Friday 5 August 2016

One Ocean Expeditions Baffin Island: Days Three and Four: Thwarted by ice and the fata morgana

#expeditioncruising #ExploreCanada

Thwarted by ice and the fata morgana

Location: East of Baffin Island in Baffin Bay

Rising up against the backdrop of a bright, distant horizon, a massive plateau dominates the view. An attendant pillar juts imperiously from the ocean to right. Too far away to tell, they could be hundreds of metres high.

What I'm looking at is not, in fact, a geological feature at all. It is the mystical 'fata morgana', a comparatively rare atmospheric phenomenon that even our Inuit guide, Ted, has never seen in a life spent exclusively in the Arctic. The freakish condition is a type of mirage that grossly distorts distant objects making the sea ice in the opposite direction appear like a giant ice wall from the a scene from Game of Thrones.

So convincing are these apparitions, it is believed that the explorer John Ross named his vision 'Croker Mountains' and, marking them on his chart as impenetrable, turne d his expedition back to England. Subsequent expeditions failed to find any trace of this mysterious topography. The legendary land of Ultima Thule was also thought to be a product of these authentic-looking visions.

For the past two days, we've been kept away from the coast by heavy sea ice that refuses to break up and we spend our time scouring the remnants of the pack for signs of life. We are rewarded with yet more sightings of polar bears, this time feeding on the bloody remains of seals. Again, the optical artillery is brought to bear on these targets and blasted with the clatter of shutters in burst mode from a range of several hundred metres.

Besides interrupting the dinner of polar bears, we have several sightings of whales, large and small, including pilot and beaked whales.

Shore excursions are replaced with Zodiac cruises and we enjoy the opportunity to get out into the pack ice itself to see the crazy shapes and gorgeous blue hues contained in the fro zen sea up close. Kayakers rejoice in the chance to stretch their paddles. In between, enrichment is delivered in the form of nature and history lectures.

Our journey continues generally northward in Baffin Bay toward Lancaster Sound.

Bear count: 14 (including 5 cubs)

  • Is that the Croker Mountains? Fooled by the fata morgana (R Eime)
  • Ioffe in the sea ice retrieves Zodiacs (R Eime)
  • Big male polar bear snacks on a seal (R Eime)

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