Guests aboard the Northwest Passage voyage have seen numerous breathtaking views along their journey thus far, although today’s view may exceed all others. Crystal Serenity’s own Captain Birger J. Vorland – an accomplished photographer with a keen eye, in addition to his maritime expertise – captured images of one of the Arctic’s most majestic creatures: a large polar bear roaming the ice.
Also on the docket for today: transit of Victoria Strait, which carries some majesty of its own, as explained by expedition team member Russell Potter…
VICTORIA STRAIT, whose name reflects the monarch under whose reign the Northwest Passage was most ardently sought, has played many roles in the history of Arctic exploration. For Sir John Franklin, who likely reached it via the deceptively clear channel of Peel Sound, it was a rude awakening – from the northwest, down what would later be named the McClintok Channel, came a heavy floe of bergs and multi-year ice, within which Franklin’s ships would be trapped for more than two years. It was here, on June 11th, 1847 that Franklin died on board HMS “Erebus”; in less than a year – the following April – the crews left their ships behind.
They then sledged, or trudged, five leagues to land, arriving at a point known as “Crozier’s Landing” after the man who was now in command, Francis Crozier. Crozier sent men to Victory Point where, the previous season, a party from the ships had left an optimistic note. Now, a somber addendum recounted Franklin’s death, along with 8 other officers and 15 men; the plan, it seemed, was to head to the Back River. Whether this was for hunting and resupply, or (as was long assumed) to ascend that river for 600 miles to reach the trading posts on the Great Slave Lake, has never been clear. We now know that it’s quite possible that one or both ships were later re-manned, as they survived the narrowing of the Victoria Strait and made it through – for a short time at least – to the other side.
After several seasons of searching the area where Inuit evidence pointed, Parks Canada and its partners decided that in 2014 they would shift their attention back to where the ships were last known to be – and thus was born the Victoria Strait Expedition. And yet, once again, the ice took a leading role: there was too much loose ice in the strait for the search to proceed; the ships turned back to the area the Inuit knew as Utjulik, where they had seen a ship founder and sink. And there, in September, she revealed herself on the side-scan screen to Parks archaeologist Ryan Harris, who famously exclaimed “That’s it! That’s it!”
Russell Potter – Expedition Team
Near the end of the day, in true Crystal Cruises fashion, a musical team was sent to serenade us from a zodiac. Guests – and the hard-working crew – also spent much of the day aboard Zodiacs, enjoying ice floe navigation with the expedition leaders.