My Arctic Experience at Pond Inlet as a Sea Kayaker

Gail E. Ferris

The suspense of making what seemed like an epic voyage started for me the moment I decided to make a trip to the Arctic in 1989.  I decided that I would be wise to find an area accessible by commercial airline near where I could launch from with tides in the five to six foot range and with moderate weather conditions.

I had seen the boreal environment in Newfoundland in 1988 and decided that now was the time to visit a great unknown, the Arctic.  I had no idea what to expect other than that it would be colder than New England that the days would be much longer and there would be no trees, so I left my bathing suit home.

Upon scanning the NOAA Tides and Currents for North America I found that Pond Inlet on Baffin Island Canada had the five to six foot tides and indeed at Iqaluit with twenty-foot tides there were miles of tidal flats exposed at low tide with large ships stranded on them.  At Iqaluit the standard off loading procedure is to drive trailers out to these ships at low tide rather than by off loading with barges.

Now the big question was, does the ice go out of Pond Inlet, when and does the ice go out every year.  From what I could find out I learned that the ice usually leaves during the last week of July, if it is going to go out, and that the currents are not severe because of the five to six foot tides.  The reason for my concern about the currents was that I did not want to combine paddling in freezing cold water with threatening paddling conditions, such as tide rips and ice entrapment on my first Arctic paddling experience.

The weather, I learned, was moderate with light winds averaging less that fifteen knots and temperatures warmer than other places on Baffin Island despite it's latitude of seventy two degrees North, such that nearly all in town have their own boat.  The most precise source of information for boating I found in the Pilot Guide, which is available to members of the Mystic Seaport at their library.  My goal was to go paddling in the Arctic, but not to get my hair wet because my hairpins would become rusty.

I wrote for general information to the Bureau of Economic Resources at Pond Inlet and wrote to the Canadian government for information regarding ordering nautical charts and topographic maps after having read that topographic maps provide better information for choosing campsites than 1:250,000 scale nautical charts, however from my on the water experience I found that the most likely campsites are found at the mouth of rivers and streams, which are easily found on either chart.  I also made note on my overall chart of the locations of traditional campsites designated on a chart at the Office of Reneweable Resources in Pond Inlet to eliminate some of the guess work.

Now the fun begins as the hours of planning and gathering suitable equipment with all it's paper work and exchanges began.  After hours of reading, deciding what to do about those friendly little white furry creatures who might drop by for a snack on me.  You know they don't always remember to knock before opening your tent for you while you are snoring away.  In fact this on one of those situations where being the incredible edible might become a reality.  Having previously learned how to handle a shotgun I found I was in luck, because a twelve gauge doesn't weigh as much as a thirty-o-six rifle, and once I became accustomed to a pump, the pump shotgun is the fastest and least apt to foul during shooting multiple rounds.  It's nice to know that I am desirable and to be wanted but I have my limits.  With polar bears you aren't going to be around to be able to say "I gave him everything!"

My shooting friends found that there is a stainless steel model twelve gauge manufactured fifteen miles from my home by Mossberg which is designed for saltwater exposure.  Thoughts of future applications during duck hunting season also loomed in my mind.  What a perfect combination a Klepper and a twelve gauge when those little dinners fly by next fall.  I'd like to see some one try that trick in a Knordkapp.  First they would have to outfit the Knordkapp with auxiliary floatation to keep it upright the moment the trigger is pulled.  My friends had a few amusing moments as I experimented with different styles of skeet shooting, but gradually I became familiar and completely accustomed to handling my gun so that I knew how to shoot it in an emergency condition.

The next question was how do you carry a shotgun on a kayak and have it both be dry and accessible.  The answer is to keep the gun loaded on the deck in a dry bag which can easily be opened with one hand.  The gun has to also be attached to the deck and also the paddle because for some strange reason guns don't float and paddles float away when dropped in the water.  I arranged a "Bone  Dry" gun bag to be tied to "D" rings sewn onto the deck.  The nice thing about a Klepper is that repairs can easily be done indoors because the skin and the frame are easily dismantled and reduced to a size easy to bring indoors or to ship on any airplane.  The Expedition Klepper skin can be repaired in below freezing temperatures with an ordinary bicycle patch.  Fiberglass boats can be folded too but they just don't unfold very well.

Next question is will the people at work let me take four weeks off in one block of time?  Oh boy, what a thing to ask!  Four weeks is a long time.  I was so excited about the trip that I was constantly consulting with anybody and everybody I knew about any question that come to my mind such that my friends at work were never hearing the end of my elaborate questions and ideas and by the time I got around to asking if I could have four weeks off it was no surprise to them and they were agreeable.  Now I knew I had to go through with my trip of a lifetime otherwise there would be a number of people I would have let down; so I bought my airline tickets.  That seemed simple enough. Then the plot thickened as I discovered that shipping more than forty kilos of baggage would not necessarily make it all the way with me to Pond Inlet and that during early summer it was not unusual to have excess baggage delayed by two weeks.  With horror I imagined my precious vacation time being wasted waiting for my baggage to arrive in Pond Inlet while I stared helplessly at the water waiting for my Klepper to arrive. Vainly trying to arrange for an air freight company to ship my gear in advance to my destination in Canada was squelched by customs which requires that people must accompany their personal effects which they are to use on a vacation in Canada through customs.  Complete helplessness seemed to loom on the horizon until I figures out that once my gear was cleared through customs I could then ship it in advance to Pond Inlet.

Arrangements were made to air freight the gear to Montreal and tickets were purchased to fly a few days later to Montreal to clear my gear through customs and to ship it to Pond Inlet.  Although this was an unexpected expense, it resolved an often major problem involved with going to the far north.  Even on domestic flights if it happens to be a commuter flight, the airplane will not necessarily be able to carry baggage, which is not always found out until you double check.

Now the next question was how to take video pictures of my trip.  I had discovered on a previous trip that there is much better continuity, and indeed the capture of motion accompanied by the record of sound, which a video camera will record, projects a much more complete communication with the audience that still pictures can ever provide.  I knew that video cameras had become small and light enough to consider using on a Klepper, but what also had been introduced to the market was the Sony with a water resistant case which was easy to operate and made very good quality video recordings.  I had found with other Sony items that they are always ahead of their time.  After hours of anguishing over the financial commitment I purchased the eight millimeter Sony Cam-Corder CCD-SP7 and eight batteries.  To my horror, I learned that video cameras and cam-corders in cold conditions use twice as many batteries as they do in warm conditions.  I desperately and vainly tried to find some means of recharging the batteries either by solar panel or hand cranked generator, only to be treated as though I had just landed from Mars during the Civil War era. 

Finally just two weeks before leaving I spotted an advertisement for a store in New Haven specializing in motion picture equipment.  The proprietor was most kind and understanding of my plight but although he could not help me directly he could recommend someone whom he thought could. 

After talking with my new found friend, Gary Landau at Take-5-Audio in New Haven, Gary suggested that I purchase a flexible solar panel and with that piece of equipment the solar powered battery charger became possible.  I knew that waterproof flexible solar panels were available for sailboats and just by coincidence I located a salesman at Rawson Marine in Milford who had direct experience in purchasing solar panels from Ferris-Hamilton Company in Massachusetts.  I found, as I had been assured, that all I had to do was to call Ferris-Hamilton Company and give them the electrical capacity and recharging time for the battery and that they would probably have a solar panel small and rugged enough to withstand the rigors of the "white glove" treatment my baggage would be subjected to, non withstanding life on the deck of a kayak for three weeks.  In a truly last minute flurry the solar panel was rushed to my door via good old UPS and from an assortment of parts Gary created my solar battery charger as a special project because he was as excited as I was about the capability it would give me in taking as much video footage as I felt that I needed without the problem of insufficient battery power I would have otherwise had.  With only one day remaining I tested my battery charger and found that, yes indeed, the solar battery charger, which I had spent a year trying to obtain, did work.  Now having returned from my trip the battery recharger has survived all the barbarisms of travel on a kayak trip.

Navigation in this area because it is so close to the magnetic North Pole has to be done without the compass, because the compass will not provide reliable readings.  The daily magnetic variation is twenty six minutes, the deviation ranges between sixty five and seventy degrees west and there are numerous iron ore deposits, one of which I saw and noticed that the rocks have so much iron that they look like chunks of rusty iron scrap.  With that I started to realize that I would be confronted with two very confusing factors when it came to navigation.  Not only does the compass spin around but the sun just keeps going around, never setting, just going along the horizon day after day.  After days of feeling mentally like a helplessly confused navigator I raided my local library for any books about solar navigation and purchased two books by David Burch specifically written about emergency navigation and kayaks.  I came upon an important fact which I should have known long ago.  Did you realize that three hundred sixty degrees divided by twenty-four hours equals fifteen degrees and therefore the earth rotates at the rate of fifteen degrees every hour?  Thus each hour the sun has moved fifteen degrees in the sky.  Well I felt better, but next, you have to create a compass rose divided into fifteen degrees segments starting at zero of three hundred sixty degrees for midnight standard time progressing to ninety degrees for six am. which is east, then one hundred eighty degrees for twelve noon and finally two hundred seventy degrees for eighteen o'clock which is west.  Then you must bear in mind that we are on daylight savings time, which is one hour in advance of eastern standard time.  Now how was I to know if it was seven a.m. or seven p.m. I wondered?  The solution I realized had to be resolved by wearing a twenty four hour watch which also recorded the date; otherwise I knew I was never going to know what part of the day it was and what day it was.  I might not do very well getting back to Pond Inlet in time to fly home.  I had visions of being hopelessly lost with the sun going around and around and being completely confused as to what day it might happen to be. It's okay to be dumb, but I have my limitations and I didn't think that excuse would be very well accepted at work as to why I returned several days late.  That excuse would probably go over like a lead balloon, especially since I am paid to perform scientific research, a certain shadow of doubt as to my competence would be cast.  The reaction of my co-workers would be "Oh boy! now we've heard everything!"

The Arctic is not an easy environment to adapt to and it is not unusual to find the bones of someone who did not survive it's rigors.  One of the major qualities the Inuit have is the ability to figure out how to repair or replace a broken item with the most minimal materials available and to wait out foul weather rather than take an unnecessary risk by fighting it.  Bearing this in mind I knew I had to seek a partner who had this character quality, otherwise many related problems could potentially develop.

The prospective partner would have to had previous experience with cold water paddling and cold weather camping.  Minor mistakes in judgment would unnecessarily complicate the straight-forward problem of keeping warm and enjoying the trip.  Small items such as a hot cup of cider become a welcome reprieve from the cold, but there is no compromise for the warmth of human intelligence and understanding that is found among like companions and when that is lacking, you might as well be better off alone.  A wrong decision based on ego and or ignorance can turn you into a meal for the polar bears and ravens.

Dealing with the Arctic is lake a great game of chess, only the variables are far tougher than the average person expects, who thinks he can take care of himself.  The Inuit always survive by leaving more than one option available to accommodate the unexpected, such as threatening weather, sickness, equipment failure of an injury and most importantly the Inuit do not feel ashamed to admit that they have a problem which prevents them from traveling at particular moment.  They wait until the problem is resolved, find something else to do for the moment and then when the time is right, they move on.

Knowing as much as I do about what effect the weather and topography as on paddling conditions, I was unfamiliar with cloud formations, which indicated, wind direction and barometric pressure and how make meaningful meteorological observations.  I learned that when you see lenticular clouds with a great combination of clouds; those lenticular clouds are actually cumulus clouds being blown into that form by powerful winds aloft accompanying a low pressure system.  Do not go paddling unless you are in a protected area and can easily put ashore.  It's nice to imagine that you can handle this, but it's not nice to find out you can't.  Many fairly experienced paddlers are unaware of the way cold water can suddenly drown even an experienced paddler who is wearing a dry suit.  The physiological reflex of gulping water into the lungs is initiated by sudden immersion of the paddler's head in frigid water upon contact of frigid water with the vagus nerve in the nose.  The paddler has a decrease in control of this response with aging.  Paddlers wear neoprene to reduce the shock of cold water to the head and I do not paddle in icy water as if I were in the Caribbean.  I sailed when I was sure that conditions were suitable I carefully avoided any erratic conditions and made sure that I could quickly drop the sail and also just let it go if need be, because the sail was designed to swing completely around the unstayed mast, if necessary.

I find it hard to believe that there are still kayakers to refuse to wear either a wet suit or a dry suit in Arctic waters.  I wore a dry suit, which I have always found very comfortable and unobtrusive, durable and tough during regular winter paddling.  During calm warm days the front entry diagonal zipper on the dry suit is handy to open for ventilation.  Underneath a few layers of light-weight " Thermax" and a wool sweater were comfortable.

 The reason for my choice of the Aerius I Expedition Klepper was that it is easiest to fly to the Arctic because it can be shipped in it's original canvas bags or it will fit into a couple bicycle boxes which are tough and conform to size requirements for baggage.  The Expedition can be repaired in the cold conditions of the Arctic, whereas a fiberglass kayak cannot even be repaired with tape because tape barely sticks if at all in forty degree Fahrenheit temperatures.  Shipping ordinary air-freight to the Arctic is almost more costly than flying yourself there.  It cost me more than five hundred dollars to ship one hundred forty pounds to Pond Inlet.  I prefer the Klepper because it is tough, roomy and the most seaworthy kayak I know of.  How well I remember John Dowd at a symposium saying that you can ship a Klepper anywhere in the world on an airplane but that you cannot count on doing that with a fiberglass kayak.  If you keep the hull nicely waxed, the sponsons well inflated, and load the boat evenly, with the large barn door type of rudder you can handle just about anything.  You have to advance ship your equipment to the Arctic because often there is a back up of freight going north during the summer months.

I learned the hard way that it is often best to have the airline handle and store your shipment.  You should label your boxes with your name, telephone number and date of your expected arrival with the label "Hold for Arrival" on the boxes.  Then check by telephone to find if all of your shipment has arrived and it may be wise to have a separate waybill for each box.  When a box becomes lost it is best to have had it only in care of the airline because they will recover it for you not the local freight handler who could care less about it.

There are misconceptions about the Klepper, which relate to how well you prepare the boat for paddling.  If you notice that the boat seems slow to paddle it is likely that you are paddling with soft air sponsons and an unwaxed hull.  I find blisters on the hands are unsightly when pouring tea, so next time I'm bringing my wax.  In the Sea Trek Regatta Race, Eric Stiller said that he has placed ninth and fourth in a field of three hundred fiberglass, etc. kayaks.  Eric assured me that he is not an exceptionally strong and well-trained paddler, but however in essence it is very hard to race on flat tires if you are the only one with flat tires.  This was the Alcatraz Island Race in 1988 and this year Eric placed fourth in the Angel Island Race being beaten by two Seda Super Gliders and one Arluk I, completing the race of eight nautical miles in one hour and forty two minutes at a speed of about five knots.  He was in the first class, the single kayak class finishing with a five minute lead ahead of the fifth boat and the fastest over all boat was a surf ski with a time of one hour and twenty eight minutes.  So you can see that although the Aerius was not designed for speed it was designed for touring at a reasonable rate.

The best way to transport the Klepper over ice is by sled, because you have directional control and less friction than by dragging the hull over the ice.  Would you believe the Inuit invented this method just last week, just about the same time they invented the harpoon?  This year, I only saw very rotten ice but next year I am bringing an easily transported sled, in case I am trapped among large ice floes.  The best material for the bottoms of the runners is Polyethylene.  The Inuit use Polyethylene now exclusively because Polyethylene slides and wears well.

My choice of tent was the Gerry Mountain Tent, which is an above timberline, double entrance, semi free standing design tent weighing about eight pounds.  Next year I may use a Chouinard Mega-Mid tent which has only a pole in the center, has no floor and is pyramid shaped.  The Inuit much prefer to camp with a tent, which has no floor because "when the Polar Bear comes in, it is nice to go out."  I will modify this tent by adding some pockets to hold ballast.  This tent weighs about two and one half pounds, is easy to repair, is adaptable for other uses and most important can be pitched almost instantly.  For camping on ice floes ice screws are handy.

Around the perimeter of the tent and to protect your boat you will want to set up a trip wire with explosive flares for those charming white hungry inquisitive visitors.  I have not figured out the design of trip wires, which are mentioned in Kingdom of the Ice Bear by Hugh Miles and Mike Salisbury as being a very effective polar bear deterrent.  On this trip I relied on the fact that being with ten other people is a deterring factor known to apply to Alaskan Brown Bears which I hoped would apply to Polar Bears and that we were in an area less frequented by them and less accessible for them because the ice which they on was out.

Although it is not at all wise to sleep out in the open without a tent because you look just like a seal to a Polar Bear, you should have a bivouac with you in case of a disaster to your tent.  I brought a non-rigid Goretex bivouac, which was designed to allow you to have use of your arms for cooking but also has a mosquito netting face guard.  I had tested it many frosty nights at home and found it excellent and easy to get in and out of.

When it came to planning on packing my kayak for bear country, which means just about everything, I had the grand pleasure of finding out what it is like to reinvent the wheel each time.  Ignoring the sage advice of my friends I used large bulky bags, which were most difficult to jam into the pointed hull of the kayak.  Watching with horror and embarrassment as my friend unpacked his kayak in just moments because he used long narrow nylon urethane coated bags.  Packing my kayak was an awful ordeal every morning.  The large PVC coated bag which I had allocated for my sleeping bag had the insidious habit of drawing air in through the seal thus re-expanding it to an unloadable size if I delayed in loading it immediately after filling and expelling excess air from it.  The PVC binds on any other surface as well as becoming too stiff to form a seal in 40 degree temperature range.

On my deck I kept my shotgun in a "Bone Dry" bag made by Adventures and Delights in Alaska.  This bag is expedition grade four millimeter urethane coated nylon with not only welded seams but in addition the edges of the seams to protect them from unraveling have cloth binding sewn over them.  These bags are designed to last a long time.  The urethane coating is especially heavy.  The seal is a roll over type with a Fastex clip, which can be undone quickly with only one hand.  The corners have brass grommets for securing to the boat.

As a padded seat I sat on a Voyageur's Caboose bag with my clothes in it, which made an excellent seat of variable height and softness, depending on how I loaded it.  It not only saved carrying a seat but increased the loading volume and the paddlers comfort and gave a measure of control over the position of my kayak's center of gravity.

I purchased the Klepper drift sail in early spring and learned how to sail my kayak empty without leeboards very conservatively in the cold water for two reasons.  The first reason was to satisfy my curiosity on what it is like to sail a kayak and the second was to have as alternative means of propelling the kayak other than paddling for safety and as a diversion from the monotony of paddling.  Dieter Stiller at Klepper in New York very much encouraged my sailing effort by reassuring me that both the design of the sail and the hull of the Klepper made sailing simple and not nearly as risky as other kayaks.  The drift sail when used alone will rotate completely around the unstayed mast which means that if you are suddenly struck with a strong gust of wind, you can just let the sail go and the sail will just hang and flutter harmlessly in the wind.  The hull of the Klepper has an unusually large margin of secondary stability because of the above waterline surface area created by the sponsons, which the boat can actually be heeled over onto this surface when sailing on a broadside reach.   Essentially you have two types of hull in the Klepper hull.  I found sailing the Klepper after so many years of paddling to be an absolutely delightful thrilling experience.  Cruising across the harbor without lifting a finger, without making more than just the slightest sound, being that of the hull passing over the water leaving a delicate wake just seemed so extraordinary; and yet the entire boat can be broken down to fit into canvas bags.

Now if you are resourceful the most secure method to ship your Klepper to the Arctic is to transform your boat into bearing the closest possible resemblance to a live passenger whom you are accompanying north.  With a little stuffing here and there and the judicious use of a broad brimmed hat you cannot only ship your Klepper right beside you in the adjacent seat; but you can ship some underwear, socks, clothes and sunglasses all as components of your "Klepper" friend.  Not only that, but you can order double drinks and nobody will know until you try to negotiate standing up sometime later, that the drinks you ordered for your highly reticent companion just happened to have been consumed by yourself.  Now of course either you want to do a strenuous amount of weight lifting before trying to board an airplane with your "Klepper" companion so that you don't create the appearance of struggling with your shy friend or, heaven forbid, preforming any unnatural acts when boarding the airplane.  I would suggest that your "Klepper" friend board in a wheelchair and that solution avoids these little problems.  Now how feasible would it be to fly with a fiberglass kayak as a passenger next to you.  Somehow I think it is not likely, even if you were to saw your fiberglass kayak into sections, you would probably be arrested and charged with traveling with an alien.

For food I brought an assortment similar in character to my regular diet, because keeping a routine lessens the stress of travel.  I made it a priority to bring some items, which I knew I especially liked and could add to embellish a less interesting meal.  These were nuts, spices and butter.  The butter was unusually pleasing when I found mushrooms to sauté.  I feasted on mushrooms both for breakfast and dinner because where I found them they were quite abundant.  I also found blueberries here and there in acidic bogs, and there were plenty.  They were tart and tasty.

Food has to nutritionally balanced in each of the three meals because the physical demands of paddling all day and emotional demands of travel soon become compromised and the trip becomes an ordeal.  Freeze-dried and dried food works well as a base to which you can add to.  I found that individually packaged freeze-dried food was bulkier than necessary and I plan to work out a different system next year.  "Knorr" dried cup soups were always pleasing for lunch, which I made during breakfast and stored in my "Nissan" stainless steel thermos.  I dried at home in the oven at less that 200 degrees F. a couple of corned beef briskets and london broils sliced thinly on teflon coated cookie sheets.  Next time I will follow Will Steiger's technique of adding some vegetable fat to the meat and maybe some maple syrup to make the dry meat a more balanced snack.  It was especially tasty along with some freeze-dried vegetables after soaking in the thermos of soup all morning.  Drying meat is worthwhile because you feel like you need a hunk of something to chew on after several days of eating stew.

If you can get some seal of char from the Inuit, by all means try it, they are both very delicious.  If you suspect your diet may be deficient in enzymes and vitamins eat the seal meat raw.

After all this preparation it seems as though I'm never going to get on the water.  After hanging around town waiting to recover my last box, which had become waylaid in Iqaluit.  I put my Klepper together and found that nothing had broken during shipping.  Next time I will ship from Ottawa, not Montreal, and use a separate Way Bill for each box if necessary, and only depend on First Air to handle my air cargo.  With the recovery of my last box, I did not have to attempt to replace it's contents with a rough facsimile from the Hudson Bay Store.

Due to unforeseen circumstances I teamed up with a group of ten people from France, who were using double Nautiraids and were pleased to have my company.  The evening before leaving Pond Inlet my friends, who to my delight loved to experiment with gastronomic adventure, picked, cooked, and ate a huge pot of Russula mushrooms.  They also procured some seal meat to augment their food supply, which was a delicious reprieve from freeze-dried food as fresh meat always is.  The varieties of Russula mushrooms, which grow in the Arctic, are not poisonous, but should not be intermixed, because the flavors do not mix.  I was glad I had brought butter, which I could use to saute these tasty mushrooms in among other uses.

We left Pond Inlet the next morning in overcast conditions with a wind from the east at about ten knots heading west with out ultimate objective as Milne Inlet.  Bert Dean, the Reneweable Resources officer showed us on the chart where the traditional campsites were, advised us of potentially dangerous crossings, how to handle them and described the general area.  He and everyone described Milne Inlet as a wonderful area abounding with fish, seals and most importantly where the Narwhal go in great numbers to suckle their young.  The Narwhal were what we had come such a great distance to see.  We knew that we would be most likely to closely approach them in our kayaks as the kayaks are unobtrusive.  In Greenland Narwhal can only be hunted with harpoon from the kayak.  In Canada, each area is limited to a predetermined number of Narwhal for harvesting.

As out little kayak armada departed from Pond Inlet, I took advantage of the following wind to try out my Klepper drift sail.  After all, we might as well leave in style and not always are conditions going to be so perfectly favorable.  The prevailing wind in the Arctic is from the east when it prevails.

We were looking froward to a long stretch of shallow near shore paddling along a gently sloping coast line which could be landed on in most areas with sand beach areas.  This coast was about twenty five nautical miles long, a reasonable distance for resolving any problems with kayaks and become accustomed do the paddling routine.

After sailing about five miles I became chilled.  This is a problem when sailing in the Arctic with temperatures most frequently in the forty degree range.  I dismantled and stowed the sail and returned to paddling so that I could warm myself up.

The bottom was shallow and sandy except where the alluvial delta of the Salmon River extended from the shore at low tide for about a mile harboring assorted rocks and sandy shoals.  The Salmon River is well named, because it is a good river for fishing having a large lake at its headwaters.

The Salmon River bank at about 200 feet back from shore has the remains of Dorset structures, which are lines of large boulders in right angled configurations.

As the trip down the coast progressed to the southwest, the last point from which we could see Pond Inlet was Tunuiaqtalik Point, about twelve nautical miles away.  That point was the only distinguishing mark on the south side of Eclipse Sound.  Across to the north we could easily distinguish the peaks and glaciers of Bylot Island, especially the Sermilik and Kaparqtalik Glaciers.  Bylot Island was easily visible from twenty nautical miles away because of the clarity of the Arctic air.  With mountains over a mile high, Bylot Island is a very dramatic view.  Often times I could see snow falling on it's peaks or a storm with all it's levels and types of clouds raging on Bylot Island while my area was unaffected.  One definite prognostication of foul weather in the offing is the appearance of lenticular clouds.

 Lenticular clouds are actually cumulus clouds distorted by powerful winds aloft which have a distinctly greyer more compacted appearance than the adjacent clouds.  Although it was a dreary day we were not worried about being beset with heavy wind, we were probably receiving the edge of a low pressure system to the east of us. As out little kayak armada departed from Pond Inlet, I took advantage of the following wind to try out my Klepper drift sail.  After all, we might as well leave in style and not always are conditions going to be so perfectly favorable.  The prevailing wind in the Arctic is from the east when it prevails.

We were looking forward to a long stretch of shallow near shore paddling along a gently sloping coast line which could be landed on in most areas with sand beach areas.  This coast was about twenty five nautical miles long, a reasonable distance for resolving any problems with kayaks and become accustomed do the paddling routine.

After sailing about five miles I became chilled.  This is a problem when sailing in the Arctic with temperatures most frequently in the forty degree range.  I dismantled and stowed the sail and returned to paddling so that I could warm myself up.

The bottom was shallow and sandy except where the alluvial delta of the Salmon River extended from the shore at low tide for about a mile harboring assorted rocks and sandy shoals.  The Salmon River is well named, because it is a good river for fishing having a large lake at its headwaters.

The Salmon River bank at about 200 feet back from shore has the remains of Dorset structures, which are lines of large boulders in right angled configurations.

As the trip down the coast progressed to the southwest, the last point from which we could see Pond Inlet was Tunuiaqtalik Point, about twelve nautical miles away.  That point was the only distinguishing mark on the south side of Eclipse Sound.  Across to the north we could easily distinguish the peaks and glaciers of Bylot Island, especially the Sermilik and Kaparqtalik Glaciers.  Bylot Island was easily visible from twenty nautical miles away because of the clarity of the Arctic air.  With mountains over a mile high, Bylot Island is a very dramatic view.  Often times I could see snow falling on it's peaks or a storm with all it's levels and types of clouds raging on Bylot Island while my area was unaffected.  One definite prognostication of foul weather in the offing is the appearance of lenticular clouds.

 Lenticular clouds are actually cumulus clouds distorted by powerful winds aloft which have a distinctly greyer more compacted appearance than the adjacent clouds.  Although it was a dreary day we were not worried about being beset with heavy wind, we were probably receiving the edge of a low pressure system to the east of us.

 The next day we had stronger, more threatening wind from the east of about twenty knots, but the sun was showing.  I paddled closer to shore to avoid incipient problems, which might occur with this amount of wind.  I really don't like rusty hair pins.  My friends in their Nautiraids happened not to have brought drip rings for their paddles.  They were uncomfortable that day as plenty of water ran off the paddle shafts onto them.  We should have invented some.  Even an ordinary piece of line tied around a paddle shaft will work as a drip ring.

We pulled into shore for the evening behind a cluster of melting grounded-out pans of rotten ice which covered the harbor leaving but one access to shore.  The ice was pan ice from last year melted to the state which is called either rotten or brash ice.  This ice is highly crystalline, loosely structured, very weak, about eight feet thick, fresh water, severely undercut by seawater at the mid line, thus it is constantly collapsing and rolling over if it is not grounded.  This ice you cannot expect to run up your kayak onto it or get out onto it.  It would crumble under such a load stress.

We carefully chose our campsite considering the bears, but I would have preferred that we camp else where access to the water was not so limited by ice and where polar bears cannot so easily hide.  Not only is ice white but so are polar bears.

My friends cooked over driftwood which was planks from packing crates brought by ship into Pond Inlet.  I cooked on my trusty old Svea 123.  Never have I had a problem with the Svea that I couldn't resolve.  I like simple  straight forward equipment especially a stove.  The Optimus, Primus and Svea have been around for a very long time.  Shackleton and Nansen as well as many others since the 1890's used these stoves.

 Water in this area of the Arctic is everywhere.  Even though the annual rainfall is only fifteen inches of about half a meter, the ground is frozen just a short distance beneath the surface and the evaporation rate is very low.  You will find yourself becoming quite accomplished at bog hoping and you will notice that the higher you go the wetter it seems to become; so much so that waterfalls will originate from the 2,000 foot apex of many escarpments, even one on a narrow peninsula.  My only explanation is that the aquifers must be in an upended strata similar to the Green Mountains in Vermont where you will find it muddy on top in even August and dry as a bone in the valley floor below.  Often comments will be found in the AMC shelter log books such as "Welcome to Vermud."  I was perpetually trying to dry my sort of waterproof shoes but happily surviving with somewhat dry feet because I was using Goretex socks.  The Goretex socks were an experiment but I thought "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

We had a lovely evening with local flora gathering, cooking and eating.  We had a salad of leaves of a plant in the Oxyria family, they are round, very tender, dark green and especially high in vitamin A.  We picked mushrooms and added them to our evening fare.  I saved some to saute with my eggs in the morning.  I found that powdered eggs are tasty in the morning and most importantly they have completely balanced protein.  If I had been concerned about cholesterol intake, I would have found a comparable substitute without cholesterol, because breakfast with insufficient protein soon catches up with me.

We cashed our food away from our boats, away from out tents and turned in for the evening at about ten o'clock.  We found ourselves adhering to a schedule or retiring at about ten p.m. and rising at eight a.m. although the sun at this time really did not set.  One can in the Arctic travel at night because the light is sufficient in early August all night.  This is important because if you have foul weather, you will find the conditions may be calmer at night.

Our first day of paddling was the most monotonous because conditions were not challenging and the scenery was either of low profile or too distant to seem exciting.  But we knew paddling would soon become exciting as we could see from the topography of the fjords and islands we were going to be encountering soon enough.

On our third day we could see Emerson Island in the foreground with Cape Hatt, Curry Island and possible other islands each behind one another.  They looked as though they could be part of an Oriental watercolor each one a lighter and lighter shade of brownish blue finally becoming so pale that the opposite western shore of Eclipse Sound about fifty miles away was almost invisible.  To our south southwest was a grand cliff face towering to 3,000 feet in one sheer vertical rise called Qorbignaluk Headland.

From what we could see as we looked to our south down Oliver Sound we could see that there were many other similar cliff faces lining both sides, appearing as though Oliver Sound had been cut out just like one cuts out a piece of cheese.  We felt very very small, for indeed we were when we were next to these escarpments.  We realized that we were about to enter a much more challenging kayaking situation, one in which we would not have continually available landing places.  In this is a typical kayaking situation one appreciates good equipment and being associated with a group, which has some double kayaks.  You realize that you must be very cognizant of conditions and everyones' capabilities.  We had no definite knowledge of where we could even land; much less find an area large enough to camp, but I concluded from our topographic maps that most river and stream beds might be useable.  The cliffs were so high that the nimbus layer of clouds would form a ring midway up them, as this level of clouds are the lowest level of clouds.  A remarkable quality in the Arctic in this area is the clarity of the atmosphere.  Against the 6,000 foot mountains of Bylot Island I found most amazing the sights of clouds of numerous types among the mountains on Bylot Island.

Our second day had been very windy from the east and partially overcast.  As a conservative paddler I suggested that we keep together as a group and stay close to shore which was to the east of us.  With this offshore twenty to twenty five knot wind I felt that a boat blowing away or capsizing would be wise to avoid in these cold waters.  I was glad that we did not have to risk any paddling exposure greater that this today.  It was a good test of judgment.  I recognized that the waves are much smaller on cold water for the same amount of wind as compared to warm water because cold water is reacts more slowly to wind.  The water in this area stays within five degrees above and below freezing throughout the year.

By the end of our paddling day the effects of the cold water running down the paddle shafts of those who did not happen to have drip rings made paddling a wet cold ordeal.  We cut short our day and found a campsite on a rocky shore behind some chunks of brash ice.  With a bustle of campsite preparation a quickly made hot fire we made our usual hot soup appetizer, which immediately came to the rescue.  Once again we were warm and relaxed.  We ate some more mushrooms, which we found and saved some for breakfast.

We knew that if the wind subsided we could make our crossing of Oliver Sound on our third day.  It would be a four mile crossing with no place to land because the slopes of Qorbignaluk Headland and Emerson Island were either sheer rock faces of loose talus slopes.  Now we would be entering the unknown.

Local people had warned us not to cross Oliver Sound unless the weather was good and the wind was not blowing because this area is very rough in foul weather.  I noticed when we did near the western side that conditions actually were worse than on the eastern side because of converging tidal currents from Oliver Sound and White Bay.  We had no shelter until we had gone another three miles behind Qorbignaluk Headland where we finally found a place to land at the mouth of a stream

At this stream we found what were likely to have been the remains of a fish weir for char.  We had previously chosen this place because the stream was fed by a lake, which we knew char would live in for part of the year.  The remains of what appeared to be an extensive semicircle of rocks encompassing all but a narrow midsection of the mouth of the stream.  The semicircle having about a hundred foot radius.

On the west side of the stream we found an extensive array of dwelling remains from recent stone circles which were tent circles to much older structures representative of some of the earlier cultures.  These stones were used to secure walls of hide tents.  The age of the stone circles could be estimated by the amount of lichens growing on these rocks, the more lichens covering the rocks the older the tent circle.  Some circles had hearth remains in them and others were key hole shaped, having a defined entrance.  Still other circles had combinations of intersecting circles. 

Even more fascinating then these tent circles were the remains of single and double level sod and whale bone smaller houses dug into the stream bank.  This was not nearly as common to find as tent rings.  These dwellings were tiny, but intricate by comparison to the tent dwellings, suggesting that this area must have always been a good place find fish and game.  Franz Boaz describes some of these types of structures in The Central Eskimo.  This area is probably used extensively when the Inuit can travel in boats and when ice has formed thick enough to be crossed with sleds, but approach from over land would be a very long trip.

As we made camp we found that this area was an acidic peat bog with blue berries, more mushrooms and a special herb called Ledum, which had a resin that made it's tea smell and taste slightly like eucalyptus.  It was a ericaceous shrub, not very common and quite inconspicuous.  Along the beach margin Arctic willows grew over the rocks and among the craigs strictly limited to espalier in the slightly sandy soil.

We gazed across the channel at the pink streaked grey cliffs of Emerson Island and to our left and right were more grey cliffs.  This was one of those topographic guesses we had taken the chance upon.  It was the only stream in the area and we had made a guess that it might be likely that we could land at it.  Topographic maps only tell you what elevations are within defined increments and if there happens to be a waterfall where you had planned to land which is too small for the topographic map to show, that is the chance you are taking.

We ate another nice dinner complete with soup and ending with several cups of Ledum tea.  Then we let the fire die and watched the evening close behind Bylot Island due north, way far away as we had just a touch of twilight when the sun dipped momentarily behind the horizon.

Our fourth day was an idyllic summer day, bright and balmy.  We paddled along the western side of the cove, which we had camped at, enjoying the endless swirls of quartz and both white and pink feldspar striations in the charcoal grey gneiss.  The swirls of minerals became so fine that they looked like cotton candy, something which seemed absolutely extraordinary to me.  We had a wonderful time gazing in the clear water looking for Sea Urchins, which we would have been delighted to gather for later consumption.  We saw the loveliest Ctenophores which are called Box Comb Jelly Fish and look slightly box shaped having two wonderful three foot long tentacles that stream behind them in the current to catch food but can be completely retracted when necessary.  We saw another ethereal looking jellyfish called a Medusa.

We then started making the crossing toward the southern shore of Emerson Island, which offered nothing but sheer rock faces and occasional talus slopes.  These grey cliffs had wonderful wide bands of feldspar and other layers in them.  We were on our way west to the northern tip of Frechette Island where we knew we could land.  The eastern shore of Frechette Island was similar to Emerson Island's southern shore offering no areas to disembark.

We no longer saw any Sea Butterflies, which we had seen millions of in Pond Inlet.  The Sea Butterflies are Pteropods, a type of Mollusk.  There were two types; one was a long tadpole shaped mostly clear with orange spots and little flipper-like wings and the other was solid black pill shaped with black little wings.  These creatures occurred often in large swarms near the surface and I believe the Fulmars ate large numbers of them.  They are also food for some Whales.

We were happy to have arrived none too soon at Frechette Island for lunch, because the lack of wind and intense sunshine was making us uncomfortably warm.  Midway in the late morning I had shed the upper half of my dry suit because I was just too hot and I could see no need to wear it in such benign conditions.  I was glad that my suit has a diagonal zipper across the chest.  It is nice to be able to open the zipper when I am too hot and also to easily be able to check to see that the zipper is closed.

We had the company of a stranded iceberg at our lunch place and some sand and rock shoals not noted on our nautical charts.  I guess nobody expects any oceanic vessels to be calling at Frechette Island, but I did think this lack of information on a chart rather odd.

To our west for a distance north of about five miles lay Cape Knud Jorgensen.  What immediately caught my eye were the cliffs.  Although they ere the same height of about 1,500 feet as the topography we had to our east from which we had just come, they had the distinctive appearance of being sedimentary rocks most likely a sandstone. They had very definite straight stratification in these layers.  At the bottom of these cliffs were talus slopes extending up these escarpments a long way, almost twenty to twenty five percent of the cliff face.  Only soft sedimentary finely layered rock cliffs have this weathered appearance.  I also thought we could easily have a shower of these rapidly disintegrating rocks come down on us at any time if we were to venture too close to them.  Massive rockslides are easily set off from this type of rock.  I did see a rock slide let loose on Qorbignaluk Headland from the 3,000 foot level and it was most impressive.  I was glad I did not happen to be passing by that area at that moment.  The rock dust from that rockslide hung in the air for twenty minutes.  I felt very small.

From the top of Cape Knud Jorgensen came three waterfalls, each more grand than the previous, as tons of water hurled itself down the cliff face.  The aquifer feeding these waterfalls must have had some extraordinary artesian pressure.  At the base of only one of these waterfalls could we possibly land in this expanse of five nautical miles.

As we rounded the tip of Cape Knud Jorgensen there were a few landing places but not very suitable for camping.

I looked for the Beroe Ctenophores in this area of Eclipse Sound, which I had seen in large numbers in Pond Inlet.  These Ctenophores look quite different than the majority of others, because they spread their mouths into an umbrella shape with which they capture food by opening and closing repeatedly.  They are often stranded on shore where they look like clear orange pink almond shaped Jellyfish.  They have no tentacles like the rest of the Ctenophores do.  These Plankton were being transported on the rapid current which sweeps around Bylot Island as well as the Sea Butterflies which I did not see here either.  In Pond Inlet I found I was much more likely to see open ocean creatures, particularly those dependent on current for transportation, than I was in Eclipse Sound.  We no longer saw Fulmars because there was not enough food for them, such as Sea Butterflies for them to feed on, floating on the water surface in this area.

We could see lush green areas of tundra across White Bay on Curry Island.  As we crossed the weather was fine and the seas were calm as they had been all day.  We were looking forward to dinner.  We stopped and scouted the northeast tip of Curry Island only to find that there was only rocks to land on and that the lush green tundra had no level areas suitable for camping, being instead quite steep.  Fearing that someone might accidentally slip into the frigid water when negotiating a landing on the available inclined smooth rock face I suggested that we proceed further west along the coast of Curry Island where most likely there might be a campsite, because on the topographic map two streams were indicated.  I was just taking a guess and we were all starting to feel tired.  Was I glad when we finally found the stream my chart illustrated.  There was no way of knowing for sure, because our maps were not detailed enough to show the inclination of the last few feet of land at the water edge was.  Our campsite faced northwest from which after preparing camp and eating dinner we were treated to a brilliant sun set at midnight.  Actually, since we were on Eastern Daylight Savings Time, the true midnight was at 1:00 a.m.  I recorded the sunset with my video camera and retired for the evening.  The Peregrine Falcon, which had been guarding its rookery far up on the rocks also became quiet for the evening.

The next morning we got underway on our fifth day heading west again.  We passed the other campsite on the north shore of Curry Island, which looked larger and more pleasant than where we had stayed.

Then we found as we were rounding the northern tip of Curry Island, that the rest of it's coast was inhospitable, but a curious quality the north coast of Curry Island had was that it was symmetrical.  The east tip and west tip combined with the two camping areas seemed so similar that the areas looked almost identical.

We crossed the western arm of White Bay to Cape Hatt, which is part of Baffin Island.  Its highest elevation is 1,400 feet which doesn't look very much different from higher elevations when viewed from the cockpit of a kayak.  My first impression was that Cape Hatt was a most unlikely place for anyone to even imagine landing anything at, because we saw nothing but huge brown iron stained hornblend craigs and boulders defining the coast of Cape Hatt.  I had been told that it is a wonderful place to go hunting and fishing which meant to me that there must be a good area to come ashore, which I could not see from my position.  We passed by a large protected keyhole shaped cove, which we did not explore.  It looked suitable for large motorboats.  The cove was flanked by low ridges, which could provide excellent hunting lookouts.

A couple miles after having rounded Cape Hatt we began to pass the eastern coast of Ragged Island at the eastern arm of Milne Inlet.  Ragged Island from our position appeared to bee a crumbly grey mass of rock without green or water.  Perhaps the opposite side would have been nicer, but we never did see that area.

We encountered an extensive low profile multiple layered stony and sandy beach and the accompanying shallows.  The most unusual quality this beach had was it's size both in width and depth and the very clearly defined layering which extended as much as thirty feet above sea level.  It appeared to me as though storms would drive the water carrying stones and sand up the beach, leaving these deposits when the raging waters subsided.  I really didn't want to camp there with menacing aspect visible.

Rounding a rocky peninsula, we spotted an area, which looked safe and protected for camping.  Finally I had a favorable wind for some downwind sailing and that's just what I did.  After twenty minutes my teeth were chattering.  I was glad when I finally made land.  I was quite cold.  We prepared camp, ate dinner and explored the first sand beach we had seen in days.

Pursuing my old interest in contemplating natural phenomena, I noticed something very odd.  Why on earth was there large amounts of lime green clumps of filamentous algae growing in the brooks?  Why was there extensive areas of all sorts of grass growing everywhere?  Where were all the mushrooms and familiar acid soil plants?  Some strange lichens were growing here.  The ground lacked the deep soft spongy feel of a peat bog and the water was not tinted brown from tannins leaching from peat.  I had the feeling that we were in a limestone area and indeed on the next day, which was too windy for boating I found heavily eroded limestone. 

There also was a capping stratum of granite, which occasionally harbored areas of acid soil plants.  This was the first granite I had seen on Baffin Island and a friend had told me that he saw no granite on Bylot Island.  Bylot Island has highly fractured dark grey metamorphic rock not suitable for rock climbing but Milne Inlet was one of the few areas having granite.  The granite I saw was well weathered and glacier worn with a series of twenty foot diameter stepped glacial pot holes, each one lower than the next.  These glacial pot holes, which had been formed ages ago by water erosion in the overlying strata igneous pink granite, were uniquely fascinating to explore and among them.  Among the granite I found a Woodsia fern which grows in Arctic areas in granite ravines and crevasses.  This fern was so tiny that it had fronds only one inch high.  This was the only fern I was to find.  These rounded polished granite rocks were much different that the other jagged metamorphic and sedimentary crumbly rocks in the area.  We even found fossils of bivalve Mollusks in the limestone.

From atop the knoll I could see the shimmering blue passage behind Ragged Island, which opened into the main portion of Milne Inlet, but on this our sixth day we could only sit and watch, hoping the wind would wane.  We so greatly wanted to paddle in Milne Inlet because we wanted to see the great pods of Narwhal and the rich profusion of other wildlife this area was especially noted for.

My friends decided that they would prefer to head back to Pond Inlet with some extra days available in case of poor weather, which was a good idea.

We were fortunate enough to be given an Arctic char by some local hunters across the bay, which they had caught in a net.  It was very kind of them to share their catch with us.  This was a wonderful experience in delicious eating after careful baking with spices in aluminum foil over the fire.  I only wished we had burned Arctic Heath instead of wood as Arctic Heath gives a special flavor all it's own to food cooked over it.

These local hunters also warned us about Polar bears, which gave credence and plausibility to my knowledge about Polar bears.  It was nice to, at long last, not be the only one carrying a functional firearm and taking care not to leave any food in my boat at night.  As for the tents, the bear had six gourmet choices, but at least we had no food in them and we did our cooking and toilet far away from the tent site.  We were all very smoky smelling from our numerous wood fires, which is and odd odor to an Arctic animal.  Bears are generally motivated to visit campsites by curiosity and unfortunately we had generated more than our fair share of curiosities.  It is best to smell as human as possible.

You are probably wondering where did this wood come from which we were cooking with.  There are no trees in the Arctic, which are large enough to burn.  We found that where ever we went and we also carried an extra supply on our boats.  I always cooked on my trusty Svea and destroyed my food packages by burning them up in an Arctic Heath fire.  Arctic Heath is very prolific, otherwise I would have not used it for fuel

On our seventh day the wind still blew and on the grey horizon to our west I could see lenticular clouds.  My friends decided that we would that we would leave on that day to return to Pond Inlet anyway.  I was glad I had my dry suit and that I was in a Klepper.  I had the thoughts of "Don't call us, we'll call you." but we launched.  The familiar saying "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." when used in this situation would be "You can lead a kayaker to cold water, but you can't make him think."  applies in this instance, because and Chuck Sutherland so often noted in ANorAK  "Cold water kills."  My friends were not ready to go for a swim and they were not experienced in rescue techniques or how to deal with the physiological effects of cold water immersion.  This is when I regretted not having the capable company of some of my kayaking companions, but they could not make this trip with me.  It can be frightening to be in the company of people who do not have your perspective but I just hoped that this difference would not develop into too serious a confrontation.

I knew one thing; and that was when we rounded Cape Hatt we would be pushing against a strong southerly wind, and that I would split off from the group and duck into the nearest area where I could disembark.  Well, that was exactly what happened, only I turned around to find that everyone else had the same idea.  The rest of the group was following me.  It was supposed to just be a lunch stop, but we were not interested in any more punishment by the wind.  Our narrow beach was just wide enough to accommodate our boats.  We staggered up the steep knoll and set up camp.

After some very careful scouting we found a spring in the rock and clay bank, which some thoughtful person had marked with a stake, this made me feel that we weren't the first people to become stranded here.  The spring was tiny and filling the water jugs required great patience, but it was the only water we found, so that was a small price to pay for this precious commodity.

I found some extraordinary green and red metamorphic stone here.  Some of it was, I believe, olivine, pyroxine, tourmaline and malachite.  The colors were brilliant.  I am not sure what these rocks were.  I should have taken some samples, but the thought of extra weight was the limitation.

As I was resting in my tent the came call out that Narwhal were swimming by.  I took pictures as the pod of about one hundred passed by heading for Milne Inlet.  It was such a precious experience not only to see them but to hear their rhythmic breathing as they synchronously surfaced.  It is hearing the breathing of a sea mammal such as these Narwhal, which made me feel close to them as fellow mammals.

Had I not decided to duck into this beach we would have never seen these Narwhals.

Our eight day was crowned with sunny balmy weather.  We rounded the eastern tip of Cape Hatt and headed down White Bay to explore some of this area behind Curry Island.  As we paddled south along the coast of Curry Island down White Bay we began to notice an interesting change in the topography. The predominance of rock cliffs was giving way to rolling green tundra meadows with hills, which invited you run up and come bounding down.  These were the first we had ever seen and not only were they exhilarating, they were majestic.   To add further dimension there were lakes and ponds nested in the hillsides here and there.

On the water there were sandy shoals and we could see the bright yellow sandy bottom.  We relaxed and entertained ourselves looking at the panorama and cutting in and out around the rocks with our kayaks while peering at the bottom and basking in the warm sun.

We disembarked at a recently abandoned sod house area, both new and old structures.  Here we found the recent remnants of occupation such as tin cans and modern wood flooring.  It was a warm sheltered area, easy to land at by boat of skidoo because it faced south and was on a gentle slope.  I found plenty of blueberries to eat on the hillside, but we never found a water source, which may have been a habitation limitation, making this site only useable when snow was on the ground.

We headed east across the eastern arm of White Bay for a green valley, which was now awash in the long rays of the warm afternoon sun on the western side of Cape Knud Jorgensen where we were to camp.

We finally decided which side of a stream delta was best after realizing that what seemed to look easy was a long and difficult carry over many boulders to get the boats above the tide line.  We found the north side of the delta to be shorter and not nearly as boggy.  We also found recent Caribou prints and other residues.  This was our first encounter with Caribou and we were delighted to at long last have found them.  We found some antlers, but they were much too large to consider taking back.

The stream, which ran down the hillside had been warmed by the brilliant sun on the dark peat soil enough to allow for a quick sponge bath.  My body had started sending me messages such as "wash me or I will itch" most particularly my hair.  Before I had left New England for the Arctic I had carefully thinned out about half of my two foot long hair, so my hair was the same length and appearance but half the volume had been removed.  I had found that it seemed to me easier to control hair at that length.  I experimented with a new product of non-woven Rayon fiber called a Pak-Towel, which I found absorbed more water than cotton and could be wrung out more completely and dried much more easily than cotton.  I found that I could dunk my head in the frigid water and wash my hair with an all purpose soap called H2O Sun Shower Soap which was suitable both for use in salt as well as fresh water.  Well, to my delight both the soap and towel worked to my great relief, I felt as though I had returned to the world of the sane once again.  On a previous trip, dirty hair became very distracting as my scalp more and more urgently kept telling me "I'm dirty, I don't like being dirty, I'm leaving." as the itching increased.  I do wonder though how does one wash their hair in a space ship in a weightless environment?

On day nine heading in a roundabout way home to Pond Inlet, once again a grey sky with mixed clouds to the west showing some more lenticular clouds indicating strong wind which was coming from the south, we set off to round Cape Knud Jorgensen.  We made the Cape without much effort because we had the wind behind us, but I knew we had the makings of a difficult day.  As we rounded the Cape on our previous passage I had visually noted that there was a limited but useable in an emergency landing area, but camping might be limited to just a bivouac.  Anything is better than nothing, I thought. 

My naive friends blithely set off for possibly the only landing point five miles south into a very powerful south wind which was katabatic in nature.  The wind was not blowing horizontally, instead, it was blowing vertically so that it blew the water flat. 

Later upon consulting with a meteorologist at Pond Inlet, Hermann Steltner, he said that this does happen in this particular area.  As we worked our way down the coast, hugging the cock cliffs to avoid as much as possible the inevitable exposure to this fierce wind. There was no doubt in my mind that this endeavor was not only futile, but courted disaster.  Not only was making the nearest known landing place which was five miles away impossible but trying to turn kayaks 180 degrees in this wind could easily result in a capsize of a kayak.  Kayaks are very stable going into a wind, but when run with the wind they do not have the same stability.  The paddling became very strenuous and this extreme amount of exertion could give a person a heart attack.  I could barely move my boat.  It was everyman for himself, a dead heat battle.

Then I noticed something out of context.  The leading boat was making for a landing at the base of a tumultuous cascading waterfall, which had a tiny area just large enough for landing a kayak one at a time. I had noted this disembarkation area when we previously by on our way westward.  This was our only chance without having to risk turning around.

From the water this site looked challenging for camping by appearing only to be a steep side hill punctuated by massive boulders. 

I quickly alighted from my kayak, tent in hand, not waiting for protocol and quickly found a reasonable tent site.  Erecting the tent in this wind required the judicious use of rocks strategically located to keep my tent stakes in the ground and the tent upright in this mad wind.  I was glad I had taken my above timberline tent on this trip.

My feelings about the discretion of not only the leader but of the group I was accompanying I thought was best expressed by Scott Joplin in his music.  Whew!

The next day the weather was as somber as a tomb.  We leisurely paddled south past Frechette Island.  My friends put ashore for lunch, but I kept going having the tide with me and such ideal conditions, all was so idyllic. 

To my left, which was backlit by the brilliant noon sun, was a series of coves and rocky low islands making it more difficult to discern the passage without accidentally ending up in a cove.  The islands and peninsulas blended together in the clear Arctic air making separation a navigational fact on a chart not visible to the eye from the cockpit of my kayak.  I decided to cross to Frechette Island because there was no doubt that the channel ran there.

Passing next to the vertical rock faces of Frechette Island I found a small Gull rookery complete with two parents guarding their two fuzzy grey chicks.  These were Thayer's Gulls and they are very similar to Herring Gulls, which do not inhabit this area of Arctic Canada.  They are just as capable of pot shooting those who venture too closely as our gulls do providing a strange form of viscous precipitation.

Very suspiciously I happened to notice an odd arrangement of small boulders, which stretched from Frechette Island to the Mainland across the western arm of Tay Sound. 

Little bells went off in my head, "something tells me that this is a very shallow spot about to become exposed as the tide is now reversed and some of those small rocks look like there isn't much water around."  Quickly I jumped out of my kayak, grabbed the bow and deftly "hot footed it" dragging my kayak with just barely enough water to float it across this strategically placed sand bar.  A few minutes later and I would have had to unload and carry everything across.  You never saw anybody as glad as I was when I got to the other side, because in the next instant the passage was dry.  The scenery was nice, but not that nice.

I wonder if that could have been a possible fish weir because the placement of rocks seemed more likely to be the work of people that nature.

Now I was faced with my first solo Arctic crossing.  I was crossing the eastern arm of Tay Sound in bright sunshine with completely benign conditions.  I was not at ease about this but it was something not only that I could do but that I had to do for myself.  I am not a person without fear, but I know that fear can be reduced by dealing with it within limits that are reasonable for myself.

At long last I got to the other side.  The crossing seemed to have taken ages, but it was just routine.  I stopped at a brook for some nice fresh water, and there as I was leaving I spotted some delicious Green Sea Urchins, large enough to eat distributed all over the submerged rocks.  I decided that I was going to enjoy these tasty morsels in style.  I never passed a Green Sea Urchin I didn't like.  My idea of style for sea kayakers is that one procures and enjoys their quarry while remaining in their kayak.  I decided that with a little paddle juggling I could pry off the rocks my Sea Urchins, place them on a flat area, smash them open with my paddle, and devour their gonads material, which is orange egg shaped balls in the top of the shell or test.  Well it worked, and I dined without candelabra - the sun was shining.  Actually you can leave the candelabra home, because it is never quite dark enough in the Arctic this time of year to need them.

I progressed along the endlessly complex metamorphic gneiss in charcoal grey being awe inspired by the never ending interwoven striations of white and pink feldspar resembling cotton candy swirls.

Quietly paddling along from behind me my solitude was broken by the splash of a curious seal.  I had experienced this before off the coast of Maine, which prepared me for this seemingly inexplicable splash.  It happened twice more and then the seal decided that I wasn't quite exciting enough to continue following.  This is one of those little pleasures one can experience when paddling alone.

Once again I arrived at our old campsite behind Qorbignaluk Headland on Tay Sound, where we last were on our fourth day.  About an hour later after I had found a pleasingly soft, level, slightly dry campsite and set up my tent I heard the familiar voices of my French friends.  In the Arctic one does not find dry soft areas as the softer they are the wetter they are too.

They had been following me after they had eaten their lunch.  Unfortunately when they arrived at the southwest tip of Frechette Island where I had just at the moment enough water to float my boat across the shoal, they found a lengthy carry and plenty of rocks to step over and around.  However they also found the treasure I had found of Sea Urchins, which they gathered in a bag and we dined on these as an evening appetizer.

We had a rather innocuous evening when we retired, however the next morning our eleventh day which we had planned to rest and do some hiking for a change, turned out to be a stagnant day for the weather.  A rainy foggy storm, which was a small stationary front, just hung in the air over us trapped in this area and I could see five miles away another weather condition.  I later learned that this can happen in this area of fjords.  We had cumulonimbus clouds stuck so it seemed in our valley at about 1,000 feet on the back slope of Qorbignaluk Headland. Here we could have pretended that we were angels and St. Peter in these clouds just by walking in and out of them.  We spent the day relaxing and exploring.

Our twelfth day was slightly windy, just ten knots, and we had bright sunshine.  We crossed Oliver Sound, a distance of about four miles.  We pulled into a protected harbor for a simple lunch being for me the usual hot Knorr soup in the thermos bottle.

With the tide receding and a light headwind I left my friends once again heading back to Pond Inlet.  Being alone along this coast I knew was unlikely to be dangerous, because I could land anywhere most of the way back.  There were no high cliffs, instead there was just a low sandy terrain.  The possibility of finding a polar bear was not likely in this area.

The wind stopped blowing.  The tide assisted me as hour after hour the miles went by.  Being alone I encountered a flock of Snow Geese at close range which I forgot to record on my Cam-Corder.  The water was clear and the gravel and rocky bottom was colorful and interesting to study.  The only ice around were occasional icebergs here and there in the shallows across the bay about twenty miles away.

I passed a large hunting camp on a point, which had a few large tents. As the evening hours approached, a number of motorboats passed by heading in the direction of the camp.  Other motor boats headed out to the west for Cape Hatt and Milne Bay area.  This was a Friday evening and traditionally everyone goes camping on weekends.  The Inuit are a highly family oriented culture, which is reflected in their camping and hunting trips on which the entire family always goes.  At any one time you can ask a person where someone is in Pond Inlet and it is very unlikely that person does not know another person's whereabouts such as what camp they have gone to.  But when it comes to time that is a different concept.  The Inuit do not adhere to a time schedule but do traveling and tasks when they feel it is appropriate.  Sometimes this can be difficult to relate to; but when the sun just keeps circling around twenty four hours a day, time seems absurd.

I found an expansive sandy beach to land my kayak on and prepared camp.  Now the motor boats were passing by so frequently that I decided that I must have arrived at "Broadway and 42nd. Street." I didn't have to even consider that I was alone.  As I was cooking dinner in the long orange rays of the waning sun suddenly I found that I was being visited by a curious Arctic fox.  I was so completely surprised that I did not even think to try to take some pictures of him.  He danced and pranced on his toes around my Kayak, inspecting everything.  I had not in my wildest imagination thought that an Arctic fox can be this precocious.  I had read of this trait in Arctic foxes, but I did not think that it would be likely I would encounter such a fox.  The only other wild animals I can think of which are similar in personality to the fox are ravens and seals, which enjoy heckling people especially campers and kayakers.

I slept well and awoke to a bright sunny thirteenth day.  After a leisurely breakfast, with two cups of Italian coffee no less, I launched for the final push to Pond Inlet.  It was brilliantly sunny, a dead calm and then there came this soft wind from the west generating gentle swells more widely spaced that they were high, which had the character of ground swells.  These gradually increased in height as the wind blew for a more protracted period.  I came upon a shoal beach with outlying islands, which seemed to enlarge these swells. As these swells became restricted by the confining shallows, they were forced to crest and break. 

Luckily the beaches were varied enough so that a protected area could have been found if necessary.  The water was just rolling but flat until I noticed in the distance a darkening on the surface of the water.  I just thought that it might be a color difference because of a current since I was working my way up and around beginning to head more and more easterly toward Pond Inlet where I knew there was a distinct tidal current, which I had become aware of when I paddled against it.

Well, that darkening of the water at a distance gradually drew closer and closer until it was upon me.  Guess what, it was caused by a freshening wind coming from the east.  The wind from the west, which had generated the long swells dissipated and now I had wind in my face.  The cloudless sky had given away to increasing clouds.  Paddling became interesting as waves from the east which were a short chop would intermingle every so many sets with a ground swell from the west, some thing familiar to me in Long Island Sound paddling conditions on occasions.  The waves had a rhythm of about three sets from the east and one roll from the west, which I took advantage of, to make some progress against the wind coming from the east.  And as the wind speed from the east increased the more ardently I paddled my craft, working harder and harder to round one of the large unnamed points, which seemed to separate east from south in Eclipse Sound and Pond Inlet.  Now the tide had changed against me.  I thought I was never going to see the last of this unnamed point.  I found that I was engaged in treadmill paddling as I was inching my way eastward.  I just did not want to give up.  And so I plodded along the shore as the time passed by.

Finally as I had made progress enough to see the town of Pond Inlet, I resigned myself to the fact that this type of paddling was a futile effort best put off and I began to look for refuge as a place to land.  After some thinking I realized on one attempted landing approach that there was a lack of suitable places because the beach was too narrow and the waves were oppositely breaking in such a way that it was easy to catch a wave which would dump inside the kayak.  Then I found a slightly calmer area with a shoal protection to catch and dissipate some of the waves.  The beach for miles was too narrow for camping so I decided that I had to look for a ravine wide enough to accommodate my kayak and tent protecting them from the ravages of the wind and waves.

When I found a suitable ravine I took advantage of the intermittent larger swells to bring my Klepper up as high on the beach as I could without having to carry it.  Then I unloaded my boat, picked it up and carried it up to the ravine.  The ravine had enough area to set up my tent and I enjoyed its shelter while the wind pummeled the rest of the grey world.

I slept and dozed in my tent like a bug in a rug.  Then I awoke to find the sun peeping through the clouds.  The storm was subsiding.  I found that I could not ignore the brilliant yellow rays of the sun, and so with renewed energy, I decided it was time for a celebration cup of my favorite Espresso and some dinner.

Further up in the ravine, which I was camping at the mouth of, I found a protected cooking area.  I gathered some water, which was also conveniently available.  Ah! nothing like a good cup of espresso to make a party.

As I was waiting for my espresso to erupt in it's usual fashion in the pot, I glanced up to gaze at the opposite side of the ravine when suddenly I saw an Arctic fox standing there only about seventy five feet away.  I was shocked to see this little creature sniffing the wind trying to figure out what I was doing.  Then he paced over to my left but a little closer and sat down.  I had to watch the stove and coffee pot, but that did not disturb my very curious fox visitor.  Then after sitting a few moments the fox yawned, as if bored in general, and then proceeded to scratch an itch behind his ear.  Some shedding hair came out of his tan and brown coat as he scratched; and then just to be thorough, he shifted to the other side to scratch that side.  He paused in his toiletries to watch me some more.  He got up again and resituated himself, this time to my right and a little closer and once again resumed his toiletries of scratching and some more yawning.  I shut off my noisy stove and dared to pour myself some coffee, which didn't disturb my guest in the least.  He could stand his curiosity no longer and walked directly to within six feet of me, when in fear that he might be rabid I shooed him away.  He turned and ran off continuing his endless tour of the tundra.  I thought he might return of that I could relocate him later, but after much walking and looking I found that he was gone. 

All of this took place and I did not dare to get up and go get my camera.  Now in retrospect had I known that a fox might have as tame as this one was, I would have taken the risk.  He did not run away until I actually shooed him away.  I found that my encounters with foxes took place when I was cooking and probably when cooking it would be wise to have the camera available.

Now that the wind had died down and I felt energetic, I broke camp and headed for the village of Pond Inlet, which was in sight.  The sun having made it's way through the departing clouds was beginning to set.  Brilliant reds and oranges illuminated the contrastingly blue and grey sky imparting a pearl luster of pinks and grays to the softly rolling water.  Many times I had been enveloped by this glorious brilliant sky and surrounding waters with their pearly hues at sunset but I had not captured it on film.  This time I recorded it with my Cam-Corder held just at water level over the side of my kayak.  Oppositely the moon was just discernable through the clouds.  It had been full a few days earlier.  At this time it was still too bright to see any other astral bodies.

I had the low tide running with me, but I had to cut a wide berth of about a mile off shore to avoid the shoals of the Salmon River.

Happily I arrived back at Pond Inlet at 11:00 p.m. as it was beginning to grow dark and the frost was coming.

The next day my friends arrived and I made a day trip to Mount Herodier only eight miles to the east, which crowned the entrance to Pond Inlet.  On my way slowly sailing along in the bright sun I encountered a couple large pods of Harbor Seals, which were cavorting having a great time showing off to one another stirring up the water as they jumped up and slid over the backs of each other.  Harbor Seals occur in larger pods than Ringed Seals off in this area.  Their display was quite dramatic and most energetic.

As I arrived at Mount Herodier the cargo ship from Montreal arrived and I turned around for my last paddle to Pond Inlet having had a trip I would like to repeat.


Gail E. Ferris, 1 Bowhay Hill, Stony Creek, CT. 06405

High Performance Wooden Sea Kayak Designs
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