Sunday 25 August 2013

Awesome Painters!

It has been an awesome time out here on the nw passage.  Beaufort 8, gales
rocking us abruptly as we sail toward Cambridge Bay, and down the Victoria
Strait, Queen Maud Gulf, and Dease Strait to Cambridge Bay.... our
passengers are incredibly good sports; my art students were "on fire",
prolific, and so wanting to learn, to listen, and to paint, paint, paint
whenever we were "ship bound", which seemed to be quite frequently in
current ice and wind conditions.

Almost Home!

Blog Day 10, Bellot Strait
At 6:00 a.m. we were out the deck, observing the tremendous current in the Bellot Strait.  On the horizon were 3 small sailing vessels, awaiting the Henry Larson escort.  They tucked in behind the Akademik IOFFE, and we all sailed through the heavy ice to open water.  Tonight, after 150 knotical miles, we plan to land at Victory Point.  More to follow as the day unfolds.
Amid Historical Presentations, and Climate Change Affecting Landscapes Talks, we sailed east of Victoria Island, then southward in a direction toward Cambridge Bay.  Later in the evening as we passed by Victoria Point, where Franklin’s men spent endless time in desolation, and as we sailed over the waters where Franklin was buried,  Huw delivered an eloquent tribute to the exploration heros of 1847, a great tragedy in the history of Arctic navigation.
Later in the night, huge winds excited George and Mark, the “weather chasers” from the weather channel, winds mounted to Beaufort 8 throughout our rocking sleep.  The weather boys were “up” all night long.
Art classes are culminating beautifully, as we add finishing touches to our masterpieces.  We’ll have a display, during the Captain’s Dinner tomorrow evening!

Friday 23 August 2013

Final leg of the journey of a life time.

At 6:00 a.m. we were out the deck, observing the tremendous current in the
Bellot Strait.  On the horizon were 3 sailing vessels, awaiting the Henry
Larson escort.  They tucked in behind the Akademik IOFFE, and we all sailed
through the heavy ice to open water.  Tonight, after 150 knotical miles, we
plan to land at Victory Point.  More to follow as the day unfolds.
Art classes are culminating beautifully, as we add finishing touches to our
masterpieces.  We’ll have a display, during the Captain’s Dinner tomorrow


Canadian coast guard to the rescue…following in the watery, current filled trail of the Henry Larson.

Canadian coast guard to the rescue…following in the watery, current filled trail of the Henry Larson.

Resolute: sun and moon information
Sunrise:  3:45 a.m.
Sunset: 11:02 p.m.
Moonrise: 8:32p.m.
Moonset: 8:19 a.m.
Day length: 19h. 20m.

“Not here, the white North has thy bones; and thou,
Heroic Sailor-Soul
Art passing on thine happier voyage now,
Toward no Earthly Pole.”
Tennyson’s Epitaph on the Franklin Monument, Westminster Abbey

A Big Day Yesterday...: Prince Leopold Island, Sailing through Sea Ice and
Beechey Island
We had a spectacular day 8, toasting “a wee dram of Scotch” at the Beechey
Island, Franklin’s men’s gravesites, …. a spectacular sunset over the snowy
Day 9 was spent trudging through ice in the path of  the Henry Larson ICE
BREAKER.  Watching the helicopter take off and land on that ship, was indeed
reassuring, and an amazing sight.

TOMORROW, we travel through the Bellot Strait, behind the Henry Larson!
Excitement looms...

Wednesday 21 August 2013

I just took videos of breaking through sea ice beyond what I ever
would have imagined that we'd be going through.  In the journey through the
ice, there was a mother and two polar bear cubs crossing from ice chunk to
ice chunk.  I captured what I could of that too.  Unbelievable.
We have yet to meet with Henry Larson ice breaker tomorrow, I believe to see
us through the really tricky parts!

An Escort Will Guide Us!

Well the ice has moved in to our path; we've been traveling northeast,
rather than the northwest route charted, and our stop at the gravesite at
Beechy Island is now scheduled for sometime after dinner hour (daylight
until 1:00 a.m., so no worries.  My plan for 'artist students in residence'
is to take our "pleine aire" art kits on shore, sit on a rock, and render
the gravesite/Beechy Island mood in our paintings!  We'll see what
transpires between now and then?!  Presently we are at approx. 74.9 degrees
N. Lat.

Just found out that our permission for the Henry Larson ICE BREAKER has been
granted!!!!!  After meeting up with the HENRY LARSON at Resolute Bay, we'll
be escorted through Peel Sound, between Sommerset Island and Prince of Wales
Island.  That means that our flights out of Cambridge Bay may still be
within our timeline.... yes, all are thrilled because we're getting a little
weary with all of this excitement!

History comes alive!

Day 8, August 21, 2013.  Prince Leopold Island, and Beechy Island – gravesite of three of Franklin’s men…

Still waiting for and ice report from Director of ICE OPERATIONS, Ice Office Canada, Alec McIntyre.  We will visit Beechy Island gravesite before learning sail plan for the rest of today…


p.s. Norm Smith and his son Brad as well as the rest of the guests are really in awe of the whole ONE OCEAN operation down here, as the ice maps are shared with us as we go, as we sail through the ice on our mighty Akademik IOFFE.

Also,  the calibre of speakers is beyond belief; one actually feels as though one is ‘living the explorer experience’ when steeped with the tales of history that have unfolded before us.  Right after a full briefing with excellent visual aids and dynamic talks, we will load in to the zodiacs and actually visit the gravesites of Petty Officer John Torrington, Royal Marine Private William Braine, and Able Seaman John Hartnell.. no record of Franklin and his 128 men… later, Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1903 was successful in search of the northwest passage.  Do not forget that Franklin on two previous voyages charted a great expanse of our present Arctic region…

Tuesday 20 August 2013


We are presently sailing down Lancaster Sound, with snow on our decks,
making our way into Dundas Harbour where we will scout for polar bears, and
if clear, we'll be landing.  Then traversing through the Prince Rupert
Inlet, and hopefully through the Bellot Strait... that's the one with the
9/10 ice coverage at present, and if it remains... we'll be finding an
alternate route.

Powerful Ice!!!

Day 7: August 20/13.
Expediton Excursion: Dundas Harbour
Well, today our expedition leader, Boris, had a presentation for all.  We learned that there is huge sea ice ahead of us with strong winds.  We may have to alter our course, and avoid the 9/10 ice coverage (which has been pushed, by strong prevailing winds, into the ‘Strait’ where we planned to traverse).  We have some alternate routes for our northwest passage, but many openings appear to be blocked by sea ice at the present time (we get updated ice maps via radar daily).  Who knows what will happen to this voyage in the next few days.  Our final destination should be Cambridge Bay, on August 25,2013, but if we are unable to get through (this had happened in 2011) we may need to go back to Pond Inlet.  That would mean re-arranging flight arrangements for 100 people from “POND”!  It certainly makes the journey exciting!
I’ll post more on Day 7… as it unfolds.
xxxox and Cheers to ADVENTURE!

Monday 19 August 2013

Powerful Music, Powerful Nature

Day 6, Monday, August 19, 2013: POND INLET
Swarms of Seabirds and Wayfaring Whales in Baffin Bay
Early in the day we were greeted with the rounded head of the Long-Finned Pilot Whale.   It’s an extremely rare sighting this far north, and we were lucky enough to see a pod of about 20-30 females with young calves in tow.
Dovekies (or Little Auks as they are known in Europe) are the most common seabirds and auks in this part of the world.  An estimated 10 million pairs breed in northwest Greenland.  They usually leave their breeding colonies in August before heading into the North Atlantic, off the south coast of Greenland and off Labrador and Newfoundland, for the winter.  We saw over 5000 of them when we left the coastal waters of Greenland before entering Canadian Waters.  They barely measure 20 cm. from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail and weigh only 200g.
TODAY IN POND INLET… we were greeted with a very professional and cultural celebration including Arctic games, throat singing, drumming by seniors, middle generation young men, and very young children ALL IN COSTUME!  It was absolutely heart warming, brought tears to my eyes!
One of the beautiful young Inuit mothers, with her child snuggled in her special hooded dress, sang “Oh Canada”, in Inuktitut, French, and English; it sent chills through my body, it was so rich, patriotic, and sincere.   I later asked her,”Have you ever sung for national T.V.?”  She responded by telling me, “I have sung for HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA!”  Everyone should here this young girl’s (young mother’s) version of “Oh Canada”.
Then one of the elders sang as she lighted her special fire, while two generations of young men and children danced playing the drums… she had received the “Order of Canada Medal” in 2011.

Sunday 18 August 2013

DAY 5, Sunday, August 18, 2013.

DAY 5, Sunday, August 18, 2013.

This is our second day ‘at sea”, and finally into calmer waters as we sail north 45km. off the eastern shores of Baffin Island, toward the Pond Inlet area and Lancaster Sound.
Sea Ice Ahead, and calmer seas…. Lookig at the most recent ice charts for the Northsest Passage, it appears certain that we will encounter quite a bit of sea ice in the coming week.  At present, the Pond Inlet area and Lancaster Sound are ice-free but farther west and south in Prince Regent Inlet and Franklin Strait there is a lot of ice, including 9/10 ice coverage through which we cannot sail.  However, at this time of the year, sea ice conditions change very quickly and in two, three, or four days conditions should be significantly different.  We expect to see lots of first-year ice and very little thick multiyear ice.  A new record of minimal sea ice extent was broken in Sept. 2012 (3.4 million km. squared).

Sea days make for great opportunity to PAINT, and with the enthusiastic passengers on this journey, we have been making great headway on our ARCTIC renditions… we’ll have an awesome “art show” by Friday, August 23rd/13.  At that time, passengers’ “works of art” will be on display in our dining room.

Thanks for asking me a question Terry and Beth!

I was really thrilled to receive a comment on this blog so that I could write back!  I would love it if anyone else out there reading and a comment or question for me...I am missing home a little, so it is good to have at least this one way to communicate with others!

This is the response I typed to Terry and Beth's question:

Greetings Terry and Beth;
(in an attempt to answer your request for a comparison of Antarctic/Arctic
adventure expeditions....)
Each has its perk.  If you enjoy being relatively up close and comfortable
with polar bear, you'll likely get it here.  If the ice caps, glacial
moraine, historical stories of melting and ice movement, capture your
interest, then this is the place to be.  Also Greenlandic communities such
as Sisimiut, Ilulissat, Qeqertarsuaq and Kangerlussuaq, deep in the heart of
the fjords are steeped in Danish and native culture, reminiscent of the
past. The trip across the Davis Strait for us, this journey, was turbulent,
reminding me of many of the Drake Passage crossings to Antarctica. Then
there is the entire encounter with the native communities such as
Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet, Victory Point (King William's Island), Fort Ross )a
former Hudson's Bay Co. trading post) and the Bellot strait
Antarctica, especially if you take the Falkland Is. and South Georgia
option,  offers gigantic bergs, a plethora of ocean mammals and sea birds
beyond your imagination.  I still have memories of the pods of humpback
whales just a bit ahead of our sea kayaks.  South Georgia, home of over
200.000 king penguins is truly unbelievable.  The humungous elephant seals
of the Falklands, with their burping and farting is so entertaining.
Historically both have perks: the Arcic with tales of Knud Ramassun,
Franklin, Amundsen, Scott, etc... as well as recent explorers, which are
related through our highly qualified staff who have authored several books,
or are descendants from the explorers bring our past to life.  Visiting
Beachy Island, gravesite of some of Franklin's men, the ill-fated expedition
of 1845.
Then the Antarctic, with Shakleton's tales (and all other explorer's tales
as well), visiting his gravesite in Gritviken (I forget how to spell, and no
'google' out here), an old whaling station (only on South Georgia trip)...
etc... I could go on ... over tea one day!
If you google Sir Wally Herbert, it will give you a scope of the calibre of
speakers on board.. his daughter, Kari Herbert, is with us (also an author)
and last night gave a presentation about her mom and dad, and life
experiences. Wally was an exceptional artist as well; died in 2007; that's
only one of our 7 presenters on board each of similar exciting backgrounds.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Rough Seas Today!


We are in very rough seas. 5 meter waves;  people taking Dramamine and looking very greay…. Crossing the Davis Strait/ yep we do NOT HAVE, “fair winds and following seas”!  Reminiscent of the infamous Drake Passage during Antarctic expeditions!

A little more about how small the world is! (apologies that some of this is from the last blog post, just more information!

A person on board knows Glen Wolgemth (I went to high school with Glen) in Deep River. Lynda Triviers would be interested.

Also Rick Irvin, on board, was told by one of Linda’s friends Lorna Doubt) from Rankin Inlet that I would be on board.
Atout Shouldice from Rankin Inlet is on board as a zodiac driver, and an Inuit historian; wondered if Linda knew him.  He is a supervisor for watersystems across the Kivilik Region.

I am honoured that there is a couple on board who remember me from the Antarctic South Georgia/Falkland Island trip 2006, in this very same ship, the Akademik IOFFE!

I must run, there is a staff meeting to attend and passengers to care for.