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Published: August 15th 2019
It was whirlwind. What just happened?
I don't fully understand how my two months in the Canadian Central Arctic vanished so quickly. How does time do that?
Is time less relevant at these latitudes?
Does a captivating scene speed up time?
Does the solitude of silence and emptiness accelerate time? Nunavutmut tunngasugitsi - Welcome to Nunavut.
The season was really vivid - the colours, the people, the exploration! Perhaps the weather had something to do with the time passing so swiftly and silently? The region was blessed with an incredibly warm, sunny and almost windless two months - many temperatures soaring into the high teens, day after day. Dry ground and low water levels meant that we were almost unlimited as to what we could do.
I hiked ridges and canyons, mountains and plateaus. I ran along creek beds and beaches. I fished in unnamed rivers, drove ATVs to shores seldom seen.
I also spent a lot of time flying around on small planes to access some far flung reaches of an already far flung location. Bouncing around from one giant, uninhabited island to another, circling polar bears on ice floes,
narwhal in the deep open water, mighty canyons that scar the land, and landing on lonely beaches. These places may currently be void of humans, but that hasn't always been the case, the Thule people of yesteryear dwelled along the tens of thousands of miles of arctic shoreline, leaving clues of their existence in timeless stone monuments of tent rings, graves, food caches, fox traps, and tools. People once thrived here in this cold and empty place...
Ah, for just one time
I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin
Reaching for the Beaufort Sea
Tracing one warm line
Through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea Stan Rogers, Northwest Passage.
Standing on the shore of the Northwest Passage, I felt my own insignificance as my eyes would try desperately to capture the harsh reality of the mysterious waterway. The tune could be heard in a fantastical background. There were creatures great and small, ghost ships and voices.
The vast, empty sprawl of the Canadian Arctic is almost impossible to conceptualize. It may be
'a land so wild and savage', but it is the place where people lived and continue to live. I've had many opportunities over the years to travel to the far off places in the north of Canada, even after hours and hours of flying, there's still a giant tangle of islands and waterways that continue ahead, but every now and again there are communities, separated by unfathomable distances and remarkable terrain.
This is not the Canada of the popular imagination.
It may be a fairly tale land? Who knows? But this is the Canada that I am familiar with - the empty, gravelly plateaus and labyrinths of salt water. I work along side the Ummingmak, Nanuq & Qilalugaq (musk ox, polar bears & belugas) in a land of savage beauty in which a star shines bright for months on end before it vanishes - even the sun hibernates during winter in this land so wild and savage.
I left the region twelve hours after the first sunset in three months. At 01:14 the sun set on the northern horizon. At 01:31 it rose again - just a tease for what's to come in this land of exaggerated
hours of day and night.
'A land so wild and savage' maybe the case - but I wouldn't want it any other way.
Bird list for the season.
Canada goose - Snow goose - Brant - Tundra swan - Sandhill crane - Common eider - King eider - Long-tailed duck - Pacific loon - Red-throated loon - Baird’s sandpiper - Purple sandpiper - Semipalmated sandpiper - Black-bellied plover - Red phalarope - Lapland longspur - Long-tailed jaeger - Parasitic jaeger - Herring gull - Glaucous gull - Arctic tern - Thayer’s Gull - Peregrin falcon - Rough-legged hawk - Common raven - Snow bunting - Ross’s gull - Snowy owl
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