By Jack Seigel
The Arctic voyages of Adventure Canada travel to what southerners consider the most remote parts of Canada. From the tundra ponds of western lowlands to the glacier sculpted mountains of Devon and Baffin Islands and Greenland, this varied landscape presents an exciting diversity of wildlife.
From the ship distant shores appear barren, but as we approach, the tundra presents a patchwork of colour and texture. Through the season it is a constantly changing palette. The purples and mmauves of saxifrage and moss campion flowers in early spring give way to the yellows of Dryas and Arctic poppy in summer which are finally replaced by the spectacular golds and reds of autumn.
The ankle high growth of willows, birches and heathers hides the runways of lemmings from predatory Jaegers. A herd of over 40 muskoxen casually grazes valley grasses. Their dark hair hangs curtain-like and last winter’s wool snags on scattered shrubs. The entire herd seems unconcerned with our group as we raise binoculars and cameras. On nearby ponds, Tundra Swans gracefully guide their young among noisy Cackling Geese and Red-throated Loons. Bairds, Buff-breasted and Semipalmated Sandpipers wander the insect rich margins.
In isolated bays we board zodiacs and watch a pod of belugas hunting the shallows. A single bowhead whale casually drifts in the lee of the white whales. On a gravel bar a group of walrus rests. The large male rolls his head, scribing an arc with 30 cm tusks, as he jabs his neighbour and claims his space.
Crowding the bow deck, passengers watch as the ship negotiates the final summer remnants of pack ice. Off the starboard, Ravens and Glaucous Gulls draw our attention to a blood covered flow. Excitement soon mounts as a polar bear is sighted swimming to the distant ice, casually glancing back at us.
Steep cliffs vibrate with life, the narrow ledges providing safe nesting for thousands of Thick-billed Murres and Blacklegged Kittiwakes. In late August young Murres, still flightless, leave the cliffs and plunge to the ocean far below. Escorted by the male, they begin their long migration, swimming as much as 1,000 km before learning to fly. Below the cliffs we see arctic foxes patrolling the talus slopes, in search of unlucky chicks unable to reach the water.
Every year we land at new sites, awed by the beauty and excitement of wildlife encounters. But no matter how remote an area appears, we always find tent rings and other ancient signs of the true owners of this land. The opportunity to visit the Arctic, it’s people and wildlife is a great privilege. We leave with a renewed sense that we must begin to take the problems we have created on this planet seriously.
Find out more about the trips related to this review