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Tecla is off! The first tall ship to attempt the North West Passage

Disko Bay Iceberg
Our voyage has started

The day has come. Our voyage has started. Our group is on board and the groceries have been bought. Did we forget anything?

Thanks to Simon Damant, Gijs and Sam on the back stay
Thanks to Simon Damant, Gijs and Sam on the back stay

Oh yeah, we had to say goodbye to some of our amazing crew, that have sailed us to Greenland and are now on a well deserved holiday! Thank you Loes, Jehanne and Enki, you are stars.

Preparations

The last few days have been very busy. And somewhat chaotic. We have shifted berth at least 6 times over 3 days and have filled our fuel tank at a fill station that took us over 1,5 hours! As Sam and I went grocery shopping, the Tecla had to shift again and even after our supper we had to go aside for one of the ships on the inside. But we got all the shopping done and our guests on board. Our expedition crew arrived just before dinner, and after a short introduction and safety briefing it was time to socialize, get to know eachother and get used to the ship.

Photo Simon Damant
 

 

Fog and Bergybits

This morning started with a cooler air then the last few days. After clearing out and stamping out, we were unpleasantly surprised at the sight of not just fog, but also Bergybits coming into the harbor of Ilulissat. One bergybit made it around the corner of the entrance and came straight for our berth. We had postponed our departure with an hour due to the fog, but as we had to shift berth for the launch of a small fishing vessel, we thought we might as well set of. The beginning of our adventure – the beginning of our attempt to sail through the North West Passage. With radar turning and look outs on both sides, we ventured into the thick fog.

Photo Simon Damant

It is now evening when I write this. But the sun is still shining. Behind yet another cover of fog, but it is still very bright. We made our way out of the first bit of the bay, very slowly. We had to swurl around two cruise vessels at anchor, some ice bits and then some icebergs, but we made it out safely. Around 18:00, the fog lifted for a few hours, but has settled in again. We have decided to anchor later this night. Right now there is no wind to sail with, wind is expected in a few days, so we will make the most of our time and do some exploring along the Disko Bay area, until we have some wind to cross over to Canada. Ice reports still give 9/10 for Resolute, so we are not yet in a hurry

Around (the) Disko we go.

Around (the) Disko we go.

Tecla Diskobay

After finding our way into a beautiful anchorage at Fortunebay, we had a good night rest (thanks to a small team of anchor watch keepers) and started of fresh this morning.

First a short hike, some morning gym, before setting of into the fog. Because the fog was still there. And so were the icebergs!

Simon started off with a head start in the small fishing match between him, Sam and Gijs, as he started before breakfast. He caught and released several wolf-fishes, the Atlantic Wolf fish to be exact, two very small Cod fishes and a very strange looking fish I believe was called a skelpie. Seeing mainly smaller fishes, it was mentioned that this might be a sort nursery, a place where small fishes can grow big before heading out to deeper waters. So all were thrown back after a good examination. Last nights dinner was fish, we can wait a little before catching the next meal!

 As we left Fortunebay, the wind turned out the be exactly what we expected, hardly there, or against us. Not a good sailing day.

Right now we are at anchor at Nipisat, a small bay, away from icebergs and sheltered because it is shallow. The group is a shore for a hike to an old whaling station and an old archeological find of an old settlement of Inuits, from before the Danish or even Dutch discovered Greenland.

Tomorrow we set off again for the next bit. Depending on the wind and forecast we will start our crossing to Canada tomorrow or the day after. Ice reports are looking better and better. But we are still not in a hurry. 

Here we go!

All weather and ice reports combined, we have made the decision to wait  no longer, hop no further, but get it over with and set sail for the Canadian coast. Or sail…, first a bit under engine, until we pick up the wind. For now we only have a very light breeze from the North North West.

Disko Bay Iceberg
Disko Bay Iceberg

 As we set out from our last stop on Disko Island we were met by a group of seals as well as a few icebergs. It seems now that  we have left the Icebergs behind us and we only have Baffin Bay ahead of us. The magnificence of the icebergs is hard to explain. Big, white, at first sight, but when you look closer, blue in all sorts, this big mass sticks out of the water. Knowing it is only a small piece we are looking at and the rest is below the water, one can not but wonder. They drift around in the fjords, out on the wide water and are not steered by anything else then nature. Currents and wind. Which ads to the feeling that we should not get too close to any of them. The icebergs we have seen are off all sorts and shapes. Some over 200 meters long, others higher then a 4 story building. Some have already fallen over and you can see the old water lines in the shape of the iceberg. Others have massive, deep blue cracks running from the top all the way to the waterline. We have seen a few of them cave in as we passed them. A loud crack and then a splash with a wave coming up as the falling bit hits the surface again and starts turning itself until it rocks softly and just drifts on..

Iceberg and Yellow Brick

 

 Although the day has been very grey, we are happy that the fog has lifted. Last night the fog was already breaking up and what came from underneath it, was amazing. The sun was shining above the mist and where there was no mist, there were bright sun rays on the cliffs of the island. The light was just amazing. After dinner, all the fog had lifted and we could enjoy the sunlight setting our whole surrounding ablaze. What a light! Now, making our way through the grey, the air is as cold as it looks. Everybody is topping up on layers and making tea and coffee for the next watch, doing dishes or turning the vegetables will soon be every bodies favourite job, as we can then get out of the cold and into the warmth below decks.

The atmosphere on board is good. And although Greenland is beautiful, we are all looking forward to this next part, getting to Canada. For now, we are hoping to have our first stop in Pond Inlet, but first we have over 550 miles to cover.

Sailing across Baffin Bay #5

 Sailing across Baffin Bay #5

Photo Simon Damant

We have made as much North under engine as we could, before the Northerly winds started. Around 06:00 board time (UTC -2) we set most of the sails and at 08:00 watch hand over we set the top-sails as well. And we are off with a nice speed. Averaging between 6 and 7 knots with a course pointing at Baffin Island. Weather reports show that this wind will decrease somewhere in the middle of Baffin Bay and then turn Southerly. So we are making the most of it.

The temperature is around 7 degrees, with a breeze that is water cold, but most of us still have a few extra layer to add when necessary. The clouds have changed from a fog into a altostratus mid level, that is starting to break up.. so grey, other shades of grey and then now with sudden sun rays bouncing of the water surface, there is some colour back into our scenery.

Photo’s Simon Damant

The sea is calm, small waves and a long low swell is running, so it is easy to keep the sails full, even when the wind is a little fickle in strength and direction.

Our expedition members are from all sorts of back grounds, making the conversation lively and ever changing. From cloud formations, ice sorts and density, to sailing the arctic or milling local hard wood on the South side of the world. All is well on board.

About 310 miles until the entrance to Pond Inlet, between Baffin Island and Bylot Island. The ice reports we are receiving are looking promising. Ice has decreased beyond Resolute in the last 4 days. Barrow strait is opening up, but still pretty packed and so is Peel sound. Making our way to Pond Inlet will take at least another 2 days, keeping our eye on those ice reports!

The compass has gone completely koekoek!

The compass has gone completely koekoek

 

Gijs runs outside with a flushed head and turns to the helmsmen ‘What is happening’ the helmsmen looks back at Gijs, then looks at the compass, then looks at Gijs again. ‘I have no idea, its not working any more, I cant get it back on course’. Gijs looks around as the Tecla is turning in a wide angled turn and is nearly 180 degrees off her course, but the compass keeps pointing at the same course..

You know it is going to happen, you are sort of waiting for it.. but then when it happens, it still takes you by surprise. The angle between the true north pole and our compass is getting so small, that it’s reaction has slowed down and has now stopped working. The compass has become useless and is spinning on its own. After doing a 360′ turn on purpose and removing magnets inside the compass, it is still not back to normal, and so we are navigating on sight and GPS. Keep that iceberg to your port side and keep an angle of 30 degrees with that cloud, because even the sun is no help to us here.

Other than that, we are making our miles to Canada under engine again. We sailed out of our comfortable breeze this morning and had to start the engine not to be caught by the South current running along the coast here.

We have had the sun set and sun rise in one watch and both the setting sun and rising sun where an amazing sight. We started our watch at 00:00 last night and it was foggy again. We could see the sun every now and then through the patches, but it was a very watery sun (as we say in the netherlands). Then at 00:45 it started setting and the fog started to lift. An orange ball was visible through the patches as it disappeared behind the horizon. It stayed light, it does not go dark at all these nights, and then the color of the sky starts turning to a morning blue green and the sun started rising again at 03:15. The sky was completely cleared by then, just as the sun broke the horizon it looked green by the refraction, awestruck I just sat there staring. WHAT A VIEW!!! It was soon up completely and I am sure that had I taken a picture, everybody would have said we were in the Caribbean, not on our way to the North West Passage. Such a deep color of orange and so much warmth, yet the temperature did not rise! - By Jet. 

The perfect picture

THE PERFECT PICTURE!

And then it comes from underneath the cloud. It is such a perfect picture. No wind, hardly a movement in the water and such a ray of colors!! THE PERFECT PICTURE!

 

he sun is gone for about an hour or so and we can see it starts rising again, nearly under the horizon. As it rises, it is even more perfect! Again a picture!! We are all staring at the horizon on the starboard side, hours on end, loving our view and then Sam points out, ‘look at the portside, the light on the mountains is amazing’. Again THE PERFECT PICTURE! Pink and lilac is reflected of the ice and snow on the mountains of Baffin Island. We are at that time 45 miles out of the coast and even at this distance the reflection is amazing. I made so many pictures, it will be hard to figure out which one is the best.

 

e are now 44 miles of Pond Inlet and hope to arrive this evening, some time after dinner. Clearing in will be done the next morning and that will see us entered into Canada officially. Pond Inlet was named in 1818 by explorer John Ross after the English astronomer John Pond. The Inuit name for this settlement is Mittimatalik.

 

he last few days we have been in contact with several North West Passage experts and they all agree, it looks very good this year, except that the Easterly wind that will be blowing the next few days, will not help to clean up the bigger icebergs. We still have time, Peel Sound has not yet opened up and nor has Bellot strait. The waiting game will soon be on as we make our way to Lancaster Sound and then Beechey island or Resolute bay.

Pond inlet for orders

8-8-2019 08:45 local time (12:45 utc)

We have made it to Canada, yesterday evening we entered Pond Inlet, Tursukattak, between the North side of Baffin Island and the South of Bylot Island. We anchored close into shore and even met a fellow North West Passage attempter, who cleared in here yesterday.

While making our way in between the islands, we saw spouts out of the water and tried making our way to where they were. But the creatures were somewhat shy and dove deep when they heard our engine. So next time we saw the spouts, we reduced speed a long distance from them and they stayed surfaced a little longer. Just enough to see spots on their skin and no dorsal fin. Could it be, that the first sea life we see in Canada is a female Narwhal? We got excited, but the spouts had disappeared again. Waiting, eying the horizon, camera’s at the ready, it took a few minutes but we spotted the spouts again. Trying to make our way to them quietly, again we could only see the smooth spotted skin of the animal, smaller then a whale, bigger then a dolphin, just before it dove deep again. What a sight. Could it be?

Arriving at the settlement Pond Inlet, the words pittoresk were uttered, but that is most certainly not what it is. It is a settlement made for survival in a very harsh environment. There are shed like houses, wood on poles and somewhat newer apartments, some almost like a mountain hut, but the look is just one of expedition, wilderness and basic. We are well into the wilderness here. Our anchorage also has a view of Bylot Island, the sun set behind its mountains last night. Bylot is a nature reserve that lures the extreme outdoors lovers. It really does look amazing.

This morning we are just waiting for the clearance office to open and make ourselves official visitors of Canada. Depending on that speed, we set sail again and head closer to the ice ridge. Our friendly neighbour, a French American, was here last year as well. He and his yellow yacht and 4 headed crew attempted the North West Passage last year and he said it was out of this world with the amount of ice. It was a totally different world then the one we have arrived in yesterday. Our anchorage here and the whole way into Pond Inlet has been ice free. According to our neighbour, last year, this bay was filled with ice. We asked him where he was heading next, he answered Seattle. We were thinking a little closer by, as in where are you going tomorrow. But it was sort of comforting to hear him say, filled with confidence, that he was planning on making it through, and Seattle was his next port of call.

 

Cleared and ready to go!

Cleared in and ready to go

Yesterday the customs took about 1,5 hours, but at the end we were cleared in, stamped in and had a permit to carry our shotgun throughout the Northern Territories, Nanuvut. The morning was spend taking out our diesel canisters, filling the tanks and refilling the canisters with diesel on shore and dinghying the canisters back to the Tecla. After that, everybody went off to explore Pond Inlet and the surroundings. Last night, with the whole crew back on board for dinner, there were so many different stories and experiences it was very nice to listen to. Some had spoken to the locals and told stories of the history of the Inuit’s here. Other know more about the bio diversity and told us of footprints of a polar bear spotted just outside Pond Inlet at a creek.

At anchor we did not spot any wild life except for some birds. The Loon – the northern diver – was spotted around the ship and a few very big Glaucous Gulls. On shore we have a good view on a pack of sled dogs with puppies. They provide endless entertainment and remind me of our pack of four springer spaniels at home. Sled dogs, like huskies are very talkative, they howl, make strange throat noises and bark at each other. And around food time, it gets very noisy here.

Simon taking pictures

The weather so far has been amazing. Not a lot of wind but a lot of sunshine. Yesterday some of us were walking around in T-shirts and on shore the locals were wearing shorts! Apparently we are about to have a heat record in Pond Inlet, getting up to 17 degrees in the shade. The eclipse sound and Pond Inlet are still free of any ice, so when we set off we will make our way through Navy Board Inlet on the West side of Bylot Island and make for Beechey Island, some 300 miles away from here. As we get to Lancaster Sound we expect there will be a nice breeze. Until that time, we will just have to enjoy the scenery and try to spot a Narwhal again!

Mirages of ice and land

Mirages of ice and land

Photo Loes van Aken

Coming on watch at 00:00 hours board time, there are 3 persons in the back and two in the front. Ice watch has started again and they seem to be busy. With growlers and small bergy bits around we are navigating between ice once more. As we take over the watch, we agree on which angle to point out ice at and what distance is important. An hour into our watch, the amount of ice has decreased rapidly and we are now looking at the horizon for new ice. But there is something strange going on with the horizon. It seems like a band of fog or different colour sky is in between the horizon and the water. And in this band, things seem to be floating around. No real bottom, just a shadow hanging in the sky. And then if you take a closer look at the land mass and in particular the edges of the inlet, it seems like they have a very strange shape as well. On the top there is a part sticking out, like a balcony, a natural platform, hanging at the end of the cliff.. but that can not be. How could that withstand any wind or ice or snow pressure in winter. Then we get closer, and the cliff turns back to a normal size. And it has all been a fata-morgana, a mirage.

And so is part of the ice we see. There is a reflection in the sky of what is behind the horizon and it all looks flat, but might actually be an iceberg. But that’s too far away to worry about, first deal with the small bits just in front.

We have left Pond Inlet behind and set sail for Navy Board Inlet, currently almost at the end of the Inlet, ready for Lancaster Sound. Lancaster Sound is said to be open enough to pass through with 2/10 ice and some isolated Icebergs. Our plan is still Beechey Island, but reports of staying at the South shores are taken into consideration. Whispers are uttered that either Peel Sound or Prince Regent will open up in the next 7 days and getting through depends on being there at the right moment. For now that means we will make as many miles into the Lancaster Sound as possible.

The weather is calm. No wind at all. Again we are staring at golden and orange skies of a setting sun behind the clouds, with reflections on the water. Someone once asked me if I ever get tired of looking at the shores and the cliffs and whether it ever got a little dull or normal… Maybe the same could be set for a perfect sunset every night.. but I don’t think so!! These glacial cliffs, the ice coming down on them in what nearly looks like highways, still amazes me. And this sunset, again, is something I would not want to miss! And that also goes for our expedition crew, again some of them hung around after their watch, not wanting to go to bed yet, because there is so much to see!

sunset, taken by Loes

Under engine we are making our miles until we find the wind. Weather reports say there should be wind in Lancaster Sound, but looking at the end of Navy Board Inlet, we might have to wait until the morning for it to really pick up.

On the wild life front we have not spotted many animals yet, Paul reported 8 snow geese, we saw a dead Narwhal drifting and many fulmars and guillimots. We have tried to spot Polar bears on the shore, but after calling out every speck of snow, realized we were not really able to see them at that distance..

Sea Ice

Sea Ice

Just a short message today and maybe a longer one later on as we are making our way through sea ice most of the evening and the whole watch is on look out. Yesterday, making our way into Lancaster sound, we started with a 3 mile bit with icebergs and the first bit of sea ice. AFter that, clear blue skies and hardly any ice. But since 19:00 this evening it has been very busy.

We had been sailing beautifully last night and most the day, but with the ice starting to fill our radar screen and a speed of 7 to 8 knots down wind, it was better to reduce sail to forestaysail and mizzen. Gybing our way through the ice, the wind decreased more and more and is now down to about 5 knots from the east.

It is also foggy again, with the occasional shower. The fog sort of helps to make our way through the ice, as it makes you deal with the small bits in front in stead of finding your way through the maze ahead of us. And it keeps the heart rate up, which keeps us warm!

Our destination is still Beechey Island. Here we will find some relics of the explores who went before us. This is the last known stop of the Franklin expedition before they disappeared into history. A few graves and some new memorials remain on sight. We are still 75 miles off our anchorage and with 4 knots speed in the ice, we will not get there before evening.

Impressions from the Crew

Some impressions from the guest crew on the North West Passage journey.

Greenland

On Friday August 9th our Arctic adventure commenced the next phase, entering the Canadian archipelago proper.  After captain Gijs and Rob returned from a short shore in the morning visit the anchor was lifted, the rubber dingy hoisted on board and the engine put in gear.  The welcoming, but smudgy settlement of Pond inlet slowly disappeared in the distance and into insignificance compared to the glaciated mountains of northern Baffin Island behind the town.  Without wind and thus motoring, but with the arctic sun doing overtime it was very pleasant on deck even in light clothing.  Nearly everyone brought their lunchplate on deck.  Afterwards reading and conversation with our backs against the warm and soft dingy, or lying on the sails that are stored on deck.  After several hours the ship entered ‘Navy Board Passage’, which is the waterway to the west of Bylot island that connects to Lancaster Sound at its northern end.  A cluster of birds indicated the location of a dead Narwhal, now we know what they look like we are hoping to spot a live one.  Further into the passage we regularly saw seals with their round heads bobbing above the water, but as the ship gets closer they invariably dive under water.  Bylot island looks small on maps of the Canadian arctic archipelago, but when sailing around it the true size becomes apparent.  The island has a main mountain range at the eastern and northern sides, a large glaciated interior, and on the southeastern side a gradually rising plain with some vegetation, which is used by caribou. 

Lancaster Sound is the dominant sea strait that runs westward from Baffin Bay and provides access by sea to the centre of the Canadian arctic archipelago.  Lancaster Sound is about 100km wide and it runs west for some 400km and continues westward, where its name changes to Barrow Straight. Further west is a continuation named Parry Channel and Ultimately McClure Sound, which at its western end opens up to the Arctic ocean.  If ice were absent there would thus be a deep water ocean connection between the Arctic ocean and the North Atlantic via Baffin Bay.  However the westernmost sections (McClure Sound and Parry Channel) are still year-round impassable with ice and preclude shipping via this route.  Lancaster Sound is the result of a massive glacier, which during ice-ages provided a way to drain the ice-buildup on the northern part of the Canadian ice-cap into the sea (Baffin Bay).  The ice has eroded Lancaster Sound to a depth of 500m in the east and at least 200m further west where it is called Barrow Strait.  There are several wide inlets to the north and south, which originate from side glaciers that contributed to the main Lancaster glacier.  Due to erosion of the main channel and compounded by isostatic rebound since the last ice-age (that is areas of land that were under a thick ice-cap during the ice-age have been uplifted since the ice has molten) the general level of land on either side of the sound is roughly between 100 and 300m. Near the eastern opening of the sound into Baffin Bay the mountains are much higher, up to 1500m, part of the western rim of the Baffin Bay rift, or West Greenland rift zone.

The landscape of Lancaster sound is thus like open sea with distant headlands visible, especially to north shore, part of Devon Island.  In the east the rocks are old gneisses and migmatites, which form irregular shaped mountains.  Further west are sediments from the paleozoic era, which have horizontal bedding and form regular cliffs with top layers often harder layers and the slopes scree from softer rock types. Between the headlands and cliffs are deep inlets, where further distant cliffs and hills are visible.  On top of the plateau is often permanent snow and ice and regularly the ice forms small glaciers that follow valleys towards the sounds.  Most glaciers melt before they reach the water level but several make to sea. 

The Tecla entered Lancaster Sound early morning Sat August 10th.  Motoring along under quiet conditions.  Just where Navy Board Inlet entered the sound was a shallower zone, which is exploited by seals to catch fish.  Our crew spotted quite a few surprised seals bobbing their heads up and disappearing under water once the ship got closer.  We had seen seals also in the inlet before, but only occasionally.   After heading north for about an hour we caught an easterly breeze and sails could be hoisted and the engine turned off.  Right from the start of entering Lancaster Sound some ice could be spotted, but initially it was limited to a few pieces that could easily be avoided.  Later during the morning watch  (08.00 to 12.00hrs) a line of ice pieces was kept to port, while we sailed in a northwesterly direction, approximately diagonally crossing Lancaster Sound.  Eventually the line of ice was crossed without much trouble and behind was open water again.  In the afternoon a bit more ice was seen and some nearby, but the evening watch encountered a much denser zone of floating sea-ice without a clear path through.  The wind had dropped to weak and after starting the engine captain Gijs gave instructions to the watch crew: one person at front near the bow with responsibility to signal any ice that looked like short distance impact chance.  Others assisting with watching, but standing out of the captains walk around the wheel.  Also a 5m long pole to push ice away was placed in readiness. 

So Gijs commenced with admirable slalom between the ice pieces and shoals, which would have graced a downhill ski champion.  The ice kept coming, every now and then an open straight of a few 100m appeared, but invariably more ice was behind.  We noticed the analogy with a computer game where navigating obstructions is followed by just more challenges in the next level.  Although most sea-ice forms flat shoals and small pieces, several floats have irregular ice shapes on top and melting sometimes leaves odd table, or mushroom shapes.  Recognising various animals, fantasy creatures or whatever forms part of crew entertainment.  After about an hour of concentrated navigation the ice density decreased and eventually a regular course could be steered again.  On the next watch another dense ice patch was encountered this time compounded by fog, but in the course of Sunday morning the ice gradually disappeared and the ice flows were but a memory.  In the meantime air temperature had dropped and the wind speed picked up so that conditions on deck were truly arctic. Some light showers overnight added to ‘character building conditions’.  In the end most of on this trip joined to experience today’s conditions, while yesterday’s sunny reading on deck could have been enjoyed at many places at lower latitudes. 

The hot meals (breakfast with porridge,  lunch with soup and freshly baked bread, and warm evening dishes like Spaghetti bolognese, Goulash, Chili con and sans carne, etc,  are devoured and keep us warm with a full belly.  As they say true love, but in this case arctic enjoyment goes through the stomach.  Hail Jet (and Gijs and Sam for bread and breakfast).

Exploring Beechey Island

Exploring Beechey Island

Yesterday the day was spend exploring Beechey Island. We shifted anchorage as the wind had increased and made landing with the dinghy on Erebus and Terror bay side very uncomfortable. On the Union Bay side we could anchor close to shore and with the Easterly winds have no trouble with waves or ice. Perfect! Going ashore now means staying with the gun as protection of for the polar bears. We have already found fresh traces off bears, claw marks and some bloody ice. But no sighting of bears yet.

Beechey Island is a strange place, for me it felt a like an in-between place. Walking around between the grave stones of three of the crew of Erebus and Terror and one of Investigator, it makes you think of time. Now we are there, walking around, knowing of their history, in a place they once walked around in, a place that looks exactly the same as it did 150 years ago. No trees to change the looks, no settlements to alter what it once was, no human interference or anything. Just stone and water, ice and sea, and some mosses on stones, that might be 150 years old! Their graves and hardship are remembered and well preserved, which is good. As there is not much left of their first attempt.

50 years before the Erebus and Terror where there, there was another ship, exactly 200 years ago this year, the Hecla (one can see the name resemblance), out exploring in search of the fabled passage under command of the captain Parry. He was the first to over winter trying to find the passage, but had to head back. Parry channel is of course named after him, but he was the one to give Beechey island its name, after his first lieutenant William Beechey. Parry came back two more times, but never found his way through, the farthest he came was Fury beach in Prince regent inlet, where they had to leave their ship Fury behind, beset in ice, crew rescued onto Hecla, which sailed them back to England.  (http://farhorizons.hull.ac.uk/hms-hecla/)

Today we are making our approach to Peel Sound. Ice charts have shown a rapid decrease in ice, saying 4/10 is the most we could encounter. With a easterly wind we are hoping to hug the shore of Somerset island and make it as far south as we can. And then wait it out until Franklin strait becomes clearer as well

We are now 25 miles of the entrance of Peel sound, somehow everyday feels a bit like the start or beginning of the voyage, but entering Peel sound will be marked as the start of our attempt to sail through the North West Passage.

As we left Union bay we had a strong easterly breeze, we set mizzen and staysail, doing 7 to 8 knots. The wind and the showers made the temperature drop, but did not decrease the waves. We were rolling about until after lunch, when we encountered some sea ice to our port side. Making our way through, the wind seemed to decrease a little, but even better, the waves decreased as well, to nearly half their size. But with the ice, in came the fog. We met two more patches of sea ice and then sailed out of the fog. We set the jib first thinking we would not like to be under full rig with ice around. But no ice was spotted for an hour… so we set the mainsail as well. Now doing 6 knots, aiming for the corner of Peel Sound. No ice in sight.

Ice on our mind

Ice on our mind

We have made our way into Peel Sound. The first bit was as clear as Lancaster Sound, with the weather pretty much the same as we experienced there. Some sunshine, some showers and with ice comes fog. The ice was open enough to keep making our way through with 6 knots, so we covered a fair bit of ground. We decided to make for an anchorage and see some of Somerset Island as we knew there still to be too much ice in Franklin. Making our way for a bay called Four Rivers, the bet for catching the first fish of this week was on again as well. But first, a shore exploration party!

The scenery was amazing. Rock formations with some growth on it, lighter and darker green, were a welcome change to the sand and dry landscape we had seen on Beechey Island. There was some drizzle as we arrived which formed over the hills in fog patches, that gave the place an especially mystic look. We anchored in uncharted waters at 18 meters depth on the south shore, away from any ice, as this seemed to be flowing North steadily. The exploring party went ashore, but just as they came back from their walk, spotting tracks of musk oxen, many hares and some big polar bear foot marks, the ice seemed to have changed its mind and was flowing into our anchorage at a rapid speed. All aboard, anchor up and out we went.

Now we are slowly making our way through some big pack of sea ice. The flow North has become thicker, making it harder to manoeuvre.  We are trying to spot the way through by going up high into the mast, but for now the ice seems to be all around. We had all expected it to start at some point, so for now we are just biting our way through, poles at the ready to poke away bigger ice!

When the Ice takes over the world

When the ice takes over the world

Would you like to be right smack in the middle, or skirting along the edges.. well, we know now! We love being on the outside, along the edge, living on the edge, taking a different path, finding our own way, through the ice… What a 36 hours it has been! From a quiet anchorage to being surrounded by ice, not seeing the way out, but eventually finding a path back to the coast. We have ploughed through the ice, making our own way by gently pushing the ice off and booming it away from the ship with a 7 meter long wooden pole. It has been hard work for the watches, but they did well and did it with a smile! Because it has also been immensely beautiful! Ice as far as the eye could see, ice flows as big as islands, but low to the water. Any color between white and turquoise blue, submerged ice, cracked ice, snow ice. So many shapes and forms, it would take your breath away every now and then.

When we left the anchorage, we thought that the exploring group on shore had seen open water in the middle of Peel Sound, and so we made for that. We made our way out of the coast, away from a (pretty fast) flow of ice. But as we went out, the density of the ice became bigger and bigger. From one lead to another, until there where no more leads, and we just saw ice. Still going ahead, with only steer speed of 0,7 knots, backing up, turning left, then right, almost staying in the same spot, covering less then 1 mile an hour average for over 24 hours. But when we found our way back to the coastline and found a slightly less dens path there, we did not hesitate and are now making our way along the edge, between land and big packages of ice. According to the latest ice reports we have had to make our way through yellow or orange bits in Peel Sound, making the ice density between 5 to 7 out of 10. Had we not been forced out of our anchorage due to ice, we would have stayed tugged away to wait it out!

In between the ice, we have not just seen amazing colors and shapes, but also a variety of wild life! We have spotted ringed seals, bearded seals, something that looked like a hooded seal (although they normally are more open water sort of seals) and when there are seals, there must be a polar bear. But after the one yesterday when we left the anchorage, we have not seen many of them. Many fulmars, glaucous gulls, some kittywake and even a long tailed skua have been reported.

On board all is well. Down below after the watch, even up to two hours after the 20:00 to 00:00 hours watch, you will find someone downstairs, listening to a quit bit of music, rummaging through their pictures of the day or just reading a book with a glass of wine. During the day, when the sun comes out and the fog abates, the deck is filled with sun adorers. Soaking up some rays, peeling off some layers of clothing. The record low has been reported at 3 degrees, but with chill factor even below 0 degrees. But when the sun comes out, it can get up to 15 degrees in the sunshine!!

The lack of wind in Peel Sound was very welcome. Had we had wind, the ice pressure might have build up, making our passage through even more challenging. Last night, some sailing was done along the edge, doing 3,5 knots with just mizzen and staysail. But now the wind has died out again, edging along the Boothia Peninsula. Making our way south.

 

Caribou in Sloping Valley

Caribou in sloping valley and then back into the ice

Caribou in sloping valley and then back into the ice We took a well deserved break yesterday afternoon. With little ice along the edge, we made our way past Tasmania islands, saw the amount of ice out at sea, so stuck to the coast until we made our way to Weld Harbour. Which is not really a harbour, more a bay or inlet. As we made our way in we could see a group of caribou eating away at some small pieces of grass or moss at the bottom of the bay, which was the beginning of low sloping hills. The hills looked like loose sand, but upon inspection, they turned out to be rocks. The expedition crew went ashore for a hike and found caribou life signs and presumably also of the musk oxen.

At night we had a drink on deck, as the sun was out and we had a record temperature on deck in the sun of 19,9! What a lovely night it was! After roast chicken dinner, most went to bed early. Next day we set off again. It started with some ice, but along the coast it was very doable! Then we hit some multiple year ice and before night had fallen we were surrounded and had little room to maneuver our way through. It is now half past 1 at night on board and we are still making our way through the fog towards point edwards. Short message tonight, as we are very busy outside!

Nome to Home?!?

Good morning. I am waiting for the logbook of yesterday……and I am not the only one. 
Yesterday I had Gijs on the phone, he asked me to start looking for tickets for the crew, Nome to home………From now on, its almost like cruising he said!
In other words: for all those waiting to book an exceptional ocean voyage, from Nome to Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz, from the pole to the tropics, I am waiting for your booking forms!

Where is Tecla now?

 

 
Iceberg Tecla

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