Rust and snow
Ice strips, 25 knots of wind and fog greeted us as we left Maxwell Bay and headed east. The watch teams struggled to distinguish clutter from real targets on the radars. Some ice strips were large but there were many broken, flat smaller sections as well as smaller shapely ice bergs. These are not as beautiful in the fog. We proceeded slowly with eyes straining. Hutch and the ice pilot, Germaine, were up most of the night. By 0500 the fog cleared and the ice was dispersed, except for a few very large bergs that presented excellent radar echoes, and, coincidentally, became beautiful again. Under a shockingly blue sky, we headed south across Lancaster Sound, away from Devon Island and towards our new area of exploration, Bylot and Baffin Islands.
The Navy Board Inlet is a wide, deep channel that separates Bylot Island from Baffin Island an connects Lancaster Sound to Baffin Bay. The inlet is 5 miles wide, runs for 120 miles. Depths range from 100 to 500 meters. Rosehearty entered the inlet at noon local time and for 16 hours we cruised slowly in its sheltering embrace. The scenery changed dramatically from what we had seen the previous 10 days. Hoodoos were less prominent -- Hugo and I found a few and called them "hidden hoodoos" -- they were replaced by smooth rust-coloured mountains in the foreground and snow-capped peaks behind. Glaciers crept down to the sea. Scars decorated the land. Everything was miles away but the textures were prominent and emphatic. Scale and proportion were difficult to comprehend.
We paused at place called "Low Point" -- a name that did not do justice to this location. To the west, lichen covered rocks and a fertile meadow spread out before us. To the east lay the Byam Marten Mountain Range, a prominent line of snow-capped peaks that resembled the Italian Alps. And next to us rested a huge ice berg, aground, powdery on top and metallic blue on the sides. We launched a tender and a group of explorers landed on a rocky beach while Rosehearty drifted quietly offshore. "This is one of my favourite walks," expedition leader Ken explained. "Once we get to the top there is going to be a great photograph, with the carpet of colour, the ice berg, Rosehearty and the mountains. There is an impressive Inuksuk at the top as well. It's probably hundreds of years old, it keeps watch over the bay."
While the line of hikers made their way to the top, we edged Rosehearty closer to the ice berg, positioning her for her portrait. "Square up the tender pole for the photo," suggested Hutch.
In his book, Canada's Arctic, Ken writes of Low Point, "Hiking up from the shore near Low Point, I came to the sober realization that a majestic carpet of colour had been set out before me. It was as if some unseen power had been running amok with acrylic paints and abstract texturing tools. Everywhere I looked was colour...crimson, yellow, cobalt blue, violet and emerald green." For our hikers who had just spent the last week in the relative monochrome of Devon Island, this new palette and the varied textures would have been a sensory bombardment.
The climbers radioed from the top. "Move forward a couple of boat lengths," the radio crackled. "It's beautiful. We're having a cup of tea and soaking up the amazing views. The Inuksuk is showing us where to look."