INTERIM PROGRESS REPORT
Thursday August 9th.
Carved Stone on
the beach at Port Leopold, Sommerset Island.
What a wonderful day !
We broke free of the ice in which we were stuck at about 9 a.m. yesterday,
in continuing fog and poor visibility. With the northern side of Peel
Sound all clogged with 7/10 to 9/10 ice we had to discard or plan to
visit Beechey Island and its Franklin remains. Instead we set waypoint
for Port Leopold, 80 miles distant, on the north-western side of Prince
Regent Inlet. It had all sorts of historical connotations.
Approaching, it became clear that ice would prevent us getting in,
or if we got in, we might not get out. Sadly, we altered course to the
north of Leopold Island. As we went round, it became apparent that a
bay inshore, Rodd Bay, was clear of ice. There we dropped anchor in
4 metres of clear cold water, at 3.3 0 a.m.
It was a four mile hike across a stony isthmus back to Port Leopold,
with the sun sitting on the northern horizon. There, we found a large
hut, empty and devoid of any clue as to its origin or, more unusually,
of its most recent occupiers.
Some 70 metres distant there was a cairn, with a plaque. The Plaque
was of recent origin,1974, erected by some worthies, commemorating 'all
those who gave their lives so gallantly-etc'. Inside a bottle, in the
exposed side of the cairn, was a note, dated a month later. The original
plaque had had the wrong latitude and longitude. It had said ' 73 degrees
west / 93 degrees north'---nice trick, the north pole being at 90 !
In the bay ,largely clogged with ice, about 2 dozen White Beluga whales,
romped hither and thither, just showing their backs and making loud
But wonderfully, we came across a stone inscribed -----E.I.. 1849
Those must have been the ships 'Enterprise' and 'Investigator', who
wintered here in 1848/ 49, under the command of James Clark Ross, on
the first of many searches for Franklin. McClintock was with Ross. None
of the small library of books that we have with us makes any mention
of this inscribed stone. (We presume it's an original )
Now, in high spirits we're under full sail ,it's a sunny afternoon,
Somerset Island to our port about a couple of miles distant, and Peel
Sound, that spectre of bad ice, apparently reasonably ice-free and only
fifty miles ahead.