Trail Dispatch – Over the Barnes Ice Cap

barnes_02.jpg Coordinates: 69.31.110 N, 72.29.211 W
Distance Traveled: 25.92 mi / 41.7 km
Temperature: 7 °F / -14 °C
Wind: 10 MPH / 6 KPH
Barometric Pressure: 1015 hPa
Cloud Cover: Clear skies
Sunrise: 3:35 a.m.
Sunset: 10:04 p.m.

Today we achieved one of our expedition goals: to cross over the Barnes Ice Cap, a remnant of the last glacial period. Theo was the first to point out the ice cap in the distance. At first it was barely distinguishable from the snow-covered hills in front of it. The most noticeable difference was that it seemed smoother and more uniform. As we drew closer, however, the magnitude of the ice cap became more clear to us.


The ice cap’s walls were hundreds of feet high. Their bare ice shone blue in the midday sun. At first the vertical walls seemed impenetrable. We knew, however, that local people regularly travel this route between Clyde River and Iglulik and that there must be an way to mush dog-teams onto the ice cap.

As we approached the ice cap, we encountered a cold, stiff head wind. Our Inuit partners told us that this wind often blows down off the ice cap. The chill of the wind contrasted with the warmth of the spring day.

barnes_04.jpg On our way toward the ice cap we passed some Inuit hunters who were heading back to Clyde River with several butchered caribou on their komatiq sleds. They shared some of their fresh meat with us. Country food is a treat!

We stopped for lunch a short distance from the edge of the ice cap where we could admire the blue ice cliffs behind us. Simon decided to hike over to the edge of the ice cap to explore. He unfastened his dogs’ traces from his sled so the dogs could follow him.

Simon and his dogs jogged all the way to the edge of the ice cap. Simon returned to our sleds with a seven-foot-long icicle he had broken off the edge of the ice cap.

He and Richard joked that the icicle was a narwhal tusk. Richard held the icicle on top of Simon’s head and Simon pretended to swim like a narwhal (see photo).

After lunch the dog-teams climbed onto the ice cap via a route that, although more accessible than the vertical cliffs, was still quite steep.

We crossed over only the edge of the ice cap and then dropped off the other side. All the way to our camp tonight, however, we could catch glimpses of the ice cap in the distance. Rising in the distance behind foothills in the foreground, it looked almost like the ocean–a soft bluish plane that seemed to stretch off into infinity.

We felt lucky to be able to cross the Barnes Ice Cap. The ice caps on Baffin Island have been receding rapidly and some of the smaller ones (much smaller than the Barnes) are expected to disappear within the next seventy years.




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