I wake up to the call that there is an iceberg visible out our cabin window. My great roommate has the window cleaned of the night’s sea spray so I don’t even have to take on the 40k winds to get my one and only picture of these amazing monsters that calf in the high arctic and follow the currents south to prowl Canada’s eastern seaboard.
When I do step out on deck into the brisk one-degree air, I’m quick to realize that I am not yet acclimatized. Winds from the southeast bring sleet. The world is a uniform grey.
As we head south across Hudson Strait various staff begin an orientation to the north and life at sea.
Safety is first and after an abandon ship drill we learn the intricacies of safe entry and exit from zodiacs, the inflatable rubber boats made famous by Jacque Cousteau. Every foray from the ship is made using these boats. We practice the sailors’ grip and learn that “One hand for the ship” at all times, is another good rule of thumb regardless of the size of the seas.
Ajau Peters, dressed in an amauti, a traditional hooded garment worn by Inuit women, lights a soapstone lamp and welcomes us in Inuktituk.* These lamps were used for heat, light and cooking. Arctic cotton and willow are mixed with moss and used as a wick, a combination that is easily lit using a flint. As the flame moves across the stone it begins to look like little mountains on the horizon. I’m quickly learning that traditional life in the north was about being in tune with the land.
We pass Button Island and Cape Chidley and head for our first anchorage in preparation of a landing on Killiniq Island. The cliffs rise from the sea and the need to touch the land grows within me. How can stone be so beautiful and so inviting. This is where the Torngat Mountains begin.
I climb out the zodiac onto slippery rocks and trade my rubber boots for my hiking shoes. The terrain, is rough. The first traces of autumn color paint the land as low lying plants hug the ground to conserve energy to produce seeds not trunks. Flowers grow in cushions that absorb the heat and collect dust that builds the soil. Snow already fills the crevices. From a height, I look back at the sea and wonder at the miniature that is the Orlova.
At the end of the day, as always, I am amazed by the fact that Canada is so diverse and really, really big!
* Note: Photo of lighting of soapstone lamp from Pond Inlet.