Day 12 |
Aug 18, 2013

Aktapok Island, Canada

By By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: N 61º16'19", W 69º39'07"
Weather: Overcast with rain 
Air Temperature: 3ºC 
Pressure: 997 hPa 
 Wind: 40 knots

Today we were supposed to do a full day at Akpatok Island – a place notorious for seeing polar bears that have been stranded as the sea ice melts for the season. Robin West, our Expedition Leader, had anticipated poor weather, but we did not expect the winds and sea conditions to be as rough as they were. We arrived to our hopeful anchorage position at 6am, but although the winds were only about 15 knots, the sea swell was too large to be able to operate our zodiacs.

So, we headed south along the western side hoping for some protection from the wind and swell, but we could not find any shelter. In fact, the winds steadily increased to over 40 knots, preventing any possible zodiac operations.

At 9:45 am I took to the Theatre and presented my lecture on Polar Bears, entitled “Polar Bears from Tip to Tail”, since we had seen a few the previous day at the Lower Savage Islands. This is a fun lecture to give. Since I love adaptation, I focus the topics of this lecture to cover all the various ways that Polar Bears have adapted to survive in the harsh, cold conditions of the Arctic.

By the time I finished my lecture, the Captain could still not find any shelter, so Robin West had to make the announcement that we were cancelling all of our plans for our day at Akpatok. Instead, we were going to start heading to our next destination – Douglas Harbour.

The rest of the day was filled with educational options – at 11:15 am, one of our historians Peter Damisch gave the second part of his lecture series called “Franklin Expedition – Still Lost After All These Years.” Peter recounted the interesting story about how Franklin’s ship had remained undiscovered for more than 165 years, yet recently there had been some new discoveries that were slowly peeling away the mystery associated with this explorer.

After a delicious buffet lunch, Juan Carlos Restrepo introduced a documentary film called “Chasing Ice”; where a famous photographer and videographer has spent years documenting the recession of glaciers around the world. His famous time-lapse footage is particularly extraordinary.

Later in the afternoon, at 5pm, our biologist Kara Weller introduced another documentary about the Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights. We have had a couple of nights with spectacular Northern Lights displays, and this documentary clearly explained how this phenomena works.

To finish the night we had a Recap & Briefing where Robin explained how tomorrow’s destination, Douglas Harbour, will be an “Expedition Day.” Since this ship has never been there, we are not exactly sure what we will find, but we are hoping to offer a variety of guided natural history walks and explore the wildlife of this region.

Then, one by one, we got up and talked on a range of topics. I spoke about seal adaptations to cold waters, Claudia Holgate spoke about dynamic soaring of seabirds, Uli Kunz spoke about Arctic currents, and Juan Restrepo spoke about the Arctic Circle.

Right now the seas have calmed and the skies have cleared. Maybe a good night again for the Northern Lights? Let’s hope that this weather lasts throughout tomorrow morning!