The Northwest Passage Trip Log (21 Aug - 13 Sep 2017) - ​ Thursday, Aug 31

​ Thursday, August 31
January 2018

We awoke to a gentle snowfall in the harbor adjacent to Beechey Island; a small island renowned for being where Sir John Franklin’s ships and expedition spent the winter of 1845-46, and during the subsequent search for Franklin the key supply depot and rendezvous. The first European to visit this island was Lieutenant William Parry with HMS Hecla in 1819. Parry named the island after Frederick William Beechey, his fellow officer, who had distinguished himself the previous year serving under Franklin on an abortive North Pole Expedition. Although the winds were brisk, we headed ashore for our tour of this national historic site. The first stop was the grave site of 3 of Franklin’s crew who died during the winter of 1846 as well as another individual who had passed away on the HMS Investigator. With the fresh snow and stiff northern wind, it was a sombre visit and a reminder of the conditions these Polar Explorers were dealing with, even in late August. Then it was time to head along the shore toward the remains of Northumberland House, built on the raised beach in 1852-53 by Commander WJS Pullen, North Star, of the Belcher Expedition. Stone walls, partial wooden structures, barrel staves and a lonely spar from the Yacht Mary mark the site. The Franklin Memorial, a cenotaph, is well maintained, although time has taken its toll and polar bear claw marks form deep grooves in the hard wood. When we returned to the ship, it was a timely opportunity to attend Archaeologist Margaret Bertulli’s excellent lecture about the “Sir John Franklin Expedition.” Then as we headed toward Prince Leopold Island, site of an impressive Migratory Bird Sanctuary, we were greeted by a polar bear hunting along the shoreline below the vertical and limestone cliffs. These impressive cliffs were a perfect introduction to the final lecture of the day presented by geologist Ralph Eshelman entitled “Northwest Passage Geo Wonders.” Who knew that the Northwest Passage and its surrounding landscape could contain such amazing geological treasures! To complete our day, Patricia Silva enlightened us with a fascinating presentation on the “Migration of Birds” confirming once again the amazing habitat we are passing through.

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