There are two kinds of Arctic problems, the imaginary and the real. Of the two, the imaginary are the most real. Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
I have become quite familiar with Yellowknife airport. It is a small, single terminal, three-gate affair, with a nice coffee bar called Javarama. I also know Pete, the guy at the desk. And Sarah, and Kevin. Much of our five days in Yellowknife were consumed by dealing with flight cancellations and delays, switching airlines and re-handling our massive amounts of freight. I have even started calling the airport by its international three-letter code now ‘YZF’.
It’s just what happens I guess?
However, as the expression alludes to, ‘good things come to those who wait’. The eight of us eventually boarded a Buffalo Airways,1938, Douglas DC-3. This vintage aircraft took us into Canada’s high latitudes. It chugged through the sky at a maximum speed of about 200 mph, and was cold and noisy and somewhat cramped - but seriously fun!
The take-offs and landings were a strange sensation too, as the plane has a tail wheel, and therefore the fuselage sits on an angle - walking up or down hill in the plane was a little odd too as it sat on the runway… It was a great couple of flights as we bounced through Ikaluktutiak
1930s Vintage Aircraft. Buffalo Airways, Yellowknife.
(Cambridge Bay) and then on to Qausuittuq (Resolute Bay)…
A couple of years ago, Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of rock band Iron Maiden flew this plane, and as a result it has been named ‘Ed Force Three’. Eddie is the band’s mascot and their charter plane for touring is named ‘Ed Force One’. I am a fan of both the band and vintage planes.
Due to weather, we were delayed again in Resolute Bay and had to spend the night. It did give us a chance to explore the small community though. As usual, there were a lot of animal furs drying in this remote, rough-around-the-edges town of 200 hardy folks. It is a seriously interesting place. It is one of Canada’s northern communities that was established in the 50s for Arctic sovereignty purposes. Many of the inhabitants were forced to move from the lower latitudes to the Arctic with promises of compensation after a few years. Many families still remain, thousands of miles from the south with outrageous price tags on any flights to leave.
We finally made it to Arctic Watch Lodge on the rugged and uninhabited, Somerset Island. I forgot how stunning this place
is, its bleakness sprawls in all directions through the natural caffeine of the constant Arctic Sun… Giant circles in the sky as the sun just goes around and around and around. There is no difference between noon and midnight other than the sun’s position in the sky.
The constant light doesn't affect my sleep, but it does interfere in my awareness of time. I can sleep OK, but knowing when to go to sleep can be an issue.
Of course, by September these giant circles turn to semi-circles then by late October the circles disappear beneath the horizon for a few months. But for now at least, I live in a world of perpetual light beneath the wonderful, seasonal phenomenon of the polar latitudes...
Even though the sun is shining, it is still not quite summer here yet. Mighty snowbanks and frozen lakes have yet to thaw and the sea is not quite in a liquid state… But the flowers are out, the birds are singing, and the belugas are coming. The Arctic is slowly warming up and the sun will shine constantly for the next six weeks.
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