John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic adventure cruises. This is a log of his experiences.
Really bright and sunny this morning as we sailed up Cumberland Sound through the sea ice on our Arctic adventure cruise. Magnificent scenery and then, as if on cue, the call ‘whale’ came from the bridge.
Then for the next 45 mins or so, before breakfast, we watched as the bowhead whales came to the surface and blew with a distinctive V shaped blow. They do not have a dorsal fin, nor do they dive showing a fluke, so all you see is part of the back and a glimpse of the distinctive white lip. The bowhead is the 2nd biggest whale and was hunted to near extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, so seeing 5 as we did today, is apparently quite rare. In fact, the species has recovered enough to allow for limited native hunting again. Limited means that just one community in the whole of Baffin Island has a permit to hunt for just one bowhead each year. This year it is Pangnirtang, where we landed later, and most of the men and boys of the town were out in boats watching the hunt about 40km down the sound, with just two boats having the honour to actually hunt with the hand thrown explosive harpoon. If a whale is caught, it is then shared amongst all the Inuit communities of the island.
Pangnirtang is a really small town, which only exists because of the old whaling industry and there are still the remains of the blubber processing plant at the end of town. Now, there is a community with a store, a visitor centre, an ice hockey arena and all the normal health and educational facilities. There is also a craft centre where we saw amazing tapestries being woven, hats and scarves being crocheted and traditional prints and carvings – not cheap, but quite exquisite.
Went for welcome walk out of town for about 90 minutes in the Arctic tundra with lots of flowers and lichen (and our first mossies too). Great scenery and views – Pangnirtang is also the gateway to a massive national park which still only sees about 200 visitors a year!
Back to ship for lunch and a relaxing afternoon with a photography workshop and a presentation on Arctic climate and projections. Still so warm, we had afternoon tea on deck. What a beautiful day.