I left you last time near Iqaluit, Nunavut where we shared the shore with Polar Bears and followed the tracks of early explorers. So let’s see what happened next.
Nunavut was separated from the Northwest Territories in 1999, as a result of the enactment of the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, with Iqaluit established as its capital. Nestled at the head of Frobisher Bay, Iqaluit was and is a safe harbour for explorers and residents alike. Quite modern, with a strong infrastructure of roads and services, it is now the economic hub of the region.
For us, it was the jumping off point for the third leg of our journey. A day visit allowed us to see local museums and learn a bit about the Inuit culture as we explored. Shortly after leaving town, we had an incredible experience when we sailed to Monumental Island, a tiny speck of land at the mouth of Frobisher Bay. Here wildlife abounded, as both Peregrine Falcons and Gyrfalcons hunted the kittiwakes and others seabirds. Three more Polar Bears lolled on the shore, paying little attention to our passing, but nonetheless raising blood pressures all around!
Now it got tricky, for the ice was problematic. We soon learned from our Expedition Leader how to read ice maps. On these maps, the density of the ice is displayed as “fifths”, so 1/5 ice means that 20% of the surface of the water is covered in ice. We could easily navigate up to about 3/5 ice cover and a little more, if the ice was thinner. Everyone was on high alert, and while the crew sailed and fretted, we watched the parading wildlife. Hundreds of seals, a few whales, and thousands of sea birds seemed to be everywhere, on every flow, in the air, or resting on the water wherever we looked!
We finally reached Pangnirtung (Pang as it is known locally), where the community greeted us with open arms. For many on board, it was the first time they had set foot in an Inuit community, and it was both eye-opening and spell-binding.
Throat singing demonstrations and Inuit Games were presented. For me, I wondered how these difficult games originated? Competitions like finger pulling, the Muskox, one-foot high kick, airplane, mouth pulling and knuckle hopping seemed to have the ability to injure joints and extremities. In retrospect, perhaps they not only strengthened the mind and body, but also helped Inuits survive, when times got really tough in the hunting fields.
Ice and snow became our constant companion, throughout this leg of the journey, as we dodged and plowed through millions of tons of it. In the south, we think the Arctic is melting so fast that one can’t even find frozen ground. The reality is that there are areas that are more greatly impacted than others. Some have more, or at least as much ice as they’ve had for the past 50 years. We were told that east of Baffin is an area where ice conditions remain fairly stable, and our experience certainly bore this out. One day we sailed almost all the way to Greenland to get around dense ice floes!
West of Baffin ice conditions tend to be less stable, but, on the last two trips I’ve taken to the area, we had serious ice issues on both shores of Baffin. In fact on this journey, shore ice was so thick we couldn’t even get to our final destination at Resolute, so we had to sail back to Pang to disembark. A lovely return journey that netted us incredible scenery, Walruses, Narwhals and Beluga Whales; bonus!
This article and the two that preceded it, give you a glimpse of what is out there in this remote northern part of Canada. If you haven’t ventured out may I recommend you give it a try? There are a few companies out there offering great itineraries. For me, I guide for One Ocean Expeditions, from Squamish, B.C., and would highly recommend them to you as one carrier that cares about you and the environment.
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.
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Geoff Carpentier is a published author, ecotour guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line, at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.