Al Jazeera Blogs


Europe

Arriving safely in Grise Fiord

After fleeing a storm in Greenland, the WWF ice-tracking expedition reaches Canada's northernmost settlement.
Last modified: 22 Aug 2012 10:30
The expedition shelters to avoid the 50 knot winds and driving snow of Baffin Bay

This blog is Nick Clark's fifth dispatch from his journey with a World Wildlife Fund expedition exploring some of the last regions of near-constant sea ice.

One weather system after another has fumed across the freezing waters of Baffin Bay, the stretch of water between the desolate northern reaches of Greenland and Canada.

We're now finally at anchor after three days at sea escaping a bad storm that forced us away from Greenland. We've had to dash for it in the occasional calm weather window and hide out in the lee of the land when the worst hit.

Several times we tried to anchor off Ellesmere Island but were blown off by 50 knot gusts. At one point we just motored in circles for 16 tumbling hours because there was insufficient sea room to heave to. It's pretty demoralising to get back up on deck for your next watch after six hours sleep only to see the boat motoring in exactly the same spot.

Still, it gives me the chance to get to know the rest of the crew.

Pascale Otis is the communications expert on board. When she's not rattling up the mast to get shots of the ice, I learn that in her research days she confirmed the theory that birds in polar regions have antifreeze in their feet. As we stood on deck in lashing Arctic rain with the temperature dropping to 3 degrees Celsius at three in the morning, we ruefully agreed it was a evolutionary trick humanity missed out on.

Eventually, after five days of bashing through the waves, we finally reached Grise Fiord, the northernmost civilian settlement in Canada. Here, we've anchored in a sheltered bay behind the town, snug in the cabin. The oil heater blazes as the snow drives outside.

So much for polar bears and walruses. The best we've seen are occasional seals popping up while fulmars glide and dip along the smoking wave crests.

Pascale says she has some small compensation for us when we eventually reach the town of Grise Fiord. Watch this space.

Read Nick Clark's earlier dispatches from Greenland:

August 21: Passports and icebergs

August 18: A mystery tent and a dog sled

August 14: Contortions, communities and climate

August 8: On the frontline of global warming