Tuesday, 19 August 2008

K: Bare bones of the land

For the last day we've been sailing along the southern edge of Lancaster Sound, quite close to the top of Somerset Island, Brodeur Peninsula, Baffin Island and now Bylot Island. We've seen some textbook-perfect geological features along the cliffs as we've gone past: U-shaped glacial valleys, some with small active glaciers; deeply etched V-shape notches cut by meltwater; crumbling talus cones; sea cliffs undercut by water and ice; and stripes of horizontal sedimentary layers with the odd fault line and inclined bed. All raw and uncluttered by vegetation - just a gentle dusting of snow to bring out the grain. Stoic fingers of land cradling deep, icy runs of water. Absolutely perfect.

The dark-layered cliffs on the north of Somerset looked a lot like a layered chocolate mocha cake, with a light dusting of sugar. Moving further east, the mountains increased in height and the icing-sugar dusting deepened into a thick, rich layer of carrot cake frosting. Mmmm...maybe that self imposed chocolate-free 24 hours wasn't such a good thing, I'm starting to hallucinate about rocks and dirt! But to continue the theme, it was snowing again when I went off watch - nice, dry, eyelash-tickling flakes, so the frosting on the land is getting thicker.

We also saw our first proper iceberg yesterday, north of Somerset Island. I reckoned it was about 300 m across and 15 m high. Alex's estimate was slightly bigger at a bit less than 1/2 a mile across and 20 m high. Corrie won't tell us her guess - it's "the one that got away" size, so it sounds impressive in her diary! Anyway, it was the first berg any of us have ever seen, so it's probably one of the most photographed bits of ice in history! We've seen a dozen or so of various sizes cruising though Lancaster Sound since. Their size is deceptively hard to judge as there's not much to use to get a sense of perspective or scale.

All in all, it was a fine old day.

50 odd miles to go before we can turn the corner, wave goodbye to Lancaster and enter the Baffin Sea. We've got fickle, light-ish headwinds in the lee of Bylot, with a lumpish sea. Forecast is for rather stronger E winds in a day, so hopefully we'll get far enough around the corner to reach off and avoid headbanging into it (which is frankly a rather chilly and uninviting prospect up here).

Love to all,

K (Arctic Onion 1).

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