Thursday, September 22, 2011


The Arctic

I’m writing this blog somewhere in Smith Sound or the Kane Passage approaching 79 degrees north. We’re creeping through pack ice and icebergs looking for polar bears. On the trip there has been a constant contrast between the civilized talks and meals we enjoy and our beautiful, elemental surroundings. The land’s silence and monumental forms dwarf the ship and our lives.

Adventure Canada, which specializes in tours of our Arctic, provides opportunities to go ashore in zodiacs and hike at remote spots with interesting histories and, while we are at sea, they employ a number of experts in various disciplines to enrich our lives with talks. For some reasons the owner of Adventure Canada, Matthew Swan, insists they are ‘talks’ not lectures. Perhaps ‘lectures’ is a pejorative term?

When we visit northern communities a number of local residents come aboard for breakfast and afterwards synopsize the history of the settlement. Later, when we go ashore, a performance awaits us. This may be throat singing, drum dancing or a fashion show of traditional clothing.

At sea again the experts inform us. Ken McGoogan, who has written four books on Franklin and his quest for the Northwest Passage, works to revive the reputation of John Rae, the man he claims actually found the passage. We also listen to biologists who specialize in marine mammals, birds and land animals as well as a botanist, a climate expert and a geologist who thinks nothing of insisting we desert the dining room to see a particularly interesting geological feature.

The cultural side of the trip is not neglected. Two Inuit women committed to sharing the best of their culture and examining the problems and possible solutions facing northern communities are on board and provide us with their perspectives.
Ian Tamblyn writes songs as we go and sings them at opportune moments. Margaret Atwood and her husband, Graham Gibson, entertain us. Ms Atwood presented an amusing, illustrated talk on her life-long relationship with the near north. Graham Gibson spoke about his love of nature and lamented that the word has been replaced by other terms such as environment.

In addition Margaret Atwood was inspired on day two to concoct a mystery set on the ship. Several days later she read the beginning and promises to read more before the trip ends. It is exceedingly entertaining and we hope we hear the rest.
In all, 17 days of non-stop stimulation. I’m hoping that some of these experiences will find their way into a book.

Now that I’m home it’s time to get back to work.

Joan Boswell is a member of the Ladies Killing Circle and co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.


  1. What an unusual and splendid adventure! And Margaret Atwood too. Be still my heart. I'll bet many stories will emerge when you're least expecting them.

  2. I love the idea of this trip, Joan. Great photo against the Lauren Harris backdrop.