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Published: July 18th 2016
Drilling Holes in Spoons…
Resolute Bay is in Canada’s Central Arctic, thousands of miles from the nation’s capital. One of the most amazing features of Resolute is that there are virtually no features! It’s an empty and somewhat featureless, barren expanse of absolute nothingness. Silence and dismal solitude surround this tiny community on Cornwallis Island in the Canadian Central Arctic. This is the polar desert - the arctic at its most desolate. Elbow room is not an issue here. Resolute is Canada's coldest inhabited place, with an average annual temperature of minus 12°C, with bone chattering wind-chills and total darkness in the depths of winter.
In the words of Aaron Spitzer, a northern resident; “On the up side, you don’t need to mow the lawn in resolute, on the down side is everything else”. Resolute is certainly a bleak little spot…
During the search for the Sir John Franklin expedition of 1845 many ships visited Cornwallis Island. Resolute Bay was named after HMS Resolute, commanded by Captain Henry Kellett during one such search expedition. “Cornwallis Island is perhaps one of the most dreary and desolate spots that can well be conceived”
From Aurora Borealis
paper published by the crew of HMS Assistance during the time it was stuck in ice off Cornwallis Island…
I wandered around the cold and windy town and counted seven polar bear hides hanging on beams next to houses. Several dead dogs lay in a pile near the scrap metal dump, snowbanks lingered in the lanes, and the potholed, gravel road was littered with broken vehicles and abandoned snow-mobiles…
It’s a wee bit rough around the edges in these here parts!
In Resolute, Aziz Kheraj (Ozzie) runs the show. He is in charge of planes, fuel, cargo, hotels, food and logistics for the community. If you need something done – go see Ozzie!
He’s quite the character.
I overheard his response when someone asked him if there was anywhere in town to get groceries.
“You can shop at the Co-op, the Co-op, the Co-op, or the bloody dump.”
We stayed at South Camp Hotel (formerly owned by Ozzie), and hung out with Ozzie’s team of workers… We were discussing the weather forecast (which typically is quite undesirable) and the likelihood of us not flying back to Arctic Watch Camp in the morning was
What does this mean, I thought to myself?
Due to weather issues, a colleague and I would be stuck in Resolute for a couple of days perhaps? However, the weather up north was slightly better… I investigated…
Ozzie mentioned that there were empty seats on the charter plane that was heading north to change a work crew… I negotiated a deal, then parked myself on a seat and spent the day in Grise Fiord, Canada’s northernmost community. About one hundred people call this small outpost home! Grise Fiord sits on the south shore of far-flung Ellesmere Island in the High Arctic. It’s a great little spot with massive mountains charging straight from the sea.
Although the remote weather station of Eureka and the Alert military base are further north, Grise Fiord is essentially the end of Canada’s massive sprawl of arctic islands in the giant Nunavut Territory! It’s a magical place – a place that very few folk visit… I cherished every moment in the hamlet, and honoured every conversation I had with these hardy people who call this wild place home… Isolated by a five-thousand dollar one-way fare to Ottawa – this is
living on the edge…
I was on a high! A real high…
I lay awake for a while that evening – bathing in disbelief at where I’d just been! I was also happy that I got a free flight in exchange for helping load and unload the plane at each end…
At times, there are good things out of being stranded in the north…
Back at Arctic Watch Camp Justin (the chef) asked me something rather peculiar.
“Dave, can I ask a favour?” Asked Justin.
“Sure, what’s up?” I curiously responded.
“I have these three spoons, I love them. I don’t want anyone to take them, so can you drill holes in the handles for me so that I can recognize them.”
So I drilled holes in the handles of spoons… I would have had more pleasure drilling into the spoon-end of the common piece of cutlery though – that would’ve been funnier!
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