My Journey on the Clipper Adventurer

By Jayne MacAulay

The news Sunday morning that a ship carrying tourists had run aground Friday evening (August 30 2010) in the high Arctic near Kugluktuk, Nunavut, was startling. Matthew Swan, president of Adventure Canada, spoke via satellite phone to say that passengers aboard the Clipper Adventurer were awaiting the arrival of the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Amundsen. He didn’t know if the coast guard would be able to pull the ship off the rock on which it was lodged and if the passengers would have to be transported to the coast guard ship. He sounded resigned, calm.

Last September I spent 10 days travelling on the Clipper Adventurer with Adventure Canada from Kangerlussuaq in Greenland across Davis Strait to the community of Pangnirtung, Kimmirut and eventually to Kinngait (formerly Cape Dorset), which was then celebrating 50 years of printmaking. On board was John Houston, son of James and Alma Houston, who launched the Cape Dorset Co-operative. And John was just one of more than a dozen experts aboard the ship who enriched every day of the voyage with fresh perspectives on the Arctic, its people, animals and history. As I continued to hear news reports on the situation I thought about the wonderful trip I’d experienced: lectures in the lounge, expeditions in Zodiac boats to photograph polar bears and ice bergs, visits with warmly welcoming communities of mostly Inuit residents and, as Adventure Canada trips go, lots of music and laughter. As long as the weather held, I had no fear for the Clipper Adventurer passengers or its capable crew. By Monday, Adventure Canada reported passengers had been safely transferred to the Coast Guard ship and landed at the hamlet of Kugluktuk, where they will depart for Edmonton. It will be up to the ship’s owners to hire tugs to pull the ship free.

Meanwhile, passengers who had flown to Yellowknife to board the next phase of the Adventure Canada cruise were preparing to return home. My experience tells me most of them will be back for next year’s cruise. For many, visiting the Arctic is a lifelong dream or a re-occurring one they fulfil every few years. Among the disappointed Adventure Canada resource people stuck ashore are Graeme Gibson, birding specialist and author of the Bedside Book of Beasts and his wife, novelist Margaret Atwood, who is famous (on the Clipper Adventurer, at least) for penning the rollicking Song for the Zodiac Driver.