The Devon Island ice sheet has numerous arms that stretch from the mountainous interior down to the rocky shores. Rosehearty's project for the day is to visit Croker Bay, a deep fjord just west of Dundas Harbour where two of these glacial arms reach the sea. We weigh anchor after breakfast and zig zag our way through the dozens of ice bergs that have calved from the faces of these glaciers and are now drifting slowly with the current. Size and scale became warped as the glacier comes in to view. I'm on watch with Hugo and am about to slow the engines for what seemed to be our final approach. Hugo checks the range on the radar and compares it to the Transas electronic chart.
"We're still 5 miles away," Hugo said. We both check the instruments again because the ice wall looks much closer than that. We press on for another 40 minutes and then stop near the leading edge. Though only a few hundred meters from where the ice meets the sea, we are still in more than 100 meters of water.
The river of ice stretches out before us, filling the carved out canyon with its mass. While Markus keeps Rosehearty on station with engine and thruster, the deck team launches the orange RIB affectionately known as Wolfie. Crew and guests suit up in their warmest gear and assemble on the port stern quarter, near the shell door. The call for the day is layers. Cloudy skies and an icy wind create a bitter cold. Once everyone has donned life jackets, the call comes from the bridge to open the door and bring the RIB alongside. Bundled with gear and cameras, everyone steps carefully from the door to the tender.
Wolfie is dwarfed by the glacier, whose face we estimate to be more than 60 meters high. With Ken providing historical and scientific details, Hugo manoeuvres Woflie right up to the ice edge and then across its entire width. The ice is blue and white, smeared with rock in some places, translucent in others. There are giant "teeth" that appear to have been pushed skyward under enormous pressure; there are splits and cracks. No calving occurs d during the hours we were there. All is quiet. We have to remind ourselves that though everything looks static, it is not. The whole river of ice is sliding towards the sea, its unimaginable weight compacting earth and shearing rock. It seems invincible. But we know it is not. This glacier -- all glaciers -- are melting, in the air and in the water. Ancient ice meets a warming sea and succumbs.