Grise Fjord is a peaceful hamlet 715 miles (1,150 kilometres) above the Arctic Circle. It is here we enter Canada and must clear customs and immigration hauling down the Q flag only once the formalities have been completed. The settlement is Canada’s northernmost civilian community and is often cited as the coldest inhabited place on earth. It is home to a population of about 165 many of who use its local name Aujuittuq, which means ‘place that never thaws.’ It is an apt name for this part of the world. A tiny airstrip just 610 metres long permits Canadian Customs Officials to land and it is critical therefore to arrive by sea at the same time it has been agreed that they will also do so.
Sadly the chance to meet members of the community and learn about their way of life was curtailed when the swell got up and made landing ashore by Zodiac somewhat dangerous.
Even cargo operations on board the community’s annual supply ship Camilla Desgagnes was halted because nothing could be landed in this harbourless spot.
Instead we went to Coburg Island, which lies at the entrance of the Jones Sound. Here spectacular seabird cliffs are a designated National Wildlife Area. Thirty thousand pairs of black-legged kittiwakes and 160,000 pairs of thick-billed murres crowd the rocky ledges on this island, which is itself almost completely covered by an ice cap.
Frances and Michael Howorth explored the North West Passages onboard Ocean Endeavour with the help of Destination Canada www.destinationcanada.com and Adventure Canada www.adventurecanada.com We are truly grateful to them both for the opportunity they provided with us to do our job.