Monday, September 3, 2012

Devon Island & Dundas Harbour

This morning found us moored under low cloud, across a ridge from Dundas Harbour, an abandoned RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) outpost.

View Arctic Cruise 2012 in a larger map

We counted ourselves lucky to be able to land here today - just four days ago, when the Clipper last passed by this bay on its way to Resolute, the crew were unable to get the passengers ashore due to the presence of two polar bears and a herd of walrus. I suspect I wasn't the only person who'd rather have had the chance to view polar bear and walrus in their own environment, but one can't be picky! It was still good to get ashore, and have a good leg stretch!

The Fosters at Work - Photogs & Videogs Extraordinaires

One of Our Intrepid Gun Bearers On Duty

Our morning excursion started with a walk from the pebble beach around the point, where we viewed a couple of old sod house locations (one of which appeared to have been reinforced with whale ribs), a freshwater pond, and more vegetation that we'd seen since we left Ottawa!

Don't Know Why I Was Surprised to find Mushrooms!

Remains of Sod House in Foreground - A Room With A View!

I got in trouble (again!) for wandering off - I spotted a bergie bit grounded on a small beach - I wasn't alone down there, though - Mick was over there, too! (It was just a gentle wrist-slapping {thanks, Jon the Geologist} ... besides, I did carefully check for wildlife before stepping over any ridges or stepping off any lips!)

Mick on a Mission

After a hike up and over the ridge from the spit to the natural harbour on the other side of the saddle, we arrived in the old settlement of Dundas Harbour. The outpost had originally been established in the 1920's to cement Canada's claim to this area in the north, but was abandoned in 1951. Two young mounties perished here in tragic circumstances - one from a suicide and one from an accidental shooting. Both were in their mid-20's.

My first stop was at the cemetery where a formal plot was laid out in memory of the two officers. It was evident, though, that other people had died during their stay at this place, as other mounds seem to indicate their burial sites nearby.

Not far below the white picket fence of the cemetery, I came across the remains of a far more recent death - a juvenile polar bear. Little remained besides the skull which had almost been picked clean, a paw, and a flurry of its thick coat which blanketed the ground all around. (For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to take a photo of the skull showing the eye sockets. I understand how nature functions, of course, that one must die so that another may live, but my squeamishness prevented me from documenting the evidence).

The fog continued to roll in and out was I walked down towards the old houses. It must certainly have been a mental challenge for anyone who was used to "western city" life to move to this place and be completely cut off from the rest of humanity, let alone contact with family and friends, for months at a time. Interesting to see, though, that there's evidence of modern-day use of the site by hunters - broken booze bottles, graffiti.

A walk back up and over the saddle took us to our landing site on the beach, a quick zodiac trip back to the ship, and a return to our warm, cozy cabins and a hot cup of tea, shortly followed by a sumptuous buffet lunch as the ship raised anchor and steamed further east along Lancaster Sound. The midday repast was interrupted, though, by a bright light - the sun! The clouds were finally breaking up and as the fog was left behind we were treated to lovely views of the mountains of Devon Island and our first sight of tongues of glacial ice lapping the shoreline.

By this time, we had noticed that our ship was constantly accompanied by a flight of Northern Fulmars - seagull-type birds that seemed to relish surfing on the air currents generated by the ship's passage. Other birds we saw quite a lot of were Murres, and a quick glimpse of Sandhill (?) Cranes passing overhead.

Learning To Fly

Northern Fulmar


Sandhill Cranes (?)

We were also starting to see larger ice bergs more regularly. Needless to say, everyone with even a passing interest in photography spent more time on deck capturing the views!

Animated banner ad

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant photos Tanya. So brave of you to travel to such a remote icy environment. Amazing to see how such delicate life can exist in a harsh yet magnificent climate. Proud of you for taking the pic of the polar bear skull - gruesomely fascinating!