August 4th found us near the southeastern end of Devon Island, anchored off Dundas Harbor, a settlement founded in 1924 by the Canadian government with the intention to curb foreign whaling and otherwise maintain Canadian sovereignty in the far north. Nobody has lived here since 1951.
There were two smaller boats also anchored here.
Dundas Harbor is in red in the lower right of this map.
It was a wet landing, stepping from the zodiacs into a few inches of water on a shallow beach strewn with flat shingle rocks.
The guides all have a rifle against the possibility of encountering a polar bear, and in the upper left of the above photo a bear spotter is heading off for higher ground.
The morning was overcast and chilly. Our first stop was at a group of Inuit (Thule) dwelling foundations, with Vincent Butler (Vinnie) eagerly recounting the history of human habitation here. He's the guy at far left with a rifle.
Here Vinnie is showing us a walrus skull.
At water's edge artifacts and middens were abundant. Here Vinnie describes a stone tool.
Following along with us was Stevie Aluaqiaq, from Qikiqtarjuaq, Baffin Island. Stevie is a hunting guide and professional diver who works with Lindblad when they visit this part of the world. He will spot a polar bear before anybody else on the ship can.
In this photo Vinnie is showing is the exposed bones and shells from an eroding section of midden. Dog, walrus, polar bear, and whale bones are all here at this settlement site.
This foundation contains a number of large whale bones, such as vertebrae, which were probably used as structural elements. In summer, when skins were stretched over the foundation, whale ribs might be employed as well as valuable driftwood to support the skins.
After climbing a low rise we saw the distant, abandoned Dundas Harbor RCMP buildings, in the center of this photo (click to enlarge).
We approached the buildings in several different groups, to avoid mobbing each building and to maintain a good guest-guide ratio. Some groups had also taken a less roundabout route.
Down at the beach were scattered pieces of a beluga whale skeleton.
We arrived at the main building.
Three men were sent to this isolated location in August 1924, and their only communication with the outside world was a supply ship once a year. Before the three-year assignment was finished, one had committed suicide and one had died in a hunting accident. Their graves we shall see later. A more complete history of the story behind Dundas Harbor is found here.
There are two other buildings in Dundas Harbor, a storehouse and an outhouse.
We spent most of our time exploring the main building.
Some, including Jack, the ship's doctor, took advantage of the windows.
There isn't much remaining: rusting bed frames, bottles, batteries, newpapers, and graffiti.
Behind the buildings, on a slight rise, is the cemetery.
We approach it.
There are four headstones or graves here; I took a photo of three: the two RCMP constables, and the baby of a daughter of one of the Inuit special constables sent to Devon Island to help the Mounties. The fourth is of a Scottish whaler.
After everyone rejoined the Explorer we continued down the coast of Devon Island. Here, we see a glacier that has clearly been retreating.
Around 3:30 we were visited by a pod of four orcas. The orcas can swim much faster than our ship can sail, so they were free to leave at any time, but they played with us, diving under the ship to appear on the other side, racing ahead and then disappearing to reappear in another direction, and generally having a good time. There were two females, a calf, and one male (the one with a dorsal fin the size of a sail).
When they swam by the ship close to the surface, you could see their markings. Note not only the orca at bottom of this photo, but the one at the top. Click to enlarge.
More commonly I got a picture of their back.
Here, note the blow on the far left just emerging from the water; the orca began exhaling before the she breached the surface.
This afternoon also included two lectures, one being The Franklin Expedition: The Boys on Beechey, which was interrupted yesterday by wildlife spotting, and Life and Times of the Polar Bear. After dinner the classic black-and-white silent movie, Nanook of the North, was played.
The sun never went down, but by pulling the shade and blocking gaps with books and tissue boxes, Joan and I were able to darken our cabin enough for a comfortable sleep.