How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Devon Island

Aug 17: Departed Arctic Bay for Port Bowen in Prince Regent Sound. After a week of waiting, ice in Regent showed signs of opening to Bellot, even if Peel continued as a solid block of impenetrable ice. At the head of Admiralty, we moved slowly through a line of dispersed pack ice several miles wide whose water, covered in rime the size of large cartridge shells, tinkled as we made our wake. Then, mid way over Brodeur Peninsula we received a message that Jimmy Cornell and Aventura were leaving the Northwest Passage, and that two of his crew, his two mates Nick and Nikki, were hoping to continue on. We changed course for Graham Harbor on Devon Island, to add them to our ship’s company. Yes, back on Devon Island, where we had already spent so many days.

Aug 19: Departed Graham Harbor for Devon’s Gascoyne Harbor, this so as to position near the rest of the tiny fleet of boats still attempting the Northwest Passage. There had been word of an ice breaker in the area, and tug, Tandberg Polar, working a barge to Cambridge Bay, there to wrest Amundsen’s Maud from the mud for transport back to Norway. Mid passage we received ice charts showing significant ice clearing in Regent all the way to Bellot and a tongue of clear water in Peel below Bellot all the way to Gjoa Haven. Big moral boost aboard Arctic Tern. We abandoned Gascoyne and made for Rigby Bay, so as to have a clean shot at Regent next day.

Aug 20: Departed Devon’s Rigby Bay for Port Bowen…again. Forecasts called for south wind veering to southwest at 20 knots but instead it stayed south and built to 30. Four hours into our passage, Arctic Tern pounded into a growing swell, making progress slow. Expensive progress too. We were using too much fuel, so we put back to Devon’s Graham Harbor. Snow fell. The hills of Graham, such a desert just the day before, were white to the beach.

Aug 21: Departed Graham Harbor for Port Bowen…again. Snow fell all night but the wind lightened and went SW as we motored. Mid afternoon ice charts showed 1-3/10ths above Bellot sticking mostly to the west side of Regent and a band of red and yellow below. What began to bother Les was the NW wind we were expecting to develop and last several days. This could close us into east-side Regent bays. We decided to change plan again and put into Port Leopold on Somerset Island, even though the charts showed Leopold embayed with ice. All evening we worked through 1-3/10ths ice and anchored in Port Leopold, NOT ON DEVON ISLAND, at 3am. Ali made eggs on toast for us by way of celebrating our escape from Devon, after which we went to our bunks tired but happy.

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