Sep 01, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer
Neither words nor photographs can convey the happenings of this day. Imagine opening a wildlife guide to the Arctic, magically bringing the most charismatic critters to life and tossing them out into one small bay illuminated by warm rays of the sun. Surround the waters with majestic glaciers tumbling to the sea. Then you might be close to understanding the memories we carry forward from this day.
It all started slowly. The snow-covered mountains of Ellesmere Island to our port wore delicate pink, complementing a pale blue sky as the sunrise drew us from our beds. Glaciers flowed down valleys like rivers to meet the sea. Icebergs and bergy bits seemed to stretch and shrink, creating walls and apartment-sized blocks, courtesy of the Fata Morgana mirage.
Boger Point marks both the entrance to Makinson Inlet and hides the diverticulum of Boger Bay. At first it seemed as if the glaciated scenery would be the draw but within minutes, the world erupted with life. The birds were first in line. Kittiwakes decorated both floating ice and shorelines. Scores of the rare and beautiful ivory gulls swirled among them. Never a species to pass up an aerial pursuit and free meal, jaegers, both pomarine and parasitic, soared about. Acrobatic harp seals roamed in gangs and a bearded seal or two popped their heads up to observe our passing.
Who should get top billing next? Polar bear, beluga, or narwhal? Believe it or not, they were all there. How it happened, we don’t know—but we lost count of the bears we saw, at least six or seven, maybe more. Swimming bears, napping bears, foraging bears—they were everywhere. Near the shore, the sea boiled with tiny blows—both beluga and narwhal! We all learned to differentiate the creamy white backs of adult belugas and the smooth gray backs of their young from the mottled skin of the narwhal. There were quite possibly 60 or more of these truly northern whales.
More excitement awaited us at the head of Makinson Inlet. There, the enchantment was provided by the land itself, plus progeny cast forth from a glacial face. Icebergs of every shape and form glistened as the currents swirled around them. Low tide had deposited an array of icy sculptures in the intertidal zone, and they waited to be rearranged with the next tidal change. Our Zodiacs cruised in every direction. Somehow, a Viking boat bearing liquid gifts found us…
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