The Dutch hikers were up early today, and hastily piled into a minivan and headed to the airport. This time they didn't return. Soon after, we got a call from Air Labrador to be out at the terminal and ready for a 1 pm flight. After an endless stream of delays, the years of planning were finally coming to fruition. I had looked at the maps of Saglek Fiord hundreds of times, imagining in my mind what the mountains and ocean would look like.
The flight began in a grey overcast that gradually gave way to broken clouds and then, finally, clear blue sky. For the first time we had an unobstructed view of the mountains and ocean that spread out in all directions. It is difficult to describe the haunting beauty of this country-there's a base simplicity to the landscape---the raw combination of rock, water and sky that create a sublime beauty this region is famous for.
Before we had even put our boats in the water, we had seen a dozen caribou, a black bear, and two seals. The ocean was like glass, and we paddled along the shore in silence. Far offshore we could see icebergs; one in particular resembled a tall-masted schooner under sail.
The land here is rocky and barren-only the lowest of grasses and some heather seem to grow. There are still many patches of snow on the hills that have yet to melt. The water is cold, but air temperature today was warmer than we expected (12°C). We now have a lot of time to make up-three lost days-and a couple of calm days like today would really put us back on track. The weather up here is very fickle, and the sort of calm clear weather we experienced today is definitely not the norm. Because of the cold water and the exposed nature of the coast, we are going to do our best to travel earlier in the day, before the winds come up. Canoeists traveling in the Torngats must respect the volatile nature of the weather. Strong winds can rush down from the mountains without warning. The trick to travelling is to move either early or late in the day, when the winds are generally down, and to avoid long, exposed crossings. Our plan is to rise early tomorrow (6 am) and get as much of our paddling done in the morning as we can. In order to get back onto schedule, we need to finish the ocean paddling section a week tonight-that gives us 7 days to cover 90 miles. Normally this would not be a problem down south, but on the Labrador Sea, weather tends to be unsettled. All we can do is hope for the best.
It was a glorious sunset tonight. We are now far enough north that the golden sunset colours move across the northern horizon and never fade. There are some clouds on the horizon, but they seem to be moving off to the east. The kind of night that makes the waiting worthwhile.
(This expedition is dedicated to the memory of Angus Scott, the prominent educator and canoeist, who died tragically last week. Angus was the father of our regular travelling companion the Rev. Peter Scott, whose capable presence we will miss dearly this trip.)
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