Monday, 28 March 2016

Inuvik and Iqaluit, tale of two cities: Canadian arctic from east to west


Iqaluit and Inuvik are the two main Arctic Canada native towns, from where most frequently I have visitors coming here to my Ultima Thule. That's the reason why I'm posting this - to thank those towns as regular visitors.


They are as far from each other as 2855 km in longitude. It's like Oxford (UK) to Moscow, all the way across Europe ! By plane it takes at least 24h , three to five stops, between them. No roads, of course, but if you are some John Rae you can walk or dogsled in good weather before he ice melts - that will take you several days through inospitable but wonderful tundra scenery and be the adventure of your life!

I posted about them before, but always something is left to say.
- link to Inuvik
- link to Iqaluit




INUVIK, east NWT

The Dempster Highway is the only road connection to Inuvik, from Dawson City in Yukon.

Though not ideally paved, it is the only one to Inuvik, and magnificently scenic also.

Inuvik may have some alpine look, rather odd on flat tundra.

At 68º N (200 km north of the Arctic Circle) on the west tip of the North West Territories, Inuvik sits on permafrost, inland but close by the large Mackenzie delta, and reaches a population of about 3500. It's like NWT's capital town. It has still a short History, since it's foundation in 1953.
The name Inuvik means 'place of man' in Inuit.

Downtown Inuvik: during the Christmas Season.

Downtown Inuvik: the Igloo Church.

Café Gallery on Mackenzie Road; outdoor seating in Summer !

Most houses are wooden built on stilts, above the permafrost and with double-panneled walls for insulation.


New buildings ad colour and comfort.



The Community Greenhouse is the most beautiful and successful project in town. There is no other as northerly in North America and probably the whole world (I'm not sure whether Longyearbyen, Svalbard, has one). The first hydroponic crops happened in 2000 and were sold to the community.


Spinach and lettuce grow very well with multiple yearly crops. Tomatoes, carrots, peas, herbs, strawberries, rhubarb, are among the common crops.

Flowers abound, and rarer crops include cucumbers, raspberries, roses, and even watermelons ! We are at 68º N, again note, 200 km north of the arctic circle: what a precious luck to take advantage of such a greenhouse !




But flowers grow in the tundra too: spring by the Dempster Highway is a must:



The Tree Line


Inuvik sits on the tree line too.


The territorial limit for trees to grow (dashed line on the map) waves up and down in NWT and really close to Inuvik some sparse little forests resist which are an unbelievable joy to see at this latitude.


A beaver seats in the sun, resting from the building hardwork.

One of the greatest sights is the river Mackenzie crossing by reindeer herds, sometime as big as 3000, now driven by herders on snowmobiles.


The event is announced and has a large popularity. Just inforgetable.



Reindeer Station, an old cabin for herders to rest after the exhausting work, is now restores and open for hot drinks !


Aurora over the tree line.


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IQALUIT, Baffin Island, Nunavut

The Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, Iqaluit's most important and iconic administrative building.

The main junction and busiest part of Iqaluit, where 'Queen Elizabeth II Way' and 'Federal Road' cross 'Mivvik Street'.


Iqaluit, at 63º 44', is located on the east coast of Baffin Island, Nunavut. With a population of 7 100, unusual a this latitude, it leads Nunavut as its Capital town.

The town center: bank, finance, hotel.

Although that latitude is sub-arctic, the climate is harsh arctic, and the town frequently reaches lows down to -50 º C, meaning everything closed and no flights. The proximity to the very cold eastern Baffin Bay currents, between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, explains all that bad weather. The town also sits on permafrost, a limitation to high building and a need for piles or stilts to elevate houses from the soil.

Moving around: few cars, snowmobiles reign on the streets.

Iqaluit has public transport like any middle size town.



The new Quilaut building, on Mivvik Street, with native art decoration.

A new Aquatic Centre with swimming pools is also expected to open in 2016.


Due to the shore's shallow waters, only flat bottom vessels like Canadian Guard's Eckaloo can dock at Iqaluit.



Iqaluit's History started in 1949 when the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) installed an outpost at Frobisher Bay, as Iqaluit was then known. Later, in 1942, an airfield, base and a radio station (part of the DEW line) added strategic importance. The improvement of the airport was the stronger factor of economic and administrative growth.

Only recently, in 1987, did the town change its name to Iqaluit, as the Inuit called it - 'place of many fish'.

The airport, pride of Iqaluit, is practically the only connection door to and from the city. Not a single road enters or leaves town, and no ferry sails from Iqaluit. Yet. Serious studies for a deep water harbor allowing ferry connection are under evaluation and that is a high hope for the city's development.


A glorious almost-midnight sun.

Flights connect to Ottawa, Yellowknife, Montreal, Edmonton and other smaller airports on Baffin Island.

Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum


The Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum houses a large collection of Inuit and Arctic artifacts and art. It's near the shore, in a white and red building, part of which is a HBC restored house.


Some great Inuit Carvers lived in Iqaluit, as is the case of Jackoposie Oopakak. His famous serpentine Falcon has been present in several exhibitions:





No trees here at Baffin Island, the long extreme cold season not allowing. The treeline is quite further to the south. Only small arctic plants, shrubs and lychens.

Anyhow, Iqaluit does change with the seasons !

The long long nights of Winter...


Glorious spring...


And almost-midnight sun in Summer...

Fishing at Frobisher bay's calm waters.


Sunday, 20 March 2016

Mushamna and Villa Oxford, on the Woodfjorden of Svalbard


Svalbard means roughly “cold coast”. This arctic archipelago is also known under the name of Spitsbergen.


Svalbard Islands, in the North Atlantic ocean, are an arctic archipelago under sovereignty of Norway since 1920. The islands are populated mainly in its capital town Longyearbyen, in an international scientific station, Ny Ålesund, and in a small Russian mining station; all those surrounded by sceneries of breathtaking fjords and glaciers. Besides, there are several wooden huts for traditional hunters' seasonal occupation scattered along the northern coast.

Mushamna, Worsleyhamna (Villa Oxford) and Gråhuken, on the northernmost shores of Svalbard.

Mushamna is a bay on the east shore of Woodfjorden, across from Liefdefjorden, in the farthest northern coast of Svalbard.

Here, the Liefdefjorden meets the Woodfjorden.

Mushamna seen from the fjord

This station has been for many years a seasonal shelter for traditional trappers, hunters who build traps to catch their preys. A cabin is situated on a headland about 1 km north of the lagoon. Another smaller cabin, at Gråhuken, was occupied by the Austrian writer Christiane Ritter in 1930; it's located on the same coast, 15 km to north, at almost 80º N. I have published on the subject in a previous post:
http://ultima0thule.blogspot.com/2015/11/a-woman-in-polar-night-by-christiane.html


Mushamna, northern Svalbard
Coordinates: 79° 35' N, 14° 00' E


The first trapping station in Mushamna was the work of  Hilmar Nøis in 1927; legendary trapper Reidar Hovelsrud built a new one with driftwood in 1987, and it's now the largest trapping hut in Northern Svalbard.

The cabin has an outer compartment for storing skins, a central compartment with workshop and an inner compartment with living room, kitchen and sleeping area.


Recently a small sauna has been added for comfort:


Around the cabin, piles of fire wood and a rack where food and furs can hung out of reach of the polar bears.

The trapping station with skins of ringed seals hung up to dry.

The tenancy begins late July and lasts for one year. The main prey is the Arctic fox, which is captured using trapdoors or hit traps. Seals, ptarmigan, pink-footed geese and a small number of reindeer are also captured.

An increasing number of visitors from arctic cruises stop by Mushamna for a visit to the site.



The skin rack at twilight

Auroras happen with some frequency, one of the most expected gifts of Nature.


Villa Oxford


Coordinates: 79°41' N, 13°37' W

Worsleyhamna – also known as Villa Oxford – is located on the northern shore in Liefdefjorden. It was built as a satellite station by Hilmar Nøis in 1924. Nøis furnished his cabin with pannels from a transport crate for a seaplane, at the end of the first expedition around Svalbard for mapping and aerial photography.


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Let's just hope the number of arctic foxes will always keep in balance...