“The trip was certainly a remarkable experience from many points of view. It was undoubtedly the most well-appointed ship that we have yet been on in our polar tours. There were 170 passengers, with 50 waiters and chefs, and the food was first rate, all served as one might expect in a first class hotel.
There were also 35 staff, most of whom were qualified academics, experts in their own field. This ensured that each day provided a high quality series of illustrated lectures on all relevant topics, including Arctic botany, ornithology, mammals, geology, geography, history, exploration and culture. The latter were particularly interesting, as we learned a lot about Inuit life with demonstrations of drum dancing, throat singing and Jews harp playing, as well as kayaking. One or two of the staff, indeed, were Inuit, including the highly efficient expedition leader. On a more informal note, there were various variety evenings, folk singing and even a polar dip, with people diving into the ice cold sea and living to tell the tale. I am happy to say that we did not take part in this latter fit of madness! There were several sightings of polar bear, and also harp seals and humpback whales, although, to my regret, we failed to spot the single sightings of narwhal and bowhead whale.
The landings in Greenland and Canada were fascinating, the highlight, of course, being Beechey Island with the graves of the first three crew members to die on the ill-fated Franklin expedition, as well as various other relics and remains – in all a most sombre place.
We were lucky with the weather – calm seas pretty well throughout, and not a lot of pack ice: The most impressive ice was seen in the huge icebergs in Greenland. The day we arrived, the temperature was an unbelievable 23 degrees C – a worrying indication of the severe impact of climate change. This was also emphasised in our flights back home – Toronto was beset by thunderstorms all afternoon, with three flight cancellations, due, so one of the airport staff informed us, to the same problem of climate change, which causes that sort of disruption nearly every day now. As we watched the pouring rain and lightning outside, it was reassuring to have an interesting conversation with the captain of the aircraft, who showed us on his iPad the flight path and the areas of storm and turbulence which he would have to avoid. He succeeded brilliantly on doing this, to Jane’s enormous relief!”
Roger and Jane Hill, Arctic Safari, July 2017