An Arc­tic ad­ven­ture

Rappahannock News - - COUNTRYSIDE - BY ROX­ANNA P. BEEBE-CEN­TER

After a long day of fly­ing, re­fu­el­ing and bounc­ing along in the cars of lo­cal Inuit who kindly drove us to the wa­ter’s edge where we boarded Zo­di­acs — small rub­ber boats with out­board mo­tors — we fi­nally flopped into the beds of our cabin aboard the Ocean En­deav­our, our float­ing home for the next two weeks. But we didn’t have much time to rest.

The three of us (my mother, fa­ther and I) were on a cruise through the Hud­son Strait, around the south­ern end of Baf­fin Is­land in the Cana­dian Arc­tic, as well as through fjords on the west coast of Green­land. My mother was writ­ing a mag­a­zine piece about the trip, and my fa­ther and I hap­pily tagged along.

After board­ing the Ocean En­deav­our, we had fit­tings for life­jack­ets — surely not needed on the ice-re­in­forced ship — and boots. After all the fizz of ar­riv­ing died down, and manda­tory drills had been car­ried out, we were briefed on a Zo­diac cruise we would take the next day and some

changes to plans be­cause of drift­ing sea ice.

That Zo­diac cruise was to an is­land in the mid­dle of Un­gava Bay called Ak­pa­tok. From the wa­ter we caught our first glimpse of wildlife — we ogled at a snooz­ing male po­lar bear, a gal­lop­ing young one, soar­ing cliffs flocked with birds, and our first ice­berg (shaped, oddly enough, just like a whale). Some lucky peo­ple even spot­ted wal­ruses.

Due to sea ice, we didn’t sail into Fro­bisher Bay or Cum­ber­land Sound but in­stead spent a day nos­ing through ice floes, search­ing for an­i­mals. After a few seals and whales, we found what we were look­ing for — on a small ice floe was a mother po­lar bear and her fluffy cub. Every­one whipped out their cam­eras and bi­nos and oohed and aa­hed. We floated closer to­gether. Pro­tec­tively she charged the boat, be­cause she’d never seen any­thing like it be­fore. After a bit, she plunged into the Arc­tic wa­ter, and, with her cub hard on her heels, swam to the next floe.

Wilder­ness wasn’t all we ex­pe­ri­enced. We also stopped in a cou­ple of towns. One town, Cape Dorset, is said to have the high­est per capita con­cen­tra­tion of artists any­where in the world — stone carvers, painters, and print­ers. There, we spent two days. I met many Inuit kids, two of them lit­tle girls by the names of Sylvia and Pyu­lia. They were imp­ish, handy with a bi­cy­cle and very nice. They showed us around town and took us to their school. It was sad to say good­bye.

In an­other town along the Hud­son Strait called Kim­mirut, we played a vig­or­ous game of soc­cer. De­spite the fact we had many more play­ers on the field — ac­tu­ally the main street in town — the Kim­mirut team pre­vailed. After the game we were of­fered raw seal meat.

Kangamiut, Green­land, where we heard tra­di­tional songs and shopped for color­ful bead neck­laces, ap­peared more pros­per­ous, yet less pop­u­lated than the Cana­dian Inuit towns. Nuuk, the cap­i­tal of Green­land, hav­ing been a ter­ri­tory of Den­mark, showed an in­ter­est­ing mix of Scan­di­na­vian and Inuit cul­tures in its shops, gov­ern­ment and peo­ple.

This arc­tic ad­ven­ture in­tro­duced me to cul­ture, an­i­mals, peo­ple and ter­rain I’d never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. Ad­ven­ture Canada’s sci­en­tists, ar­chae­ol­o­gists, schol­ars and cul­tural am­bas­sadors taught me many things I didn’t know. I loved it all so much.

I want to move to Green­land some­day. Al­ready, this trip has given me a new per­spec­tive and mem­o­ries I will never for­get.

BY ROX­ANNA P. BEEBE-CEN­TER

Po­lar bears on sea ice.

BY ROX­ANNA P. BEEBE-CEN­TER

A fjord in Green­land.

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