Wednesday 22 August 2012

One Ocean Expeditions - Northwest Passage - Bellot Strait

Ship: M/V Akademik Ioffe
Operator: One Ocean Expeditions
Itinerary: Northwest Passage 12-26 August 2012

Date: Tues 21 August 2012. Temp: 3°C
Location: Bellot Strait, Nunavut, Canada.
71deg 56.0'N, 093deg 56.0'W
Distance travelled: 1684NM

It's impossible to imagine that this waterway way once an impenetrable barrier of ice that had fatally thwarted the mid 19th century explorers who sought to find a way through to the Pacific Ocean and vice versa.

Bellot Strait was named after a handsome young French officer who volunteered to join Lady Jane Franklin's rescue efforts and served as second-in-command to William Kennedy aboard Prince Albert in 1851. While this expedition failed to find any trace of Franklin, Bellot Strait marked the separation between the Bothia Peninsula and Somerset Island and a) confirmed a viable link in the Northwest Passage and b) denoted the most northerly point of the North American continent, Zenith Point.

Today, as Ioffe sailed unhindered by ice and with a helpful tailwind, our passage was a little over an hour from Prince Regent Inlet through to Peel Sound. Earlier we'd gone ashore at an abandoned Hudson Bay Company outpost, a spot reminiscent of the old tumble-down buildings still clinging to life at Whalers Bay on Deception Island in the Antarctic. Built in 1937, it was still used until relatively recently by RCMP patrols and some Inuit hunters.

The day finished with a satisfying wildlife bonanza, including a pod of beluga and a almost a dozen polar bears gathered around carcases along the shore of Davis Island. (Pic)

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