Field journals from Cory’s Into The Arctic expeditions.



It’s the morning of Aug 18th. Seven weeks of criss-crossing the Canadian Arctic finds me camped on the shore of Radstock Bay, Devon Island. Beside me is the stoic Caswell Tower, reminding me of Devils Tower in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I am waiting. Hoping. Looking over the watery horizon into Lancaster Sound, straining to catch the form of a distant ship. Patience now. This is not like flagging a cab. I’m in the middle of the Northwest Passage, after all. The last leg of my 9 week Into The Arctic painting expedition is here at last. The...

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15 Aug, 2015 History Abounds: Crossing Paths with A.Y. Jackson and John Franklin

Randy steers his 20 foot boat to avoid another frozen mass as I study the icy horizon. It’s touch and go as he navigates the white mine field along the south coast of Cornwallis Island, on the western edge of the Lancaster Sound. Should we get through, there will be one more obstacle between us and the historic Beechey Island… a frothy crossing of the Wellington Channel. I think back to what it must have been like traveling up here for early Arctic explorer John Franklin and his crew back in 1845, trying to find their way in this vast...

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10 Aug, 2015 Blown Away in Arctic Bay

My eyes bulge as I peer through the slightly distorted window of the plane. A flight filled with dramatic landscapes is coming to an end in the community of Arctic Bay in Baffin Island’s northwest corner, where incredible 600 foot high red cliffs rise from the west shore of the bay. About 750 people call this beautiful, mountain-lined hamlet home. Six weeks of my nine-week-long Into The Arctic painting/filming expedition have now passed, and fresh anticipation of exploring another Arctic jewel with my canvases propel me off the plane. I’m met at the airport by Clare Kines, Arctic Bay’s economic development officer,...

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07 Aug, 2015 The Skull. . . And More Arctic History

Out for another boat trip today, this time it’s a half an hour ride to the Harbour Islands, south of Naujaat. Beyond them, the ice is still keeping us from reaching Ukkusilsalik National Park, but these islands contain fascinating whaling history, and I’m excited to explore them first hand. The sky is blue, the temperature mild, and with the quiet waters it’s a beautiful boat ride to the islands. As we enter their sheltered waters, we find 3 swimming polar bears, a mother and 2 very large cubs. In the morning light, their creamy white coats glow against the rich blue...

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05 Aug, 2015 House Visit With John Rae

I’m on the water at last! But we’re not heading south to Ukkusiksalik National Park as the ice is still blocking our way. Instead, we are heading west from Naujaat toward North Pole River. There, with David leading the way, we should be able to connect first hand with some incredible early Arctic exploration history… John Rae’s old stone house from around 1850 when he wintered over on the raw Arctic landscape. We anchor in the bay, deploy the small zodiac from the top of the boat, and cruise into shore. Our hike is interrupted when David stoops over to pick...

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02 Aug, 2015 Exploring Naujaat

Ice conditions are still holding tough - way too much out there to go into the park and no change in the immediate future. This is an unusual amount of ice for this time of year. Only now are locals finally able to get their boats in the water and go out hunting for narwhal. After 10 months of ice, there’s a sense of relief and elation in the community. I’m land-bound for now, so I strategize to explore what can be found around Naujaat. Fortunately, I’ve been supplied access to a vehicle while here, which allows me to see so...

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01 Aug, 2015 Naujaat Arrival

The wind is stiff as I board the plane at Rankin airport eager to get to Naujaat, a step closer to Ukkusiksalik National Park. We’ve been planning a 9 day trip there with parks staff for months, but due to ice conditions hanging tough, I know we’ll be waiting out our departure for a bit in Naujaat. That will give us time to explore the landscape offerings around the community. A few miles from the community, we drop below the clouds and I get my first look below at Hudson Bay. The ice stretches on for mile after mile, the open...

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31 Jul, 2015 Rankin Layover

Our flight worked out this time, and Ryan and I have made it to Rankin Inlet where we are met at the airport by Page Burt, owner of Nanuq Lodge. As we move our gear we find out that we didn’t make it by very much. Not a half hour after landing, fog has rolled in off of Hudson Bay and engulfs the town. Had our timing been off, maybe the plane would have passed on landing and continued on to Yellowknife, from where we would’ve had to find our way back.  Fortunately, we are here, and this is made all...

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27 Jul, 2015 Kayaking on Frobisher Bay

With our aborted flight to Rankin, we are now unexpectedly back in Iqaluit for a few more days until the next ride out. Some conversing with Graham at Arctic Kingdom leads to a great way to spend a day… kayaking on Frobisher Bay. A gorgeous Sunday morning greets Ryan and I as we head to the edge of the water and prepare. One of Graham’s guides Russell will be out with us. I’ve done a lot of canoeing over the years, but have never kayaked on the ocean before. I welcome Russell’s expertise, especially considering we’ll have to deal with the...

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24 Jul, 2015 Moving On?

Checked out the local museum in Iqaluit today. It would be great to bring some of my Arctic painting collection back to the north some day, to share with people who live up here. As we need to fly out tomorrow to Rankin Inlet, we can’t really stray too far. It’s always a laborious and time consuming chore to re-pack all our gear into our travel duffle bags before moving on. This time, Ryan and I are trying to lighten the load and leave our extra gear at Arctic Kingdom for safe keeping until we pass through again. All packed up,...

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22 Jul, 2015 Painting Frobisher Bay

Tonight I return to a corner of Iqaluit off on its own: Apex. It’s a quaint and quiet area with hills behind it to the north, ocean to the east, and a big hill to the south that looks out over to all. We had a quick visit here on our first evening, and I am retuning now with my paints to see if I can capture it all to bring home. I’m particularly excited about the idea of trying to find a big view overlooking Frobisher Bay, looking far down the coastline toward the ocean. I start in the logical place...

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21 Jul, 2015 Off The Road To Nowhere

Mikaela pulls in with the Arctic Kingdom Suburban, and Ryan and I toss in our gear for some Iqaluit exploration. Mikaela is working with Arctic Kingdom for the summer and guiding folks around for the Tour Iqaluit side of the company’s offerings. We head to the edge of town and then further on to the infamous Road To Nowhere. We drive on the road until it ends - pretty much in the middle of nowhere as you might guess - and double back to a bridge that passes over a lovely river. Half an hour or so later, the river...

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20 Jul, 2015 West to East: Inuvik to Iqaluit

I was re-packing all of our gear in Inuvik until 4:30am this morning to be ready for the flight east to Iqaluit. Life was made much easier as we were graciously hosted at the home of Paul Delaney, general manager of the Inuvik Northmart. His hospitality in allowing us the run of his place - shower, laundry, beds, huge deck to spread out our gear and rides around town and to the airport - were most appreciated, especially with the tight schedule we had to work with. Thanks Paul! We reconnected for breakfast with Peter Clarkson too, whose canoes we used...

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16 Jul, 2015 Leaving Aulavik

Slept in this morning. After the really late night yesterday my body needed it, and it felt good. Today is time to recharge, backup footage and write some more journals. The plane is coming tomorrow, and the first leg of my expedition up here is winding down. We are in position to relax a bit now and reflect, as we are just a few hundreds yards away from where the plane will land. It’s been almost 2 weeks, and there’s a lot to absorb. With dinner about to begin, I pull out an offering that has lain hidden deep in my dry...

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14 Jul, 2015 Arctic Wolf Visit and the Big View

Our map shows that the end of the Thomsen River pours into Castel Bay, then M’Clure Straight and onward to the Beaufort Sea. It also shows that the highest point of land in the region is called Castel Bay Lookout, which would be a great place to take it all in, and likely an even better place to paint from. Unfortunately, that point is across the river and many miles away, out of our reach. If we could have gone to the 2nd pick-up location, then we would have had a good shot at it. But that’s life. We did however find...

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13 Jul, 2015 Last Camp

Our last day of paddling the Thomsen River is here. Our pick-up isn’t set for 3 more days, but we have chosen to arrive at our last camping spot a little early to be on the safe side. This will give us some extra time to explore on foot, and most importantly, not risk missing our pick-up if heavy winds move in and keep us off the water. In the remote wilderness, it’s always better to put the odds in your favour and not push lady luck too much. We had been exploring the idea of moving further down-river to another...

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12 Jul, 2015 Sun and Mosquitoes

The beautiful weather is holding up. With all the wind, rain and clouds in the first part of the trip, this sunny break is all the sweeter now. A leisurely breakfast is followed by our most relaxed day paddling yet. At one point, we drop Ryan off to climb a nearby hill to film from a great vantage point. We need a big shot of us canoeing down the river, showing how small we are in relation to this vast landscape. Once in position though, some clouds move in. Carl, Anthony and I pull onto a sandbar, and relax in our...

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