Canada
Nunavut

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  • Day400

    Signs you're field rotten

    October 15 in Canada

    3 months. 11.5 weeks since I left my home in Igloolik to do field work. That is a long time to not have any privacy and share cabins with 4-5 of your very best stranger-friends. Now, don't let me misinform you dear reader. I spent many days in communities in hotels. You see, however, this is the Arctic and hotel rooms are a rare and precious thing. This means that although I had a hotel room, this room was shared with someone else. That's right, for the low low price of $250-$300 per night, you get a twin bed in a room shared with someone else. I chose to share with my colleagues rather than pure strangers.

    I have decided to share a few insights that I've had since returning to the capital city of Iqaluit. Then, over the next weeks, I plan to share singular stories and instances of life/work in the field. Thus, they won't be in real time, but rather a revelation of stored stories.

    Signs You're Field Rotten (aka: not fit for society)
    1. Taking daily or every-other-day showers seems inordinately excessive.

    2. It is perfectly reasonable and acceptable to wear the same clothes for at least a week. Pants could go longer.

    3. You don't notice holes or dirt on your clothes unless the holes are are allowing cold air in, in which case, the are either repaired with tape or burned.

    4. You return to society and try to leave the hotel room in search of the bucket bathroom. (I did this the first night back in Iqaluit).

    5. "Dirty" becomes very subjective. Unless there is visible, accumulated dirt, it is not dirty.

    6. You don't worry about skin care because the daily micro-dermabrasions and saltwater scrubs from the helicopter's rotor wash keeps your exposed skin nice and fresh.

    7. You have trouble sleeping in a proper sized bed or room because both are too big to feel secure.

    8. You have separation anxiety upon returning to society because there are not 4-5 strangers within arm's reach at all times.

    9. You notice clouds or fog and immediately think, "Oh no, not good ceilings for flying."

    10. You forget to bring your wallet places because where you've been, money is not a thing.

    11. You brush your teeth and wash your hands in the instantly warm, ever-running water because it's fun and easy.

    12. You see Tuck Tape as viable, reasonable fix for everything---ripped wallet, torn pants, etc.

    13. Footwear needs only be "boots" and varying degrees of "warmer boots".

    14. Sights, noise, movement, and activities of people jar you. Restaurants are overwhelmingly loud. You order take out to get away from the bustle.

    15. You find toilet paper in random pockets of all your outerwear---prepared for bathroom breaks anywhere.

    These are the things that have popped into my head though I am sure there will be more. Nevertheless, I survived and hopefully will be home soon!!
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  • Day82

    JACKPOT!!!

    December 1, 2017 in Canada

    And so the addiction begins…with a little taste of winning glory…..

    The plan was to corrupt, I mean introduce, another coworker to bingo last Friday. He’d never played, is up here alone, and he seems to have an open attitude so I thought it would be fun. My boss agreed to host us and so it was set. Well, the newcomer backed out and, on autopilot, I still found myself walking to the radio station to get a bingo card. It wasn’t until I was walking home that I thought, “Why did I buy this? I am tired and the only reason I was gonna play this week was to show my coworker.” Oh well, if you have a card, you gotta play!

    This week it was different. The bingo caller was a native English speaker and was calling in English. However, she was going WAY too fast and I was getting irritated. She was taking all the fun out of the dobbing experience. I couldn’t even rearrange myself in my seat much less take a drink before she was on to the next number. I decided I needed to call the radio station and tell her to slow down. That’s when we realized we didn’t have the number for the radio station; the number listed in the phone book did not dial to the station. Hmmmm…..I scour all 200 entries for Igloolik backwards and forwards. In this town, you can literally read each and every entry in the phone book! Lol. I found nothing. I was getting very agitated now because my boss was having to do both my card and his while I was fiddling with the phone book. Now, I don’t want to say anything bad about his bingo skills since he was kind enough to take over, but let’s just say, missing numbers is not unheard of on his cards. Finally, we both got the idea at the same time to randomly call another coworker and ask for the radio station’s number…cause of course we can find HIS number in the phone book but not the radio station’s. So that is what I did…called him, out of the blue, slightly frantic and explained that I needed the radio station number so I could ask the caller to slow down bingo. Isn’t that what you did last Friday night? Sure enough, he recited the number from memory off the top of his head and I made my call just as the last game was starting. The last game is the Jackpot round where you have to dob all of the numbers on the bingo sheet to win.
    The caller had slowed down. It was much more relaxing. I even had time to check over my numbers and take a sip of my drink every so often. As the game continued, I noticed that one of my cards was getting full so I double-checked to make sure I hadn’t missed any numbers. Sure enough, I had and that left me with only 2 empty spaces. The caller called the next number and it was one of mine. I was down to one. Never happens. Sure enough, the next number wasn’t mine and I knew I had lost because if I’M down to one space then someone, somewhere else, has been down to one space for probably several rounds. But, lo and behold no one called in and when the caller called the next number, my mouth actually dropped open. I stared at my now completely covered bingo card in disbelief. I looked at my boss and his mouth was kinda gaping too with a look of “is this for real?!” I echoed his thoughts and said, “Holy shit, is this for real??!!!” “Oh my god! I’ve got a bingo!! I gotta call the station! Thank god I persevered to find the number earlier!!!” I was shaking and nervous because you have to call in and the whole town can hear you saying your numbers. What if I was wrong?? I was gonna sound like such an idiot. I called all of them and it was a good bingo! I won the JACKPOT! They told me to come down to the station to pick up my winnings and I hung up. Immediately, I began jumping up and down and whooping. You see, this jackpot was no measly $20. No my friends. I was the sole winner of TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!! Two grand! Can you believe that??!! My god! That’s serious money. I screamed at my boss, “Go start your ATV, I gotta go get my money!”
    He was driving a bit fast and loose over to the station for my liking and I yelled to not murder me on my big win night. To which he replied, “Oh no, definitely not, I’m gonna wait until you have the money in hand.” Hahaha.
    My winnings were disbursed in all 20 dollar bills. Has anyone actually carried around 2 grand in 20’s? It’s um, how shall I say, very rapper-esque. I felt like I need to have some gold chains on my neck and a rubber band in my pocket to hold my bank. Hilarious.
    The JACKPOT I say! I still can’t believe it.
    I promptly sent my coworker that decided not to play a text message explaining how he’d missed out big time on bingo night. Now we’ll never win anything again.
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  • Day64

    Hallelujah for humidifier

    November 13, 2017 in Canada

    I am beyond excited. My humidifier arrived today! I think I'm going to set her up on my bedside table and stare lovingly into the mist as it soothes my aching nose to sleep. The say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I believe this should be applied to inanimate objects as well, not just relationships. Take the humidifier for example. I did not have one. My nose and throat have been aching for weeks. It's been awful. I can't simply go peruse various shopping establishments to get one. I order it and have to wait for almost two weeks. Then, it arrives but the store closes at 6pm and I arrived by plane at 540. Was not able to make it. The next day was Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day) so the store was closed. The next day was Sunday so the post office was closed. FINALLY, TODAY was the day to get my precious package!! There she was, tiny yet powerful. I am so tired of blowing bloody pieces from my nose. It just isn't right! I'm tired of sleeping with the sheets over my face and dry coughing throughout the night. I faced this similar stuff in Mongolia, but I was only there for a month so I could deal. If this humidifier is broken for some reason, I will most definitely be crying...real tears.

    That's it folks. That's my life. Revolves around getting a humidifier at the post office. I mean I did grab a few other grocery items, but as usual, there were key missing ones like creamer. That stuff is rare---always empty on the shelves. I'm going to have to buy them out the next time it's in. They did have milk so that will have to do.

    I braved a -36C (-33F) windchill to get my mighty mucous membrane healer. I was fortunate however, to catch a ride to the store from my boss cause he was going to the post office as well. Apparently, it was too cold for his ATV to start so he had to clear off and start the snowmobile. He says and I quote, "Fuck it's cold!" I take in the fact that he has goggles and a face protector on while he says this. I instantly recoil and think, "Nope, I can't go outside. If this crazy arctic person thinks it's cold, I will certainly die." But then, I think of my humidifier and I think of all the other people that manage to survive this....and I pull on my mitts and hop on the back!

    My boss also tells me that he hopes the snowmobile stays running because he has warm weather spark plugs in it?? Whaaaa?? Does anyone know what that means? Are there different spark plugs for warm and cold weather?? Is the gap different? I don't know anything about this. In this instance, the snowmobile did great, got our packages, hunkered down hiding from the wind, and made it back home in less than 20 min. I'm gonna have to get some sort of motorized transport. I am far too lazy to keep up this walking nonsense and lord knows I ain't biking!!
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  • Day45

    Now I understand winter goggles...

    October 25, 2017 in Canada

    Today I laughed out loud as I trudged to work. I laughed because of the ridiculousness of it all. Here I am slipping and sliding through snow and drifts created by the blizzard, which incidentally caused the entire city and government offices to shut down at lunch on Monday, thinking about how I came to be here. The wind was blowing this morning and blasting the small ice kernels right into my face and eyes. I pulled the fur closer to my face to stop the crystals from making it through so I could peer out through the fur. It turns out that in the flat light of a blizzard coupled with the time of day being pre-dawn, it is VERY hard to discern the features of the snow. I couldn't see whether the snow was raised or dipped, crusted or powder, plowed or not. Makes for even more fun walking...into the wind. It was at that moment, while walking into the wind that I just started laughing....and then I quickly stopped because that wind will hurt your damn teeth!

    Vehicles are not having an easy time of it. Yesterday, a pickup was fully engulfed in a ditch...up to it's roof (not hood, roof). Obviously, they didn't know where the edge of the road was and oops, went in the biggest ditch in town. My morning walk was filled with the sounds of spinning tires. Tonight, I tried to help dig out my neighbors who just happened to have moved from the next town over from me in BC! They've been here about 3 months and the husband does not seem to be in good spirits. Well, I don't really blame him because they gave them vehicles with no 4-wheel drive....or a tow rope. Yep, not too bright. They are priority government employees that need to be responsive and they were issued regular ole, run-about-town small SUVs. lolol.

    On the plus side, I got a ride home today from work on a snowmobile. Actually, I got a ride home at lunch too and learned that one does not ride a snowmobile without snow pants. The complete wetting of my entire lower posterior body in 5 minutes taught me that. The snow was crusted on my jeans on the front. Fool me once.....and the snow pants were on.

    Yesterday, the main store was only accepting cash for several hours. These are things that happen up here that are not really common down south.

    I don't know if I've mentioned it yet, but there are many artists in town. Apparently, Igloolik (among other hamlets) is known for producing a lot of artists. Carvers mostly. They come door to door selling their wares. They come several times per week. Sometimes more than one in a night. You get to where you just don't answer the door if you are not interested. It is easier that way. Well, when I first arrived, I saw a carving of a polar bear that balanced separately on each of his legs. It was really cool. That carver came to my door last week with a 2-way standing bear that was much smaller and cheaper than the 4-way standing bear. On the sides are carved a narwhal and walrus. Three animals in one! Last night, the carver approached me again and I bought my first Igloolik carving. It's pretty cute and I am pretty sure I now know what everyone is getting for Christmas!! I know!! Hold your excitement....chotchsky (sp?) from a place you're never gonna visit!

    We are also losing an hour of daylight a week now. In one month, we will begin the 24 hr of darkness.

    Oh, and did I mention that my other neighbors have children that are training to be long-distance runners? Yep, they train nightly by running back and forth, back and forth in the apartment for hours. They intersperse their running with jumping (presumably to build power). I know all of this because their dedication vibrates through my house and shakes me as I sit on the couch.
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  • Day9

    Flexibility is the only ability.

    September 19, 2017 in Canada

    That's right. I'm not in Igloolik right now. That's because last Friday I got a call from someone I did not yet know wondering if I was headed down to help with the field crew. Ummm, nope. I kinda knew that wasn't the end of it and sure enough, yesterday, on Monday, I got the call to come to Iqaluit and be prepared to go anywhere for anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks. The person watching Dubby said as he dropped me off at the airport, "See you in 45 days." And, I think that sums it up.
    I arrived here and man, oh man, did this town of about 8000-9000 seem HUGE! Bustling. Busy. Whoa! So many stores. There is even a chiropractic store. I'm staying in a B&B for goodness sakes (albeit, a B&B where you make your own breakfast and I'm pretty sure I'm sharing the same bathroom as the people that live there...). There are multiple RESTAURANTS and PAVED roads. I'm tellin ya, this place is big time.
    I arrived and got some lunch and then went about to try and find the department I'd been directed to. Mind you, I did not get an address and could not find an address online. I just figured if I asked around, eventually I could find it. When I actually arrived, at HQ, actually, they thought I was a bit crazy to just have wandered around until I found it. But, oddly enough, they all knew me (well, the front desk didn't--they thought I was crazy), but the HR and travel staff did. Pretty funny. I wasn't able to tell them anything about what I needed or what my plans were because I actually do not know. Literally just told to get down here and go to HR. Hilarious. The HR manager drives me over to where I'm actually supposed to be and there is a couple people in there that exclaim when I am escorted in, "Oh Jasmine! We've been looking for you! We went down to your B&B and you weren't there!" Lol. That's because I was wandering around Iqaluit trying to figure out where I was supposed to be.
    Tomorrow I get an orientation AND maybe even a tour. Then, off to get kitted out for the field. No idea folks. No idea.

    Lesson: flexibility is the only ability...especially in my current situation.
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  • Day62

    A latte AND a haircut!

    November 11, 2017 in Canada

    That's right folks, went to the big city and lived it up! Got a latte one day and a haircut on another day! I bought hummus and a dill cucumber dressing to take back with me. had a fountain pepsi in the city. I went to a restaurant and got macaroni and cheese and a real green salad. The luxury was endless. I stepped off the plane onto the tarmac ramp and my brain's first thought was, "Ooooh, pavement, that's nice under my feet". I kid you not. I didn't even realize I hadn't walked on anything but snow for weeks. There is no pavement in Igloolik, but even if there was, it would be snow covered so it doesn't matter.

    And this is how acclimation starts. Slowly, you forget and don't realize how you're adapting. It's not as if I was walking around thinking, "Man, sure wish I had some pavement to walk on". I have however, been thinking of how I'm going to get my hair cut. I KNOW there has to be someone in town cutting hair in their house. I just have to find a lady with short hair and ask who cuts her hair. Otherwise, I'm going to be learning a lot of voodoo mirror magic trying to cut the back of my hair......probably be a roaring success too. Professional all the way.

    I was down in the city for work and I brought two big suitcases because we get two for free on the work flights. One was empty and the other about half empty. Several other folks do the same. You literally carry empty suitcases around so that you can fill them with whatever you need from the city.....such as hummus....or over the counter medication we don't have here. Whatever you need. I brought back two suitcases filled to the airline's weight limit. Proud of myself. haha.

    Things that you just don't think about. I used to travel as light as I could. Carry on all the way. Even getting back to our houses is different. No one has a vehicle. There were 8 of us traveling. No one has a car. As I've mentioned before, they don't do well here and if something goes wrong, there are no parts stores.... So, how do you get that many people, with their luggage, to their homes? Obviously, the husband of one person carries on of us on the back of the snowmobile to the warehouse where the work truck is kept. We get off the machine, get in the warehouse, and bring the truck to retrieve everyone (since it was work travel, we could use the work truck to tote people home).

    On the plane ride, almost every single person (All 18 passengers) had some sort of winter parka with fur on it. When I looked ahead, all I could see was fur and heads poking above the seats. Even the flight attendant is in snow pants and a parka. Children have their parkas specially customized to include fur around the hoods. I was getting advice on how to alter my parka's fur so that it was better at protecting my face. I really want some seal skin mitts. I've been told those or wolf/dog skin mitts are the best. That I will really need them. I never thought I'd be pining for wolf or dog skin mittens and checking out folks that were wearing them in a jealous type way. "Man, I WANT those!" lolol. So far, my hands have stayed quite warm in the Outdoor Research brand mitts I've been wearing. But, again, I'm always walking and generating heat when I'm outside. I have heavier duty mitts, but haven't needed them yet.

    In the city, it was so warm, that I was walking about without a hat or gloves. It was 10 F (-12C). Never thought that would happen and it already is after just a few short weeks here. I can't wait to see what I'm wearing when it's 30 F (-1C)!! Bathing suit time!!

    So, the point of this blog is to say, I think I'm acclimating and not even realizing it.
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  • Day72

    Fall in Igloolik

    November 21, 2017 in Canada

    Ah, the title conjures up images of hot apple cider, vibrantly colored trees, crisp mornings, and pumpkin spice everything. Igloolik fall? Oh, definitely the same. Nothing different about fall here. Well, except everything. lolol. In one week, the daylight will be done. Currently, we have just under 3 hrs of semi-daylight---if you can call the sun rising about two inches above the horizon daylight. lol. The mornings are definitely crisp, though we've gone through a warming spell. In fact, it got up to -15 and I thought, "I'll just take my trash out to the dumpster with no coat or hat on since it's so warm." I even put back the big parka and broke the little guy back out---though I will say, the little parka now seems rather inferior and lame. Nonetheless, it is way less bulky and keeps me warm---but its fur is no match for the big parka's fur. I wanna sleep in the big parka's fur. I have a feeling I might be draped in animal skins the next time someone sees me.

    While those down south are enjoying fall leaves and football on the weekend, I have been enjoying such activities as helping dig my boss's qamatik out of the snow. The qamatik (various spellings) is a wooden sled that was traditionally pulled by dogs. It is about 12-15 feet long and the runners are 2x10s. The runners have a piece of teflon plastic to reduce drag. The two runners are spaced about 3 feet apart. Two-by-fours or something similar make up the decking with about an inch of space between each board. You can leave the qamatik open, like a flat-bed truck, or you can lash a shelter onto it. My boss has a box that he puts on it so we had to get that out too. It was the width of the qamatik and 8ft long; a plywood box. Trying to maneuver and pull these wooden items through the drifts of snow was more than enough work out for me.

    I finished off the wild weekend with some more bingo---didn't win again---and started a jigsaw puzzle. The activities I engage in here are truly exciting.

    Today, there was no work because of a blizzard. However, it's not like when you were a kid and you could watch the TV to see if school was canceled. I have no way to know. And, because my job is so weird about email/internet, I cannot even check my email on non-work servers (exceedingly annoying actually). Thus, I can't get the bulletin that work is closed. So, what do I do? I open the door this morning, have it nearly blown back in my face, and then slam it shut, muttering, "Aw hell naw." Which means I trudged back in to find my goggles, put them on, zipped up the coat fully, pulled the neck gaiter up, and pushed back outside. I have been getting rides to work from my boss so I headed towards his place. As I wound through the buildings, the drifts were catching my feet on what was usually a well-packed path. I emerged from between the housing units and saw neither his ATV or Skidoo were running. And, that's how I knew there was no work. Nevertheless, we decided to go to work for a bit just to finalize some things. I mean, what else am I gonna do? Go to the mall. bhahahaha.

    It was quite the trip getting back home though. Turns out living in Washington made me familiar with snow. The difference now is that I am IN the weather, not just driving through it with a climate-controlled, warm car. Nope, snow-ice pelting my face as we slip and slide on the ATV back home is a real treat. The light is so flat you can't see any features. Hence, we drove right into a 2-3ft snow drift without even seeing it. Oops. Get to push the ATV out and continue on your way----away from the edges of the road.

    Thankfully, I have plenty of food to eat because I'm pretty sure I'm not going back out in this to the store and there won't be any planes coming in anyhow. Now just to relax in the cozy warmth of home and stuff my face. :)
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  • Day56

    Fat bike foolishness

    November 5, 2017 in Canada

    I bought this beautiful fat bike, had it shipped up with all my personal belongings, and finally got around to putting on its fat bike rack and panniers. They were awesome. Can carry a cat or 40 lbs of groceries! I was stoked to take her out on her inaugural spin.

    I failed, however, to account for the effects of -11 F (-24C) weather on, well, everything. My lungs, the bike, my legs, the lock.

    Tooling around outside the house was so fun. The sound the fat tires make on the packed snow is really neat and I like it. I got excited so I set off for the store and to buy a jigsaw puzzle I saw on the internet. It was gonna be great! Did I mention that I am currently incubating some Arctic microbe in my chest? Yep, it's giving me a sweet cough and tight chest so far while draining my energy. Super fun...and best time to go for a bike ride in extreme cold.

    Halfway to the store I realized that I could no longer change gears because they'd frozen. The end. That's the gear I'm gonna be in. I get to the store. A little tired but manageable. Go to lock the bike up. The cable lock? Completely frozen. Like a rock. Better anchor than lock. Hmmm...well, that's a waste.

    I grab my store things and start heading out to find my puzzle person. As I've mentioned before, there are no road signs or names and so it's just the house number that you look for. However, the house numbers may or may not make sense. Newer areas of development will have similar numbers, but those new developments may be interspersed in older developments. Thus, the numbers can be all jumbled.

    It also turns out that the store is slightly downhill from home. Hmmm.....things just got a lot more exerting. I know exerting shouldn't be used in a sentence like that, but I wanted to because that's what happened....everything got more 'exerting'. I thought I was going to pass out. My already tight chest was squeezed by the huffing and puffing of the crazy cold air and my legs were fighting against my pants and snowpants and giant rubber boots as I wobbled up the hills. Oooooh, it burned. Everything. I finally got to my street and realized that the puzzle person literally lived in the house next to mine. I realized I'd ridden up town and then around town to find this house and it was next door to mine the whole time. I am not bright on so many levels.

    Kids complimented my bike as I inched by, barely staying vertical. I wheezed, "It's way too hard. Not worth it! Walk!!" I had to take a break before I could haul this thing up the stairs to my house where I wheeled it in and promptly laid prone to recover.

    I went and got the puzzle later. I think that's a better idea for my Igloolik activities...almost positive I won't pass out while puzzling.
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  • Day135

    Do you have the baculum?

    January 23 in Canada

    "Do you have the baculum?" and other assorted things I never thought I'd hear.

    The setting: I was relaying my excitement at finally getting a package from my husband that was several days overdue to my boss. He looks dead at me and goes, "Do you have the baculum?" That was my boss's response to me saying, "Yay! The post office finally had my parcel today!" Blink. Blink. Now, those of you that have been following this blog have learned that 'baculum' is the technical term for a penis bone. In this case, we'd be referring to polar bear penis bone. So, yeah, I was a more than a little confused. To alleviate the confusion, my boss then repeats the exact same question, just louder and slower, as if I did not hear him ask if I had the baculum. Blink. Blink. Blink. My mind is racing to try and make polar bear penis bone and "yay, mail!" somehow fit together. What do these two things have in common? It's like I'm on a game show trying to figure out the common thread. My brain is failing me. I wonder if my boss is being really weird and somehow asking if my husband has included some sort of penis thing in my "package". I nixed that idea--I wasn't willing to go there and even ask if that's what he was talking about. Was someone shipping us baculums? Why would they do that; our polar bear samples come frozen by air...not in general mail with your electric bill and Zulily magazine----you know, polar bear penis meat isn't exactly great to send through snail mail. Everyone loses in that scenario. Finally, when none of my mental confabulations could construct anything remotely sensical, I gave up and said, "What in the ever loving world are you talking about penis bones?!!?" To which he replies, "I guess you don't have the baculum." lololol. Now the situation was just silly. "Nope, no I do not have the baculum. Care to enlighten me?" He then goes on to explain (as if this should have been stunningly obvious) that our work's post office box key is attached to a baculum. You know, so we don't lose it. Kinda like restaurants putting cute flowers on their pens to dissuade accidental (or purposeful) theft. We, apparently, attach penis bones to things we don't want to disappear.

    About one to two weeks ago, it was frigid. I know, I know, it's always frigid. But, this was the coldest it's been all year. Real cold. Real windchill. So, I felt as if I had enough, shall we say, "arctic" on my plate. Then, as if things could not be any more inhospitable, our office manager comes in and delivers a warning: "Be careful walking home. There are reports of rabid dogs in town." And she walks out. That's it. As I sit there, mouth still gaping, I switch from shock to hilarity. Of COURSE, there'd be rabid dogs. I mean, why not? Why wouldn't there be?? I mean, life is just too cushy and easy here anyways. We need a little excitement to top up the day. What better way than throw in a pack of rabid dogs in the mix??!! It's not enough to have to endure the extreme cold. Noooooo, we gotta make it actually tough by adding in "avoid rabid dogs". When 5 pm rolled around, I put on all my gear, and because it was so cold, I had to have my hood up and pulled forward to protect from the wind. For those of you that have not been in an Arctic parka, the hood, fully on and pulled up, creates a tunnel of vision that allows a field of view of approximately 37.8 degrees (I made that up). The point is, you can't see shit. Not the person standing next to you, not the person standing slightly in front of you. You can't hear either. So you damn sure can't see a "friendly" rabid dog racing up to bite your ass. And, it's not like you can carry a stick for defense cause there are NO trees----yep, just like we learned about the tundra. I stood outside my work and did a 360 to see what I could see. No dogs. Oh well, gotta get home. Mama is hungry! And off I set, swoosh, swoosh, swooshing in all my ski pant, parka glory. I rationalized that if a dog did, in fact, try to bite me, it wouldn't get through the outerwear....like one of those police dog training suits. I made it safely home and now just keep an eye out for rabid foxes or whatever other creature, like a polar bear, might be wandering about. But hey! --at least the sun's come back so I'll hopefully be able to see the monsters before they get me!

    Next story: After a wind storm and power outage, our work servers were fried in Igloolik. We did not have internet, at all, for 4 days. Think about that. A lot of organizing, cleaning, and editing documents got done in those days. And we all feared when the internet would return to bombard us with piled up emails full of crap that we'd been so happily oblivious to for 4 work days. But, the inevitable happened...a server was flown in and a tech flown in and a mere 4 days later, we had internet. The best part is that when I saw the first email envelope ping into my inbox, I ran out into the center atrium area and asked if anyone else had internet. At that moment, someone yelled, "I have internet!" and we all smiled and hurrahed. Before the smiles could even fade, a coworker came out of the bathroom and said, "the toilets aren't working properly." Cue instant smile-fade. I turned to the manager and quipped, "Welp, we got working internet but no toilets. Guess you can't have it all!" and flounced away to my office to hold my pee.

    Next story: Today, the guy from housing came back from my house, to my work, to show me what he'd pulled out of my tub drain. I live on the other side of town from work. He drove over to work with that nasty drain ooze in the vehicle. Then, he brought it into my work, walked past everyone's offices to show. me. a. drain. clog. Not in a bag, not in a container. Just out there for all to enjoy. If I had any pride, I'd be embarrassed. However, I just told him, "wow, that's wonderful. No thank you, I do not want to keep it." (he asked if I wanted to keep it).

    Every day folks. If seems that every single day something happens or is said that I never thought I'd hear or have to deal with. I am not sure I can go back to working in a place where the internet is fast and reliable, the toilets work, there isn't the constant fear of frostbite and rabid dogs, and people don't randomly ask me about polar bear penis bones.
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  • Day244

    Every year, dog sled teams meet in a Nunavut community and set off on a race to another community at least 500 km (315 mi). It is run between completely isolated communities. In ordr to arrive at the 'start' line, mushers and their dogs will have had to already travel overland from their home community--sometimes hundreds of kilometers.

    There are no support teams running along side them, no helicopters monitoring progress, no medical stations. Each evening, the teams are supposed to arrive at a set camp that has been set up by the forward crew of supports using snowmobiles and carrying qomatiks full of gear. On the racers' qomatiks, however, there is only a box with a rifle, sleeping bag, snow saw, knife, 2-burner stove, and a little food for emergencies. There are a few sat phones these days, carried by the support crew. I suspect, but do not know, that the racers have at least GPS SPOT devices, but maybe they're carrying InReach devices---which allow 2-way text communication to any other device, by using the Iridium satellite network.

    Everything the racers use must be HANDMADE (well, not the stove and rifle and stuff like that---but dog team stuff has to be) . The dog harnesses, the whips, and the qamatiks have to be handmade (though, I am not sure you can buy an Inuit qamatik at the Home Depot anyway). The qamatik is lashed together with rope, made from nylon or sealskin, no screws. This allows the sled to flex rather than break. The dogs run in a fan hitch which allows them to choose their own way over the terrain and rough snow.

    This year, the race started in Igloolik and we were allowed the afternoon off to go watch the start of the race. For several days, I had heard and seen the dogs out on on the ice in front of town. There were massive qomatiks in town---bigger than I'd ever seen. There were different ski-doos racing around. It was interesting how I noticed these things and have only been living here less than a year. I found it funny that I would see a ski-doo drive by and think, "where's that thing from? That's not from Igoolik!"

    It looked like a majority of the town came out, including the school children. They were let out as well to come down to the ice to watch. The police were there, the mayor of course, and basically every other able-bodied person.

    The dogs reminded me of racing horses. If you've ever been to a horse race, you can see that the horse has a single-track mind, and that is to run. They are actually a bit crazy....like the dogs. When the dogs felt their leader get ready and start moving the whip, they became frenzied. Barking, yelping, and jumping against their harnesses. The qomatiks were held in place with a claw-like anchor dug in the ground like a tent stake to prevent the dogs from taking off with the sled. One guy's anchor clearly wasn't in too good because all of a sudden, I heard a commotion and I see a team of dogs streaking by....with an Empty sled! Guys were running after it and one young man managed to grab it and he dug his heels in, getting dragged by the dogs. He prevailed over the dogs, but was massaging his shoulder afterward---clearly, it didn't feel super great to stop a giant wooden sled being pulled by dogs!
    This is the type of knowledge and tradition that the Inuit do not want to lose. This is the cool stuff that their culture has been practicing for years. How does this fit in a modern society? What is the value of preserving these types of things? How do young people reconcile the need to gain skills to be successful in the current world, but have to leave these skills behind to die with the elders? It's a tough question.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Nunavut, NU, نونافوت, ܢܘܢܐܒܘܛ, Нунавут, Νούναβουτ, Nunavuto, نوناووت, Nûnavût, נונאווט, Նունավուտ, Núnavút, ᓄᓇᕗᑦ, ヌナブト準州, ნუნავუტი, 누나부트 준주, Nunavutas, Nunavuta, नुनाव्हुत, Náhookǫsjí Hakʼaz Dineʼé Bikéyah, ਨੂਨਾਵੁਤ, نناوت, Nunavute, Nunavuts, நூனவுட், นูนาวุต, 努那活, 努納武特

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