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Dispatch 26: Bellot Strait

Kim Bedard

October 6, 2020

Today we arrived at Bellot Strait just as the morning light started to illuminate the hills. Everyone on the ship was up early taking photos and peering through binoculars. At 1 km wide, this narrow strait is home to many muskox, polar bears, hearty lichens, and whirlpools. The strait was named after the French officer Joseph Bellot who discovered it in the 1850’s during the search for the last Franklin expedition. With steep slopes both above and below the surface of the water, the strait plummets to depths of over 300m compared to 100m in neighbouring open water.  The water surges through the strait, over a set of sills and basins, causing an immense amount of mixing.  This brings nutrient rich waters to the surface, especially on the east side of the strait, making it an amazing place to study.  Thus, in our opportunistic passing through, we managed to complete four stations: one at the western entrance, one in the strait, one at the eastern entrance, and one farther east, away from the big mixing machine.

Near the eastern entrance of Bellot Strait, there are two sets of navigational markers, termed “ranges”. Each set consists of a pair of towers – one is wider on the top while the other is wider at the bottom. By lining both markers up, a ship can set its course to navigate the underwater hazards safely. The condition of these ranges is checked regularly by helicopter, since wind or polar bears could damage them. Once we had passed through Bellot Strait, the helicopter took off to photograph all of the stations – they were in great condition. On the flight, we saw the two buildings that make up Fort Ross. Fort Ross is the last trading post established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1937. It was only inhabited for 15 years, but is still maintained and open as a shelter for small boat scientists and hunters in the area. It is said the building has a resident ghost, but we didn’t land to confirm it!

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