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Northwest Passage voyagers make history . . . maybe next time?

[Here endeth our Adventure Canada voyage Out of the Northwest Passage. . . .]
Sept. 20
 Today we visited what is arguably the most picturesque community in Greenland. The settlement of Itilleq is 49 km south of Sisimiut on a small island at the mouth of Itilleq Fjord. Inhabited by about 100 Greenlanders, the town comprises a couple of dozen brightly painted houses built on rocky black slopes. A neat graveyard alive with bright white crosses overlooks the town. And beyond lies a spectacular ring of mountains.
The church was built in Thule in 1933 and moved here three decades later. Today, it serves as a youth club and community centre. About twenty people came on board the Ocean Endeavour for lunch, among them some of the most amenable children in the Arctic. One two-year-old uttered not a word of complaint while staffer Dave Freeze carried him hither and yon.
At the heart of Itilleq lies a soccer pitch, complete with two nets. Here, a team of ambitious voyagers entered into a match. . . and came within a hair’s breadth of making history by winning. We brought ashore a number of ringers, among them Laura Baer, yoga teacher and zodiac driver. Another of them, fellow driver Dawson Freeze, registered a beautiful goal. And hard-driving passenger Eddie Carnegie notched a second.
Meanwhile, unfortunately, the Itilleq team scored three times, and so walked away with a victory. Team members accepted the Adventure Canada trophy with good cheer. Fact remains: the red-shirted cheerleaders, under the leadership of Dave Freeze, stole the show with their effervescence, their spirited chants, and their explosive dance routines. Yay, Polar Bears!

Monday, Sept. 21

Kangerlussuaq lies at the end of one of the world’s longest fjords, Sondre Stromfjord, which runs inland for 168 kilometres. This is the site of one of Greenland’s four airports. The U.S. military built it during the Second World War, and vacated in 1992. Voyagers spit into two groups, with one travelling to the ice cap and the other doing a nature tour that included a stop at a glacial lake and a long-distance sighting of hard-to-find muskox.
The previous evening had culminated in an ebullient kitchen party featuring the house band. Unbeknownst to many, it also brought the resolution of a kidnapping mystery that had been inspired by Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress. Photographer Andre Gallant had taken to presenting situational images of a rubber chicken he called McChickie. 
One night at the bar, a few staffers had kicked around the idea of kidnapping Gallant’s yellow bird . . . and, when the popular critter disappeared, and ransom demands ensued, suspicion fell mainly on the late-night conspirators. Incredibly, the real culprits -- staffers Natalie Swain and Judy Acres -- had hatched a parallel plan independently. But, unlike the late-night talkers, they had acted on it. To Gallant’s relief, McChickie resurfaced unharmed.
After dinner, with most voyagers heading for their cabins and the ship sailing into  Sondre Stromfjod, the Aurora Borealis exploded into the night-time sky. This display of Northern Lights provided a fitting cap to a voyage that had taken us more than 5,000 kilometres through the Northwest Passage. Ah, for just one time . . . 
[ In 2016, Sheena (our artist-photographer)  and I sail Into the Passage. Check it out. Maybe catch you then?]

Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.