Crossing Baffin Bay, Fogs and Calm

10 Aug

August 8, 2019

Days at Sea: 256
Days Since Departure: 312

Noon Position: 72 38N  68 48W 
Course(t)/Speed(kts): W 6
Wind(t/tws): SW 3
Sea(t/ft): –
Sky/10ths Cover: Overcast/10. Fog to <1/2 mile viz all afternoon 
Bar(mb): 1024, steady
On-deck Temp(f): 53
Cabin Temp(f): 68
Water Temp(f): 45
Relative Humidity(%): 41
Magnetic Variation: -37.6

Sail: Under power. 

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 141
Miles since departure: 33,478

Miles to Pond Inlet: 151

Second full day of our crossing to Pond Inlet, and we proceed steadily, if without much excitement, westward. 

Of Davis Strait, H. W. Tillman says “light airs and fogs are a little too prevalent,” and much the same can be said of its northern neighbor, Baffin Bay. “The calms oblige one to motor more than one likes,” he continues, “since the only pleasure to be had from running an engine in a small boat is the exquisite relief when it stops.”

Much as I agree in principle, that Mo’s little red engine has failed to stop, in fact, hasn’t even hiccuped once on these leaps N from St. John’s is a relief. The weather patterns of calm and fog are not confined to Greenland waters and will likely be our lot until we turn S into the Bering Sea.

The only break in the monotony of engine noise and flat, infernal gray are the passing families of bergs. Most bergs are social animals, I have discovered. Especially after departing the Greenland coast, they tend to be seen in groupings that can be quite large with hours of open water in between. 

For example, Mo had passed no bergs since noon yesterday when, at 5am, the radar alarm sounded me quickly awake and on deck. Ahead was a mass of some twenty icebergs, all tabular in shape and spread over a surprisingly minimal area of about three square miles. The previous day, the grouping had included five bergs, most of which were alpine-like with Seussian spires and equally tightly packed. Late this afternoon, another grouping of seven bergs. 

It’s tempting to think these berg families began their drift as much vaster, solitary bergs that have broken-up over time. This may be the case, but in my two visits to the Vaigat, I’ve never seen a single berg that could create half as many when fragmented. 

Two hints at a possible source, one a theory from the science of ocean drift, which states that two pieces of current-borne debris (say, a plastic egg crate that floats mostly just below the surface and is thus not much influenced by surface wind) that enter the water at the same time and place can stay in each others company for month and years. It is a truism of bergs that most of their mass is underwater, and thus their drift would be mainly driven by current. 

The other comes from the Arctic Pilot’s description of calving bergs from the Jakobshavns Isfjord inside Disko Bay. “Many of [the new bergs] ground on a bank off the entrance to the fjord and hold back others; as they melt and float clear, a mass of icebergs is periodically released into the bight, the largest numbers usually in May and June.”

Could these berg families we are seeing be the result of such pulses at the source glacier from months ago?

A few shots from yesterday’s bergs. One provided shelter for both Northern Fulmars and a handful of seals.

And a few shots of the tabular giants from earlier today. 

In the afternoon, we approached the first commercial vessel larger than a fishing boat we’ve seen in weeks. Mysteriously, the 740 foot bulk carrier, Golden Brillian (MMSI 477250100), was headed due E and toward tiny Upernavik, whereas its AIS destination was the cryptic DE HAM. My guess is his hold is full of iron ore from the large Milne mine below Bylot Island and that his easterly course is for safety–out and around the pack ice that can be here even if it isn’t. 

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage

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