Friday, July 24, 2009

Making Ulus...

My Inuk friend, Josephee, makes a variety of implements and tools in his shed down by the shore. Josephee works pretty well exclusively with hand tools. I've been watching him making Ulus - knives used traditionally by women to cut meat, skin, and anything else they need to.

He started by drawing the blade patterns on a saw blade and cutting them out with a hammer and chisel:He then filed the rough edges of the blade, filed and shaped the shaft, cut a slot in it with a hacksaw and drilled holes in the pieces. A common nail is filed until it fits the holes drilled through the shaft and blade and then sawed off to be peened into a rivet to hold the blade on:

This is what the finished ulu will look like:Here is Josephee and his companion at his shed:
These are some char hanging to dry off the back of Josephee's shed. Apparently, the rope is wound around the board because it scares the ravens so they won't steal the char:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Road to Nowhere...

I live on the Road to Nowhere:
The road got its name, I guess, from the fact that it leads out of the city and just kind of peters out a short distance off into the tundra:
My mom had warned me in the past that she thought I was on this road... and now, I guess it's official. But it appeared the situation was even more dire - this past week, I attended at the Iqaluit Post Office to get my new post office box. The fellow behind the counter shuffled through some papers and then glanced up at me and asked "are you superstitious?" "No.." I replied. "Good - because I'm assigning you box 666; I'll go get the key". I considered this as he went into the back room. Geez... my address will be P.O. Box 666, The Road to Nowhere... that can't be good. I must confess to a bit of relief when he returned and advised me that somebody else had taken that number and he assigned me another.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Panorama Iqaluit...

This morning I had some time to kill so I climbed the highest hill in the city and took some photos:
The tide is partly in at this time; you can see the boats sitting on the mudflats beside the pier waiting for the water...
Somebody has erected a small cross on top of the hill. I was thinking it would be a great spot for a huge Inuksuk. You would be able to see it clearly from the bay and all over the city - kind of like the giant Jesus statue in Rio:

Sea Lift...

Sealift started this week - this is the annual summer arrival of ships with cargo which people have ordered in - a lot cheaper than the fall/winter/spring airfreight method. The discerning Iqaluit shopper will order a years supply of staple goods (flour, sugar, canned goods, toothpaste, etc.) from southern stores like Costco and ship them up at this time. It is also the time when big-ticket items, like SUVs, ATVs and snowmobiles are shipped in.

When I first heard of this practice, I had the naive idea of a bunch of cargo vessels arriving at once with the townspeople huddling together on the shore eagerly awaiting their goods (followed, no doubt, by a huge celebration - almost like harvest time).

The reality is not quite like that... for one thing, I didn't take the tides into consideration. The tides vary from day to day and it takes time for the cargo shuttles to reach shore from the ship.

A ship at anchor outside of the bay in front of the city:
Everything has to be timed with the tides - so what they do when they don't have enough time to shuttle the barges all the way in is anchor them at a buoy in the bay until the tide comes back in...
Once on shore, Loaders come and remove the contents...
Most of the goods are shipped in large steel containers. This is the stack of them at the landing:
This is a shot of some of the larger ships ashore at the landing:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tidbits of life in Iqaluit...

Some of the differences I've noticed between life in Iqaluit and life in London, Ontario: For one thing, road vehicles stop to let you cross wherever you want to. Another is taxicabs - they charge per-person ($6.00 anywhere) and will pick up other fares on the way. You don't give them a street name, just a building number. Cabbies make good money up here and bar staff can make 50K a just in tips.

Another thing is alcohol - the only place you can buy booze is at a bar - no takeout. So... if you like to have wine with your meals, as I do, it seems you have to either order from a limited selection which is flown in from Rankin Inlet, or get a government import licence and ship it up from down south - both options at a greatly inflated cost.

There is the home-brew option, which I will probably explore (seeing as how I've already got the brew equipment), but frankly, I'm not that optimistic about the quality... . I understand that bootlegging is a thriving business up here; apparently, at some of the more isolated places like Arctic Bay or Pond Inlet, a mickey of liquor will fetch between $100 and $150. Prohibition has never worked anywhere, anytime, I don't know why they think it would work here...

Some Pictures from Around the Town...

This is the new Canadian North airline hangar that opened in Iqaluit:

Inuk mother & children:

This is an impromptu drum circle which assembled outside of my office:

This is the down-hole machine which is drilling the holes for the steel pile foundation of a new building in the core area:

A couple of people out on the flats when the tide is out (maybe they were digging for clams)...

Typical Iqaluit residential buildings. The concept of a "yard" hasn't really caught on here yet - there are no fences between buildings and nobody has a lawn:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


A new building is being erected near me. It will be interesting to watch it go up - see the construction methods and watch it take shape... the instability of the permafrost requires that all of the buildings are constructed upon a foundation of steel piles driven into the earth.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Comments & Photographs

I've changed the settings on this thing so now anyone can post comments (you don't have to be a registered Google account holder). To post a comment, just click where it says "Comments" at the end of a post.

For those that don't know - you can click on any photograph to get a (sometimes) larger version of it in a separate page.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nunavut Day - July 9th

I had the opportunity to attend a number of the Nunavut Day festivities held in Iqaluit on July 9th. This is the anniversary date of the signing of the land claims agreement between the Federal Government and the Inuit People which led, on April 1, 1999, to the creation of the Territory of Nunavut.

The day started off with a pancake breakfast held at the Territorial Legislature building. We were served pancakes and sausages by the Premier of Nunavut, Eva Aariak, the Mayor of Iqaluit, Elisapee Sheutiapik, and various other political figures.
Later, at the meeting circle in front of the Elder's Residences, the public were treated to food and drinks, including Inuit "Country Food" - essentially raw meat. For a significant portion of the population of Nunavut, this makes up a large part of their daily diet. I, of course, had to try a piece of everything... different, very different... I could see myself eating this type of food in extremity, where my survival perhaps depended on it, but I don't think I'll be changing my regular diet anytime soon (although I must say, the raw caribou, sliced thin, might be tolerably good with a nice sauce to go with it...). The bannock was something like a tea biscuit, but softer, very good actually.
Later that afternoon there was entertainment at the field in front of the school building and I got a chance to see Inuit Throat -Singers performing. In the evening, a large crowd gathered for the opening of the new Canadian North Airlines hangar. They were giving away free return tickets to Ottawa... I didn't win. Lots of free food and souvenirs though - all in all, a very enjoyable day.

Exploring Iqaluit...

My first week in Iqaluit was simply beautiful... the sun shone every day (and night), temperature in the mid-teens. I didn't find the midnight sun to be a problem - just closed the blinds when I went to sleep.

The lack of trees on the land is somewhat disconcerting - in Northern Ontario, where I grew up, we had trees, rocks and water (plenty of each). In London, there were plenty of trees... but no rocks or water to speak of. Now, plenty of rocks and water... but no trees... go figure.

I've been settling in at my office, in a building on the shore of Frobisher Bay. I love the view of the bay and watching the tide move in and out.

The tides on Frobisher Bay are variable, from between 7 to 11 m. every day. It seems that high tide occurs in the morning and low tide is in the evening. When I first arrived here, the ice had started to clear (helped by an ice-breaker which had come through the previous weekend). It was interesting to see what the tide would bring in every day - one day it deposited a large number of ice chunks in the bay.

Here are a couple of pictures taken from the back of my office building which illustrate the difference made by the tides in the bay:

The Landing...

I landed in Iqaluit on Wednesday, July 1st. The locals were good enough to be holding celebrations (in my honour I presume).

This is the view that greeted me as I stepped out of the airport terminal - a bright, sunny, warm day (temp approx. 14 degrees). I had two suitcases jammed full - Air Canada had nicked me for $75.00 because my large one was over-weight - and were actually refusing to take it on the plane unless I lightened it by 7 lbs. This I managed to do by removing a garment bag (5lbs) and then, a couple of pots and pans which I put in the bottom of the garment bag and took as a carry-on. Unfortunately, in my rush to dispose of my last few items of furniture and do my packing, I hadn't really got in touch with anyone to arrange to be met at the airport. I knew that I was supposed to have some accommodations lined up - I was getting a government apartment - but I didn't know whether or not that would be available on this day (it wasn't). So, I cooled my heels in the airport for a while and tried phoning some of my Iqaluit contacts. Long and short of it, I ended up back at the Nova Hotel (where I had stayed on my exploratory visit a month earlier).

The Nova is a pretty nice
hotel, built fairly recently, but I had been looking forward to getting into my own place as soon as possible. I understood that this might be happening as soon as the next day - and indeed, they did have an apartment available for me. I, however, decided to wait for one with a better view, on the other side of the building, so it was the hotel for a few more days. There are a few attractions to staying in a hotel, but I quickly became sick of it and was happy to get my apartment... with a view: