Monday March 14
It’s Monday, a work day for Pascal, she’s out the door by 8am. I walk her to school then depart, with the idea of taking some early morning photos. Another crystal cold day, the winds nip my face as I wander about…what am I doing at the dump? There, garbage has been sorted into three distinct piles: one of scrap metal (fridges, stoves, snow mobiles), a second of green plastic bags where 20 ravens hover and caw, and a third pile with oil drums and packing crates. The sewage truck dumps warm slop across the snow, steaming and melting to the tundra. I wonder how this smells come summer.
Back in town, the post office is closed. Mail goes out three times a week to coincide with the plane schedule. A huge weathered whale vertebrae has been casually deposited against a municipal building…I try to lift it, no chance, heavy or frozen in to the soil? A small pup with patchwork fur licks at my heels, darting off as I lean down to pet him. Dogs are allowed to run freely about town until they are about 1 year old when they are either killed or chained. This little fella has already learned to be people shy.
Barb and I decide to head out for another ski…this time on top the frozen sea. An enticingly flat arm of ice stretches from town as far south as the eye can see. Crumpled and folded into complex wrinkles like giant aluminum foil, this compression zone buffers the flat pan from the land. With the prevailing northwest wind at our back, we set out. Ski conditions present a challenge (no glide again) but the wind encourages us and we shuffle along. Hugging the crumple zone, we admire the changing ice patterns, the granite rock face and gain some wind shelter. The tide is going out, much of the cliff face is exposed. We stop to take photos of each other and the land.
Suddenly, a terrible jolt accompanied by a screech, like nails on a chalk board erupts. I practically jump out of my skin, startled by the noise and motion. What is going on!? It dawns on us that the tide is going out – the huge pan of ice we are skiing on has dropped about 8 inches down as the water underneath which supports it, retreats. The screech was either ice against ice or ice against rock or rock against rock. The fact that such a massive ice sheet can move in unison up and down the fiord is stunning. No open water pools or dark spots or cracks indicate water seepage. Nerves jangled, we cautiously tip toe past Nascopie Point into Glasgow Inlet.
A collection of pressure ridges and larger snow mounds make the skis a hindrance. We dump them and start walking around the corner into Iquijuq Cove. At the headland, the moaning and groaning of the ice spooks us...I imagine slipping between yawning cracks (although none are to be seen), disappearing forever. We scan the area for inspiration.
Nearby, red rocks island poke through the ice, bare of snow on top and would provide a good view. But they are surrounded by 10’ ice ridges that remind me of glacial crevasses - chicken, I head to land. Similar pressure ridges and ice piles greet us in the cove, and it is slippery climbing with our plastic thin soled ski boots. I use my ski pole as a probe to test the snow drifts that bridge large cracks. Eventually, we scramble without mishap on onto solid land. Hurrah!
Either the wind has dropped or else I have warmed up from my exertions. Caribou dots in the distance, two near on the frozen bay. It’s quiet enough that I can hear the snow crunch from their hooves as they slowly pick their way across the ice. What fabulous views of the surrounding land…the sun feels toasty on my wind burnt cheeks and I feel like king of the world! We snack on grunt scroggin (home made granola peanut raisin chocolate logs) and enjoy the feeling of winter solitude.
The return route is straight forward: just bum slide down some hills, scramble across the crumple zone, retrieve our skis and back to Lake Harbour. Ha! I’m pooped already just looking where we will go. One thing I didn’t bring was water as I had no way to keep it from freezing: perhaps I’m dehydrated? A headache builds. Two hours later, boards strapped to our feet, chins tucked to chest against a screaming head wind, town slowly comes into view.
George has walked to meet us, announcing the town is in a high state of excitement with high school athletes returning from the Arctic Winter games (held in Slave Lake, Alberta). Several returning students were extremely successful in their competitions. Julie in particular, won many medals – her specialty is the ‘high kick’. People are assembling at the airport to greet their kids. By the time we get there, a parade is under way, with wire trucks and RCMP trucks leading the way as well as assorted snow mobiles – hordes of kids are waving mittened hands, and holding signs saying ‘welcome home’. It’s a joyous event, the streets are lined with young and old.
A tea time reception is held in the gym, complete with speeches in Inuktitut and English. Then after supper, a serious volley ball tournament gets underway, the ‘pass – set – spike’ dance at the net later followed by a teen dance complete with dim lights and loud music. I gratefully exit, leaving the youth to party in their own space. At 35, I’m feel as ancient as yesterdays snows but still young enough to enjoy northern lights wavering overhead. Squeak, squeak , squeak, my boots and I walk home for the night.