This was a Zegrahm trip that circum-navigated Baffin Island on the ice breaker Kapitan Khlebnikov. We flew to Ottawa and spent the night then flew on to Resolute where we boarded the ship. We returned to Resolute 13 days later and flew back to Ottawa.
Our journey started at 4:10 am when Super Shuttle picked us up and carried us to Terminal 1, the home of bankrupt US Airways at LAX. This airline is another that has gone to self check-in with difficult-to-understand touch-screen terminals. By scanning my passport, we were able to enter our information and receive our printed boarding passes for both legs of our flight to Ottawa. It also printed out an itinerary for our entire trip, going and coming. We did have to wait for the single attendant to find our luggage tags and affix them to our three bags. He moved them to the TSA screening location and we went on our way. By this time it was almost 5 am.
The TSA personal screening point was almost vacant at this hour and we passed through with no delay. Of course, we had to take off our shoes. Since there is either no US Air business lounge here or it was not open at this hour, we had to wait at the gate. It gate was fairly close to the screening point and relatively vacant, except for a few Southewest Air passengers. Fortunately, a nearby Starbucks was open so we could get some coffee. As we waited for our boarding time we watched the Southwest passengers que up in lines A, B, or C. Our time arrived and we boarded, had breakfast after an on-time takeoff.
We arrived in Philly on time and searched for the gate for our next stage to Ottawa. It was in the remote terminal that serves the US Air Express/PSA. (I still remember flying on PSA when it operated up and down the Pacific coast until US Air bought it and then shut it down for some unknown reason.) After a 3-hour wait at the gate (we couldn’t use the business lounge since the flight is all steerage class) our departure time came and we boarded the CRJ-200 jet. I felt like I was flying in a Pringles potato chip can. The Candair Regional Jet has a very small diameter cabin with very crowded seats. But it was only a couple of hours.
We arrived in Ottawa, cleared an uncrowded immigration and then waited for our bags. Eventually they arrived and we quickly passed through customs. Jodie found a money machine and got some Canadian dollars and we then found a cab, which we shared with another Zegrahm passenger so I sat in the front seat with the driver. As we drove in from the airport he continuously extolled the virtues of Ottawa. It appeared to be a very nice city. We arrived at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel, checked in, and tried to find the Zegrahm dinner. After many false tries we found the room as the dinner was winding down. We were able to get some food and even a partial glass of wine each.
Service at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is not that great. None of the staff seemed to know where the dinner was located, even though we knew the name of the room. It addition, it took three tries to have our luggage moved from the lobby to our room. It is a very old hotel with an elegant exterior and public rooms. Although there is a very modern thermostat on the wall of the room it is not possible to change the temperature setting. The room was quite hot and stuffy until we opened the windows the permitted 2 inches. There were no screens but no bugs came in, however the street noises did.
After dinner we watched a very unique light show on the face of the Parliament building, a short walk from the hotel.
One unique aspect of our departure from Ottawa is that our busses drove onto the tarmac right next to the Northern Air 727 at Esso Avitat Airport. There was no security inspection. As is typical with Zegrahm where everything is done alphabetically, we were seated in the very last row of the very crowded cabin with no windows and no place for our carry-ons. We had made them smaller than usual to conform to the advice from Zegrahm however all of the storage bins at the end of the plane was filled with aircraft or stewardess stuff. We eventually found places for our stuff and the flight departed.
We had a extensive buffet breakfast at the hotel before we left. After the flight leveled off we were served a second, 2 hours later. The plane landed at Iqualuit on Baffin Island for fuel and provisions. Since the airline is owned by a native corporation I suspect Iqualuit, the capital of Nunavut Territory, is their hub. The process took about 45 minutes. Our next feeding, lunch with booze, occurred about 3 hours after the first, after take-off from Iqualuit.
We landed at Resolute on a smooth, well maintained, gravel strip. The outgoing contingent of ship passengers were waiting at the terminal to go to Ottawa on the plane that brought us. An old school bus picked up groups of passengers and too them to the crowded Narwhal Hotel for tea. By groups we rode the only bus to the location of some Tule dwelling remains. Our group was the last and we froze in the cold wind.
When the bus finally picked us up it took us to “town.” There we visited the co-op market which was a general store carrying everything. The town consists of a scattering of box-like dwellings plus a church, the modern school, and a modern medical center staffed by a registered nurse. The whole island, or at least all that we saw, is covered with gravel. The archeological sights were identified by the green vegetation surrounding them. The garbage and waste from the residents fertilized the soil. Almost all areas have very small flowers, mostly yellow arctic poppies, with some smaller white flowers. All grow no more that two inches above the ground. The population of the town is around 250 of which 150 are kids. There are actually two communities, the settlement near the airport and the town itself. The Narwhal hotel is near the airport. There are large satellite dishes at several locations plus a weather station. In many locations there are abandoned and cannibalized cars and trucks.
After touring the town we went back to the hotel and then almost immediately to the beach where zodiacs took us to the Kapitan Khlebnikov. Our luggage had made the same journey earlier by helicopter. We arrived on board at about 6 pm.
We found our cabin, 522, and unpacked. Unpacking went quickly, partly since we had severely limited the amount we brought because of the 44 lb weight limit for each of our 2 suitcases. Then there was an introductory briefing in a very crowded lecture room then off to dinner.
Dinner was better than I was expecting.
Rather than the planned zodiac tour of Cape Hay on Baffin Island, reputed to be the home of countless sea birds, we had our first helicopter ride. Since leaving Resolute we were heading directly into a very strong East wind. Since the cape faces East this meant that the seas would be too rough for a zodiac operation. So when the ship reached Navy Board Inlet we turned in and found much calmer waters. We also found polar bears. The first was spotted on Bylot Island and was nothing more than a white spot on the dark gravel. The only way you could tell that it might be a bear was that it moved. When we finally reached our closest approach you could just make out legs and a head. Then someone spotted a bear on the ice so we turned towards it and watched it move across the ice and onto land. Then a third was spotted laying on the ice!
The ship carries two Canadian Bell Jet Ranger helicopters plus their pilots. The ship normally uses two Russian helicopters however they cannot be operated in Canada so they were parked at the Resolute airport until the ship leaves Canadian waters. Each Jet Ranger carries five passengers.
We shuttled ashore, five at a time, to a plateau on top of Bylot. My GPS indicated that it was around 2,000 feet high. Large broken rocks comprised the surface and made walking quite difficult. Geologists call this “patterned ground.” There were some strata of yellowish rock that had fractured into much smaller pieces that the dark grey rock. This yellow rock made pathways that were much easier to walk on. There was no vegetation however there were many kinds of lichen. There was nothing to recommend the place except the spectacular views of the ship, the lurking fog bank, and the snow covered mountains. After 45 minutes we shuttled back to the ship. As on all of our stops, four staff armed with shot guns formed a perimeter to protect against polar bears.
The captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner was this evening.
Scenery and polar bears! The ship continued south down the east coast of Baffin Island. Lectures filled the morning when we weren’t enjoying the views of the rugged and snow covered coast. Geof Renner discussed the geology of the area and the world in general and Kevin Clement introduced his guide book of ice. Kevin concluded his lecture shortly before noon and reminded us that the ship was about to enter Scott Inlet and we should be on deck. The inlet was guarded by a monolithic island with sheer walls. Sillen Island was on our right and the mainland on our left as we proceeded down Gibbs fjord. There seems to be an ice cap on top of all the surrounding land feeding glaciers wherever there is a break in the sheer 4,000' high walls. The sea was littered with bergey bits and some more concentrated fields of ice.
Eventually the ship slowed, first for a group photo on the bow and then for helicopter sight seeing. Things looked much the same from the helicopter however we did eventually climb above the walls to see the snow field on top. Afternoon tea was served on the bow since it was calm and warm.
Once flight-seeing was completed the ship moved on down the fjord and then turned into Clarks fjord to return to the ocean. (I guess that as a result of the attempts to find the Northwest Passage and then the efforts to find the lost Franklin Expedition, there were so many people mucking around in this area that they named everything they saw.)
Along the way we spotted some small “blows” and splashes. These, we were told, were narwhals. We never saw any of the identifying tusks, actually a tooth, but I did see a rounded dark head which could have been a narwhals.
Just as we were finishing dinner it was announced that a polar bear had been spotted on a field of fast ice. We quickly suited up, grabbed camera and binocs, and rushed to the bow. There actually were two bears, both at great distance. Their yellow fur stood out against the white snow and ice.
Each were tiny specs in my camera’s lense however I took many photos in hopes of enlarging them with the computer. Then one began moving towards the ship. The ship moved a bit to where it seemed to be headed. I kept shooting. Finally it approached the edge of the ice very close to the ship, so close that I had to back off on the zoom to keep the whole bear in the frame. It was the best, longest view of a polar bear I have ever had!
The active part of the day started with a lecture by Jack Grove, one of the Zegrahm founders, about pinnipeds, however after yesterday he threw in some photos of the polar bear and some illustrations of narwhals. He started his lecture with a quote from Will Durant; “Sixty years ago I knew everything, now I know nothing. Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance.”
Rather that the scheduled 11 am lecture we landed on the beach at Alexander Bay. This was a fairly sandy beach and was the site of a Tule-culture whaling camp. There are stone remnants of their structures that are oriented toward the sea so that they could see the whales and go out to kill them. When European arrived they established a beach whaling center there. The stone circles that formed the base for their try pots are still present. The best part of the visit was the opportunity to walk on the tundra and view the tiny, beautiful flowers. There were also several mushrooms and many, many pure black spiders. There were also traces of where the voles lived under the snow. Their nest, latrine set at a discrete distance from the nest, and their stock of dried grass were still visible.
We returned to the ship for a late lunch as it repositioned. Eventually we reached Itirbilung Fjord. We traveled approximately 22 miles up the fjord until we approached the end and turned around. There were several encounters with what was reputed to be narwhals and perhaps a porpoise. The stark, sheer rock walls with an icing of show on top were spectacular, as were the numerous water falls. The fjords look like some giant troll or Norse god cleaved the rock with a broad axe. The walls fall straight into the water.
Another morning of lectures.
In early afternoon the ship reached Sunshine Bay in dense fog. We all went ashore and celebrated the crossing of the Arctic Circle with a glass of champagne. This location is reputed to lay on the circle, and according to several hand-held GPS units, it did. After the solemn ceremony we split into four hiking groups. Our group strolled along a road for approximately 2 miles to the freight ramp for an old DEW-line station. Along the way we saw the usual collection of Arctic wild flowers. A couple of bearded seals cavorted in the surf as we hiked along. There were three crosses marking the graves of whalers who died in the ‘20s.
There were stacks of new wooden pallets and packing cases at the ramp. Perhaps the stuff in the station is being pack up and returned to the US.
The sunshine of two days ago and the fog of yesterday had left us for fog and light rain. We have also lost our perpetual daylight. We are below the Arctic Circle.
Our first landing of the day was at Kekerten Island. This was a beach whaling station used by both US and Scottish whalers. They employed Inuits to perform much of the labor and paid them in biscuits. The especially accomplished workers were rewarded with rifles. Some archeological or anthropological work has been done on the site so that the foundations of some of the buildings are visible. The blacksmith shop and the cooperage have been identified. Some of the foundations were of sod houses or qumaqs. The structure was built of whale bones which were covered with seal skins. Insulations was provided by heather. These were used in winter and tents were used in summer.
The Reverend Mr. Peak came ashore here to “save” the heathen. He and the village headman didn’t get along since Peak thought there should be no hunting on Sunday. The headman couldn’t convince him that they needed to hunt to eat. Peak also adopted a syllabic alphabet originally developed for the Cree into Inuktitut, an alphabet for the Inuit. We were told it contains 126 symbols.
There are also some “barrel” graves. Since the ground is solid stone, it was not practical to attempt to burry anyone so they were packed into barrels or packing boxes and set on the ground. Perhaps they were covered with some stones; perhaps not. There are over 70 graves here. There are pieces of iron all around. Whaling was abandoned here in 1919 since they had killed all the bow-head whales.
After lunch and an afternoon nap we went ashore at Pangnirtung, an Inuit community of 1,500 people. There was a brief shopping frenzy at the craft store where we bought a serpentine stone carving of a bird. Then we went to the community center for some performances. There were first some demonstrations of Eskimo Olympics, then some dancing, then some throat singing. The athletics consisted of things no one would ever try but must have some significance to the Inuit. The dancing was akin to the Virginia Reel performed to an accordion and was taught to the natives by the whalers. Finally there was throat singing which sounds like a pair of women gargling for a very long time.
The town seemed to consist of row upon row of prefab houses on the same style, each with a fitting for draining the sewage. During our visit the “honey wagon” busily hustled up and down the street carrying out its vital mission. I trust that a different truck delivers fresh water. One part of town consisted of these single family homes. There appeared to be an apartment complex on a hill some distance away. The town itself was arrayed around the harbor which contained many small boats. There is a very new crafts center with items for sale. One side produces woven items; the other side produces prints. Both places are well equipped.
Not much to report about this day. The first morning lecture we interrupted to view a fairly small ice berg with three spires. The second lecture was by the chief electrical engineer who showed some slides of the ships engines and also some views of the propellers taken when the ship was in dry dock.
The ship was built in 1981 and was the fourth in a series four. It has a draft of 8.5 m and displaces 15,000 tons. Total engine power is 22,100 horsepower. The generators produce 660 vac which is converted into 800 vdc to drive the 3, 5,400 kW electric motors, each of which is attached to one of the 3 propellers. The 4.3 m propellers turn at 120 rpm. When at full power with all 6 generators running 1,600 vdc is applied to each motor by placing the generators in series. There are 5 auxiliary generators, 380 v, 50 Hz, that is stepped down to 220 v for use about the ship. Fuel consumption is 2 T/day for the auxiliaries, 12 T/day for the mains under normal operation but 100 T/day at maximum power. The fuel tanks are so large that they fuel only twice a year. The ship range is 10,500 NM. When it was a working ice breaker it carried a crew of 80; now the crew is 40, excluding the hotel department. It is no longer used, except in emergences, as a working ice breaker. It has been extensively modified for tourism. It is a class 3 ice breaker; intended for harbor and river use. The atomic-powered Yamal is a class 1.
After lunch we were to do a zodiac cruise around some islands where there were reputed to be walrus. The heavy swell in which we have been traveling (which caused the ship to roll greater that 20o) made boarding the zodiacs impossible so we settled for a close approach to one small island which contained 5 polar bears, although I could spot only 2 through the fog. Then we moved to a nearby island where there were some walrus hanging out. They were also very difficult to see through the fog.
Visited a fairly nice village of 400 residents today called Kimmirut. Kimmirut means “heel” and was named for a large rock by the harbor that resembles a heel. We have rounded the southern-most point of Baffin Island and are working our way west. Kimmirut is located at the end of a shallow fjord so the ship had to anchor 5 miles away. Our group was the first to go ashore by helicopter. Just before we left the ship the word came back from the staff already there to bring bug repellant. We grabbed ours plus our bug screen hats. Jodie and I were separated on two different flight but as a reward we both flew in the co-pilot’s seat. The view is much better there. As the helicopter was landing we observed the welcoming staff performing the Baffin salute (e.g., waving their hands back and forth in front of their faces to drive the mosquitoes away.) We applied repellant and donned our hats. When we left the terminal building the netting on the hats was quickly covered with flies and mosquitoes. They were our constant companions throughout the visit.
This was a typical Canadian Arctic community with prefab houses and modern public buildings. A local guide led us around the place however our group disintegrated toward the end and we lost him. There was a nice local craft shop located in the oldest building in the original Northwest Territories. Eventually we had some singing, some throat singing, and demonstration of Inuit athletics plus the use of a dog team whip. Although dog teams have been replaced by quad runners, there are still dog teams. If an outsider wants to hunt for a polar bear, he must first win a permit in a lottery system then conduct his hunt with a native guide using a dog team. If he doesn’t get his bear in two days he loses out.
We went back to the ship by zodiac, a very long, cold ride. A large number of 6 to 8 year old boys “assisted” with the zodiac operation and were rewarded with a brief zodiac ride.
There was a cold, unproductive zodiac ride in the morning at Salisbury Island. The first group saw some walrus and had a very distant view of a polar bear and cub. All we saw on our ride was a glaucous gull nesting site and some anthropoids in the water. But it was very cold.
In the afternoon we made our final visit to an Inuit community, Cape Dorset. We toured the town the highlight of which was the craft center which has many excellent stone carvings and lovely prints. We bought a rather large carving of a loon which we hoped to get home unbroken (we did). There was also another concert of throat singing. We’ve seen none of the drum dancing like we’ve seen in the Bering Sea area.
There were several pregnant teen-aged girls and young mothers. There is no stigma attached to this in the Inuit culture. But on the other hand, Cape Dorset has the highest suicide rate in Nunavut. There was a funeral during our visit for a 17 year old girl who had moved to Ottawa and killed herself over a failed romance.
After the town tour we took a zodiac across the bay to a Thule site in Mallikjuaq Park. Fortunately there were very few mosquitoes on this visit, perhaps because of the fog or the temperature. There were at least 6 dwelling sites situated along the edge of a pond on a plateau above the bay. One of the sites has been excivated and somewhat restored. The Thule culture started around 400 AD. There were also some Dorset sites, Their culture began around 100 AD.
We’ve made it back into the Arctic. The ship crossed the arctic circle this morning while we were in a lecture. The afternoon was supposed to be devoted to a landing however when we approached the mouth of the Barrow River the way was blocked with ice floes. There was even more dense pack ice toward the north which was moving south. Then expedition leader Mike Messick decided that a helicopter landing would be appropriate so he went off on a scouting trip. He returned and announced that the pilots were concerned about the fog hanging around. The temperature was within a degree of the dew point which meant that if the temperature fell a degree the fog would develop, perhaps stranding passengers on shore. So the ship moved on northward. When the temperature rose another 1.5 degrees Mike convinced the pilots that a sightseeing flight would be ok, so the ship turned around. Just as the flights were about to begin a polar bear was spotted on the ice so we watched the bear as it came nearer and then turned around and left for the shore.
The flight was to Barrow Falls, a 90' falls on the Barrow River. There was a spectacular volume of water boiling over the rock wall. The flight was up the river gorge and then up over the falls and the rapids beyond. I could not see what the source of the water was. On both the flight in and out we saw the same polar bear lounging on the ground. Between the bear and the falls what was shaping up into a poor day became quite good.
Two of the passengers decided this would be a nice place to get married so they, their separate kids, and one of the naturalist, Kevin Clements were flown to a spot opposite the falls where Kevin performed the ceremony, although he is not a minister. They had hoped for an on-ice ceremony but the ice didn’t cooperate. They will apparently have a more legal ceremony later.
This was the day I had looked forward to in advance of the trip - passing through Fury and Heccla Strait. At its narrowest point, Labrador Narrows, it is about a mile wide and since it is toward the north end of Baffin Island it should be full of ice. As we approached a thick fog set in and we saw nothing of the area. Navigation was solely by radar. There was no ice.
Somewhat later we encountered some fairly heavy ice so that the capabilities of the ship were demonstrated. This pack ice was sufficiently broken up that there was no need to employ all 6 engines. Later in the afternoon in another pack we had a brief encounter with two polar bears, both of whom were quite frightened by the ship and took off at a run as we passed by.
During the Zegrahm cocktail party some bowhead whales were spotted. We were able to catch brief glimpses of their blows through the small windows on the forward side of the lounge.
I need to describe our cabin #522. It is conveniently located on the same deck as the bar and lounge and two decks below the lecture room. It is one deck above the deck from which the helicopters and zodiacs are accessed. (There are 33 stairs from that deck to the zodiac boarding platform.) There is one bed and one couch which makes up into a bed. The couch is parallel to the hull. There are hooks just inside the door on which coats may be hung. Next to them is a metal, 2-door closet. One side is for hanging; the other has 6 slide-out baskets plus a shelf. There is a metal desk with four deep drawers that will fall out if you pull them out too vigorously. The desk chair may be secured to the floor in the event of rough seas. Above the desk there is a shelf which holds the desk light plus two storage compartments. There are two very large drawers under the bed plus a very large, inaccessible storage compartment. In the corner between the two beds there is a compartmented table in which our small suitcase is stored. All of the closets doors, desk drawers and compartments above the desk are capable of being locked with the same keys that lock the cabin door. These locks, however, seem unreliable so we haven’t used them.
The bathroom is quite small, as usual. There is a very small shower with an unreliable hot water valve. Although there are no storage shelves there is a hanging pocketed affair on the wall. There are no towel bars but rather hooks on the door on which the towels may be hung.
The fortunate lack of ice allowed our prompt arrival this morning at Ft. Ross, an abandoned Hudson Bay Company trading post. There was what must have been a fairly comfortable house and a storage building. The house has been completely vandalized; all the windows are broken and some of the frames broken out. The few contents, two stoves and a gas refrigerator and some furniture have been destroyed. The store house, on the other hand, seems to still be in use and has not been damaged. There were few plants and flowers in the surrounding area. There was a cold wind blowing even though there was bright sun.
We promptly left Ft. Ross to make our way through Bylot Strait on a slack tide. Prior to entering the strait the hotel department served a hearty snack of soup and hot dogs. Lunch was delayed so that we could enjoy the passage. During our transit we passed the farthest north point on the North American Continent, Point Zenith. We encountered quite a lot of ice and also quite a few polar bears. We emerged into Peel Sound and headed north. There was a choice of waiting for the next slack tide and returning through the strait or continuing on north. A helicopter survey revealed that there was a lot of ice in the sound so we continued on.
Our late lunch ended with the announcement that more polar bears had been spotted. After enjoying the bears we did a brief helicopter tour around the ship to view it as it plowed through the ice. We spotted some animals in one of the open leads that might have been narwhals. The final lecture of the day was just ending when Mike announced that three bears had been spotted far ahead so we dressed in our warm clothes and rushed to the bow. In the far distance we could just barely make out a single bear and then two bears some distance away. As we slowly approached the single bear became aware of us and then the other two did. It turned out that they were a mother bear and two yearling cubs. They gathered together and then approached the edge of the ice closest to the stopped ship. There seemed to be no fear, just curiosity. The air was filled with the sound of clicking shutters. Finally they wandered away and we went on out way.
We passed thru a brief snow shower during dinner.
Our final stop was Beechy Island. Its claim to fame is that three members of the ill-fated Franklin expedition were buried here when the expedition spent its first winter here. This was the last known trace of the expedition for years. There is also the ruins of Northhumberland house here. It was built as a shelter containing supplies for the Franklin survivors, if they ever happened to come back. There must have been hundreds of barrels since there are staves and hoops all over the place.
In the afternoon we were given the opportunity of a zodiac cruise along the sheer bird cliffs of Prince Leopold Island. This is the home of countless thick-billed murres, northern fulmars, black-legged kittiwakes, black guillemots, and glaucous gulls. Since it was quite windy with rough seas we opted out and instead finished packing, for tomorrow we leave the ship by helicopter. We have completed our circuit of Baffin Island and go back to Resolute.
We were to leave the ship by helicopter according to our group numbers. We woke to heavy fog which finally lifted enough to allow one helicopter flight before it set in heavily. After waiting for over an hour the decision was made for all to go ashore by zodiac. We had left our cabins by request of the staff so that they could be cleaned and made ready for the new passengers. There is not enough seating in the public areas for all the passengers so many wound up sitting on the floor as the hours went by. When we finally went ashore to the Narwhal Hotel around 11, the situation was not much better. There still weren’t enough seats.
I was concerned that the fog would prevent our charter flight from landing however the fog lifted enough to allow helicopter flights and to allow the Air North 727 to land. One advantage of charter flights in Canada is that the bus takes the passengers right up to the plane. When we landed in Ottawa at an outlying airport our buses parked right next to the plane.
Lets discuss eating for this last day. We had a regular breakfast on the ship. As the fog delay continued snacks appeared. Our next meal was sandwiches, fruit, and dessert at the hotel. After the plane took off we had a hearty snack. After the refueling stop at Iqualuit we were served a dinner. Booze, of course, was freely available. After we checked in to the hotel there were snacks available in a room. We did not go to bed hungry.
Breakfast in a common room was our last Zegrahm event. We repacked and took a cab to the airport. Both this cabbie and the one who brought us in from the airport when we arrived are very proud of their city and tried to convince us to return.
After a rather prompt checking at the Air Canada counter we found the sparsely attended business lounge at the extreme end of the terminal building. Most of the building is new and quite modern. The lounge is at the end of the old terminal. When boarding time approached we walked back to the gate and right on board. With Air Canada’s reputation I was surprised by the good quality of service.
We arrived in Toronto after a 55 minute flight at terminal 1 and sought out the shuttle to terminal 2. We boarded the shuttle indicated for US bound passengers which took us to the US Immigration area of terminal 2. (Yes, you pass through US Immigration in Canada!) Our baggage showed up at a carousel there and we drug it through the immigration and customs area then put it back on a conveyer. Then we found the business lounge where we spent the next 4 hours.
Finally the time for our flight to LAX arrived and we boarded. During the course of the flight we had a good dinner, plenty of booze and good Canadian wine, and were offered a late snack of ice cream and cookies. The flight arrived on time, our baggage arrived promptly, and we took a taxi home.
All in all, it was a good trip however, with the exception of over 30 polar bear sightings, the wildlife experience wasn’t as good as on our previous trip to the area. There certainly was much less snow and ice even though we were there at exactly the same time of year. Perhaps there is merit in the claims that global warming is destroying the snow and ice pack in the polar areas.
This was our second trip on an ice breaker. Although the Kapitan Khlebnikov has been modified for tourism it still doesn’t match adventure cruise ships, such as the Clipper Adventurer. Its forte is going through ice. There was very little on this trip. The ship is chartered by Quark Expeditions for much of the year. To make it more suitable for tourism the crew quarters have been moved to decks 3 and 4. Cabins were removed from the forward part of deck 5 and the area converted to a bar, lounge, and library. There is no public viewing area other than the port side of the huge bridge. There are, however, no seats on the bridge and the captain will not allow passengers on the starboard side. The lecture hall on deck 7 has an inclined floor so the sight lines are good, however there aren’t enough seats for all passengers.