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Quick hits from voyaging in the Northwest Passage

A couple more quick hits (excerpts) from our 2016 Adventure Canada voyage Into the Northwest Passage . . .

 DAY FOUR – Karrat Fjord

At around 12:30, with the sun shining bright, the Ocean Endeavour entered one of the most spectacular fjords in Greenland. Karrat Fjord is almost 100 km long. We sailed up it to within 1.5 miles of Karrat Island, where we anchored among a field of icebergs. They came from an ice river called Rink’s Icebrae, which calves icebergs into the water from the Greenland Ice Cap, emitting the occasional cracking sound.
To land, voyagers split into three groups: long hikers, medium walkers, and beachcombers. About thirty people, led by the tireless Laura Baer, reached the top of a high ridge. The rest of us enjoyed the spectacular view along the edge of the plateau, and visited archaeological sites that included a Thule encampment and a 20th-century cemetery. This last comprised forty or fifty graves and a scattering of worn wooden crosses that lay on the ground. The only completely legible name was that of Hans Thomasen, though another cross bore the name Anna, and also a date: 1944.
Probably, the Greenlandic people of the nearby settlement used this place to bury their dead. That settlement, called Nugatsiaq, is west of the island at the foot of the mountain on the far shore of the fjord. Several staffers recalled seeing that settlement on a previous visit, though today, because of the icebergs, it became visible only to those on the high ridge. More than one visitor remarked on the silence and peacefulness of the island.  And for most voyagers, the return to the ship by zodiac involved a special treat as we wended among icebergs that sparkled in the sun.

DAY SIX – Kap York

Passenger Lorne Pendleton, noting that we could not see the Robert Peary obelisk because of the fog, suggested that the 28-metre memorial was cloaked in “a shroud of shame.” We were riding back to the ship in a zodiac after doing the alleged “medium walk” around a small lake.
Pendleton was alluding to a couple of facts that had been revealed yesterday at recap. In 1897, Peary had arrived here in a steamship. He hired all the able-bodied Inuit in the vicinity, and then made off with several massive chunks of a 10,000-year-old meteorite, which he sold to the Museum of Natural History in New York.
Peary also brought six Inuit to that metropolis. Four of them soon died. One (a young man) was shipped home, and an eight-year-old boy named Minik stayed behind, fooled into thinking that his father’s body had been buried with respect. In truth, scientists had defleshed that body and put the skeleton on display.
Later, Peary claimed he had reached the North Pole when he had not. None of this prevented the explorer’s family from memorializing him at Cap York with this giant needle, which is topped with a massive “P.”  (Pix by Sheena Fraser McGoogan)

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.