October 2017

Monthly Archive

Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure- High Arctic – 8

Posted by on 31 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

Next stop as we headed down the coast of Baffin Island was Isabella Bay. That morning Beth went to the lounge on the top deck to get a coffee.  All of a sudden she came running back into our room – there were no locks on any of the doors- yelling “Gyrfancon, Gyrfalcon.”  We rushed out the door at the end of our hallway, looked up, and there was a beautiful Light Morph Gyrfalcon gliding along right over our heads.  It had an obvious full crop so must have caught a small seabird quite recently. It coasted along above us for several minutes then peeled off and disappeared.  What a magnificent species. Continue Reading »

Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure: High Arctic – 7

Posted by on 31 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

We travelled south down the east coast of Baffin Island and in the top end of iceberg alley.  Some of the icebergs are calved from glaciers on Ellesmere Island but most come from Greenland.  The latter travel north in the West Greenland Current then turn and head south through Baffin Bay and the North Atlantic riding the Labrador Current.  They leave their mother-glacier as dirty, grubby grey masses of ice but before long, ocean spray and rain and snow turn them into the gleaming white bergs we typically see.  They come in all shapes and sizes.

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Oct 14 Buschman Park Field Trip Report

Posted by on 17 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: birding

Great Blue HeronEight folks enjoyed a rather spectacular morning of birding in Buschman Park, Port Orange.  As we gathered in the parking lot, we were met by a woman and her dogs who had just come from the park’s interior.  She told us she saw a pair of Barred Owls and that got us psyched. We crossed the bridge and went to the left to keep the sun out of our eyes.  Our first sighting was a Little Blue Heron and then a very scruffy, worn Great Blue Heron.    

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Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure: High Arctic – 6

Posted by on 13 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

From Cape Hay we travelled west then south through Parry Channel to a stop at Navy Board Inlet. Wind had picked up and seas were too rough for zodiac travel.  Foiled again.

We continued on east to the settlement of Pond Inlet.  Late in the afternoon it became showery and the cliffs along the shore started to whiten.

This was the first night we had a short time of darkness.

Ken Gunn - Greeter in Pond InletWe arrived at Pond Inlet early the following morning and were ashore by 9:30. Pond Inlet is a community of about 2000 people and predates European arrival.  In Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people, it is called Mittimatalik. We were expected, so were met and greeted as we climbed out of the zodiacs. One of the greeters was dressed in a beautiful fur coat so I complimented her on it.  She said “Yes, I bought it from the mail order store in Winnipeg (Manitoba).”  So much for native arts. 

We walked uphill through the community to a very modern Community Center.  The town has a school and school bus, at least one church, two stores, trucks delivering water and others collecting sewage, and an airstrip capable of accommodating 737s. Some of our group used the school bus for transportation, the rest of us straggled along and were gradually joined by several of the locals. Continue Reading »

Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure: High Arctic – 5

Posted by on 13 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

 Young polar bear walking along shore of Cape Hay. Photo by Justin PeterAfter being overflown by the flock of Brandt Geese, we continued along off the shoreline south of Cape Hay and soon found what spooked the geese – two Polar Bears, both fairly young.  One was running up the cliff away from us, the other over the hill ahead of us.  As we drew nearer, we saw the reason for their fright and flight.  There was a very large, and probably mean, older bear in the water.  (The kayakers decided to stay in their tow-zodiac today.)  Apparently after putting the fear of Satan into the young bucks, he decided to go across the bay.  Since it was only three miles straight across and probably as much as four by land he decided to just swim across. Talk about being at home in the water. 

We travelled around the nearby point and caught up with one of the younger bears walking along the shore.  He was no longer running but boy could he cover a lot of ground just walking.  We followed him for about a mile and he never let up, still frightened of the bigger bear.  What a magnificent creature even though he was still not fully grown up.  When he got to the glacier he headed up the mountain beside it.       Continue Reading »

Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure: High Arctic – 4

Posted by on 12 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: birding, Wandering Members

We travelled east then north from Dundas Harbor heading for Grise Fjord.  This was another of the forced relocation settlements of the 1950s.  It currently has a population of 125 and is the coldest permanently inhabited location in the world.  Unfortunately, heavy ice and strong winds caused our visit to be scrubbed.  Not sure I wanted to get any colder anyway.  Scenery along the north end of Devon Island and south end of Ellesmere Island was spectacular so the venture wasn’t a dead loss.

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Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure: High Arctic 3

Posted by on 12 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

Thayer's Gull Dundas Harbour We ferried ashore to Dundas Harbor on Devon Island in the zodiacs and landed in shallow water on a sloping gravelly beach.  A Thayer Gull stood stoically on a nearby rocky section of shoreline probably quietly laughing at us slopping ashore. In spite of the all clear report by the scout team, at least six of the blue shirts carried bear blasters, large barrel weapons which shoot a non-life threatening explosive and two carried real rifles.  We were in big bear country. (A former Mountie on the staff team, with a lot of time in the Arctic, recounted asking an Inuit about hunting Polar Bear.  The native replied, “Don’t hunt Polar Bear, Polar Bear hunt me!”)

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Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure: High Arctic 2

Posted by on 12 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

floating ice We raised anchor and headed out of Resolute Bay, heading east, as we were eating our first dinner aboard ship. Even though there were a few hours in which the sun was not above the horizon, it stayed quite light all night.  We were continually in broken ice but all pieces were small and had a beautiful blue tint. Fog was also an issue.

Beechey IslandOur scheduled stop next morning was tiny Beechey Island.  This is where Sir John Franklin chose to spend the winter of 1845-46 during his search for the Northwest Passage.  At that time, ships planning to winter in the Arctic would find what they considered a safe harbor, anchor and allow themselves to be frozen in for the next nine to ten months.  Some years the ice did not go out and the ship would remain frozen in through a second winter.  Three of Franklin’s men died over the winter and are buried on the island.  Their graves were found by searchers for the expedition in 1850 and the bodies were exhumed, sampled and photographed and returned to their graves in about 1980. The bodies were found to be perfectly preserved as they were buried in permafrost.

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Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure: High Arctic – 1

Posted by on 11 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

Nunavut Communities MapBeth and I went on a cruise in the High Arctic at the end of August this year and it was an awesome experience.  Cruise is a stretch, as the vessel was a converted Russian research vessel.  The ship’s crew, cabin and wait staff were all Russian; the speakers, tour staff (blue shirts) who operated the zodiacs, served wine and tended bar, helped everywhere and were extremely knowledgeable about the Arctic, the animals and to a lesser degree the birds, and the cooks were a mixture of Canadians, Aussies, Brits and one American.  There were 150 persons on board of which 84 were tourists.  All of our journey was within the Canadian Territory of Nunavut, a jurisdiction just over three times the size of Texas and with a population of less than 50,000. The “ice-free” season is very short in the High Arctic, even with global warming.  Ice went out of the bay, where we embarked, on July 29 and on September 2 we saw the large oil supply tanker part way through its last run to the scattered communities before freeze-up. 

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