PROGRESS REPORT NO. 10
Thursday August 23rd.
We got into Cambridge Bay on Thursday last, after a passage
of 250 miles from Gjoa Haven.
After anchoring for shelter on the Tuesday night, the rest of that
passage was uneventful; motoring in a flat sea, no ice, the barren south
shore of Victoria Island beside us for mile after mile; although looking
back at our log, I see that we did have a breezy enough time of it coming
up south of Jenny Lind Island and were glad enough to alter our course
to benefit from its shelter for 10 or 15 miles.
Cambridge Bay is definitely a town, not a village, not a hamlet. It
is attitude that makes the difference. Busy, almost brash, people passing
each other without much smiling, Cambridge Bay with its 1,500 population,
is a government place. 80% of its people work in administration, education,
supplies or government contracts. The 20% who hunt and fish do so in
a serious way, for food and cash both, all with their Spilsbury Radios
for contact and emergency both. Going 'to the land' is a constantly
We had planned on a one-day stopover. The weather changed that. It
blew and blew, from the west and then 40 knots from the northwest. We
had to leave the jetty, we were banging too much alongside it, and go
to anchor, 3 miles up the west bay, then lay out a second anchor, our
brute of a 90 lb. Fisherman with another 60 metres of chain, as the
wind blew some more. Getting all this ironmongery up from the bottom
was a fair old job, before returning to the jetty.
It was eventually Sunday, before the wind fell to an acceptable 20
knots and we set off into it.
We had met some great people, individuals all, Pat who ran the Power
Plant, Andy, an electrical contractor, Wilf, a general contractor. The
town is a 'dry' one, but not with these lads at the weekend. The talk
was of bear, the community can take 6 each year, bulldozers running
ice-roads, a D8 went through 5 foot thick sea-ice last year, much to
everyones surprise, particularly the drivers!, hunting ( and over-hunting
),the Beluga, the prospects for the new mine and what it would do for
the area. With its 200 mile access road through caribou and musk-ox
grounds, not everybody thinks that this is a good idea.
We played some music, in Andys mostly, and were royally treated, being
driven around, and being loaned ATV's and jeeps.
The arctic char was running and catches were good. This gorgeous fish
is a cross between trout and salmon. Helpings were high.
But the weather was brutal, dark with a wind that would cut you, the
halcyon days of Greenland long gone. It didn't snow, but it could have.
Houses here have insulation of 10 inches under the floor, 12 inches
on the roof . Walls have 6 inches, and above the tree-line, which this
definitely is, a further 2 inch cavity. Snow would be staying on the
ground in September; it had left only 4 weeks earlier.
But the winters are getting less cold and the 'summers' longer, everyone
agreed. Global warming in the arctic is real. It is changing animal
migratory patterns, ice thickness, and the length of the hunting seasons.
Terry left. He had hoped to stay with us until Tuktoyuktuk, but a combination
of our weather delay and opportunity changed that. The flight down to
Edmonton was going to cost about $1,700. ( Yes, I kid you not, this
is not one of your cheapy destinations-to wire a house down 'south'
costs about $3,000, here it is $17,000 !)
Wilf, great doer and fixer, made a call to his travel man in Iqualuit,
about two thousand miles away, a Eugene Magee of the North, who came
up with a VERY affordable flightout. Terry left 'Donk', his much travelled
mascot, to complete the NWP, with instructions to us to be nice to himl
There are several Christian denominations in town, including our own
R.C. The Anglican is the only one with a full-time Minister, Cyrus Blankhet.
His ministry is a tough enough old station. He does Services, not that
greatly attended, and house visits. He would try to be seen as a sort
of 'light-house' of Christian behaviour to the people, who don't pay
that much attention.
On Sunday, now frustrated with weather and impatient to be off, we
left, to shouts of
"May the water be deeper than your keel" and presents of
frozen arctic char-and as is often the case, when you get out into it,
the sea wasn't bad at all.
Our next destination, 650 miles on, was Tuktoyuktuk, ( or Tuk if you
like, or are short of consonants. ) The first two days went grand, through
Coronation Gulf, Dolphin and Union Straight, passing all the names from
the pages of exploration history. Then in Amundson Gulf we met the ice,
more or less where the current ice-charts had predicted. Progress slowed
as we banged and shimmied through it. We can now get through about 5/10,
depending on the ice type. Ice comes in various forms, old hard hummocked
multi-year or softish(ish ) 1 year , small floes easily broken or pushed,
or big immovable ones. 5/10 ice would give the impression that there
is 50% water showing and 50% ice-and there is-on average. But it's not
evenly spread. In the 5/10 or even 4/10 there can be denser bands, and
these are the problem. Frank stands on the mast spreaders spotting leads,
Kevin and Mike wield our long ice-pole, the off-watch try to sleep (
fat chance with the banging and changing engine-revs ). As I write we
have just detoured from the direct route, to go about 60 miles south
into Franklin Bay to get round some 6/10 to 9/10 ice. The Coastguard
icebreaker 'Henry Larsen' had passed the direct route only about 16
hours earlier and told us on the radio that they met only 1/10 . Ice,
like every thing in the Arctic, does not stand still.
Anyway, we're round that now and have a clear run ( we think ) to Tuk,
150 miles on. There we'll take on diesel and water and be on our way
through the Beaufort Sea to the north coast of Alaska. The ice-forecast
"Below normal temperatures are forecast for the Beaufort Sea for
the second half of August-Northeasterly to easterly winds are forecast
to develop the fourth week of August along the Beaufort Sea from west
of Herschel Island to Point Barrow. A narrow open drift route may form
for only a few days, but is expected to close shortly afterwards."
That's the one we want!