Day 8: Visiting Canada’s Geological Past – Gibbs Fjord, Baffin Island (Sept 04)

Today we entered our first classic looking fjord. Croker Bay was technically considered a fjord because it had been glacially carved. Gibbs Fjord, however, has the iconic steep cliff faces that plunge into icy blue Arctic waters. It was a perfect day for slowly cruising through this narrow finger of water that reaches into Baffin Island. We welcomed our first blue skies of the journey and marveled at how the majestic rock faces were highlighted in front of them.

Unlike most of our other stops on this Northwest Passage there were no historic points of interest on today’s itinerary. Our goal was to enjoy the scenery and hopefully catch some glimpses of wild life. Geologists onboard the Iöffe explained that Baffin Island constitutes one of the most eastern sections of the Canad ian Shield, a large metamorphic rock feature that sits under many of the Canadian Provinces. This rock is very old so the cliffs that we saw as we sailed by were at least 2 billion years old (give or take a couple of hundred million years).

Around 2:30 we reached the end of the fjord and launched the zodiacs to land on a beach that offered an opportunity to stretch our legs with another sweaty hike, naturalist walk, or contemplative meander. The wind had calmed by this point and the stillness of the water offered amazing reflections of the surrounding cliffs and clouds in the sky.

Having joined the sweaty hike again, I set off with my group to explore the area back from the beach that had once been under ice and water. There is still a river that feeds into the fjord water, and moving away from the river are plateaus at alternating levels. Each level seemed to have its own unique natural composition. Some were almost completely rock and dirt while others were more like a grassy plain. My favourite was an area that was covered with an extremely thick grey-green moss-like vegetation. This moss was almost like memory foam it was so thick and soft.

We were quickly losing light as we boarded the ship again and the captain went full steam ahead so we were not travelling through the fjord in darkness. Apart from some sea birds, there was only one seal sighting during the day, but tomorrow we travel to Isabella Fjord, a well-known Bowhead whale sanctuary.

Words and photographs by Duncan MacLeod – Curator, Vancouver Maritime Museum