August 23d, 2016. Latitude 70° 40′ North, Longitude:52° 08′ West. 1341 miles to the North Pole.
At 9:45 am, guests of the Ocean Endeavor, an Adventure Canada ship that sails the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, donned bathing suits, grabbed as many funny hats and meaningful paraphernalia as they could find and plunged into 46° water. I, along with other photographers, bobbed in the zodiac, shooting whatever moved.
Some participants swam a short distance from one gangway to the other, while most emerged, quickly climbing the ladder from where they jumped. Still, other brave souls plunged again into the cold water carrying selfies. Shivering, all were happy. They had earned their Polar Plunge badge.
I’d left New York on an Air Canada flight to Ottawa and was transferred to the nicely appointed Airport Hilton Garden Inn Ottawa, where a welcome shower and bed awaited me. I was to be among the 140 passengers and 27 guides ready to depart Ottawa’s Esso Avitat Terminal on a No Linor 550 carrier bound for Resolute Island at 6 am the following morning.
It was an 1192-mile flight and the private plane stopped to refuel on Iqaluit Island, the capital of Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut. About an hour later, we landed in Resolute Island, a small Inuit town named after the Arctic exploration vessel, the HMS Resolute. Once there, I donned my Frog Togs pants and jacket, ear bags and gloves, but unzipped my jacket. The Arctic air smelled wonderfully fresh and clean, and I was thrilled to be out of the hot, humid New York summer weather.
For the next 12 days we’d see a polar bear, several seals, musk oxen and whales. Images of up close and personal with animals in the wild were dispelled when we were informed that Canadian Law does not allow interaction with wildlife. Consequently, we were always far enough away from them. Still, we’d hike up rocky, vertical cliffs that were once reefs swarming with warm-water fish, visit the spooky graves (where RCMP Victor Maisonneuve committed suicide in 1926 at the loneliest outpost in Canada, after which his partner, William Stephens shot himself), zip in and among ice floes on zodiacs, walk among Inuit communities, visit an ore mining town, and hike up a long path to view the spectacular gigantic icebergs in the Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland.
Specialists in birds, bears, glaciers, whales and the Inuit culture were conducted in the ship’s large lounge. They also served as “captains” of the zodiacs and as guides on land. The buffets, snacks and dinners were not only generous but also served by professional waiters. Dress was casual (I’d stuffed my carryon only with some inner- and outerwear, hiking shoes and my ubiquitous toiletry case). I could have used an additional change of clothing or two, but I made due by hand washing what I had. The cabins were cleaned daily and were roomier and more comfortable than expected – as was the bathroom. It had a delightful shower head and strong water pressure. Each night I’d curl up in my bed, snuggle under a clean comforter and sleep like a baby. Atlantic Canada put together an amazing trip. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.