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.

We continued on, now more north than east, crossing into the Eastern Time Zone and intending to round the southeast corner of Ellesmere Island and travel north toward Smith Sound.  Once more we were thwarted by weather.  Ice had moved into the pass between Ellesmere Island and Greenland and a south wind was packing it solid.  Again the captain said, “Nyet” and headed the ship south toward Bylot and Baffin Islands, passing through fairly heavy ice in Lady Ann Strait (named after Sir John Franklin’s wife). The farthest north which we got was 76° 18.5 latitude, not the 79.8° we had hoped for. 

We dropped anchor off Cape Hay on the north side of Bylot Island about noon the following day.  Since it was beautiful, 35° and overcast but with only 2 knot winds and calm seas, we suited up for a zodiac excursion to examine the ¾ mile wide glacier at the back of the adjacent bay.

bird cliff at Bylot Island - Justin Peter

One of our fellow passengers in the zodiac was a Spaniard who, with two others, had actually skied the 500 kilometers around Bylot Island a couple of winters ago.  What a feat.  They dragged their shelters and food for a 30 day trip on sleds, but he said the biggest issue was picking their way through ice eruptions which might go on for miles.  Anyway, he was very sharp-eyed and as we motored along a cliff he said, “Look, there’s a bird up there.”  I found it with my glasses.  It was on a shelf some 75 feet above the water; a Guillemot with bright, bright, unused red feet about to make its maiden plunge.  As we watched, it walked to the brink of the ledge and jumped.  It fell like a rock, then instinct took over and he spread his wings and began to glide, but still downward.  Then he flapped a couple of times and was flying.  What a spectacle!

As we continued along toward the glacier, we heard a loud racket, even above our 60 horsepower motor.  Finally we could see movement near the shore.  We soon identified it as a large flock of birds.  It turned out to be a flock of over 500 very loud Brandt Geese and they flew right over us. Something had obviously scared them up from near the shore but it sure provided us with a great view.  Unfortunately, we were all so bundled up, no one got a photograph.

The day would have been complete even had it ended then and there.

Photo Captions and Credits

Norht side of Devon Island, photo by Justin Peter

Ice in Lady Jane Strait.  Photo by Justin Peter.

Fogged-in nesting cliff, Cape Hay. Photo by Justin Peter