*************** THE IMAGES ***************
There are over 3,000 of them and due to the deficiencies of the equipment they all need a greater or lesser amount of post-work. And so you won’t get to see them for a while.
You’ll need to wait til I return home and get into my studio and start to go through them. And it will be a long wait. But I’ll keep you informed after I return.
… when a person living in an isolated Arctic community on a remote Island in the Far North tells you, without any prompting at all, that the British are totally out of their minds about Brexit.
But never mind that for a moment. I’m wondering what would have happened had I not had a severe attack of cramp round about 05:30 or so – the first that I’ve had for a few days. Whether I would have slept on until 06:00
However I did stay in bed until the alarm went off. No polar bears to entice us out this morning. And after the medication I went for a walk. Not without an element of some panic because I appear to have lost my woolly hat – the one that goes on my woolly head.
Not that that’s too much to worry about because I’ve lost count of the amount of things that I’ve lost already and then subsequently recovered in my room. Nevertheless it won’t be long before something goes missing completely. You can bank on that.
I took my evening walk to the bridge last night. Imagine me – in short sleeves at midnight in the High Arctic in September. Binnacle pointing to 180° – in other words, due south.
But no midnight sun last night. And that’s hardly surprising because for the morning we are swathed in fog again. This weather is really getting me down but then again what did I expect up here in the High Arctic? Some explorers have been stranded for four or five years by the capricious ice and, as we know, hundreds have failed to return.
If it were a cake-walk to come here, it wouldn’t be half the adventure that it is now, would it?
I had breakfast this morning with a couple of members of staff – Christopher the geologist and young Michael the ship’s “go’fer”. He’s excited because Pond Inlet is his home village and the captain has invited his family on board for lunch.
As for our plans today, I’ve no idea what they might be. This morning, anyway.
This afternoon we’re visiting an Inuit community – the one at Pond Inlet and that seems to be a waste of time in my opinion because not only is it not a traditional Inuit community but more of a modern resettlement town, but we arrived there on a plane the other day so we’ve been here. And there are still plenty of other places to visit.
The cynic inside me is once more wide-awake and telling me that maybe someone on board the ship has an aunt who runs the local gift shop or something like that.
But on the other hand, for the last week or so Chris Farlowe has been singing to me “Don’t Start Chasing Happiness – Let It Take You By Surprise. Don’t Go Casting Shadows …”. I suppose that I ought to be adopting a more positive outlook, even if I don’t feel much like it right now.
One positive outlook is the fact that we have seen yet another candidate for Ship Of The Day. It’s useful having an AIS beacon reader on board, so I was able to discover that she is the MV Golden Brilliant.
She’s a bulk carrier of 41500 tonnes, built in 2013 and registered in Hong Kong. She left Gijon in Spain on 26th August and is en route for Rotterdam, and taking a major deviation to a stop called “Camni” in the fleet database – clearly some port that doesn’t have an AIS logger.
Its AIS track puts it up here anyway, so it’s the correct ship, and someone in the crew tells me that there’s a mine out here – the Mary River Iron Ore Mine.
This would seem to place Camni at Milne Port Inlet, 71°53’N 80°55’W, so that seems to fit the bill.
Although I didn’t take too much interest in many of the proceedings today, there was a brief class giving some kind of outline of the Inuit language, so I wandered in for a lesson. It’s really quite simple and some kind of, I suppose, shorthand symbols for the syllables, of which there are probably in the region of 60 – 20 consonants each with three vowel sounds, ee, ah and ooh. And every word is made up of one or more symbols, with various accents to emphasise or detract the sound.
That took us nicely up to our arrival in Pond Inlet. We had a discussion about the town and were given a slide show of the town with the various buildings that might be important.
Pond Inlet is situated at 72’42” north. It loses the sun in mid-November, and you have to wait until February until it comes back.
It was named by John Ross in 1818 for John Pond, the Astronomer Royal of the period.
And good-oh! It’s the village brocante this afternoon. How exciting! Mind you, the cynic inside me won’t be at all surprised if this has been arranged because one of the locals has heard that a cruise ship is coming in with a pile of gullible tourists and the rest of the villagers have a load of rubbish that’s awaiting disposal.
What was this about adopting a more-positive outlook?
The most important, certainly for Strawberry Moose, is the fact that Pond Inlet is the home of the most Northerly Tim Horton’s in the whole world.
If that’s not a good destination for him to make a public appearance then I don’t know what is.
Lunch was taken with the couple who seem to be quite interested in me, the fools. It was nice of them to ask me over to sit with them. I don’t understand my popularity these days.
But only with certain people. I am definitely persona non grata elsewhere, something that is entirely my own fault. It’s a desperate shame, but it’s no use crying over spilt milk.
We all piled aboard the zodiacs and headed out to the town. There was some kind of ad-hoc immigration control in place on the beach but of course none of that prevented His Nibs from gaining a foothold ashore.
An Inuit lady called Joanna was there to give us a guided tour of the town, not that there was an awful lot to see.
The first thing that caught my eye was all of the shipping containers all over the place. In that respect it’s very much like South-Western Newfoundland where the bodies off the old Newfoundland Railway wagons were auctioned off and now litter the countryside just about everywhere.
True garden-shed engineering.
And I had quite a laugh at the bus stop too. As if you really need a bus around a community of about 1600 people. Especially when there are so many cars all around the place. That was also something that astonished me.
It is however the time that Arctic cotton is in flower and that’s a useful commodity out here. It’s really a bunch of flowery seeds rather similar to how a dandelion works, and they are used here to make wicks for qulliqs – the soapstone oil lamps – and similar things.
The Catholic Church was quite interesting, if not tragic. It’s apparently the northernmost Catholic church in the world and a comparatively recent construction too. It will come as no surprise to any regular reader of this rubbish who will recall the almost-inevitable fate of most buildings out here in Canada.
What is the tragic part is that when it went up, it took with it the Catholic priest, Father Guy-Mary Rousselière who was probably the greatest of all of the anthropological and archaeological amateurs in this region, along with almost every single item of his work. All that remains was whatever he had managed to publish during his lifetime.
We were shown a sled that was built up on another larger one and which was built up on a third even larger. It was even covered in. The idea is that in the winter the father of the family would tow it behind his skidoo and if he kept on going at full tilt he could leap over small crevasses in the ice and the sled with all of the kids inside wouldn’t ground out.
There’s an RCMP post here too and it has at one time held as many as 21 detainees at one time. This must be a record for a small town like this.
Another asset of the community, now long-closed and replaced, is the Hudson’s Bay outlet. It’s now being used for mechanical repairs and is guarded by a couple of large dogs who have clearly seen better days.
All of the stuff littered around in the wooden crates is the stuff that has come up in the recent sea-lift.
The biggest employer in the town is the Canadian Government and they have some offices here. These ones here are the offices of the Canadian National Parks Service for the Sirmilk region, which is where we are right now.
There are several traditional habits that are still carried on here. The mothers still carry their babies with them in the hoods of their parkhas and it was quite amusing to see the tourists surrounding one of the aforementioned in an attempt to persuade her to allow them to photograph mummy and offspring.
I’m not sure where the quad fitted in with the traditional habits though.
One of the attractions of the town is the half-built sod house that is used to explain to visitors how the original inhabitants of the area lived. Today, they use 4×2 wood to build the frame for the sealskin roof, but in the past they used whalebone.
Lying around were some bones from a bow-head whale, the type of bones that would have been used in the olden days before wood became available.
They were brewing up too and making bannock. The latter isn’t for me, seeing as they use lard in the peparation, and a new kettle of water hadn’t boiled yet. But I was discussing Labrador Tea with Joanna and she, ferreting around in the box, came up with a teabag of Labrador Tea. And I shall be trying that tomorrow.
Of course, Strawberry Moose had to have a photo opportunity at the sod house, didn’t he?
There’s an Anglican Church in the community too and Joanna was regaling us with tales of the religious wars that used to go on here as each church tried to pinch the other church’s congregation.
One of the guys with her told us a story about how the boats have “evolved” over the years. Up until almost maybe 50 or 60 years ago, the Inuit umiak, made by a company in Trois-Rivières, would be quite common. But people slowly moved over to more modern “European” boats made of industrial materials.
And now the race was on as everyone tried to out-do his neighbour with e bigger, better, more powerful boat.
But the problem was that the smaller and lighter the boat, the easier it is to haul it out of the water in the freeze when the Inuit were on their travels. But with the bigger, heavier boats, they can’t and they are losing countless modern, heavy and expensive boats being crushed in the ice.
There’s quite a big school here in the settlement, and it flies the Nunavut flag. There’s a red inukshuk on it that divides the flag into two – one half white and the other half yellow. I was unable to discover if the colours have any significance.
Regular readers of this rubbish will recall me complaining about the price of goods in Labrador but it has nothing on the price of goods here.
When you start to see a pack of toilet rolls, €2:49 in your average LIDL, on sale here at $36:99 you’ll understand the difficulty of supplying a remote community out here in the Arctic with just one sea-lift per year and the rest of the time flying it in by air from Ottawa or wherever. And this is just one example of countless similar prices.
But some other people don’t have the same issues. Pond Inlet is home to the world’s most northerly Tim Horton’s, and I unveiled His Nibs in here for a photo session. In no time at all we were surrounded by other locals who wished for a photo opportunity with himself. And I can’t say that I blame them.
What was depressing about all of this was the ship’s kitchen staff all congregating in a corner eating a bought pizza. What does that tell you about the cooking on-board?
I was told that there’s a scenic viewpoint here too and so I wandered that way to see. The North Pole is a mere 1932 kms from here and this may well be the closest that I shall ever be to it, unless things change dramatically.
It might also be the closest that His Nibs gets to it too, so he needs to have yet another photo opportunity too.
My reverie up here was broken by the sound of an aeroplane. Another Air Tindi plane has come in to land and presumably unload whatever it is that it’s bringing.
From here I went for a walk around the town (I decided to miss out on the brocante) and had a few chats with the very friendly locals. The number of times that someone stopped me to offer me a lift was incredible.
And it was here that I met my very vocal local yokel. He was renovating the old ice-hockey arena and had indeed been responsible for building the new one.
We discussed all kinds of things here and there, including the effects of a temperature of -50°C on engine and hydraulic oil and the monstrous folly of Brexit. I did also express my dismay that a cruise ship on a regular route around the High Arctic was manned … "PERSONNED" – ed … by Filipinos and Indonesians and the like, and not Inuit.
His opinion, which I simply relate without making any comment at all, was that the Inuit wouldn’t do the work, and he cited several examples from his own experience.
I carried on with my walk, found the health centre and the school (again) and ended up at the new arena so I nipped inside for a look. In the Community Centre there was an exhibition of Arctic sports so I stopped for a while to watch, but I was roasting in there so I went out for a walk.
At the Library and Information Centre a little girl fell in love with Strawberry Moose so her mother agreed that she could be photographed with him – provided that she could join in the fun too.
And why not?
A few other locals took photos of him too, and someone produced the Centre’s own mascot, a seal, who also wanted to join in the fun.
By now it was time to return to the ship so down we went, passed through Immigration which was now Emigration and sped back to the ship, having to do a U-turn as two of the passengers had forgotten their lifebelts.
I had a shower and washed some clothes, and then waited for the call for tomorrow’s briefing. But in the meantime crashed out and so I missed the first 10 minutes, of presumably all of the important stuff.
Tea was a riot though. The waiters were horribly confused and I’m still not totally convinced that I received what I ordered. And my table companions for today were extremely garrulous, which was very pleasant.
Later tonight, there was an impromptu concert. There’s a folk singer-musician, Sherman Downey, on board and one night he’d overheard another passenger playing the piano. A girl could also sing reasonably well so they had been rehearsing informally and decided to give a concert. I’d been asked but obviously with no bass on board it was rather difficult.
The surprise of the night was that we found another girl vocalist – Natalie who does the yoga. And while it was rather hit-and-miss, she had all of the emotion and it looked and sounded quite good. One photo that I took of her came out really well and really captured the emotion of the moment.
And if that wasn’t enough, we discovered a mouth-organ player in the crowd so by the end of the night we were all rocking away, and quite right too.
We have an elderly blind lady on board, and she had asked for a special request. So when they played it, I went over to her and invited her to dance. We did a kind of jazzed-up waltz which fitted the music, which is just as well because it’s the only dance that I know.
At one point we must have hit the open sea in the Davis Straight because we were swaying around quite considerably. It certainly added a certain something to the dancing.
My midnight ramble was once more taken in a tee-shirt (much to the astonishment of Tiffany wrapped up on the deck as if in a cocoon) and we are heading out at 4° on the binnacle. That’s definitely north, so if all goes according to plan we might be pushing on.
I hope so, because these continual delays are really getting on my nerves.