Text and photos by Dave Sandford
In the summer of 2016, I was photographer in residence aboard One Ocean Expeditions ship. I met most of my co-workers in Ottawa, where we boarded a First Air flight to Iqaluit, Nunavut. This was where my Arctic journey commenced.
Over the next 27 days onboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, our journey would travel around the southern tip and up the Eastern coast of Baffin Island, across the Davis Strait to various points on Western Greenland, before heading back across to the northern region of Baffin Island. The ship then traced the pathways of various Arctic explorers, as we traversed the Northwest Passage, ultimately ending our exploration in Cambridge Bay.
It was my first time onboard a ship of any kind, let alone a research vessel. It turned out to be a wonderful experience, due in large part to my incredible fellow staff and being afforded the opportunity to meet passengers from every corner of the world, culminating in friendship bonds that will last a lifetime.
The ice formations, the vastness of the land and the Arctic animals amazed me. At a young age, I had visited a part of the Arctic, but as an environmentally conscious adult, my return to the Arctic made me realize how much more the Arctic, its residents, the animals and the Arctic environment need our attention. The beauty of it, the awe-inspiring landscapes, seascapes, the animals — including the ‘King’ of the Arctic, the polar bear, brought tears to my eyes. I was not just seeing these things, I was feeling them. There is an energy there with the animals and the environment, an energy that should be experienced in person. If anybody can make this journey, they should do so.
As a photographer, the highlights for me were the incredible icebergs, some the size of small cities; the icecap in Greenland, which looks like another beautiful world all its own; and, of course, the Arctic wildlife. It was a magnificent sight to see a harem of Harp Seals, numbering in the thousands, on the ice floes and the solitude of hearing seals slip into the water and the water lap against the ice and the tinkling of the ice — no wind, just the pure sounds of nature.
Another standout moment came from seeing a pod of humpback whales, undisturbed by our presence, playing and bubble net feeding as we kayaked amongst them. How awesome — a moment etched in my memory!
Most importantly to me, was the opportunity to photograph polar bears in their natural environment. Photographing these most majestic animals, feeding and going about their business, undisturbed by our presence, fulfilled a life-long dream.
Following the footsteps of our early explorers was also a thrilling experience. Seeing parts of our Canadian history such as abandoned Hudson Bay Outposts, Franklin’s last camp where the remains of those first explorers lie and meeting the locals in some of the communities who shared their knowledge and insight of the North, all came together to gratefully expand my knowledge of the Arctic and thirst for the possibility of yet another Arctic expedition in the future.
I hope the images I captured will help portray the passion I felt for my Arctic expedition.