Walruses and Musk Ox

Saturday/Sunday August 2 & 4, 2014 (74o 39’N, 85o 01’W): Cuming Inlet

Dundas to Cuming Inlet

We departed Dundas Harbour at 11:00 Saturday morning August 2nd , bidding good-bye to the yacht Arctic Tern on the way out and then heading out under sail, along the coast of Devon Island towards Resolute, 250 miles to the west.  More accurately we headed in the general direction of the Resolute, as the wind was initially from the west, necessitating us to tack to windward.  These winds would improve during the day, so that by the time I took over for my afternoon watch, Dave had the sails so well balanced, that Lillian was literally sailing herself westward, hands-off, without any need to steer other than an occasional touch of the wheel.

Approaching Cuming Inlet at midnight

It would have been ideal if we could have continued down the coast under these conditions, but after 40 miles, we saw our first pack ice. Unlike icebergs, which are spawned by glaciers, pack ice is the remnants of frozen surface waters from years past. Depending on its history, pack ice can vary widely in age, thickness, size, and extent of coverage. We knew that sooner or later we would have to negotiate pack ice, but this field looked more extensive than we were willing to try as our first introduction. Conveniently, Cuming Inlet was just this side of the pack. We’d been told that there was a good anchorage 10 miles up the inlet, including the likelihood of seeing Musk Ox and Walruses.

Cliffs of Cuming Inlet
Cuming Inlet Glacier

Typical of several of the inlets along the coast, Cuming  is wide and deep, measuring one to two miles across even near the top. It  is flanked by steep eroded bluffs, over 1000 feet tall, off to either side. The erosion on the faces of the bluffs looks unnaturally ornate and structured, like  Hindu temples.  It took 2 hours to motor up to the head of the inlet, but the trip was, in fact rewarded with Musk Ox and Walruses. The later were sunning themselves in a large communal pile, ignoring us until we got with 50 yards and then the more aggressive ones slid into the water and swam towards the boat, bellowing, inviting us to keep moving.

Musk Ox
Walruses in Cuming Inlet

After a good night sleep,  we would go back out and deal with the pack ice.

Crew in Cuming Inlet (Left to Right): Pete Fasoldt, Sam Lowry, Dave Johanson