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Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure: High Arctic Birds

Posted by on 07 Dec 2017 | Tagged as: birding, Wandering Members

During the course of our trip we saw a number of birds but not a great variety.  We saw Common Ravens around every settlement.  The range maps show this bird over all but the northernmost tip of Ellesmere Island year around, but we only saw them around human habitation.  Every shore stop yielded several Snow Buntings.  Again maps show the High Arctic as their summer range but these birds seemed pretty con tent there at the end of August.  Admittedly, their interpretation of summer and mine may differ; they winter in Northern Alberta.  I saw an American Pipit on the north end of Baffin Island and others saw Lapland Longspur and Common Redpoll at our last Gyrfalconstop near the south end of that island.  No one on the trip saw a Snowy Owl, which was a disappointment.  On the other hand, the highlight of the trip for birders was three visits by Gyrfalcons.  They would seemingly appear out of nowhere, always in the morning, glide over the ship for a few minutes, then bank and glide off.  They are beautiful birds almost as large as Osprey but with a much shorter wingspan.  What a treat!

Caption: Gyrfalcon, note full crop.  Photo by Terry McIntyre Continue Reading »

Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure HA – 11

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

  Our last day started a little later than usual as this was the ship’s last voyage before dead heading to Halifax and being completely restocked for Antarctic service starting in October.  We were recruited to help empty their liquor stocks.  FREE BOOZE!  After Beth and I retired, the sauna across the hall from us became the center of the party so sleep was rather sporadic.   Continue Reading »

Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure HA – 10

Posted by on 07 Nov 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

Our last full day at sea was September 3.  We awoke nearing Monument Island on a cold, wet, blustery morning. The island is so named as the top apparently resembles a monument.  Unfortunately, ceiling this morning was about 100 feet so we have no idea what the island looks like.

I don’t think any of the weather or sea requirements were met but we were told they were putting the zodiacs in the water to explore the rocky shore of the island. (I suspect this would not have been risked had it not been our last day.)  At any rate, the dumbest 2/3 of us were in the zodiacs and away from the ship by 9:15, heading to the island a couple of miles away.

Once we got away from the lee side of the ship, waves and wind became more severe but by that time we were committed.  Continue Reading »

Ken and Beth’s Arctic Adventure HA – 9

Posted by on 07 Nov 2017 | Tagged as: Wandering Members

(My apologies:  I lost my phone with all my photographs between this and the previous post so have to rely on fellow travelers for the rest of the posts.)

Going to shoreCalmer seas overnight and this morning and we were amongst a great many smallish icebergs.  We sailed down Davis Strait and turned into the island community of Qikiqtarjuaq.  The community originated in the early 1960s when an air strip was built to support the nearby DEW Line station.  It now has a population of over 500.   Apparently icebergs traveling south sometimes divert inland around the island and often are grounded. Not sure if the grounding is assisted by the locals or not but, in any case, they provide drinking water for the community.  They claim it makes excellent tea. The sea water in the port is very clear.  As we came ashore we could see the bottom quite clearly even though we were in several feet of water.  Caption: Coming to shore in Qikiqtarjuaq. Photo by Justin Peter.

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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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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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