Diane Ross
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Harp Seals

Magdalen Islands Adventure

Day 1

    And so my next journey begins. I am sitting in the Newark airport waiting for my next flight. I am exhausted and somewhat depressed. There is no real reason why I should be tired. My first flight left at 5 P.M. The depression I understand. I hate leaving my dogs behind. My parents are taking care of them this time. That is really the root of the problem. My dad is usually my travel partner. It is not that I have never traveled by myself before because I have. It is the reason he can't accompany me. My mother has Alzheimer's and can no longer be left alone. My mother never enjoyed our adventures and would visit her sister while my dad and I traveled. The disease has progressed to far for that now. So until my mother gets bad enough to put into a home I have lost my travel companion. We do take some less adventuresome family trips but the big trips are out.

    As I read what I have written it sound as if my mother illness doesn't bother me as much as not traveling with my father does. To a point this is true. I have had a few years to mentally deal with my mother’s illness. It is now just a part of my life. She was diagnosed 2 to 3 years ago and my dad and I suspected it long before that. I knew that eventually he would not be able to leave her alone but actually experiencing it is still hard.

Day 2

    Today we fly from Quebec to the Magdalen Islands. I met the two other people who signed up for the trip in the hotel lobby. I am traveling with International Wildlife Adventures again. I signed up for this trip last year but it was canceled at the last minute because the ice was too thin to land the helicopters on. helicopters013-a00.jpg (11063 bytes) There were several others also signed up last year. I thought that there would be at least that many plus a couple more this year. Instead there are only three of us. Usually we would have a professional wildlife photographer as a guide. Since our numbers are so small this year we have no guide. Oh well, at least they didn't cancel the trip.

Day 3

    This is our first day on the ice. We leave at 7 A.M. for a 6 hour trip. One of the women is concerned when she realizes that we are going out on an ice flow that is not attached to land in some way. I can't imagine why she thought it would be.

    It is overcast with very dark storm clouds. It never actually snows but it looks like it wants to. The lighting sucks for photography. The seal pups are very cute but don't actually do a whole lot. They lie on the ice, occasionally turn over, and once and a while actually squirm round. After a couple hours I am bored. How many shots do I need of seal pups just laying there. I do find one pup that puts on a little show for me. He rolls over on his back HarpSeals013-g27.jpg (13058 bytes) and chews on his flipper. I also get some shots of a mother nursing another pup. If the sun was out I think it would be much better.

    After 4 hours another photographer and I drop most of our equipment off at the helicopter and go back out with a camera body, a lense and a few rolls of film. We find a couple seal pups whose mothers are not up on the ice, although they are close by. They keep popping their heads up out of nearby holes to check on their babies. We lie down on the ice close to the pups. The pups actually come toward us. I put my hand out and one of the pups comes over and sniffs my finger. He backs off when he doesn't find any milk. A few minutes later he heads for me again. This time I keep my arms close to my sides. When he gets close enough I reach out and pet him. He doesn't enjoy it as much as I do and beats a hasty retreat. A few minutes later his mother pops up onto the ice and we back way off. I have no desire to upset a mother seal. I have seen the size of the claws they use to drag themselves onto the ice.

    When it is finally time to go I don't really want to leave. However, we have been out for 6 hours without bathroom facilities. Not that that is terribly unusual when shooting wildlife. I have found a secluded spot behind a tree, bush, or rock on numerous occasions. However, there is nothing to hide behind here! Even if there were, pulling down the expedition suit (a well padded jumpsuit that will keep you afloat if you fall in) would be an interesting experience. While part of me would like to stay with the seals a bigger part of me wants a BATHROOM.

Day 4

    Six hours on the ice again today. Well actually only 4 1/2 hours. There were 40 knot winds today and we all got cold so we came back early. I think if the sun was out I wouldn't find six hours such a long time. What I really want is a 4 1/2 hour trip. The trip time includes the flight time to and from the ice flow. With the 3-HarpSeals013-g56.jpg (12357 bytes)hour trip you only have 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the ice. That would be fine if you just wanted to see the pups but not really for photography. Although the 3-hour trip would have been fine for me today and yesterday, but that is because the weather is lousy. 6 hours is just too long to be away from a toilet.  (They actually have a 10 hour trip also.  I would never be able to hold it that long.)

    The pups today were slightly older, fatter and maybe a little cuter. I think a couple of them were actually manipulating their mother into coming out of their holes. When mom would dive through her hole the pup would head for a photographer. When he got close she would come up out of the hole onto the ice and fetch him back. One pup did this three times in about ten minutes.

    Tomorrow will be our last day on the ice. I hope we get some sunshine.

Day 5

HarpSeals013-f12.jpg (14945 bytes)    The sun is out!!!! I also have a sore throat. Oh well, I would have to feel a lot worse than I do now to miss a sunny day on the ice. I am so excited.

    The sun makes all the difference. Today made the trip worthwhile. The seal pups just glisten in the sunlight. While the six hours didn't fly by they didn't drag by either. The wind was still quite strong and so it was cold but not unbearable so. The location was also much more photogenic. The ice had obviously broken apart and reformed. We landed in a flat spot surrounded by jagged blocks of ice. The view is surreal. The surrounding scenery accompanied by the glowing pups should provide some very nice shots. I can't wait to get my film back.

    I am afraid that 6 hours on the ice with a sore throat may not have been a good idea. By the time dinner is over I feel miserable. Although, truthfully it is a small price to pay for the shots I hope I got today. I am going to bed early.

Day 6

    Today is a free day. There are some optional trips available. I would love to go dog sledding but I don’t think I should get cold again today. One of the women does go and just loves it. She said it was like taking a roller coaster ride.

    They also have a sea kayaking trip you can take. The sea kayaking doesn’t really interest me. The thought of sitting in a kayak with a thin sheet of fiberglass between me and freezing cold water just doesn’t sound pleasant.

    I opt to take one of the city tours this afternoon (I slept through the one offered in the morning). The tour takes us to a lighthouse and a couple local artisan shops.

Day 7

    Today I fly home. I am sure I will be spending the weekend in bed. At least I made it through most of the trip before the cold got too bad.

Tour Operator: International Wildlife Adventures

Length: 6 Days