American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Arctic, A Crossing of Bylot Island

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1964

A Crossing of Bylot Island. Our objective in the summer of 1963 was Bylot Island in N. Lat. 73° at the entrance to Lancaster Sound. From Upernivik, West Greenland, we crossed Baffin Bay on the parallel of 75° N. with the ice of the Middle Pack all along our port hand and open water to the north. It was cold, foggy, and winds were light. On July 23 in fog we made a landfall at an unidentified spot on the northeast coast of the island and next day sailed westward into Lancaster Sound. Ice forced a retreat eastward and we anchored off a bit of ice-free beach near Cape Liverpool. The fog lifted and beyond a flat expanse of tundra we could see snow mountains and glaciers. My idea was to cross the 50 miles to the south coast where the 10-mile-wide Pond Inlet separates Bylot Island from Baffin Island. I was under the impression that it had not been crossed before but have since learned that Patrick Baird explored the interior with sledge and dog team in June, 1939. (Also Benjamin Ferris and Edward Ames in 1954. A.A.J., 1955, 9:2, pp. 168-171. — Editor.) On July 25 four of us with three weeks’ food started across the plain and after about eight miles camped a mile short of the glacier. Two then returned to Mischief, which sailed at once for Pond Inlet, the wind being fair and no fog. When Bruce Reid and I reached the glacier next morning we realized we had hard work ahead in the soft, deep, wet snow. The loads had to be relayed too, so that for the first eight days we made a bare three miles a day. At 5000 feet conditions improved and on August 5, twelve days out, we crossed the watershed col at 5800 feet. Rounded summits rose for another thousand feet, so that the highest part of the island is about 7000 feet. After another day of soft snow we reached dry ice on the Sermilik glacier and finally camped by the shore on August 8. The Baffin Island coast and Pond Inlet settlement where, we hoped, Mischief lay were hidden in fog. Our smoke signals went unseen, and we sat for four days until some Eskimos who, unknown to us, were camped a few miles to the north saw the smoke and took us off in a big canoe driven by a powerful outboard motor. By then we were down to our last biscuit. Mischief had in fact arrived on August 1 after adventures with heavily congested pack-ice a few miles east of the settlement. She was the first ship of the season to arrive.

H. W. Tilman

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