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  • A Sea Day: Learning Lots and Hearing Rumors

    The Northwest Passage, Day 2

    At 8:30 AM the mellifluous voice of our expedition leader, Jason Edmunds, drifted out of the speaker in our cabin. “Good morning. Good morning Ocean Endeavour.” Then he told us our position (latitude and longitude) and reminded us of what we were to do next, which was eat breakfast. Then he ended our wake-up call with a pithy quote.

    “Travel is more than seeing sights; it’s a change that goes deep and permanent in the idea of living.” – Miriam Beard 


    Today turned out to be a sea day—steaming through Coronation Gulf. Our onboard marine biologist, Pierre Richard, said that this part of the ocean is too shallow to support the nutrients necessary to attract marine mammals and birds. So even though I went out on deck to look for wildlife, I found none. Just a flat sunny landscape for most of the day. The Adventure Canada staff kept us busy indoors with lots of talks.

    Thirty-nine people make up the Adventure Canada (AC) staff. These are people responsible for the trip, not the ship. (The ship crew is a completely different company that leases the ship and crew: cabin staff, stewards, cooks, engineering, navigation, and so on.) The AC staff are talented people—a botanist, Inuit culturists, geologists, photographers, artists, musicians, an ornithologist, marine biologists, high Arctic adventurers, archeologists, a land claim specialist, naturalists, writers, historian, a medic, and a cruise director. Many of these people are also certified Zodiac drivers. Another subset are trained to monitor for polar bears and deter a bear if necessary (they carry guns with rubber and real bullets).

    Today I learned about:

    • Polar bear safety
    • Archeology sites and how to behave around them
    • An introduction to Inuit culture by Susie Evyagotailak, an educator, language consultant, and amazing beader. 
    • An introduction to the birds of the arctic by Judy Kennedy, who was with the Canadian Wildlife Service for 30 years. 
    • An account of a trip taken by Mike Beedel (http://www.mikebeedellphoto.ca/), an extreme adventurer, photographer, and guide.
    • The History of the Franklin Expedition and the Search for the Erebus & Terror given by a guest from Parks Canada—the woman who manages the Erebus & Terror archeological sites.


    My brain was full by the end of the day! I learned a lot, but when the bar staff passed out champagne for the evening Captain’s welcome, I was ready for it. And even more happy that the after-dinner program was  a concert by on-board musician Mashall Dane. 


    During the day rumors were floating around that we might be the first ever visitors to the H.M.S. Erebus site. Both the Parks Canada and the AC staff were buzzing with electricity. They wanted to talk about it, but they didn’t want to disappoint us. Parks Canada chose Adventure Canada as the beta testers for visits to the Erebus. But over the past few years the ship made five unsuccessful attempts due to poor weather conditions. Would this sixth attempt be successful?

    This is a 3-D printed model of the Erebus wreck, as reconstructed from imaging files. The guide to the image is below.

    The H.M.S. Erebus wreck, discovered in September 2014 after having gone missing in August 1845, sits at the bottom of the sea near the hamlet of Gjøa Haven. The visit, if it was to happen, would be to the archeological barge Qiniqtiryuaq that sits over the wreck as well as to the R.V. David Thompson, the research vessel where the scientists stay during their short research season. We were still two days away from the location. The weather forecast wasn’t promising. Stay tuned!