Wow I wouldn't know where to start with today's diary entry. The
last 24 hours have brought a crazy mix of excitement and trouble,
together with some encouraging progress. The naked swim
in the arctic water (which is only 1 degree celsius) was a high.
The damaged hydraulic system which constantly threatens our trip is
a steady worry. Fog and seas and ice remind us that we're not
in any normal place. But for the most part our day has been
one of just pushing forward towards our next objective.
Today our goal was to reach a small island group in the
uncharted waters off the coast of King William Island. We figure
not many boats have come through this area at all, and certainly
none could have come down the shallow narrows we
navigated. After 170 miles of travel, and 8 hours at sea, we
worked our way into some shelter from the strong North winds by
anchoring behind a desolate, barren island. This island of stone
and dirt sits about 8 meters high at its peak, and perhaps 200
yards in diameter. It's a nowhere. No vegetation. No
nothing. We've named this island Jonesy Island, after our
Welsh marine engineer and crew member Ben Jones. We named it Jonesy
Island for a reason.
We rowed to shore and set up our bivvies, and propped the dinghy
up as a windbreak so we could hide behind it whilst we ate our
meal. As Dave P boiled more supper in a bag, Jonesy came back from
his reccie with surprising news, he'd found signs of previous
visitors on the other side of the island. We all ran up to see the
evidence. There we found the rocky outline of a grave set by
some stranded visitor long ago. And at the grave, we saw
bones. And a small piece of felt or fabric. And then as
we looked there was another grave. And another, and a fourth. Ben
is a hero, he's a discoverer. Could this group of travellers
be from Franklin's expedition perhaps? They were thought to be in
the King William Island area after abandoning their
ship. Jonesy had uncovered history?
The sun had gone down but we had to know more so we walked the
perimeter of the island under moonlight in search of clues. Bear
found what looks like part of a mast blown up on shore. Dave P
found more graves, and stones arranged like perhaps settlers had
built canvas tents and held them down with heavy rocks. And we
found more bones. Human bones we suspect.
Then, a great surprise, as we are walking just near the camp,
Bear kicks a rock by accident, but it doesn't sound like a rock. It
sounds hollow. Oh my. Bear picks up a human skull! Ancient,
almost petrified, but well preserved. What a strange
thing. Who was this person?
So here we sit late at night on this scary forlorn island where
people who visit seem to perish. I am on night duty, shotgun and
bearspray near-by, making sure we don't have unwanted visitors in
the night, and also keeping a close eye on the RIB to react quickly
if it starts to drag on the anchor. It affords me a little chance
to send you these notes and reflect on our Wednesday. Actually
Wednesday doesn't mean much to us here on Arctic time...
All are tucked into sleeping bags and going to sleep. Tomorrow
we want to resume our archaeological work and attempt to piece
together the tale of the lost souls on Jonesy Island.
Dave Segel & team