The Saint George's Society Cliffs are one of my favourite places out here. Spectacular red vertical cliffs that jut 600 feet out of Adam's Sound, they are right around the corner from where I live. This time of year we are often found standing below them on the sea ice, especially at the Gyrfalcon aerie tucked into their face. This photo from last year will give you a bit of an idea of scale (note Dave Brosha on the ice).
They are a crumbly cliff. Thousands of years of freezing and thawing cycles annually drive wedges of ice in cracks, popping rocks off that tumble down the cliff landing far out onto the frozen sea. Often, especially after the sun circles away from the cliff face, you can hear or see rocks come loose and bounce down the face and out onto the ice. In 2008, I wrote about a rock fall that happened in between visits, hours apart.
Leah tells me a story about her grandparents camping across Adam's Sound from cliffs and watching part of the cliff face give way and smash into the ice, sending a huge splash up in the air, visible from some 5 to 10 kilometres away. If I was taking a guess I would think that rock came from where the Gyrfalcon aerie is. The cliff face is scooped out there, and looks less weathered than the surrounding rock, greyer.
I was last out there the Sunday before last, and made plans to go this weekend. This Sunday was one of those glorious spring days we enjoy up here this time of year. We dog sledded in the morning and the dogs had an incredible run. It is something to watch them, especially at the start when they hit 20 mph. It is impossible to wipe that smile of Travis' face.
In the afternoon, we joined much of the community, and several dog teams out at the iceberg for tea. Breaking one of the fundamental rules before heading out, I didn't check the camera battery, or put a spare in my pocket. A wonderful afternoon, with so many great photo opportunities it hurts. Dog teams + iceberg, yeah no potential there. But while there a friend who just got back from a short holiday asked if I'd seen the landslide at the cliffs.
I hadn't and he pointed at the cliffs some 15 kms away and said "you can see it where that white strip is". Sure enough, a light streak marked the cliffs where none had been. We headed home, Travis joining one of the dog teams for a ride back on the qamutik. He will one day return the favour, passing along his growing skills with a dog team to some starry eyed youth.
After supper, he and I headed out to the cliffs. We hoped to see the Gyrfalcon, and I wanted to get a closer look. Shortly after we arrived, Travis spotted one of the pair slipping away. It had been perched further away from the aerie than we'd expected and I would have missed it if not for his sharp eyes. High up on another section of the cliff, perhaps 400 feet up, we found a Raven's nest. Somewhere, hidden from our view halfway up a Snow Bunting was belting out song.
But further up we found the slide. It had to have been spectacular to see. The scar on the rock reached to the top of the cliff, and rocks and what I thought was a dust field stretched far from the face, covering well over an acre.
What I saw as I got closer surprised me. The rock fall had smashed through a large area of the ice, turning the nearly smooth surface into a field of small iceblocks. The dust field, was in fact the splash zone. The spray must have enormous to cover such an area. Someone standing below would not have stood a chance.
As I headed further and further out to try and get the scene in my telephoto lens we made another discovering. The remains of Raven reduced to nothing but feathers. We have little doubt that it was the handiwork of the Gyrfalcons. And with that we headed for home, for with the Sun still high in the sky it was easy to forget that it was already passed someone's bedtime for school night.