Day 5 |
Aug 29, 2013

Walrus & Bencas Islands, Hudson Bay, Canada

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 63º06', W 082º54'
Weather: Overcast
Air Temperature: 3º C, 37º F
Pressure: 1007 hPa
Wind: 35 knots

As I went up to the bridge I realized that the weather conditions were not ideal for operating Zodiacs this morning. The wind was blowing over 35 knots and the swell was considerable, certainly beyond the limits of safe Zodiac operations.

Nonetheless we came closer to Walrus Island in the hope of finding a lee side, but the wind and swell direction made it impossible for the ship to provide us with a lee to load the Zodiacs. There was no hiding from the conditions.

The hard decision was then made by the Captain and Expedition Leader to cancel the Zodiac cruise we had hoped to do this morning. It is always a tough call but safety is of the utmost importance for us and with that in mind we decided to be cautious and offered a ship’s cruise of the island instead.

Captain Maggie took us as close as possible to Walrus island, which given the poor depth soundings in the area meant we had to stay half a mile from the shore. Nonetheless we got to see a few sizeable groups of walrus hauled out on the rocky shores, and even a few that were swimming around. Binoculars in hand, our guests had long looks at the Walrus as we sailed by before we turned south and made our way towards Bencas Island.

In the meantime, our resident photographer Richard Sidey entertained us with his wonderful lecture, “An Introduction to Wildlife Photography”. On this talk, Sidey gave some simple tips and advised on how to dramatically improve our photos by just following some basic rules involving composition, shooting in different light conditions, perspective, and depth of field.

Shortly after lunch we arrived at Bencas Island and the sea state had deteriorated even further and the wind was still blowing hard. We tried sailing around to the south side, close to Coats Island, and again, found no shelter. The soundings here are even more sparse that in Walrus Island and we could not get closer than a couple miles to the shore, so the decision was made to drop a Zodiac with a portable echo-sounder and a second scout boat with three staff members.

Under pretty gnarly conditions, we got in the boats and myself and Tim sailed ahead of the ship reading out the depth figures to the officers in the bridge as Silver Explorer sailed closely behind us. We moved in a fair bit closer to land but the swell was big, and I mean big! I estimated it to be in excess of 2 metres, sometimes perhaps 3 metres, which obviously was not going to work for offering anything to our guests in terms of getting off the ship. Meanwhile the second Zodiac, driven by Chris Srigley, went closer to the island and found no wildlife so the decision was made to return to the ship and cancel the activity altogether.

Facing an afternoon at sea our expedition leader Kara Weller introduced a short documentary on the Northern Lights, a very interesting film, put together by the Geophysics Institute at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. That is Kara’s home and the people involved in it were all friends or at least people she knew from back home. In a simple and clear way the documentary explained this fascinating phenomenon, the Aurora Borealis, which we saw two nights ago and that we hope to see again soon on this trip.

At 5:00 pm Claudia Holgate presented her lecture, “An Introduction to Arctic Climate” where she explained the fundamentals of climate and weather around the globe and the particularities of arctic weather.

After our daily Recap & Briefing session dinner was served in the Restaurant. Tomorrow: Cape Dorset.