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Published: August 1st 2016
Standing proud on the badlands
And not the huffing and puffing kind!
About a decade ago, a teenage boy was hiking over the muddy badlands of northern Somerset Island when he inadvertently got his feet stuck, deep into the vacuum of the sticky clay. He struggled and struggled to free his entrapped feet, but the ground slowly consumed his boots. As he tried to free one foot the other foot sank faster into the ever-hungry earth. His pants too had been sucked into the oblivion of the barrens. Struggling some more, he eventually crawled out in his underpants back to the safety of the trail and shyly continued on the hike, a little embarrassed… The tattered, wind-blasted fabric of the blue pants remain visible to this day, exposed for all to view as an eternal reminder to anyone who tries to trample upon the treacherous Swamps of Somerset…
It is said that anyone who walks over the pants or touches the pants will suffer the same fate.
We carefully maintained a healthy distance and continued to walk…
The badlands are a barren and bleak part of an already barren and bleak island, but there are some remarkable features. Whalebones are scattered about
the plains some ten to twelve kilometres inland and over a hundred metres up in the hills. A process called isostatic rebound (post-glacial uplift) which causes the land to rise upwards, has hauled these massive bones to great heights, and they are fairly well preserved in the cold environment…
Not far from the edge of the badlands on a small ridge, we stumbled upon a non-descript circle of rocks. Vegetation was sparse and there were no signs of any activity in the area. There really wasn’t anywhere to get an aerial view, so I sat upon a colleague’s shoulders (which is likely my first time on someone’s shoulder’s since my school days) to get a better view. We are fairly convinced that we discovered an uncatalogued Independence Site, evidence that this empty and harsh part of the planet was once home to a few indigenous folks. The view from the site was nothing less than spectacular!
There are also many Thule sites on the island - they too are fascinating living museums of the folks that once lived here. These people left clues for us, but we really know very little about them. As we explored the nearby
area, we found bone tools, knives, bows, and many spear and harpoon tips. It is remarkable how these amazing people managed to survive in such a harsh and cold place, living primarily on seal meat and with extremely limited natural resources. The Legendary Northern Waterway.
It’s not often you can run on water! We put on our running shoes and started running north along the western shoreline of Cunningham Inlet, then along the north shore, along the edge of the impressive Barrow strait. After covering a little more than 13 miles, we turned around and headed back towards Arctic Watch Lodge… However, on the return we ran on the ice – The Northwest Passage - the frozen sea that entombs the far northern reaches of the planet. Ice running is different – it feels different! Footstep after footstep on a surface that is neither land nor water, jumping over cracks of open water and splashing through the slushy surface of the thawing summer ice…
Most of the ice has gone now and the Inlet is full of belugas. I spend many evenings down by the shore.
Somerset Island is a fun playground…
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