Exploration

Captain’s log: A stop in Gjoa Haven

The exploration history of an Arctic hamlet
  • Aug 20, 2014
  • 291 words
  • 2 minutes
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August 21, 2014, 13:00 Mountain Standard Time
We are presently anchored offshore of the hamlet of Gjoa Haven. This hamlet is brimming with historical significance and is always one of my favorite stops. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen stayed here for more than two years (between 1903 to 1905) while completing the first transit of the Northwest Passage, and named the harbour after his small sturdy wooden sloop, the Gjöa. It’s also the site where Amundsen and his men met a band of Netsilik Inuit. The deep relationship that formed between the two groups lasted nearly 18 months, and saw Amundsen’s crew deeply immersed in learning and respecting northern culture and skill. Amundsen’s later successes in completing the Northwest Passage were likely the direct result of his ability to incorporate their lessons, knowledge and skills into his mission.

The hamlet also holds the oral history of the Inuit and many in the community maintain profound insights into their community, their history and their environment. Community members still speak of the stories of Franklin survivors trying to reach safety, and their interest in the searches is also ongoing.

And today, the word on the street in Gjoa Haven is that the ice is still holding fast on the other side of King William Island in our project area. Our latest ice maps and satellite images from the Canadian Ice Service have confirmed what the Inuit already knew. Ice conditions in the Arctic are often driven as much by the wind as they are by the amount of ice, and without some strong southeast winds the ice retreat will be very slow this season. Sailors never wish for gales, but I might make an exception if it blows southeast before we get there.

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