In this message from Cape Sheridan, Susan describes the environment of Floeberg Beach. Although she and Genny are working on exploring the many historic sites in the area, they are also taking time to bird watch, make friends with some curious seals, and get visits from an Arctic fox. Susan gives a complete impression of what she and Genny are experiencing – the sights, the sounds, and the extremely changeable weather. Listen along to find out what it’s really like to camp and work in this remote region.
2017: sadly the audio file is no longer accessible. The following is a transcript:
“Here we are again,” as Bob Bartlett used to say, reporting from beautiful Cape Sheridan, where since we last spoke it has been sunny, calm, stormy with high freakishly warm winds, and sunny and calm again. We have spent the last three days documenting the historic sites of Floeberg Beach. The beach got its descriptive name in 1875 when one of George Nares men coined the word floeberg to describe the massive ice floes that ground themselves on this shore. The Alert wintered at the south end of the beach, and in 1905 Peary and his team built structures on the central part. In 1908 they moved to the more protected northern end.
We have been mapping, photographing and closely inspecting a variety of these structures, all while keeping a careful eye on our surroundings. This means we see a variety of interesting things. The most obvious is the ice, which rarely moves but provides a nice backdrop for pictures and, when the wind isn’t blowing, a pleasant soundscape of gentle dripping as the ice melts, punctuated by booms of collapsing ice.
Beyond the rubble ice to the south west we can see the glaciated coast of far northwestern Greenland. To the northwest we have a view of the United States range of mountains, which on warm sunny days seem twice their normal size, thanks to a mirage effect well known in the north.
We have been watching five eider ducklings become increasingly independent of their mother as swim amongst the ice floes. A handful of curious seals visit us, swimming in the small area of open water by the beach. We also get regular visit from perhaps the most northerly Canada geese, snow buntings and a lone gull.
The birds and seals mean that there must be life in that cold clear water, but we have seen little evidence of it, two tiny shrimp, and a starfish only two inches across.
On land the one animal we have seen is a bold and curious arctic fox, but there is plenty of evidence of other animals too, muskox, arctic hare, and lemming.
Today we saw perhaps the most curious thing yet, many small patches of the tiny flat pebbles that make up the beach floating on the calm surface of the near shore waters.
It is tempting to spend all of our time observing the natural wonders of this expansive land, but since we are really here to do archaeology, we want to assure you that we are spending our days puzzling over the remains of hundred year old stone structures.