If you look at a detailed nautical chart of Baffin Island, you will see that the east coast is heavily indented with deep bays and fjords. These are rarely visited since ice can be abundant, winds high, and depths too great to anchor. And so prior to our departure from the Canadian Arctic and before crossing Davis Straits towards Greenland, Hutch suggested that we tour one of the larger fjord complexes. He chose the Buchan Gulf about hundred miles from Pond Inlet. With a stout easterly funneling through the narrow channel that leads to Davis Strait, we left Pond behind and made for open water.
Buchan Gulf is comprised of four distinct arms cutting from Davis Strait into the interior of Baffin Island; each of these arms is more than 20 miles long, lined with mountains 1000 meters high, with depths plunging to 500 meters. The whole way south, the Baffin Coast was shrouded in low cloud, misty rain, and fog. When we were about ten miles out, the curtain lifted temporarily and we caught glimpses of high rocky mountains, snow, winding glaciers. But no sooner had we seen the coast, that it disappeared once again behind the thick shade. "If it's too foggy when we get to the entrance, we won't go in," announced Hutch. When doing our route planning, he had discovered that the electronic charts for the area were incorrect; land masses were placed almost half a mile from their actual positions. Our tour of the fjords would be done with our eyes, radar, dividers, parallel rules and a Danish paper chart. We would keep a careful watch on our depth since there were very few soundings on the chart; in these waters, 200 meters can turn to 10 meters very quickly. It had taken us all day to get to this fjord; would we have to turn away?
As we swung west onto our final heading we were teased several more times with glimpses of what lay behind the curtain but each preview lasted only a few minutes. On we pressed into the unknown. Fortunately, the curtain went up just as we arrived at the mouth of the fjord. The show was on. We entered a foreign land. Sheer cliffs plunged straight down into obsidian water. The cliff faces looked as if an artist had taken his spatula and smeared the canvas with every shade of brown and red. Hard blue glaciers clung to rocky ravines. The ice was flecked with boulders and other debris. Every once in a while we spotted the tops of the mountains, where the clouds parted momentarily. The summits were sharp, toothlike. Everyone came on deck, wide-eyed. What was this place?
I said to Germain, "It feels like the land that time forgot.:" "Or maybe," he replied, "the land at the beginning of time." The shapes were alien, cold, hard. Everything felt raw. When I looked at the glaciers I expected at any time to see a group of abominable snowmen, emerge from an icy cave, hold their furry arms skyward, and shake their fists at the intruders. I imagined huge megalodon still hunted the icy waters and pterodactyls still patrolled the skies.