Expedition Report: Gjoa Haven

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25th/26th of August, Meret reports from Gjoa Haven:

This is the very place Roald Amundsen overwintered two times and therefore named it after his boat, the Gjoa. He was one of many explorers who came through these waters seeking the Northwest Passage. Like him many had to overwinter in this area but few survived. Interactions with the local Nattilik was limited, many explorers avoided any contact and didn’t want any help or advice from them. The explorers to survive, where the ones who adopted local ways of living. Franklin’s men didn’t have any contact with the locals, whereas Amundsen seemed to welcome it. Him and his men used Nattilik methods of surviving and the ones who remembered him said he was a man of great kindness who even when things were stolen from him, helped and treated everyone with the same generosity. This ultimately led to his success in 1905.

In 1845 Sir Franklin, a British Explorer, set out to do some magnetic surveys and carry on surveying the Arctic for the British Navy. He set out with two ships the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror. These two boats, though originally bombing ships, had been modified to be fit for sailing in arctic waters. The reason these bombing ships were used, is their strong hull. Not much is known about the Franklin’s expedition, apart from that all the 129 men perished. Two letters have been found from 1847 and 1848. The first says all is well after overwintering by Beechey Island in 1846. The second states that one of the ships has been abandoned. For years after expeditions went out to look for the two ships and their crew, in vain. Why or where the boats sank was unclear for a long time. Only two years ago the HMS Erebus was found close to Beechey Island. The location of the second ship is still unknown.

Gusts of 40knots accompanied us in to Gjoa Haven. Anchoring in the dark and in these windy conditions was challenging. Removing your gloves for just a minute or so to remove the anchor cover, resulted in no longer feeling your fingers. We needed a chain of people from the stern to the bow to relay instructions from Dario, who was anchoring to Sabine, on the helming. On top of that the chart had very limited depth readings on it. It looked like we were extremely close to shore, when we woke up in the morning, we realized it was a lot further than we had expected.
The wind did not die down until later, making it impossible to paddle to shore at first. Once we did dare it, we still had gusts pushing us and waves of icy water splashing into our boat. We went straight to the primary school which Sabine had contacted back in Cambridge Bay. We got there just as school was ending so a presentation for the next morning was organized
The next day we re-anchored in the inner harbor, which we were assured was deep enough. On our chart it said the depth was less than half a meter and according to it we are currently anchored on land.
Later, Dario did two presentations, one in the primary and the other in the high school. In both schools together over 400 students heard the presentation. Following the one in the primary school, we did a clean-up with the eight classes present. Within 7 minutes many groups had found more than a bin bag of plastic, the winning class filled two. Then Sabine, Christina and Meret went into some classes to explain the TOPtoTOP solutions drawing competition. In the meantime Salina got to go to Inuktitut lesson. Inuktitut is the local language.

Talking to local hunters the climate changed a lot. They like the winter more because than their is sea ice, means their hunting ground. The season with sea ice get less, results in less days to hunt.

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