Ice Pack, First Encounter

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Below is my log for Aug 10th plus photos at bottom of our passage from Upernavik, Greenland to Arctic Bay.

Aug 10

Wind: West 20

Sky: Overcast with rain now. Full sun here in Arctic Bay most of day. Snow flurries predicted by morning.

Temp: 43f

Anchored Arctic Bay (at last).

Departed Cummings early morning of Aug 8. Wind calm, overcast. We were looking forward to a long, easy run to Arctic Bay for the fuel we need to move deeper into the Northwest Passage. Arctic Bay: a “hamlet” (official title) of some 600 residents, mostly Inuit; 120 miles south of Cummings Inlet and 60 miles up Admiralty Bay. All seemed well until we got to the mouth of Cummings, where, even from two miles away, we could see a long line of white at the horizon, pack ice. Pack covered the entrance, we learned on approach, and had even wrapped inside the point.

At thickest it was a quarter of a mile wide. We moved close to the ice edge on the western end and found 9/10ths ice with no tempting leads to speak of. A long low swell rode in from the SE, and the ice made crackling sounds as it ground together. Sizes ranged from irregular 50′ x 100′ sheets to odd smaller stuff the size of sheds, cars, suitcases.

Thought for a time we might not get through today. We cruised just inside the line all the way to the eastern headland, and there what had initially looked the thickest turned out to be 1 – 3/10ths ice. We wove our way out with only the gentlest kissing of the ice.

Learning from Les and Ali:

  1. Even those smaller to medium sized pieces weigh many tons. Try moving them with the boat, even a boat like Arctic Tern, and it’s very likely the boat that will move.
  2. Be cautious entering the ice field under any circumstances. Remember, its huge weights are always moving. In swell, be doubly cautious as ice can slide down waves and pin the boat between two pieces. In swell and wind…well, just try to avoid this. Think of ice as moving rocks.
  3. Don’t judge pack ice from a distance; you have to get right up on it to see the true situation. Here the vista changed for us as we approached. At first it looked like ice was only on the right side of the channel; not so; it covered all. As we approached, it looked like there were leads in the middle right sections that turned out to be nearly complete blocks. Only by cruising the ice edge did we finally see to the left side the thinning that let us out.
  4. Get as high in the boat as is practical; use binoculars even quite close up to explore for near leads as they move into the pack.
  5. Note that many of the larger ice sheets extend out under the water into your lead like shoals. They can hole the boat. Avoid.
  6. In a lead, try to leave yourself room to turn the boat around. If your lead turns out to be a dead end, you can’t back the boat up for any great distance without risking the rudder and propeller.
  7. Always look behind you. What is a lead in front can quickly close behind. Do all you can to avoid getting trapped inside.

It took us two hours to get out.

After exit, we saw only random ice bits and none in Arctic Bay when we arrived 20 hours later. No wind until the last hour of our trip.

Temperatures during our ice excursion and in the whole of Lancaster Sound were our lowest yet. Sea temp went slowly from 2+C to its lowest at -.01C. It rose quickly near the south end side of Lancaster and is up to 2.5C now. Air temps were very low, down to 2C near the ice pack and in Lancaster. Both Les and I were bare handed during our ice escapade, and mine were on fire by the end.

Gear: I didn’t wear any more clothing than usual (“usual” equals about five warmth layers and a tough shell) but would have had to if we had wind. I wore my mittens once out in the channel, but without their exterior covering; better to fit in pockets. One improvement to them would be to get light fleece mitten inserts.

My only issue during the crossing and in general is fingertips and toes. Tried putting fleece gloves (rubber glove inserts) inside mittens, but mostly these kept cold fingers cold. Gloves I find are terrible for allowing warmth to grow and only work when the hands are very active or already warm.

Arrived Arctic Bay about 4am local time next day. Slept 3 more hours while waiting for town to wake.

Activity of the day has revolved around getting our fuel. We need full tanks to make our next leap.  We took on 600 litres today for a total complement of just over 1000 litres. Figure about 1 litre a mile and Cambridge Bay, 720 miles, is well within reach.

Fueling is good exercise in Arctic Bay. No fuel dock; not even a pier. Les went ashore early to arrange for the fuel truck and was told the right man would not be around until 1pm. We brought all our jerry cans to shore by noon; checked in at 12:30 and by 1pm the fuel truck came to the beach, and the entire transaction was done there. Ali and I made one trip to the boat with six cans to fill the starboard tank (freezing weather; sharp wind off the beach with fog; our hands red and painful quickly).  And the rest were then ferried to the boat in three trips. Lots of lifting and toting of 40lb fuel jugs. We’re all worn out but pleased to be prepared for next run.

Now we are, once again, waiting for ice to melt or move or otherwise dissipate.

Photos are recent voyaging: Across Baffin Bay to Canada, time in Dundas Harbor and Cummings Inlet; ice we encountered on departure from Cummings.

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