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Daily Trip Log

By Peter Brewster

Bergs and fried

Sunday, July 15, 2001


 There is a bizarre paradox to sitting baking on a beach while icebergs float serenely in the fjord.

  It’s 6 p.m., and our first full day on the water is stumbling towards supper with a pattern emerging of how we’ll deal with wind and tide. And weather.

  The paddling has been good, except for one hard slog against the wind, and after some food we will travel further while the sea is calm.

  You see, a normal day’s canoeing will not do here. The wind is typically down early in the morning, gets up by noon or 2 p.m., and then seems to settle again late in the day.

  Our task is be in step with nature and not fight it.

  Mike and I, who have tented together for almost 20 years, were awake this morning soon after five. It was light, having never gone totally dark, and things outside looked much as they had when we fell quickly asleep at 11.30 p.m.

  Everybody was up and about before six, and after porridge and coffee the Gore-Tex dry suits appeared on those who chose to bring them and we headed out towards the narrow entrance to Saglek Fjord proper.

  The entire huge bay gets tagged as Saglek, but there is a sharp twist in it that leads deep inland which actually is the real thing.

  Off its mouth was a decent –sized iceberg, grounded off a rocky beach and shot through with cracks and fissures. We sat in awe at a respectful distance – though I don’t believe it was in any danger of rolling – because chunks can fall off them without ceremony.


Sean and Geoffrey Peake paddle past an iceberg in Saglek Bay. One of the thousands that make their way south on the Labbrador Current every year. Michael Peake photo.
Other, smaller bergs litter the rocky inlets.

  Here we picked up company. Seals appeared everywhere, five on one occasion, to check out the brightly-coloured interlopers.

  Having them cavort and roll, 20 feet from the canoes, brings to mind paddling in northern Ontario with otters around. The same whiskered faces, intent concentration, enviable ease in the water.

  The ocean is a clear as Waterford crystal, but even though they tracked us faithfully no one spotted a seal underwater.

  ‘Our’ dining beach, with sunshine bouncing harshly off the smooth rocks, is at the mouth of a stream which flows from an inland lake. Lording over the scene is a 2,00-foot high lump of rock with a superb ridge running up from the west side.

  The terrain is, of course, treeless. Very few scrubby willows. But there is plenty of green from the moss and lichens, and the shades grey and brown are endless.

  This makes it very easy, as happened yesterday, to spot caribou and black bears. Polar bears blend in rather well up here, and we are watching the light-coloured rocks keenly..

  Skies are empty of clouds. Pale blue is all there is up there, and though evening will darken it to indigo I’m predicting another day like this tomorrow.

  LATE (VERY LATE) FLASH: We paddled until 11.15 p.m. beside the most spectacular very cliffs, with a feeling of being inside a cathedral. The rock is fissured vertically with myriad colours, lines and cracks reaching all the way up to the 2,000-foot high tops.

  Coupled with icebergs turned pink by the setting sun, ducks flashing before the canoes in flocks, and the ocean swells licking the shoreline, it was eerie and so very beautiful.

  At 10.30 p.m. we started the crossing of Bear’s Gut, a two kilometre narrows, in calm seas, and turning into the inlet hauled the boats up in twilight.

  The only tentable ground was high up above the shore, and the bare essentials made it up there before everyone slept instantly and well.

  I managed a small Scotch surrounded by snoring.

  I find it doesn’t spoil the flavour.

360 pix

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