National Geographic : 1991 Jul
dictated where I could pitch camp when I came north in the spring. While the inlets of Baffin Island freeze solid each year, the amount of ice on Lan caster Sound varies widely with the severity of the winter. A high-resolution satellite image shows Lancaster Sound on April 30, 1987 (left, bottom). The 1986-87 winter was so severe that the floe edge reached almost to the eastern end of the sound, about as far as the ice cover has ever extended in his torical times. The solid blue line indicates the limits of con solidated ice for an average win ter (1984-85). Spring is no time to drop your weather guard. Once in early June while I was camping on Cape Crauford at the tip of Brodeur Peninsula, a westerly gale struck so hard with 50 mile-an-hour winds that tents were torn from their moorings. My friend and advisor Glenn Williams, a polar veteran who has lived in Arctic Bay for years and serves as the renewable resource officer for the North west Territories, was compelled that day to wrestle with the wind, weighting down his tent with the biggest rocks he could manage (below). June can be counted on to usher in breakup-the long awaited season the Inuit call upinngaaq. Leads open in the ice, drawing wildlife closer to the villages; temperatures creep toward the balmy 40s; and the sun never rests, pacing above the horizon all day long. On warm, bright, windless days, nothing is as sublime as camping on the ice, which northern peoples have done for the past 4,000 years since migrating bands from Asia first inhabited the Arctic. During breakup, the floe edge becomes a marvelous platform for observing the comings and goings of wildlife. One morn ing-or was it midnight?-I was the only person awake when a bowhead whale surfaced right in front of camp (bottom).