Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Arctic Vacation, Somerset Island, Canada: July 10, 2019


Today, as a group we're hiking and then kayaking or rafting or paddle boarding down the river to the lodge. The Unimoog took us to a "Badlands" trailhead. We hiked about 7km through another dramatic landscape. Guide Dave who knows his arctic botany, stayed with us while we took photos along the way. Because there could be polar bears anywhere on the island, our guides always carry shotguns that can be used to frighten off an aggressive bear. In the 20 years of Arctic Watch Lodge, they have not killed an animal.


Hairy Lousewort
Mountain Sorrel with a few white sticks of Witch's Finger lichen
There have been no caribou on Somerset Island for at least 20 years. Still, some skeletal remains can be found here.
Bones of a Caribou
Caribou Antler
Snow Saxifrage
Pants stuck in the mud for 14 years
Dave told us a story about a young boy who was a guest at the lodge 14 years ago. He was hiking with his family and Richard when his boots and legs suddenly became stuck in the mud. Nobody could free him from the mud. He had to take off his pants and Richard, using a kayak paddle, was able to help the boy to safety. His clothing remains where he left it mired forever in the hardened earth.

Sea Shells
Possibly as recently as 10,000 years ago, the 1-2 km thick ice covering Somerset Island melted or retreated allowing the land to gradually rebound like a sponge once the weight of the ice was removed. The land we're walking on was once in the ocean and many fossils and evidence of sea life are visible. We came across skeletons of two separate bowhead whales far inland on a hill 67 meters above sea level.





Fox Skull
This land, although cold, seems very much like a desert. There is little precipitation, the environment is harsh, and bones stay around a long time.

Lapland Longspur



Kayak put in
Dave with shotgun on left and Dan
Dan and I chose to kayak. After lunch we put on drysuits and helmets and paddled downriver 14 km to the lodge. I didn't take my camera for the kayak portion and so missed capturing the 80 meter high canyon walls along the way. The rock walls looked like crooked columns of badly stacked jigsaw puzzle pieces almost ready to fall over. The river current swept us along and soon we were pulling our kayaks on shore at the lodge.

Photo courtesy of Dave
It was another great day of adult summer camp fun.

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