Northwest Passage (7)

Prince Regent Inlet, one of the several choices now available for transiting the Northwest Passage, is packed with historical locations some of which date back almost two millenia.   It is also brimming with potential for wildlife sightings.  However, we were also experiencing some heavy weather with strong winds and choppy seas, so the plans for a landing at Fury Beach to observe the 191st anniversary of the scuttling of the HMS Fury had to be—well, scuttled.  (Those interested in further details about the Fury and Edward Parry’s search for the Northwest Passage can find more here.)



Polar Bear, Unimpressed by our Little Armada

But Plan B turned out pretty well.  A sheltered bay was located that included a polar bear walking along the beach.  Zodiacs were launched and the bear cooperated by staying put, relatively close to the shore.  It was working on a carcass of an unidentified animal and as long as we didn’t get too close, it seemed uninterested in us.


(Tight Crop, Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 and 1.7x tele-extender, handheld, 1/200th sec. @ f/4.8, ISO 800)

That evening, our ship hosted the crew of the s/v Vagabond, a 47-foot sailboat especially fitted for overwintering in the Arctic.


S/V Vagabond

We had passed them a few days earlier and our captain arranged for them to come aboard for a presentation on their research work and what life is like living on a small boat in the Arctic winters.  It was an unusual crew, Eric Brossier, his wife France, and their two charming daughters aged 6 and 8 years old.  Their main activity is data gathering for a variety of research institutions on a wide range of topics.  They also derive income from providing logistical support for filmmakers, photographers, and others.  More on the Brossier family can be found here.

Later that day, another Zodiac run took us to Fort Ross, the site of an abandoned outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company.


This outpost was built in 1937, abandoned 11 years later

The organization has a long history in North America, dating back to 1670.  The original land grant was equivalent to 40% of the total land area of modern Canada.  Known first as the dominant fur trader in North America, it is now a major international retailer, owning such subsidiaries as Saks Fifth Avenue.  More about the company’s history can be found here.


HDR image of interior of living area

Approaching the southern tip of Somerset Island the next day, another Zodiac excursion took us into Hazard Inlet.


Overlooking Hazard Inlet

 Here we had our first chance to walk on tundra, something akin to stumbling across an enormous sponge with hidden crevices and random sogginess.  Over a thousand years ago, small populations of both the Dorset and subsequently the Thule cultures lived here long ago.  The Dorset people arrived in the Arctic as early as 500 BC and were displaced by the Thule (arriving between 900-1100 AD).  The Thule are the ancestors of the modern Inuit inhabitants of the Arctic.  Scattered archaeological remains of the settlements could still be seen, including gravesites with skeletal remains forced to the surface by cycles of freezing and thawing over the eons.  We were starting to notice a theme of the difficulties humans have had surviving in this harsh environment.

The tundra seems hospitable to the small flowering plants scattered about.  They were already fading in anticipation of the approaching winter, but aging boulders were festooned with colorful displays of lichen.


Lichen on Boulder


Next up:  Bellot Strait, named after a charismatic French explorer who searched in vain for the lost Franklin Expedition



25 thoughts on “Northwest Passage (7)

  1. Robin: I loved the photos and the copy. You had some great lines, particularly “Here we had our first chance to walk on tundra, something akin to stumbling across an enormous sponge with hidden crevices and random sogginess” – wonderful!

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  2. I would love to get up to the higher latitudes for photography, but Wade would not have a bar of it. Not in our boat, mind you – it is not strong enough for that and we are not interested in sailing in big seas – on a cruise boat like you did with the Antarctic and the Arctic. He is such a weakling with the cold! Had a look at the link to the French family… These guys are hard core!

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    • Thanks, Chris. I hear you. Big ships are not ideal, espcially for those who know about sailing. But if it’s the only way to get to a place you really, really want to see…… I think there were only three such transits this year and we were not the biggest one out there. Crystal’s “Serenity” was making a transit in the opposite direction. We passed them at a distance about halfway through. With 1,000 passengers (we had 200) and little experience (our ship was making it’s 4th transit), and absent an ice-reinforced hull they were incapable of stopping in many of the places we did, navigating into the narrow and relatively shallow bays we visited, or offering a minimum of one Zodiac excursion every day for every passenger that we enjoyed,I can’t imagine taking that option. As for the cold, it wasn’t too bad but certainly not shorts and T-shirts. Now that we have seen the big picture, we can search for smaller and more flexible carriers that go to specific spots.

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  3. Robin, wonderful photos accompanied by such wonderful background information. Thanks for taking the time to share all of that as it really helps to understand all the better what you saw and did! As for the Brossier family, wow! I followed that link and all I am simply in awe of their chosen lifestyle. Hardy stock indeed! Can’t wait for the next installment 🙂

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    • Thanks, Stacy, I appreciate the kind words and I’m glad you are finding the background info of interest. The Arctic may not be the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen, but I found myself captivated by it. I hope to get back there again somehow.

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  4. Lovely photos and fantastic tour! I’m enthralled! The polar bear carrying its meal made my jaw drop open. And that interior HDR…wow! I really love what you did with that. Thanks for taking us along such an amazing journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Northwest Passage (9) | photographybykent

  6. Wow! My dream is to go to the Arctic one day, and your photos have definitely reminded me of why I want to go, it looks absolutely stunning. Love the polar bear photos, and the photos of the Hudson Bay Company building.


    • Thanks for your comments, Sarah. I just checked your blog post on Iceland, it was great. The Arctic is definitely different from most travel destinations and not easy to get to. I hope to go back and am looking at some shorter trips that start in Iceland and explore some of the fjords on the southern part of Greenland. I hope to have time during my upcoming trip to Iceland to talk with some outfitters based in Reykjavik to get a better idea of what is involved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sounds amazing. I’ve seen a few trips to the Arctic which include Greenland, and if I ever go that might be the way I do it – either Greenland, or Norway. Both look so beautiful.


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