Meetings at Dundas Harbor

Aug 1 – Aug 4

If we had been surprised to find “the other” Arctic Tern on Bylot, we were doubly so when rounding the point into Dundas: there *three* other boats already at anchor! Granted, we’d met them all in Nuuk. They were Jimmy Cornell and team on Aventura, a yacht in his group named Suilven, and our now friends Sam, David and Peter on Lillian B. There wasn’t a marina for 1000 miles and the closest town, more an outpost, was over 120 miles south, but of the seven boats we knew making an attempt at the Northwest Passage this year, four were now gathered in the same anchorage.

Here we entered what we hope is a short wait-and-see time. We must have fuel before advancing too far, but ice charts continue to show our three possible fuel stops, Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay, and Resolute as inaccessible due to ice. Pond has the reputation of clearing late, and its status had been unchanged for several days. Resolute was still encumbered with winter’s fast ice, but a pool was developing around it, making it hopeful, and ice in Arctic Bay was moving if not exactly clearing.

Les Lesson #11: Don’t hope to push a small boat through ice much above 1-3/10ths, even a steel one. The Canadian Ice Service publishes daily, highly detailed arctic ice charts, one feature of which is a measure of ice by its density of distribution at water top in a range of 10ths. 1/10ths ice is virtually clear water and 9/10ths is virtually complete ice coverage; the other tenths express the range in between. Much of the ice we see blocking our way to Arctic Bay, for example, is 4 – 6/10ths, and to the greenhorn aboard (me) it is tempting to pursue passage in it. But Les waggles his finger and insists I be patient. Ice is heavy, always moving, and can close behind you in an instant. And 4 – 6/10ths ice is just too much.

So, having no immediate appointments we visited shore and the abandoned Royal Canadian Mounted Police station, a collection of huts on the south-facing headland, which we found still stocked with diesel for the stoves and a mound of coal. Otherwise, however, the facility was dilapidated, due largely to years of vandalism.

At the top of the hill, we found two grave stones in a neat picket fence, which marked the final resting place of two, young RCMP officers. Both men were in their twenties when they died, and each was killed by self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head while on patrol, but their deaths were in different years and locations, making one wonder at the emotional difficulty of a post on an uninhabited island miles above the arctic circle.

On the return, we met the crew of two other boats, Aventura and Lillian B., also out for a hike.

That evening a north wind suggested we move our berth up into the fjord a few miles for better protection, and after a next day’s hike here, and no better ice reports, we departed for Cumming Inlet 50 miles further west.


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