Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The difficult world of Inuinnaqtun writing

It's an interesting fact that Inuinnaqtun can be written as either pictograms or phonetic letters.

Either way, I am completely unable to read it. (Although I did find a dictionary.)

This is actually kind of impressive.

I wasn't kidding when I said solar lamps boost plants.

Look at this potato after just two weeks!

The sun has returned

The sun has returned and it feels great.

After about one month of darkness and "solar glow" afternoons, I finally saw the whole thing, as I was exiting the liquor store on a Saturday afternoon.

Inuvik air

This old plane is set up on a pole, near the edge of town. It's intended as a momunent to deceased small-aircraft pilots, who crashed anywhere in the north.

Considering so much northern exploration has been done by airplane -- and many communities are still only accessible by air -- it seems like a proper thing to commemorate.

(Ironic note: This is the third time the plane has been installed. The last two times, wind blew it right off the pole, thus 'crashing' the crash monument.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

It was fun while it lasted, caribou.

Scientific predictions of the NWT Barren-Ground Caribou Summit, summarized in one slide.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Nights in the secret lab

While we're on the topic of the apartment (ie: the plant bar) I would like to say that living in the arctic is great if you have hobbies.

If you want to go outside the house in the evening, you have very limited options.

1.The pool (adult swim some nights, really great!)
2.The Mad Trapper bar
3.Frosty's Bar
4.The Mackenzie hotel bar
5.The library (not too late)
6.Skate park (in summer)
7.Sunburst Bistro, the Roost, and other restaurauts.
8. House parties, etc

Some people don't like these options, and I've heard at least two people say they got bored within weeks of moving here. (People in town, I mean.)

But for people like myself -- apartment recluses trying to write a comic book, or who enjoy playing music and especially house parties---- I find there is plenty to do.

Plant bar in the apartment

Here's one unexpected benefit of sun lamps: They help plants grow remarkably fast!

Pictured here is a potato plant, growing on a bookshelf in the apartment, with germinating broccoli, alfalfa and radish seeds in a bag.

Once the community greenhouse opens in the summer, I'll have vegetables ready to install. (And, thus, after three months of planning, will save $2.99 by eating a home-grown potato.)

CBC in the north

I think the CBC is increasing its coverage of Northern issues, in both news and documentary features. Last night after The National, they played a fantastic documentary about the Barren-Ground Caribou, and how climate change is affecting them.

(ie: more snow means more digging for moss; more rain means the formation of an ice crust which can cut their legs; different weather means more mosquitoes; temperature changes mean babies are born at different times in the migration schedule, etc.)

It's always interesting to watch a national TV cover local affairs, and this is just further depressing proof that climate change is changing -- ie: messing up -- the arctic.

Inuvik's coral reef

Is this sea coral, or a frosted tree?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Can I just say: I miss the summer (a little)

The arctic winter might be beautiful, but it's not like you can BBQ ribs outside in 24 hour sunlight. [This photo taken in August at the Midway Lake music festival.]

Easy as ABC

Just another day at Mangilaluk school in Tuktoyaktuk...

Antler cabin in Tuk

This cabin looks like a pretty interesting place to visit! (I wonder how the inside is decorated.)

Philippe = Phil = Philly cream cheese =

Adventures on the treeline

Inuvik is within minutes of the arctic tree line, where trees stop growing entirely. Driving north to Tuktoyaktuk, I noticed this is not a gradual change: It appears one hill is covered in trees, and the next is barren -- except for this one tenacious tree.

Therefore, look closely: This might be the last tree on the way to Tuktoyaktuk, and certainly one of Canada's northernmost evergreens.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Mad Trapper of Rat River

I've been reading about the Mad Trapper of Rat River lately, which is a fascinating local story.
It concerns a manhunt which happened in 1931 near Aklavik.

While it's unknown who the Trapper guy was -- or why he shot at police while trying to escape prosecution for sabotaging local traps --- he has become a local legend here, for using his smarts and wood skills to avoid the RCMP for many days.

Legend says he wore snowshoes backwards to obfuscate his trails, survived a dynamite explosion in his cabin, spent nights in the -40 wilderness with no fire, hunted for food while evading the police. (He was eventually shot, which leads to the gruesome portrait above.)

Inuvik's busiest bar, The Mad Trapper, even has pictures of the original players, including a handsome portrait of a WW1 fighter pilot ace, who was brought in to find the Trapper from the air.

Since some documentary filmmakers want to exhume the Trapper's body and perform a DNA test, so we're sure to see Trapper Mania continue to grow.

The Igloo church, pt.2

From certain angles, the "Igloo church" really looks like its namesake

Everybody loves cute babies.

Here's something about community journalism. Everybody loves babies.

Seriously. There is nothing wrong with this. If you put a cute baby in the newspaper, 100 per cent of the audience will appreciate it.

Inuvik's customized cars

Normal view from downtown: A tarp tied to the front of a truck, intended to keep the engine (or is that the air intake for the heater?) warm.

I have also seen people use cardboard to do this.

Gassing up in Tuk

Here's the News/North truck (should it have a nickname? Suggestions?) getting full in Tuktoyaktuk.

I am glad the station is open on Sundays, because it takes about a half tank of gas to get there from Inuvik. (I could get stuck, is what I'm saying..)

Monday, January 15, 2007

This dog must be freezing!

It was about -25c when I saw this dog in Tuktoyaktuk. Notice he's completely exposed to wind, with no doghouse and nothing but a metal chain on ice.

Now, I realize that dogs are often coddled in the South --- to the point of people buying them mini sweaters and pet haircuts and other things --- but I find this rather upsetting!

Even the huskiest of winter dogs probably feels a -30 windchill. It seems uncaring to just leave a dog outside in the arctic and not even give him a cardboard box.

Signs at Mangilaluk

Mangilaluk school in Tuktoyaktuk has some interesting markers, which show traditional language in an everyday context.

It's really informative, and it makes it fun to explore around the school.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Four-digit dialing

Here's another mini-fact: Inuvik is so small, almost every phone number in starts with 777. It's so common, in fact, that people only tell you the last four digits.

"Hey, call me at work, it's 4545." etc.

I sincerely doubt this polar bear is a qualified pharmacist.

Here's an ad from the curling rink. The bear just looks like he's having a little too much fun, mixing drugs with reckless abandon.

Finally! A post with some colour!

This is the mural outside Sir Alexander Mackenzie school, which is the local primary school.

It's a lovely building, but it might soon be demolished to make room for a bigger and better building. There is a petition going around to have it declared a heritage site.

Lindsay at the Mackenzie

Here's Lindsay sitting down for lunch at the Mackenzie Hotel's lounge.

She's wearing something she found at the church rummage sale. It's like a turtleneck sweater, but with only two panels at the front and back. It''s worn around the neck.

Has anyone seen these things before?

Tough birds on the corner

When you think about it, it's really impressive that ravens can survive here, eating nothing but garbage, in such cold weather.

These birds are tough: Nature's true survivors!

Northmart bandit strikes again!

Why are there shopping carts in ditches all over town? Because of the Northmart bandits! (ie: 'thrill-seeking' local youth)

Here's one captured on film.

Hello, Germany!

Here's a weird story: A German government worker recently won a travel contest, which would fly him anywhere in the world to do something interesting. (ie: I want to go pick my own pineapples in Hawaii.) He chose to go to Tuktoyaktuk and drive the ice road!

Here he is being interviewed by a German radio host, with town councilor and business owner Merven Gruben in the middle. The station held a live broadcast from the ice road.

Everything moves real slow when it's forty below

Today marks the first day of -40 weather in Inuvik!

I'm going to celebrate by going for a walk, and hopefully not freeze-snapping off my ipod headphones. That almost happened last week.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The edge of town

Here's shot from the Access Road, which is runs behind Inuvik and into the landscape. It's a nice drive, and it allows a view of almost the whole town.

Though Inuvik is very 'big' --- it is, in fact, the 3rd biggest town in all NWT, behind Hay River and Yellowknife --- it is surprizing how small it seems in comparison to the landscape. Looking into the mountains, you notice there is empty horizon all around.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Some very serious Rangers.

One fun activity for kids in the north is the Junior Canadian Rangers program, which is similar to scouts or cadets. Junior Rangers learn things like marksmanship, trapping, field skills, first aid, etc.

The uniform is an inexpensive green hoodie, and the instructors are military officers. There are 34 patrols across the north, and they even reach some very small communities including Tsiigehtchic. (pop.150 approx.)

As you can see, it looks like a great way to spend Sunday afternoon!

Note: This picture also illustrates one difficulty (albeit, a fun one) of photographing youth. Goofy expressions and 'gangsta' poses!

Ouch! Watch that package!

Here's a picture from the Inuvik post office. Usually my stuff arrives in flawless condition, but I guess this one took a beating.

When you're shipping to Inuvik, use bubble wrap!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Rrrrrrrrrr! crash!

During the recent dog sled race in Aklavik, this eight-year-old played with a toy snowmobile.

He was throwing it into the snow, so it would skid and jump.

A toy snowmobile! Isn't that cool?

Night views

Because of the cold, every building in Inuvik seems to send a column of heat into the air, like someone exhaling.

Here's a shot of Sir Alexander Mackenzie primary school, around 10am today.

We're going to blow up the moon with a giant laser. Check it out.

Here's another weird building in Inuvik: A large, building-sized satellite dish near the airport, which rests on top of a mountain.

What does it do? I have no idea.

Inuvik's row houses

These colourful homes are a well-known landmark in Inuvik. It's just easier to order a pizza this way! (ie: "It's the yellow house.")

Grad 79!

I bet that 28 years later, someone still laughs when they drive by this water tower see the huge graphitti, "Grad 79."

What a way to immortalize your high-school class.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Back to winter

After two posts of summer scenes, here's something more current. A snowmobiler hauling something on the road to Aklavik, as the last of the daylight fades in mid-afternoon.

Summer leftovers, pt.2

Check out these two 'Road Warrior' bikes, driven by tourists who traveled the entire Dempster Highway. They have extra fuel, waterproof boxes, food and water storage, etc.

Traveling the north on a motorcycle in 24-hour sunlight would be the coolest. (But my brother Jean-Leon's idea of a bio-diesel camper van is probably even better.)

Summer leftovers, pt.1

I realize this is an old picture, but this house in Fort McPherson had me laughing. The residents spray-painted the family name on what appears to be an old fuel tank!

How awesome is that!

Are winters easier here?

Here is something that surprised me this year, and that I feel needs to be explained to people from Ottawa and Quebec.

Winters are actually easier here in the north, because the air is dry.

It's true! While the season is colder and darker, it has its benefits:

1. No soaked boots or coats. Everything is just crisp.

2. No shoveling! There are barely a few inches of show at first, and then everything freezes.

3. No black ice, freezing rain, etc.

4. No slush.

Of course, I should mention: The other day in Sachs Harbour, the airport weather tower guy told me it reached minus sixty-two degrees celcius with the windchill. No amount of wool is going to make that comfortable!