we were in luck. We saw a polar bear asleep on a rock just on shore, right by where we were planning to land for Dundas Harbour. It was as if he was waiting for us.

It put the kybosh on the landing of course, but at least we had a good hour’s entertainment before he loped off to the other side, to our alternative landing point. So after a while waiting for him to move off, which he didn’t of course, we found another landing site in the vicinity. But not before a family of seals came along to join in the fun.

We had a cruise in the zodiacs around the bay so that we could at least look at the old Inuit settlement at Morin Point and the mast at Inglefield Hill, and then sailed across the strait to shore.

This new landing place is nothing like as historic or as interesting, but beautiful nevertheless. Probably one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. I surprised myself by climbing almost all the way to the top, which was quite an effort. Coming down alongside the waterfall was just as exciting. No-one was more pleased than me to have made it up there.

And the weather was perfect too. When I was here last year we were caught in a blizzaed.

After lunch we went for a cruise in Croker Bay (now that we can these days of course) and saw another polar bear, some walrus, more seals and some arctic geese. We certainly had our money’s worth this afternoon.

Tea was a disaster though yet again. Another one that took hours to come. And then they forgot my dessert. All in all I was waiting for two hours for my meal. I’ve no idea what was going on in the kitchen tonight.

This evening I helped the two young girls on board do a jigsaw and then came down here. Tons of photos to edit right now after today’s effotrts but even though we gain an hour tonight, after last night’s shenanigans I’m too tired to do anything.

So I’m off to bed. See you in the morning.

Sunday 25th August 2019 – WE HAD OUR …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we didn’t step ashore today at all.

Saturday 24th August 2019 – TODAY I HAVE BEEN …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Wednesday 18th April 2012- I’ve finished the heavy work in the garden.

gardening raised beds les guis virlet puy de dome franceThat’s all that it’s getting this year anyway. It can whistle for the rest.

If you compare this pic with the photo from a couple of days ago you’ll be able to notice the new frame that I made this afternoon. The soil that is in it has been dug over, hoed, raked and then hoed again, and it’s now covered up with a couple of offcuts of corrugated sheeting, for nothing is going to be planted in it until I come back and I don’t want it running to weeds while I’m away.

I’ve also sown a huge pile of beans in one of the beds, a few more rows of peas in another, and in one of the beds for root vegetables I’ve sown another row of beetroot and a couple of rows of carrots.

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be sowing some more brassica, some parsnips and some spinach, weeding both the cloches and that will be the garden finished until I come back. And when I come back, there will just be weeding to do and (hopefully) not much else. I’m glad I managed to do it all anyway but I can’t wait to crack on with other stuff. I want to finish the lean-to this summer.

This morning I have been working on my website again and I’ve finally finished what I want to do – namely cross the St Lawrence from the Charlevoix to the Gaspé from my voyage in early September 2011. Tomorrow I can bring up-to-date the radio pages and then start on the footy pages. No more footy for me this season which is a shame.

Another thing that is a shame is that one of the ferries that I was planning on taking on my journey in a few days’ time, L’Heritage from Trois Pistoles to Les Escoumins across the St Lawrence River, has had its annual opening put back. I’ve been on it before and it was a bit of a rust-bucket then, but this winter it failed its four-yearly inspection and so it’s had to go for a refit at a cost of … gulp … $1,368,000 or whatever the equivalent is in local currency, and the start of the ferry season has been put back from April 21 to May 15, something which is going to inconvenience me rather considerably.

There’s another ferry that does something like the same route but that doesn’t cater for cars. The advert says something like “don’t forget your bike”. I can imagine one polar bear looking at another polar bear as I go cycling past, and saying “oohhh look – meals on wheels”.

I’ve also started backing up all of the files on my computer – moving copies onto a portable hard drive. You never know what is likely to happen when I’m on an adventure. If the ferry sinks and takes my computer with it, I shall be sunk – I’ll tell you that.

And not only am I likely to be sailing over a route where a passenger ferry was sunk by a U-boat in World War II, I’ll be passing over the site of the wreck of an ocean liner that went down with the loss of over 1000 lives, within sight of land, in peacetime 2 years after the Titanic disaster.

So as you can see, anything is possible.