I love summer in the north. If I missed the most exquisite time of year in Yellowknife, it would make the long winter just a little more difficult. But this year we are travelling to the far north for an adventure that will make missing the last month of summer worthwhile. I call it time travel because we are going from summer into what at least some Canadians, ie those who live in Vancouver, would call winter. The average temperature this time of year is 4 degrees, and we can expect an inch or so of snow this month. But this year the idea of leaving Yellowknife right now is quite appealing because of the appalling air quaility. We’ve been gone for 24 hours but I’m still coughing up smoke and carbon, and I’m sure I will be carrying around some of that black carbon in my lungs for the rest of my life. Its my smoky summer tattoo I suppose. (I’m a private sort of person, I prefer to keep my tattoos internal!)
We are on our way to the north of Baffin Island, to the area around Pond Inlet, – at 72 degrees of latitude its at the limits of human civilization in the north – where we will spend 2 weeks kayaking. This is a highly fertile breeding ground for both birds and marine mammals, and so we hope to see both narwhal (the whales with a unicorn tusk, imagine that!) and beluga whales. There should also be lots of birds and I hope to see the murres, penguin like birds that nest in large colonies on steep cliffs. So far I’ve only seen them in photos and Inuit carvings and I am excited to perhaps see them in real life too. As well, the Arctic char, my all time favorite fish should be plentiful in the area.
Pond Inlet should be very interesting. I’ve been told its one of the most physically stunning of the Inuit communities, with its dramatic backdrop of glaciers on nearby Bylot lsand. I am coming at you from my ipad so can’t simply upload a photo, but I’d advise you to google Pond Inlet to see what I mean. I love visiting small Inuit communities and I am excited to see some of the local carvings and traditional arts there too.
I first heard about Pond Inlet and Bylot Island a couple of years ago, when I came across an adventure book called North to the Night. An intrepid couple of sailors set out to sail to the high Arctic, freeze in and spend the winter on the boat, through the 5 months of total darkness. Like the best adventure stories, it combines a great adventure with an interesting spiritual component as well, and the author comes away from his adventure a changed man. I won’t tell you more except to say that it ranks up there with some of the best adventure books I’ve read, so if you are inclined to like this type of writing you really should track it down.
Yesterday we arrived on Baffin Island, to the capital city of Nunvut, Iqaluit. Its a town of 7000 people, and both more and less than I’d imagined. Like all Inuit towns without road access, its pretty modest, with dirt roads, limited shopping, and expensive food. It does have more than I was expecting however – last night we had dinner in a busy and modern pub that would be at home in any Canadian city. Iqaluit is also filled with very friendly people and incredible scenery. We are far above the tree line here, and are right on the edge of Frobisher Bay. The town basically straggles along the water and the views are stunning. Our B and B has a wonderful view.
We’ve spent our day walking around town, and visiting the local carving stores, art gallery, museum and legislative assemby. I have feasted on the richness of the creativity here and am well satisfied. Martin has not yet feasted on the richness of the local Arctic char and is out front of the B and B as I write this trying to catch us our dinner.
I’ve endeavoured to upload some shots of the town and of some of the art work we’ve seen today but the internet connection can’t seem to hand it. I will no doubt have lots of photos to post on my return home to the metropolis of Yellowknife in a few weeks. Until then, happy summer to all of you!