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kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

Now that we are all back on board, we can take off again. Again. Again. Flapping our arms furiously to aid our ailing ancient aeroplane, we head off down the runway.

Apparently our next stop is going to be at a place called Mittimatalik on Baffin Island, and we might even get there too because we didn't actually have to go back this time for any reason. Let's be thankful for small mercies.

Our course is taking us out across Pelly Bay and out north-west across Committee Bay - the stretch of water that separates the Boothia Peninsula and the Melville Peninsula

kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

And if anyone is in doubt about global warming, all they need to do is to look at my photographs of the area around Pelly Bay.

It's nice dry weather today. It's not too cold and there isn't a trace of snow whatever except on the high ground and stuck down in deep sheltered valleys.

And yet if you were to read the accounts of the 19th-Century explorers, you'll see that they struggled through the ice and snowdrifts around here dragging man-hauled sledges around at a similar time of year.

icebergs gulf of boothia adventure canada north west passage 2018

As we flew over the Gulf of Boothia, we began to notice, way down below us, and we weren't flying all that high (because you can't fly all that high in a Dash-7), that we were starting to see icebergs in some of the bays down here.

These will have begun life as glaciers on the western coast of Greenland. And then they calve off into the sea and are taken north up the coast by the Gulf Stream

At a certain point, depending on the time of the year, the Gulf Stream will peter out and the icebergs will then be picked up by the caprices of the Labrador Current.

The Current will bring them down here through the Prince Regent Inlet and then they can go anywhere, depending upon whichever way the wind is blowing. Even into the Atlantic for a rendezvous with the Titanic.

floe ice gulf of boothia adventure canada north west passage 2018

And it wasn't much longer either before we began to encounter floe ice. .

It doesn't look very substantial, it has to be admitted, but nevertheless it was there. And this is one of the things that we have come to see of course

And although from here it might not look as if it would stop a substantial ship, and certainly didn't stop me in 2012 we'd been shown a video of a ship being piloted through by an icebreaker, and how quickly the wind was blowing the ice right back.

floe ice gulf of boothia adventure canada north west passage 2018

Once the wind has blown the ice back behind the icebreaker and closed the track, it doesn't make the passage much easier for the following ship.

And it's the wind that is causing us all of our problems right now. If you look at this photo here, the north wind has blown the ice southwards onto the north coast of the mainland of Canada.

We're coming from the south and with the ice blocking the coast, we can't get to where we're supposed to be going. We need to find some open water somewhere.

fury hecla strait berlinguet inlet baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

At one moment we flew over a strait that looked very narrow and confined.

It conformed to all of the descriptions that I had read of Bellot Strait - the passage that bisects the Boothia Peninsula and is the key to the North-West Passage.

But of course we aren?t going that way. That is further to the north and we are flying north-east.

I'm not able to identify it from the map that I have. It's either the Fury and Hecla Strait that we are flying over, between the Melville Peninsula and Baffin Island, or else it's the Berlinguet Inlet on the north-west corner of Baffin Island.

baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

But whatever it might be, it isn't anything like what I was hoping to see, and certainly not from the air either. I was hoping to be miles away from here and at sea level too.

But nevertheless, it's impressive all the same.

I should perhaps add that 165 years ago we wouldn't even have seen it at all, because in those days no-one even knew that it existed.

We were now in, for Doctor Rae, uncharted territory. His 1854 map of the area left the coastline and interior of this region totally unmarked. There wasn't even guesswork or a rough estimation of whatever there might be around here.

cliffs baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

Baffin Island is a place that has a considerable amount of fame, mainly for things that didn't happen here. But one of its more important claims to fame is its magnificent cliffs.

And we were treated to them in all their glory.

You can really understand why the Norse like Bjarni Herjulfsson (who in AD986 was the first recorded European to sight the island) and many other subsequent explorers had failed to set foot on this point, and why it remained uncharted even in the days of John Rae.

Who would want to climb right up there after a landfall that would in itself be very uncertain indeed? "high and mountainous, with ice-mountains upon it", we are told in the Norse Flateyjarbok.

eclipse sound baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

Bjarni Herjulfsson stated that "this land does not appear to me to offer any attractions" (well, he actually said it in Old Norse but you see what I mean).

For these reasons, few people believed that the destination of the voyages of Martin Frobisher in the 1570s to the New World was Baffin Island, and Baffin Bay was later removed from the map as being a figment of an explorer's imagination

It wasn't until my namesake, Charles Hall, went to explore Baffin Island in the 1860s that the interior began to be added to the map. He also discovered relics that confirmed that the island had indeed been the site of Frobisher's expeditions.

cliffs baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

Our pilot had a surprise in store for us.

He told us that there were several ways that we could arrive at our destination. One of them was to circle around the mountains and come in up the channel - Eclipse Sound - that separates Baffin Island and Bylot Island.

And as we rounded the headland we were hit full force by the turbulence of a strong wind that was roaring up the cliffs. It caused us to bounce around in the air like a rubber ball.

It brought to my mind the story of the pilot of Air New Zealand Flight 901 who offered his passengers a scenic circuit of Mounts Erebus and Terror in similar conditions and circumstances in November 1979.

Of the 257 people on board there were no survivors.

iceberg eclipse sound baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

However we survived OK, which was just as well, and I'm glad that we came this way because our pilot spotted a rather large iceberg floating down the strait.

It's the first iceberg that I have seen at close quarters, although I knew very well that some time soon I'll be seeing icebergs at much closer quarters than this, although maybe not quite at quarters as close as they did on the Titanic.

The pilot offered us a circuit of it so that we could photograph it, which was rather a tall order at such a low level in a rather elderly, creaking Dash-7.

I couldn't help but have a horrible feeling that all of this was going to end in tears.

iceberg eclipse sound baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

I was impressed by the fact that I could see a considerable amount of the submerged ice below the surface, and how the colour was affected by being beneath the surface of the sea.

Our pilot circled around the iceberg several times, banking over from starboard to port so that passengers on both sides of the aeroplane could have a good view of it in all its splendour, and it looked magnificent

But I'm not sure about the wisdom of banking around from starboard to port and back again with an overflowing Elsan either. I'm glad that I wasn't sitting by the toilet door.

ship eclipse sound baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

Here's a very blurred photo of a ship sailing up Eclipse Sound

It's been a considerable while since we've had a Ship Of The Day - Montreai in fact (the floating houses on the Great Slave Lake notwithstanding). And right away in the distance as we flew up the Sound I saw something on the water that looked as if it might be vaguely ship-like. I took a photograph of it.

I took a photograph of it, with the idea that I could crop and enlarge it at a later date to see whether my suspicions were correct.

So here we are. And at the kind of distance that I was having to cover, with a rattling, shaking old aeroplane as a camera mount, and how much I had to crop and enlarge the image to see anything at all, it could have turned out much worse than this

russian cruise ship eclipse sound baffin island adventure canada north west passage 2018

This photo has turned out a little better though.

As we approached the coastline, there was a simultaneous cry going up from two different parts of the aeroplane.

Someone on the other side of the aeroplane had seen what they reckoned would be the ship that was going to take us off on the next stage of our adventure. Just in case you haven't already guessed by now, this flight is merely the beginning of our voyage.

However, on closer inspection it turned out to be a Russian cruise ship that was navigating the waters around here.

At the same time, on this side of the aeroplane, another one of our passengers was letting out quite a cry too, and because she was sitting right by me, it almost blew out my eardrums.

She has a thing about narwhals and she reckoned that she had seen a school of them swimming about below.

I wouldn't recognise a narwhal if I were to trip over one in a floodlit football stadium, but she was there pointing them out to everyone. By the time we came into land I think that everyone of us on board the aeroplane was a narwhal-spotting expert thanks to her.

And this is the beauty of travelling in a well-informed and well-educated group of diverse people. We all have various skills and knowledge that we can share with each other.

To see more details of today's voyage, please refer to this page

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