Exploring South Ellesmere Island

Sep 02, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


National Geographic Explorer approached Fram Fjord, Ellesmere Island, on a clear, sunny morning. The striking landscape of the fjord was dominated by the contrast of the hills and valleys against a blue sea and sky. Some distant musk ox were peacefully feeding at the bottom of the valley. While some guests went ashore to explore the landing site and its surroundings, others took the opportunity to take kayaks out on the calm water and paddle around the fjord in the sun. We were surprised when the weather changed suddenly and the wind picked up, making us replace kayaks for Zodiacs in order to continue exploring.

In the afternoon, everyone was invited to explore further into the valley after the expedition team spotted a family of musk ox. Our long-walk hikers made it near the group of musk ox to get better views of the woolly animals as well as the plants they prominently feed on, such as the dwarf willow. During our hikes, we learned that this fjord had been inhabited by ancient peoples. The presence of archaeological remains in the area made our visit even more exciting! One structure was a Paleo-Eskimo house around 3,200 years old—the oldest site encountered in our expedition. Another structure was a Dorset house, between 1,000 and 3,000 years old and with some of the characteristic architectural features, such as their middle passage, intact. The unique conditions of the Arctic have made possible the preservation of these sites for thousands of years, and we were lucky to have seen sites so significant in the region’s history. Once back on board, we sailed toward Philpots Island, our next destination.

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About the Author

Clara Fuquen

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Despite her origins high up in the Andes mountains, Clara has built a career working beneath the surface of the world’s oceans. Being trained as a diver in the Colombian Navy, she began her archaeological career working on the 18th century Spanish shipwreck Conquistador. Working on various underwater and terrestrial archaeological sites in the following years, Clara completed an undergraduate degree in anthropology at the Colombian National University, followed by a Masters degree in Maritime Archaeology in the UK’s Southampton University. Her subsequent PhD research focused on traditional boatbuilding in the remote jungles of Colombia’s pacific coast.

About the Photographer

Ryder Redfield

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Growing up at the base of the Cascade Mountains in the tiny Oregon town of Sisters meant that Ryder was surrounded by wilderness. A childhood of hiking, fishing, hunting for arrowheads, camping, and upland bird hunting resulted in the outdoors feeling far more comfortable than hectic city streets. His passion for the outdoors has perpetually grown and, upon graduating from the University of Oregon, he embraced his wanderlust with even greater vigor. His adventures eventually led him to working with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic as a photo instructor.

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