Aug 27, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer
Thanks to the ice chart that came in just before dinner last night, we got clearance to explore Beechey Island. A band of ice had cleared and opened a channel for us.
Our ship anchored in Erebus and Terror Bay where Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition spent its first winter. This is a famous site for those interested in Arctic history. As we felt the cold wind and saw the stark landscape around us, we reflected on that ill-fated journey which claimed the lives of all 129 men who took part. Their ships were not found until 2014 and 2016.
Four grave sites greeted us at our first landing spot. These are the first three casualties of the Franklin expedition plus one man who came later as part of a rescue party. The beach around these grave markers appears totally devoid of life, especially to outsiders who are new to the north. It would have been incredibly harsh for these young men to travel here. It was difficult to imagine what the days leading up to their deaths were like.
From the top of a nearby ridge, we could appreciate the scale of this landscape. The grave markers were almost invisible—even our shipmates looked tiny. The ice, rock, and ocean dominated our field of view, reminding us how ill-equipped many explorers were for the land around them. But not us! We are fortunate to have a warm, comfortable home on board and a galley that works hard to feed us. Expeditions have changed a lot in the last 150 years.
After lunch we attempted an excursion at Caswall Tower, but a curious bear on the beach had other ideas and prevented us from landing. It was a shame to miss a shore stop there, but the alternative was a beluga sighting—a rare treat. A pod of these white whales cruised the shore, likely in search of the Arctic cod that spawn here each summer in large numbers.
The rest of the afternoon was a patchwork of activities including bear watching, presentations, and a trip to the ship’s lower decks for teatime. The galley, stores, laundry, and waste management teams got together to host us on B-deck. They spoiled us with treats and taught us a little more about how the ship works. It was clear that despite some appearances to the contrary, we were in a land of plenty.
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