Next morning, heading out of Turner Sound we spotted three hump-backed whales – two adults and a calf – moving lazily on the surface. It was fantastic to see them blowing water high in the air and raising their huge tails as they dived deeper. We followed them in the fjord for some time. It was a wonderful sighting and we all got some good photographs
Our destination was Kap Dalton – a shorter journey than usual as we hoped to have some time on-shore before heading out across the sea tomorrow. We moored in a sheltered lagoon behind a spit of boulders. While beaching the tender on the shore, Greg finally realised his deck boots had a hole in them – not just the big one at the top! The great curving “beach” behind the bay consisted of large boulders and shingle, behind which was a land-locked lagoon. There was a lot of washed up drift wood logs on the shore, bleached by a long trip in salt water, probably all the way from northern Russia – great curls of birch bark, indicated a taiga tree-line origin.
We walked around the curve of the bay to a small, wooden, semi-derelict hut. Kap Dalton was the starting point for two famous expeditions. This section of the coast was completely uncharted, so in 1900 Gustav Amdrup led an expedition to start that work. On 18th July 1900, his ship dropped them on the ice as it could not get into the bay. Amdrup’s paper to the Royal Geographical Society says “At Cape Dalton we built a small wooden house, where all our provisions, sledges, kayaks etc. were stored.” Later they set off down the coast in an 18 foot open boat to do their survey work. A member of that expedition was Ejnar Mikkelsen, who came back in July 1932 to continue the work. His paper to the same society states “we anchored off Amdrup’s depot, surviving from 1900, and while the scientists and the cartographers … began their work …. the crew arranged the depot” repairing it as best they could.
Although we could see that others had visited this hut, judging by the debris around it – a cast iron stove, a broken cast iron pot, a glass-stoppered bottle – and the construction of the hut, being quite different from the Inuit hunters’ hut we visited earlier, we felt sure this was Amdrup’s hut. Some members of our party felt quite excited to be on the site where those expeditions began!
We climbed a steep rocky ridge behind the hut and were rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the bay with Boreal at anchor. On the sheltered side of the ridge there was slightly more vegetation and closer examination revealed the classic process of glacial rock erosion to create soil and the succession of plants which can then get a foothold – first lichens, then mosses and finally tiny flowers and flat growing arctic willow.
Retracing our steps along the boulder beach, Guillaume and Greg set up a target practice. We had, of course, brought the rifle with us as polar bears are not to be messed with. We were told one had been seen here a few days ago and, indeed, we found massive polar bear prints in the finer gravel on the beach. Greg set up a rusty gas cylinder 200m away along the shore. Each had three shots – Greg hit it three times and Guillaume twice. When we examined the cylinder the bullets had gone straight through, splaying out the metal on the back. So hungry polar bears, please take note.
After collecting a chunk of ice for whisky from the berg in the bay, a drift wood bonfire on the beach and a late supper it was good night to all on Boreal!