Tracks and traces


I’ve just come back from 12 days in the Arctic, and as always I find it impossible to summarize my trip in words or images. The scale, in both temporal and physical terms, is colossal. And like all journeys, this one will take time to integrate into my being. It’s right that it should defy easy summary.

Still, having been blessed to travel, especially to places that few ever get a chance to visit, I do want share what I can.

So out of hundreds of images, snapped hastily as I drove Zodiacs or wandered over the land, I chose the one above to represent this particular trip: Adventure Canada’s Heart of the Arctic 2016.

The picture was taken off the shore of Akpatok Island in Ungava Bay, home to the world’s largest colony of thick-billed murres. You can see the Ocean Endeavour on the left and the tip of the Zodiac I’d been driving that day on the right. The high cliffs of Akpatok loom in the distance, towering 500 feet and more above the surface of the waters of Hudson Strait.

We’d gone out with a dozen boats or so filled with eager passengers, most of whom were desperate to see bears. Unfortunately, although they enjoyed a terrific cruise among both sea ice and glacial bergs in optimal conditions, we saw no bears that day.

In fact, most passengers were delivered back to the ship without even seeing the telling trace this snapshot shows.

The red blotch in the foreground is a bloody paw print on broken pack ice—a sizeable one. I spent some time nosing among the ice shards, which had broken and drifted on the tide. Finding other evidence of this recent kill, scattered around the pack, I could intuitively sense what had happened in the intertwined lives of a doomed seal and a fortunate bear.

But I saw so little; I can tell even less.

The true essence of that time and that place is untransferable. The being-there-ness. The what-happened-there-ness. I would have you know these things, feel these feelings, sense what my senses saw and smelled and heard and felt, and especially, to show you the path to what’s beyond my limited glimpse.

Instead I bring you only tracks and traces. Yours to follow, I hope and pray.

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