Expedition Around North America
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Leg 5 : Pond Inlet - Gjoa Haven
(Nunavut - Canada)
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Leg 5
Pond Inlet - Gjoa Haven (Nunavut - Canada)
(August 8 - 16, 2008 )

August 16, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 6)
Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, Canada.
23h30 local time

The leg of today is a short one. The Rasmussen Sound is calm, the wind from the north west light. We’re sailing quietly toward Gjoa Haven. We discuss a lot about the ancient who were sailing in these regions without compass, engine, GPS, radar...
Approaching the village, we see one, two, three mast ! We’re entering in the tiny bay where Roald Amundsen and his companions spent two winters before achieving the first navigation through the passage 105 years ago. We put our huge Norwegian flag up in memory of the Gjoa. Today, four yacht are at the anchor ! What a change even since 1999 where “Ocean Search” was the only boat for the season. We invite the others crew to celebrate this unexpected meeting and the end of the fifth leg of the expedition.

The crew from Pond Inlet to Gjoa Haven had two nationalities

From left to right :Gabriel Pitras (France), Philippe Moreau (France), Patrick Boidin (France), Pierre Vanloot (France), Philippe Rouillé (France), Yannick Rouillé (France), Olivier Pitras (France), Luisa Nesbeda (Italie), Daniel Desage (France), Jean-Michel Bayada (France), Dominique Dufayard (France), Fabio Smundin (Italie)

Background on top : Laurent Ceresoli (France)

Crew members Pond Inlet -Gjoa Haven  - Gabriel Pitras

Crew members Pond Inlet -Gjoa Haven
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 15, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Rae Strait, 68°51'N - 095°09'W
23h15 local time

The fog is with us again. The pack ice is too flat to give a good echo on to the radar. Only a visual watch permitts us to find the route. When we cross a big floe, we go systematically to the coast. The poor visibility give sometimes the illusion that the route is closed in front of a big floe. We know it's wrong and soon we can find again ice free waters to keep going. We're approaching the James Ross Strait when we have a call to the radio. It's another yacht coming from Pacific. She is from Spain. We're only half mille away but only a spot on the radar confirms her presence in the zone. The visibility opens for two hours. We can watch the sunset and the sunrise a short while after. The refraction is important. Clouds are glowing.
At 7 AM, we 're entering the James Ross Strait. The current is with us. It's no ice anymore. Soon we can sail to the South toward the Rae Strait. We decide to make a call for the night 25 milles before Gjoa Haven, just South of Matheson Bay on King William Island. We can celebrate this moment because we know now that we have no risk of obstruction now on the Canadian archipelago.

sun rise  - Gabriel Pitras

Sun rise
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 14, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Larsen Sound, 70°25'N - 096°38'W
23h55 local time

We get the new ice chart at 2h30. Conditions are far better and the wind had decreased as planned. It's time to set sail. We point our bow southward to the Franklin Strait and the Tasmania Islands. Nights are more and more dark while we're sailing south. We have light enough to navigate but we do need the artificial one for the inside. At 7h00 we meet our first ice in stripes. Behind it's clear. Couple of floes are drifting around but nothing to slow us down. The fog comes when we're entering the Shortland Channel between Tasmania Islands and Boothia peninsula. It's uncharted, the radar is on.
For a while the visibility clears up and we can see two polar bears on shore, a female and her cub. What a beautifull present. We keep going towards the channel and we see another one, and another one a while later. This place is full of polar bears. When we arrive at the south of the archipelago we saw 5 of them. What a surprise. We push further south following the Boothia peninsula. There is some big floes around but nothing bad. Next to the coast the way is clear of ice. If we have the same ice conditions as we had since Willis bay, we should reach the James Ross strait with no problem.

Polar bear mother and calf   - Gabriel Pitras

Polar bear mother and calf
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 13, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
South Peel Sound, 71°57'N - 096°31'W
23h00 local time

The wind stays strong, we sail fast. This north-west push the ice from the Mc Clintock to the Larsen Sound and increase the density of the pack. In such conditions, it could be dangerous to cross the obstruction. We decide to make a call at Willis Bay on the south-east coast of Prince of Wales Island, before the limit of ice. It's 5 AM when we cast anchor at the entrance of the bay. After couple of hours of sleep, we go on shore. The landscape is essentially mineral but we find a numerous species of arctic plants. It makes the place warmer than it appeared from a distance cold, without life. We find tracks of lemmings and reindeers. We take samples of water and sediments before to return on board. From our
higher point of view, we can see in the south the first big floes.
The ice in the Larsen sound is a thick first year ice in big floes (500 meters to 2 kms). Pushed by the wind, the ice drift to the James Ross strait in one hand and get grounded on the west coast of Boothia peninsula in another hand. We have no other choice than to wait for better conditions.

Willis bay, Prince of Wales island  - Gabriel Pitras

Willis bay, Prince of Wales island
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 12, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Peel Sound, 72°31'N - 096°07'W
23h50 local time

We're entering the Peel Sound which lies between Prince of Wales and Somerset Islands. A north westerly wind starts to blow. It's the end of our tacking business. The sky is still cloudy but the visibility is open. Patches of fog are very scattered now. We can see the first one hundred meters in altitude of both islands. The landscape is very desolated. In the evenning, the sun tries to give more colours with no success and disappears after one minute.
We meet a group of belugas. We sail fast (9 knots) southward to the Franklin strait where we have an appointment with the pack ice. This wind from the North West does not help and bring a lot of ice from the Mc Clintock channel to the Larsen Sound.

Ice map study  - Gabriel Pitras

Ice map study
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 11, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Barrow strait, 74°12'N - 094°W
23h55 local time

We keep tacking with a light wind, our speed is slow. It is raining. At noon, we're entering the Barrow Strait following the north coast of Somerset Island. The current is contrary, we're sailing downwind now, our speed is even less. The north coast of Somerset Island is rough and monotonous. Their is no snow, no glacier. While sailing in front of Cunningham Bay, we remark that the anchorage could be a good one for wintering.
We did not see any ice since this morning. Soon, we'll sail south in the Peel Sound.

Heading for Peel Sound  - Gabriel Pitras

Heading for Peel Sound
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 10, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Lancaster Sound, 74°17'N - 088°37'W
22h30 local time

While we're sailing further west in the Lancaster, the wind comes. The sky stays gray. At 6 AM, we're approaching a patch of pack ice who drifts up from the Prince Regent Inlet. We dont go inside because the route is ice free further north, we just leave it on port side. During to hours, we keep going along side, our horizon in the south is white. Our tacking business drive us in the midlle of the afternoon on the north part of the sound.
Suddently, the visibility clears up and we can see a glimpse of Devon Island in the mist. We cross a seal taking a nap on a big floe. We disturb him a little bit but after a while he decides we do not represent a danger for him and he keeps lying on the floe. Manoeuvering without gloves becomes difficult. Pierre, ous scientist who takes Sea water samples often, tell us the sea is 0,3°C and the air is 2,4°C.

Hooded seal - Gabriel Pitras

Hooded seal
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 9, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Lancaster Sound, 73°51'N - 083°52'W
23h50 local time

We're crossing the Eclipse Sound towards the south west point of Byllot Island. Everything is calm, the light is beautifull. Sea birds beat the tempo in this motionless decor. From a distance we observe a group of six Narwhals. Early in the morning we're sailing in the Navy Board inlet who drives us to the Lancaster Sound. Glaciers are numerous but few of them are reaching the fjord. Icebergs are drifting around, we enjoy them, there are our last icebergs, further west there is none, only pack ice.
Seals are more and more visible around while we're approaching the Lancaster Sound. We reach it in the end of the afternoon. We do not have compass anymore, to close from the magnetic pole, it does not work. In the evenning, we get a poor visibility with rain, it makes the steering very difficult in this gray universe where sea and sky are exactly the same.

Evening lights - Gabriel Pitras

Evening lights
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
August 8, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
72°42'N - 079°03'W
23h55 local time

Today the village is busy. A lot of people get ready for their week-end camping place, the others are working outside, maintaining buildings before the end of the short summer. From our side we finish the last details of preparation while waiting for the last two crewmembers. Pond Inlet is a very charming place with beautifull people. The trip is going on but people we met here make our departure frustrating. It was too short.
7 PM, everybody is onboard, we start the fifth leg of the expedition with calm weather.

Teenager at work - Gabriel Pitras

Teenager at work
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
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