Visit to Gjoa Haven

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3, 2015 by leotheed

Since leaving Pond Inlet we have been in Victoria Straits surveying off the northwest coast of King William island .  Ice prevented us from surveying our primary area for a week or so we charted an area that has never been done with modern hydrographic equipment. On Monday, Aug. 31 We anchored off Gjoa Haven around 8pm. I got a chance to go ashore Tuesday morning.

I went and toured the Health Centre (I was with the ship’s Physician’s Assistant) and the staff took us around and answered our questions.  They spoke about the challenges of living there and it appears to be tougher than Pond Inlet. Nunavut apparently has one of the world’s highest rates of infant breathing disorders plus alcohol is a major problem. Gjoa Haven is windier and they get a lot more snow than Pond to.  There is no Doctor or a Physician’s Assistant. They are all nurses or registered nurses. They are at least 8 hours from any additional help so they must be very resourceful and they certainly learn to perform tasks that no nurse down south would do.  Oftentimes they have to repair equipment as well. Most live down south and come up for shifts of a few weeks then go back home.


Outside the Cultural Centre was an elderly Inuit woman in traditional clothing who was cutting up fresh and dried fish and through an interpreter was answering questions.  Beside her was a skin tent. I tried a piece of dried fish which wasn’t bad. It was really tough though, you can’t pick it apart but instead have to bring the whole piece to your mouth and bite it off.


In the Cultural Centre were exhibits from the Franklin expedition including the bell from HMS Erebus that was recovered last summer.  No holographic copy in the Museum of History for me! There were also a lot of artifacts from when Roald Amundsen the famous Norwegian explorer, stayed there in the early 1900s.  He was the first person to sail the Northwest Passage and the first to reach the South Pole. There were tourists there from a pair of cruise ships and I am in some Norwegian souvenir photos. The centre also had a gift shop and I bought something I have always wanted, a rea Inuit ulu which is a semi-circular blade with a handle (mine is caribou bone) which is used to slice food and scrape hides. It apparently makes an excellent pizza slicer.

Overall, Gjoa Haven has the same social issues as any Inuit community but has more employment opportunities including a tourist industry.

We left Tuesday afternoon and are now surveying off the west coast of King William Island for the next week or so.


Pond Inlet Visit

Posted in Uncategorized on August 26, 2015 by leotheed

My ship arrived in Pond Inlet, NU on Friday, Aug. 23rd.  It is a small community set amongst some high barren hills.  On the outskirts before you reach the hills is the tundra.  Across the channel is Bylot Island which is stunning.  It is in fact a national park and you need permission from Parks Canada to land there. I went ashore Saturday morning for a few hours to explore.  Pond Inlet contrasts unfavourably with Nuuk, Greenland which is more modern and cleaner.  Pond Inlet has few modern buildings and most homes are in various states of disrepair.  There is also a lot of garbage, sleds and old pieces of equipment scattered about. There are significant social problems one of the most pressing is alcohol.  Although it is a “dry” community, most people make their own.  I spoke with some government officials and so did other members of the crew.  I won’t name these individuals or the organizations they work for since they spoke privately but personal safety is a big concern there.


The community is largely composed of Inuit who hunt and fish. It also has a small airport where one flight a day arrives from Iqaliut. They get resupplied twice during the summer by container ship and the first one of the season arrived while we were there. During the winter, supplies are flown in whenever the weather allows. They have two small stores which are really scaled back department stores.  That is all. In one of the stores I met someone who used to work with my father and who I met when I was 9 or 10! He was working on a tour ship also at anchor near us.


I don’t wish to paint an entirely negative picture of  . The people are friendly towards visitors and are more than happy to talk about the community and life there.  Even when walking through the streets, most people would wave to us and many would stop for a chat. 


We left Saturday afternoon and are starting our survey work

.Pond Inlet in town (640x480)Pond Inlet (640x424)

I am no longer a Tadpole; The ceremony of crossing the line

Posted in Uncategorized on August 22, 2015 by leotheed

I am no longer a Tadpole. Last night, King Neptune’s Bears (guards) and Davy Jones ( Neptune ’s Secretary) arrived onboard demanding who we are and what right we had to sail into his domains.  After some flattering words from our Captain to appease King Neptune, it was revealed that there was a spy amongst the crew who revealed the identities of the tadpoles. We were therefore ordered to attend His Majesty this morning on the foc’sle of the ship.


This morning the bears awoke us by banging on metal lids and cans. Breakfast consisted of a variety of gross concoctions that represented parts of the sea.  There was mud (chocolate, salmon, eggs, chili), “fish eyes” (watermelon and blueberry), fish cakes (lobster, egg, onion), seaweed porridge (oatmeal, pepper) and seaweed smoothie (spinach and banana milkshake).  I contented myself with sampling the smoothie which wasn’t too bad but I shrank from sampling the other items since they were gross and some contained egg (which food I loathe).


Around 9 am King Neptune arrived and we were all summoned forward to the foc’sle. Since we had already crossed without King Neptune’s permission, punishment was meted out.  Judgement was passed by King Neptune (a woman) and sometimes the Queen (a man) or perhaps depending on the temperament of the Bears. All tadpoles had to kneel before their Majesties and were shaven using shaving cream (whipped cream).  After that medicine was administered consisting of ketchup, more than a fair share of chili and I don’t know what else because I couldn’t taste it. I was sentenced to two doses. After this, the real fun begins as the two Bears lead you to the dunking pool filled with 4 degree Celsius arctic sea water. Since the King is in fact my boss and the two Bears messmates of mine I was not spared. I sat down, they dunked me backwards and I got out so quickly that I was sentenced to another dunking which included a spray with the fire hose (sea water again) for good measure.


After the dunking is complete, you have been deemed worthy to enter King Neptune’s domain and are considered a Shellback.  Official certificate and ID card to follow (my team is designing them) which you must bring on any further Arctic voyage to prove your worthiness to King Neptune.


Tonight there will be a barbeque to celebrate our new status as Shellbacks.

for my information of the ceremony of Crossing the Line see the wiki page:

Crssing the Line Ceremony (640x480) Bylot Island across from Pond Inlet (640x424)

Left Nuuk Greenland, now 37 days without a port!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 20, 2015 by leotheed

We are a week into this sail and first off, the weather has been great and the seas for the most part have been very calm, a little rocking about last week but nothing major.  I know it can get a very rough out here!

We left Nuuk, Greenland August 16th in the morning after one night in port.  We had to get some fuel and a few fresh groceries.  Thanks to some issues with the port authority, we got in much later than we wanted.  I went for a run around the city then came back to go out for supper.  There is a downtown with modern buildings including a mall but it was all closed by the time we got ashore. The older part of the city is down by the water and has a collection of old wooden houses which look just like tourist brochures I have seen from Norway.  There is a small hill on top of which is a statue of Bishop Paul Egede, a Danish missionary who started the Danish colony in Nuuk (also called Godthab in Danish meaning “ Cape of Good Hope ”) in the 18th century. The whole city is surrounded by tall rock hills with jagged peaks.  Snow collects in the cols and on the peaks. Just over this range lies the world’s largest glacier which covers most of the island. For supper I went to the hotel and had a muskox steak which was quite tasty, similar to beef but with a gamier taste (not as much as venison though).  Had some wine (of course!).  Afterwards we went to a bar for a beer which at first I thought was local but turned out to be made by Tuborg with Greenlandic on the label.  Oh well, next time.

Speaking of next time, the next firm chance to get ashore is when we are back in Nuuk near the end of the September.  We may get ashore somewhere for a run or hike once or twice but that is of course dependent on weather, ice and wildlife! Events are starting to be planned to keep things as fun as possible and tomorrow, August 18th, we will have the Crossing the Line ceremony for all those who have never crossed the Arctic Circle which includes me but more on that tomorrow….


Photo taken off the coast of Newfoundland

Nuuk, Greenland (640x480)

Nuuk Greenland

Arctic Preparations

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2015 by leotheed

So I know I said I would start blogging once I sailed for the Arctic which is tomorrow, but the BFF came down to the ship today with me taking pictures and insisting I post about my preparations. Leave it to her to make the most mundane of tasks seem exciting. I have brought my gear down to the ship and packed it into my locker many times of course, but she made it seem fun. which was nice. We are sailing for almost two months to chart parts of the southern Arctic and to help look for the second Franklin ship, H.M.S. Terror. My job is to keep all the communications and IT equipment running and is supervisory. I do not stand watches (one perk of the job) and the work tempo will not be arduous.  Therefore, I have brought more entertainment items than usual. They include: more books than the British Library (including e-books), lots of movies and TV shows, music and two cameras (with editing software of course).  I even bought myself new headphones to drown out ship noise.  These items plus my Aeropress, 2 lbs of espresso, a Guampa with Yerva Mate (just for the sheer novelty), my fluffy blanket (gift from my sister in-law) and a few other things make up my personal comforts. Add in workout gear and uniform items and that pretty much completes my Arctic ensemble. 20150809_142748 20150809_143029 20150809_143053 20150809_143310 20150809_143412 20150809_143513 20150809_144110 20150809_144303 20150809_141820 20150809_141911

Upcoming trip to the Arctic

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2015 by leotheed

Ok, so it’s been awhile since I have posted anything here (about 2 years) but it occurred to me (via the BFF) that this might be a good way to keep my friends and other interested hitchhikers posted about my 2 month trip to the Arctic which starts Monday, 10 August. We don’t have much bandwidth onboard the ship and ports will be very, very few so my personal assistant (again, the long suffering BFF) has kindly consented to update this blog on my behalf using the emails I will send her.  Stand by for some new and adventurous posts!

Bangladesh Factory Collapse

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2013 by leotheed
This is what happens with the western consumer culture's demand for cheap stuff.

This is what happens with the western consumer culture’s demand for cheap stuff.