We pushed southwest under sail and engine along our trajectory between “Death star” and the land fast ice of Prince of Wales Island. Random growlers and floes were getting more and more frequent, and after a days sail we saw nothing but ice on the horizon. There was no way around it so we headed for a small opening just south of our route. It brought us in to an incredible landscape of dense multiyear ice with enormous floating islands of ice. With concentrations between 2 – 6/10th of ice it was hard to find passages that did not lead us to far astray and there was constant concern about what would happen if “Death Star” would push and compress the ice around us. On the other hand it was the most amazing experience to sail into and though this moving ice archipelago and we could see several seals and polar bears sleeping on the ice and slipping into the water when the boat got to close. Every second hour we had radio contact with Nick’s father Bernard to get updates on the ice situation and we were relived to hear that “Death star” had changed its course and was drifting east and out of our path. We also learned that Canadian Ice service now issued daily ice charts for the area and we would not have to rely on satellite information anymore.
After 36 hours we reached open water again and headed for Melville Island to await an opening in the McClure straight. A few hours later we received two very unsettling reports; the first one was a gale warning which is unpleasant in any ice concentration. The other one came from the Ice expert Peter Semiuktuk who told us that heavy ice was being pushed into Viscount Melville Sound from the McClure straight, as well from the northern channels and perhaps even the south. This ice had the capability of rapidly filling up our entire area and the report was confirmed by Nick’s father who had been in direct contact with Canadian Ice Services and they all urged us to leave the area the same way we came immediately. So with ice possibly closing in on all three directions and with an escape route that was closing behind us we began to feel the claustrophobia creeping in.
Using the building wind we turned 180 degrees and hauled back towards the ice and safe harbour. Hour by hour we reduced sail until we where on our third reef and less than half the jib. When we reached the dense ice again it had changed structure. There was a compact white wall from north to south and there seemed to be openings. We ran parallel to it for distances up to 6 miles to find a narrow passage that lead into open water. This pattern repeated itself and we sailed though more than 30 of these long streaks of ice with water in between them. We had seen this pattern of ice on the satellite images before but from above it looks just like fractals or streaks of cream dissolving in a coffee cup. On several occasions we felt trapped in this maze of ice but there was always small opening to be found, sometimes less than 8 meters wide and we squeezed though without starting the engine having lots of fun with the close manoeuvres. As I write we have cleared the ice and are on route back to Resolute where we will wait hoping for another opening before the ice settles in the Parry channel.