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A strong following sea out of Keats Point on the Amundsen Gulf pushes us playfully for several hours until it shifts and gets angry. Our ground anchor keeps us off the surf of shore and we tuck in until things subside. It’s 23:00 and a hand of cards and a little sleep are welcome.

A bank of fog replaces the wind overnight and we pull anchor at 06:30 into a world of white blindness evocative of the writings of Josee Saramago. We glide across a vast ocean of arctic water but our world is contained and small, a tiny pond in a sea of mist.
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This sense of containment is something I experienced when skiing to the South Pole in 2008/9. The whiteness envelopes you and plays with your mind. It diminishes one’s scale of reference from the macro of the horizon to the micro of the fog bubble.

An infrequent roller sweeps through our space and reminds us there’s an ocean out there. It’s a powerful metaphor for the arctic. Like the gentle oceanic swell moving through our bubble, the wave of climate change is born far away yet still makes its presence felt.

The fog lifts and reveals a shoreline of cliff bands and steep gravel beaches. There’s little vegetation here just rock and stone in a myriad of forms. In one dramatic flourish a finger of rock extending out from land has collapsed to create an archway. The temptation is too great to ignore.
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Slowly our landscape has changed with rock wall banks giving way to low lying gravel beaches. We travel close to shore trying to spot wildlife knowing full well that the beaches are the prowling grounds of big arctic critters: grizzly bears and polar bears.

The shrinking ice of the arctic has given rise more frequent grizzly polar bear encounters and a strange new breed of bear. The polar bear descended from the brown bear thousands of years ago and still maintains enough of a genetic alignment that it can interbreed with a grizzly. With grizzly bears venturing further north these days (one was found recently on northern Banks Island) and polar bears finding themselves more and more stranded on land the inevitable occurs: the pizzly and the grolar. The name playfully reflects whether the mother or the father is the grizzly but the name is the only playful thing about this bear. Not ideally suited for either a solely land based or sea ice based existence this new hybrid species is very much on the cusp. Locals tell us they’re the meanest of the lot.
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The favourite food of the polar bear is the bearded seal and we’ve seen several in recent days. These inquisitive creatures follow our boat looking on us with sheer astonishment. One would think they’ve never seen an ocean rowing boat before.