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Guide's Report

By Geoffrey Peake

The many worries of a guide

Tuesday, July 17, 2001


Campsite: Naksaluk Bay 59º 04.30'N, 63º 24.95'W
Distance Today: 37 km
Barometer: 29.97
Total: 130 km

One of the disadvantages of being assailed by incredible scenery every day is that you begin to take things for granted, and I imagine that those of you reading this from a distance are going to start thinking our journal entries are becoming a bit repetitive. I took the time before writing this to read Peter's column because I don't want to sound like a broken record (or CD), but without a doubt the highlight of the day was watching that iceberg collapse. Icebergs are one of those things that are dangerously alluring -- the very sight of them makes you want to paddle over and touch them; their pure and pristine nature generates a magnetic attraction that is difficult to explain. They are also notoriously unstable, and have a tendency to break apart and roll without warning.

One minute after taking this photo a huge chunk of this ice berg fall into the ocean with a sickening crack and a wave that topped 100 feet. That's why you don't get too close. Michael Peake photo

As Chief Guide I have had to counsel caution when paddling near them, and at times I'm sure my caution was seen as needless worry. But this morning we had a very visceral demonstration of why icebergs are so dangerous. We had stopped for a break and were looking at this berg perhaps half a kilometre distant, when a crack like thunder rose up in the air. A piece of ice broke off on the side closest to us and sent up a huge splash. At first this looked like all that was going to happen, but the loss of mass on one side of the berg changed its whole weight balance, and slowly one side of the mass began to rise, and it continued rising until the whole piece did a slow sideways roll until it had nearly turned over. This rolling action broke the berg in half, and within seconds a massive wave of water rolled up, followed by a blast of thunder. Regretfully Michael didn't have his camera out to capture this event, but if you can imagine a five-story building spontaneously breaking apart and collapsing then you might get the idea.

We made our last big crossing soon after that, a 4 km shortcut across Rowsell and Delabarre bays. Soon after, we rounded Gulch Cape, the rugged point that protrudes several miles out into the sea. From the tip we could see the broad sweep of rugged coastline, with countless mountains rising up from the sea, from the Saglek weather station many miles distant to the south, to Cape White Handkerchief well off to the north. At one time I remember thinking that the north shore of Lake Superior was perhaps the most rugged and austere shoreline I had ever seen. I think I can safely say that in terms of grandeur and raw beauty the Labrador coast now has top billing. This view was made all the more sweeter because we were now entering Nachvak Fiord, and in the space of three days have been able to put ourselves back on schedule -- something I wouldn't have dreamed possible when we left Goose Bay.

So, as Peter mentioned, we are having a bit of a celebration tonight in honour of finally reaching Nachvak Fjord. The last few days have been long and tiring, and all of us are looking forward to a good sleep in and slow day tomorrow (especially Tom, who is beginning to think wistfully of a few rounds of golf and tennis at the Muskoka Lakes G&CC). One note concerning campsites and mountains: satphones and mountains do not coexist well, and one of the problems with camping on an online trip is that we need to have a solid SW exposure in order to use the phone and file our stories. Because we are now entering the very heart of the Torngat Range, with summits rising nearly one mile above sea level, it may be difficult for us to file stories every day. Well, for once I'm off to bed while it's still light out -- and have no intention of getting up before 9 a.m.!

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