Monday, July 22, 2013

exploring shipwrecks by kayak

Me and The Eagle.  The wetsuit is very sexy, no? 

There are a few shipwrecks around Cambridge Bay. Some are even visible from my front yard's view of the bay.  I guess it's not that surprising that ships sometimes have a rough time getting through the Northeast Passage, given the harsh weather conditions, and, well, the fact that much of the waters are frozen solid for a good chunk of the year.  Anyway, we decided to go off in our kayaks and check out the shipwrecks.  You can approach them from dry land, but you can get pretty darn close by kayak.

I set off in my little red kayak, which I have named The Britney Spears, and am very fond of because I got to take her out on her maiden voyage.  I didn't break a bottle of champagne over her bow, but I did instead hit my head on it when I tipped over and was trying to get up. It was a good maiden voyage, and now I was taking her out to see the shipwrecks, maybe as a threat in case she came across my head the wrong way again.

The Brtiney Spears is the middle kayak

breathing in the cold, saltwater spray of the Arctic Ocean

Our first stop was the Eagle, a longliner which has been beached on the shore near the old stone church for, like, 60 years. 


"What's the story about this boat?" I asked, looking at the abandoned ship.  I imagined an exciting tale of brutal pirates attacking the ship, with sailors fighting bravely with the help of the whales and the mermaids, leading to some great action shots and maybe everyone dying, leaving the ship to sit on this shore forever.

"It used to belong to the local priest," they explained.
"And then he was attacked by pirates?"
"No, he just kind of left it there. And it's been there ever since."

I prefer my story about the pirates and the whales.

Speaking of whales, I found another one. And like the last whale I saw, it was very dead.

"That's a whale?" I asked. "Maybe it was a mermaid?"
"Might be a muskox," someone suggested.
"No, it's definitely a whale," someone else said.
"Could be a mermaid," I insisted, to nobody.  Perhaps one of the ones helping the sailors fight off the pirates.


And on that, I have to say:

One day I will see a live narwhal and it will be glorious, I am sure.

Then I climbed back into The Britney and steered her on to the other shipwreck, the Maud.

The Maud was a Norwegian ship named for the Queen Maud of Norway. She was launched in 1916 to sail through the Northeast Passage, but then was frozen in ice in 1926 in Cambridge Bay, because, well, that's what happens if you leave a boat here over winter.  She sank in 1930.  Now, some eighty years later, the Norwegians want the Maud back.  The locals protest that they don't want the Norwegians to take it, and the Canadian government has shown some resistance.  But she's gonna go eventually, piece by piece, back to Norway over a period of 2 years (you can imagine it would take a while to drag a huge shipwreck through the Arctic Ocean), so I was glad that the Britney and I had a chance to see it.


Under the water, right below our kayaks, you can make out the boiler room and other parts of the ship. I'm hoping to come back here sometime with a snorkel so I can swim under the water and check it out closer.

It was pretty neat to see the big shipwreck up so close, lying on its side with its ribs sticking out of the water.  And the ship's junk underwater.  There was a lot of junk on the shore nearby too, including a couch, which I don't think had anything to do with the Maud.

maybe it's a couch for viewing the Maud.


no explanation for this rusty sewing machine.

Also near the shipwreck was a stone monument for the Maud.  I can see the monument from the shore near my house, but up close, its size is quite impressive.

a seagull, wishing he was part of the monument

After walking around the shore to look at the Maud from different angles, the mosquitos were starting to get bothersome, so we jumped back into our kayaks to head back home.

A tiny island that B. calls Muskox Skull Island, because he found a pile of muskox skulls drying in the sun there once.  No muskox skulls this time though.

Tiny jellyfish in the water