Lancaster Sound, Canadian Arctic

Aug 25, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer


Morning revealed a serene display of soft pastel pinks, oranges, blues, and grays decorating the rich brown mountainous shoreline, beautifully topped with white capped peaks and glaciers. A thick blanket of heavy clouds hung overhead. Fulmars, kittiwakes, thick-billed murres, eiders, and dovekies were spotted as we approached Bylot Island and turned west into Lancaster Sound.

A thick fog hugged the ship as we heard lectures on the geology of Greenland and the High Canadian Arctic. Our onboard naturalists have instilled in us an appreciation for the geologic diversity of the areas we have traveled, combining intriguing facts with a review of fundamental geologic processes. One fascinating takeaway: Earth’s largest island, Greenland, contains a deep ice-filled basin that, when drilled through for the purpose of extracting ice cores, documents 250,000 years in climate history. While catching a glimpse of the mountains around us through the haze outside, we heard a presentation on reading the land in the Arctic. We learned how land features such as thixotropy and frost boils interconnect with the water.

Much to our excitement, the fog lifted after lunch as the ship made her way through pack ice and deep into the sound. The ship broke through the ice with impressive cracks, and guests gathered on the bow to marvel at the beautiful shades of blue and the ice crashing and dancing off the hull.

We were listening to more presentations, including how to take excellent photos with a smartphone and polar bear behavior, when we heard an announcement that a bear had been spotted right in front of the ship! National Geographic Explorer went into stealth mode, and we all crept out onto the bow to watch the bear swim and then surface on pack ice nearby.

The grand finale of the day came just as dessert was brought out: a walrus, spotted lounging on a chunk of ice in the sun. We rushed out to the bow again, clutching cameras and binoculars for a closer look. National Geographic Explorer sailed silently toward the walrus, and everyone held their breath, eager to see this stunning creature in his home. He didn’t seem bothered by the multitude of cameras pointed at him. He gently lifted his head to take a look at us before placing it back down and continuing to doze. We lingered on the bow to enjoy the scenery as National Geographic Explorer continued onward, further west into the sound in search of another great adventure.

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About the Author

Kate Craven, Kelly Koller, and Lindsay Lancaster, Grosvenor Teacher Fellows

Kate Craven, Kelly Koller, and Lindsay Lancaster, Grosvenor Teacher Fellows

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