Day 9 |
Sep 05, 2009

Akpatok Island Ungava Bay Canada

By Chris Srigley, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: 60°25'N, 68°08'W

Weather: Partly Cloudy, strong winds

Rising upwards from the ocean as high as 750 feet in some places, covering an area of 903 km2 (349 sq mi), Akpatok Island is a stunning mix of scree slopes and eroded limestone’s located in Ungava Bay.

An important bird area, as well as a key migratory habitat, it enjoys international biological status. Thick-billed Murre, Black Guillemot and Peregrine Falcon are some of the key species that we may encounter.

Today however, we approach this spectacular island on the hunt once again; our insatiable appetite for Polar Bears draws us. Having one of North America’s largest Thick-billed Murre colonies, Akpatok is known for the bears that patrol its raised beaches and scree slopes while awaiting the return of the sea ice.
Before my eyes are open I can hear whistling winds around the ship, as I peer out the window I can see the choppy seas and as I stand I can feel the list of the Prince Albert II. It is immediately obvious this morning will not be going as planned.

As I prepare my gear our Expedition Leader Robin West comes over the loud speakers. “Good morning ladies and gentleman, a very good morning. As I am sure you can see, we have winds gusting to 35 knots, with this we are unable to operate our planned activities. The Captain will reposition the ship farther down the eastern shore and see if we can find some shelter… ”

Heading to the Bridge I find Robin looking over the charts with Captain Aleksander Golubev. Finding an area they think will give us shelter, our course is set. Unfortunately as is the case with much of the vast Canadian Arctic, the soundings on the chart end 6 miles off shore. We will have to send out a sounding Zodiac to lead the ship closer to shore and into shelter.

A call is made to the Zodiac deck to prepare the sounding gear while Staff Captain Asperu, AB Allen and myself prepare for what will be a long, wet and cold several hours spent out in front of the Prince Albert II.

Dropping the Zodiac, we climb down the down the pilot ladder and head out into the wind. Running at 6-8 knots I zigzag across the ships bow while Staff Captain and Allen call out the depths. Staff “75, 7, 5”, Bridge “75, copy”. As it becomes apparent we are traveling over consistent depths Captain Aleksander asks us to head straight in until the depths change drastically.

With the winds still blowing upwards of 30 knots and every third or fourth wave breaking over top of us we are soaked to the bone within the first 20 minutes we are out. Allen, hunched over the sounding gear protects it against the breaking waves while Staff Captain calls the soundings in between.

Unfortunately after bringing the ship all of that way over the morning, the winds have persisted, we will not be able to operate at all. Called back, we return to the ship to thaw out. It’s time to make way for Labrador and Hopedale.

Some vanish to their suites after lunch while others join our marine mamologist Rob Suisted in The Theatre for his talk “Polar Bear – an informative look into the life of the top predator in the Arctic”. After the sightings we’ve had over the last few days, it is a fitting way to leave the polar bears behind for another year.

At 1700 we are lucky enough to have our photographer Richard Sidey showing the first half of his voyage DVD. He takes us back to relive our first days, to enjoy his take on what we have seen. His talent is evident; ending with a rousing applause you can see the guests agree. We look forward to the final cut!

Gathering in the Observation Lounge to celebrate the Silversea Venetian Society, we enjoy cocktails and caviar before a special guest is presented with her diamond pin for reaching 500 days with Silversea. Francis Ciliberti has been onboard the Prince Albert II with us most of my contract this season. Having enjoyed her company for so long it was a great pleasure to celebrate this milestone with her.

Congratulations Francis!