THE HIGH ARCTIC
DAY THREE - POND INLET ... OR MITTIMATALIK
Pushing bravely onwards on the Spirit of St Elsewhere we flew up Eclipse Sound and approached the North-Eastern shore of Baffin Island.
As we approached this settlement the undercarriage came down and the flaps were employed and it looked as if we were about to be set down here. After all of the difficulties that we had had in finding a place to receive us
I think that everyone on board the aeroplane breathed a huge sigh of relief. I know that I did.
So here we are on terra firma, and the more firma the less terra as many a person has said before.
Where we have finally arrived is at a settlement called Mittimatalik, which many other people will know as being formerly called Pond Inlet.
Mittimatalik is situated at 72°41 north. That's almost 6° north of the Arctic Circle which, according to my calculations, is a distance north somewhere in the region of 650 kilometres.
There has to be the usual photo of the airport terminal, just to prove that we arrived here, even though this isn't the place where we were intending to be when we set out on our adventure a few days ago.
I was surprised to see that although "Pond Inlet" was written out in Latin characters, and in English too, the Inuit name for the settlement - "Mittimatalik" - was not so displayed.
But it's written there above the emblem, in the Inuktitut language.
And we are not alone here either.
We have come here to relieve another group of people. They've been waiting for us for several days, having been likewise shunted around from pillar to post looking for a way to leave the Arctic.
They gave us all a resounding cheer as we entered the terminal, but whether it was to reward us for our perseverance or whether it was a cheer of relief that they could all now go home I really don't know.
But it was totally unnecessary and rather overwhelming.
Mittimatalik looks rather sad and depressing. There's not a grain of soil anywhere. It's all sand and gravel. This shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone, bearing in mind how far north we are.
Reading all of the stories of the old explorers and the itinerant Inuit, we know that there wasn't a single tree anywhere this far north back in those days.
And with there being a permanent settlement here these days it's even less likely that we would find one. There might be the hint of a shrub of tiny Arctic Willow if we are lucky.
On that note, an elderly and decrepit school bus, even more derelict than our aeroplane and that's saying something, pulled up outside the terminal. We all piled aboard and it took us down to the waterline.
I'm not going to dwell on the disgraceful story of the resettled communities just here right now, but you will be just as surprised as I am to learn that there's no quay or dock here.
Apart from the annual sea-lift, Mittimatalik wouldn't ordinarily be a stopping point for commercial ships, but it's ice-free and has an airport.
All of this is quite important when you are considering what we are trying to accomplish.
In order to move further on from here, we need to go by water. And in the absence of a quay or dock there was a fleet of inflatable zodiacs waiting to take us out into the Eclipse Strait.
I don't reckon that I've been on a zodiac before, and certainly not on the open sea, so this was going to be a new experience for me.
In view of the wind and the waves, we needed to kit ourselves out in our wet-weather gear.
And while we were doing that, three little Inuit girls came to say hello to us and show us the little baby puppies that they had hidden inside their jackets to keep them warm.
I was rather too preoccupied right at this moment to take a photograph.
As we were about to climb into the zodiac, the wind shifted dramatically as it does in the Arctic. We had to move a short distance down the coast to the shelter of an outcrop of rocks.
Down there we were treated to the first sight of our ship, because in case you haven't already worked this out, we are going on by sea. We've been spending several days trying to find our ship, and our ship has been spending several days trying to find an anchorage that is free from ice.
She's the black and white ship way out there in the Sound and her name is The Good Ship Ve... errr Ocean Endeavour.
And I for one will be very glad to arrive on board, which I hope will be very soon.
The zodiac ride was quite exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The winds were such that we were being thrown around all over the place as soon as we rose to the top of the waves. It was a voyage that was much more interesting that anything that you would pay for in any adventure park anywhere else on land.
Despite my eagerness to board The Good Ship Ve... errr Ocean Endeavour just now, given half a chance, I was all for going back and doing the zodiac ride again.
There are two pontoons that tilt down from the side of the ship, and we tied up are zodiac to one of them. So at least we could scramble aboard without becoming any more wet than we already are after our little ride.
We could climb inside to the machinery deck, and a set of stairs led up into a changing room where we were each allocated a locker to keep our wet clothes so that we didn't make a mess of the interior of the ship.
And there we were - all ready to find out just what we had let ourselves in for.