Day 10: Sunshine, Moonshine, and Aurora – Sunshine Fjord, Baffin Island (Sept 06)

The past two days we have been sailing down the east coast of Baffin Island through the strait named for John Davis. A British explorer, Davis made three voyages into the Canadian Arctic with the purpose of discovering a Northwest Passage. On his first and second voyages he sailed with the ships Suneshine and Mooneshine. Not coincidentally, our stop today brought us to Sunshine fjord, so named for Davis’ ship (Moonshine fjord is also near by).

After a full day at sea yesterday, the group was eager to stretch their legs back on land. There were rather few examples of wildlife at Sunshine fjord (snow bunting, red throated loon, a rough legged hawk), but we were happy to be on solid ground. Some were feeling the effects of 24 hours at sea more than others and it makes one think on the early explorers who may have been stuck at sea for days on end and how they would have been affected, to say nothing of their living quarters and diet!

In the afternoon I gave a presentation about the early European explorers followed by a small display of artifacts and replicas from the VMM that we had brought on board. This included a small 3D printed likeness of the bell from HMS Erebus which is part of the Parks Canada/Royal Ontario Museum outreach program called the Franklin Network.

Our evening schedule was altered today to make time for a short auction; proceeds from the sale of auction items will be given to the various charities and non-profit entities that One Ocean Expeditions supports. The VMM is very proud to be one of these non-profit beneficiaries. Included of the auction were One Ocean items, limited edition photographic post cards from the resident photographers, various books on Arctic wild life and Arctic History, and best of all, a British Admiralty chart onto which the captain and ship’s crew would plot the exact route that the Iöffe has taken through the Arctic.

As I was working on this entry after dinner we got the call from the bridge that the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, could be seen overhead. Many of us on board hurried to throw on our foul weather gear and make our way, cameras in hand, out to the bow of the ship to catch a glimpse if this Arctic phenomenon. Although the aurora were dim this early in the night, they were awesome in the true, original sense of the word. A green band that twisted and danced through the night sky directly above our heads. I am cursing my lack of photography skills as I write this back in my room. The aurora was fleeting and I only managed a couple of very blurry shots. Nevertheless I am determined to get a better photograph of the Northern Lights and will be o n the lookout for the next time they appear in the sky.

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