Day 29 (August 3)
Wind calm last night, and sleep until 6am when pink crack of sky lights the ocean horizon far in the distance. Tiredness seems more mental than physical – we are all feeling sluggish. Grey sky overhead and drizzle starts about mid morning. We use the opportunity to sort through the barrels, finish lists of showy plants (55 plus) and different birds seen on the trip, nap and eat. A profusion of flowers line the banks, I’m happy to poke around and not travel far.
By 4pm the weather has cleared up – at least the rain has stopped. We decide to hike out to the DEW line site and explore the coastal shoreline. The shore is slippery with wet clay, and I struggle to keep my balance. Before long my feet are wet and heavily loaded. But the land becomes dry as the shore line becomes deeper. Grasses and dry sedges take hold and mud turns to powder dust underneath. Patches of snow are lodged high in cliff banks. It’s an off shore breeze, we walk in comfort. So many lemming holes! They scatter underfoot. Rich feeding grounds for raptors which roost in craggy cliffs facing Franklin Bay.
In the far distance we make out 2 buildings and some scattered wood ruins. Littering the beach in front of these dwellings are huge piles of drift wood and cut timber, some 2’ in diameter. I wonder if they’ve washed up through the Bering Straight from interior BC forests, Alaska or even Siberia…One building is more recent, maybe 1950’s metal sided with old electrical cables, broken glass panes, metal stove bits and rusting beds. More interesting are the tumbled down part wood part sod houses – heavy wood rafters, center roof beam are all that remains besides the sod walls. Could this be an old whaling station? Fur trading center? No idea. Domes from the DEW line gleam further along the coast – an elevated storage shack at the base suggests more recent use.
Turning back towards the Horton mouth, we walk along the shoreline. Raised lumps in the earth appear to be old sod houses – we poke in the overgrown grasses and quickly find a large whale rib. Old rotten vertebra poke thru the grass, part buried.
A ghost town with untold stories.