Quick hits from voyaging in the Northwest Passage

A couple more quick hits (excerpts) from our 2016 Adventure Canada voyage Into the Northwest Passage . . .

 DAY FOUR – Karrat

At around 12:30, with the sun shining
bright, the Ocean Endeavour entered
one of the most spectacular fjords in Greenland. Karrat Fjord is almost 100 km
long. We sailed up it to within 1.5 miles of Karrat Island, where we anchored
among a field of icebergs. They came from an ice river called Rink’s Icebrae,
which calves icebergs into the water from the Greenland Ice Cap, emitting the
occasional cracking sound.

To land, voyagers split into three
groups: long hikers, medium walkers, and beachcombers. About thirty people, led
by the tireless Laura Baer, reached the top of a high ridge. The rest of us
enjoyed the spectacular view along the edge of the plateau, and visited
archaeological sites that included a Thule encampment and a 20th-century
cemetery. This last comprised forty or fifty graves and a scattering of worn
wooden crosses that lay on the ground. The only completely legible name was
that of Hans Thomasen, though another cross bore the name Anna, and also a
date: 1944.

Probably, the Greenlandic people of
the nearby settlement used this place to bury their dead. That settlement,
called Nugatsiaq, is west of the island at the foot of the mountain on the far
shore of the fjord. Several staffers recalled seeing that settlement on a
previous visit, though today, because of the icebergs, it became visible only
to those on the high ridge. More than one visitor remarked on the silence and
peacefulness of the island.  And for most
voyagers, the return to the ship by zodiac involved a special treat as we
wended among icebergs that sparkled in the sun.

DAY SIX – Kap York

Passenger Lorne Pendleton, noting that
we could not see the Robert Peary obelisk because of the fog, suggested that
the 28-metre memorial was cloaked in “a shroud of shame.” We were riding back
to the ship in a zodiac after doing the alleged “medium walk” around a small

Pendleton was alluding to a couple of
facts that had been revealed yesterday at recap. In 1897, Peary had arrived
here in a steamship. He hired all the able-bodied Inuit in the vicinity, and then
made off with several massive chunks of a 10,000-year-old meteorite, which he
sold to the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Peary also brought six Inuit to that
metropolis. Four of them soon died. One (a young man) was shipped home, and an
eight-year-old boy named Minik stayed behind, fooled into thinking that his
father’s body had been buried with respect. In truth, scientists had defleshed
that body and put the skeleton on display.

Later, Peary claimed he had reached
the North Pole when he had not. None of this prevented the explorer’s family
from memorializing him at Cap York with this giant needle, which is topped with
a massive “P.”  (Pix by Sheena Fraser McGoogan)

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