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.

Unfortunately, winds were up to 30 knots and the seas were too rough for us tenderfoots to be loaded onto zodiacs for shore excursions.  Temperature 34 degrees.  When there was no improvement after four hours the venture was aborted.  Drinks were free to toast Sir John.

Suited up and onshoreWe sailed on east through the Northwest Passage and stopped in Dundas Harbor on Devon Island the following afternoon.  It was a protected anchor, the weather was beautiful at almost 40° with a 23 knot wind, and the scout team reported “No Polar Bears in sight” so we suited up for a shore excursion.  Suiting up involved donning cruise supplied, heavy waterproof bib overalls, an equally heavy coat with hood and chin cover and one’s own gloves or mittens or both.  Next came lined heavy rubber boots, which were stored in the mudroom and an inflatable life vest.  A waterproof backpack, made for 6 month rations completed the uniform.  Once ashore, sharp walking sticks were optional.

The Canadian Arctic is believed to have been inhabited by the Dorset people  from 500 BC to 1500 AD.  They spread east from the Bering Sea, eventually reaching Greenland.  Based on Inuit legend and the size of building stones they obviously moved, they are believed to have been a giant race.  In spite of their size, legend proclaims them to have been very timid, easily frightened away.  For whatever reason, they could not compete with the Thule Inuit and completely disappeared.  The Thule began the same eastward advancement as the Dorset, beginning about 1100 AD and are the forebearers of the modern day Inuit.  Surprisingly, modern genetic studies find no trace of interaction between these two original peoples.

It is an unstudied Thule historic site which we will visit on our first shore excursion.

Photo Captions

Floating Ice

Beechey Island

Suited up and onshore.  Beth is in center, I to her left.  Photo by Justin Peter

ED. Note.  Click the thumbnails to see larger photos.