Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ice

I love Iqaluit, there are no questions about it. The playground that is the arctic, however dangerous, makes my life beautiful.

For the last two weekends in a row, Robert and I took snowmobile trips. He has quickly become one of my favorite people in Iqaluit. He takes the place of my little brothers out here and is awesome to spend days exploring with.

On Saturday we decided to head off in the direction of the Bay. Last time we went out into the open and I got a feel for the danger and reality of being in Canada's Arctic. Other than the wind, I could only hear my own thoughts, it was freeing to be rid of all civilization for a short while, but it was scary. This past weekend, while we chose a route to take, we considered the dangers of each route and Robert said, "You choose, which way would you rather die?"

Massive cracks in the ice

I chose the Bay, the tide coming up, lose, broken ice and polar bears. We were out on the land for three and a half hours. The snowmobile felt like it was flying over the ice as we travelled at highway speeds. I wore my Baffin boots that are rated for negative one hundred+ Celsius and my toes went numb from the cold. We crossed the entire bay and a few hundred feet out from land we navigated some very difficult ice. The plates of ice are shifted and moved as the tides go up and down. Near land the ice sheets that lay slanted and nearly on their sides are almost a full story high and very wide. Some parts of the ice meet at peeks and are part of the skidoo trail that has been blazed by hunters and explorers. When the water moved, the ice moved and made it difficult to cross. Robert had to jump the sled, so I got off to watch. We climbed up the very slippery ice pieces to see what lay of the other side. As Robert walked back to the skidoo he said, "Look around for Polar bears, watch out." I laughed, to which he responded, "I'm serious."


Robert playing in a pool of blood where something was killed

We hit land. The sun was low in the sky but has been staying out until almost dinner time lately. The mountains that we had reached on land we so high that they blocked most of the light. I sent up a quiet prayer, knowing that if something went wrong as we tried to get the sled through the ice, we could very well die out there. It would have taken us the entire night to walk back to Iqaluit and at least an hour to continue forward, through polar bear feeding grounds, to the emergency cabin that would be our destination. Walking through the night never felt like such a daunting idea until you think about the cold and the strength of the wind out on the wide open Bay. The thought that we had no weaponry other than a large pocket knife, and no food other than a box of frozen granola bars, made me realize how under prepared we were should an emergency arise.

Robert had lost cell service and I hopped harder than ever that we would make it home safe. We rode through the most beautiful valley, for the most part covered in snow. The walls were so high and so steep that snow couldn't attach itself to most of the face. I felt like I was seeing something that so few people get to and I was immersed in thankfulness for my surroundings.

Emergency Shelter

Eventually we made it to our planned destination. At this point Robert was developing frost bite on his cheeks and I couldn't feel my neck or feet. We had to stop and explore the emergency cabin. We sat inside the dark little hut. I took my boots off and tried to warm my toes in my hands, to no avail. We ate frozen granola bars and laughed about the crunch they made. We carved our initials into the walls as so many had done before us and we read the warnings on the walls in the little shack. I didn't actually realize until that point that we were in fact on Polar bear feeding grounds. Where we were is a popular destination for hunters of the bears. The wall held warnings of what to do if you encountered a bear and I laughed thinking that most of the people who would read the warnings were smart enough to pack guns. All we had was the knowledge gained by reading the wall.

When we got home, my toes were getting ready to fall off. I got to use the battery powered socks that Aunt Janet gave me before we moved here, I was so relieved to have them.


My Sunday was just as wonderful as my Saturday. My friend Ellen called me to go for a walk. We spent some time in the Museum and then headed out on foot to the Bay where we played on our arctic play ground like we would have when we were six years old.

Ellen standing on the sea floor between ice bergs

The ice was smoother than any ice I've seen before, with no snow on it, I felt like the world was our skating rink. We climbed and slipped and fell and explored the day light away. We embraced every morsel of childish enthusiasm within us. As we walked up to the store to grab hot chocolates, I thought, 'Iqaluit is perfect, I am in love with this place.'


Crawling through an ice cave


6 comments:

brettrd1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stacey said...

Sounds thrilling, be careful. I believe winter is the time to visit!

em said...

great entries, so fun to read :)

smitten kitten said...

Sounds like the perfect weekend, I hope I will have as many fun adventures in Pond Inlet.

massivelyattacked said...

I took this exact same trip a couple weekends back. It was outstanding...Katannilik is a beautiful park. I'd love it if you checked out the post my husband wrote about our trip out there...I've been enjoying your blog for some time now...appreciate hearing about your experiences here too...

Robert said...

We need a like button on here. Like!!