Friday, May 9, 2014

Extreme Ironing

Arctic Bay - April 16, 2014
Wikipedia defines Extreme Ironing (EI) as "an extreme sport and a performance art in which people take ironing boards to remote locations and iron items of clothing."  The sport was created by Phil Shaw of Leicester, England in 1997.  In June 1999, he went on an international tour to promote the activity.  The sport gained popularity and in 2002, the 1st Extreme Ironing World Championships were held in Germany. 
I was introduced to EI in 2011 while watching a news clip from the BBC.  It showed CCTV footage of Jason Blair, a British citizen, sneaking onto an open stretch of the M1 motorway in London and ironing a dress shirt in the centre lane.  He was able to do this because that portion of the motorway was closed to traffic because of a fire somewhere.  In the following days and months, I googled many images of extreme ironers and considered doing some extreme ironing of my own.  I just had to find the right time and place.
When I began teaching in the north, my priorities changed and I had to put EI on the backburner.  When I moved to Arctic Bay and hiked up King George for the second time in August of last year, the idea resurfaced as I was standing on a ledge next to a tall inukshuk.  This would be a good place to do some extreme ironing, I thought to myself.  Since school was starting in a few days, I assumed that I would have to wait until the winter/spring months to set aside the necessary time.  All I needed was someone with a skidoo to bring me up with all the necessary equipment and also double as a photographer.
Sean - Driver, Photographer
In March of this year, I spoke to Sean, the Grade 6 teacher and my next door neighbour, about assisting me in my endeavour during the Spring Break in April.  Though surprised to hear the existence of the sport (and laughing about it too), he happily agreed to be my driver and photographer. 
"Pyramid Mountain" - the name I've
given to the mountain
opposite of King George.
The "adventure of a lifetime" began on April 16th, two days after my long hike beyond Victor Bay.  We originally planned the excursion for the 15th but my legs were still aching at the time.  While Sean got his skidoo started, I packed all the necessary items into my backpack: dress shirt, dress pants, iron, a cloth, digital camera, and two Uniden walkie-talkies.  I assumed Sean would have to stand some distance away from me to get the shots I wanted, so I ordered the walkie-talkies for better communication. 
Today is a good day to iron hard.
Setting up the ironing board.
When I was fully dressed, I brought everything out, including my ironing board.  We attached the back of the ironing board to the rear of the skidoo using bungee cords.  Our feet would keep the rest of the board in place.  Once I checked that we had everything, Sean revved his skidoo and we were on our way.  It was a fun but bumpy ride across the frozen bay.  Many sled dogs stopped what they were doing and watched us zoom past.  I held on tightly, having no desire to fall off.  The crossing took less than five minutes.  We rode past the garbage dump and followed the skidoo path on the left side of King George.  As we neared the base of the mountain, I noticed snow being blown off the top.  That could only mean that it was windy up there.  I was glad I was wearing my Canada Goose clothing and had a pair of ski goggles to protect my eyes.
Let's get ironing!
The skidoo path ascended up a snow covered slope, the same one I used to climb KGVM in May of last year.  Sean was unsure if his skidoo could take both of us up, so I decided to get off and hike up the slope while he brought the ironing board to the top.  It took me around 10 minutes to hike up to the top.  We rode down the skidoo trail, turned right and then drove back up to the top of the mountain.  When we got to the top, I needed a minute to get my bearings.  Up until that point, I had never used the skidoo trail to climb up to the top.  Strong winds blew snow across the rocks as Sean & I walked to the face of the mountain on the Arctic Bay side.  A spectacular view of the town and surrounding landscape greeted us.
With my ironing board in hand, I slowly walked down to the ledge that had a tall sandy brown inukshuk sitting in the centre.  Sean went to the ledge on the left to set up his Nikon camera.  I gave him mine as a backup.  The wind did not dissipate as I set the ironing board and my backpack against the inukshuk.  I needed rocks to hold the board in place or else it would disappear over the ledge.  I found several rocks heavy enough to hold down the board and a few smaller ones to hold down the shirt & pants I would be "ironing".  When everything was in place, I contacted Sean via walkie-talkie to ask if he was ready.  He responded that he was and gave me a thumbs up.

Ignoring the cold winds, I stood behind the ironing board with an iron in my right and dress pants in my left.  This one is for the history books, I said to myself.  I began "ironing" my dress pants while Sean took pictures for a good 2 minutes.  I then switched over to the dress shirt and repeated the same gimmick for the camera.  I pulled my hood down a few times so that my face would turn up on some of the pictures.  Following Sean's suggestion, once the first set was completed, I moved the ironing board closer to the edge of the ledge.  I took my time, making sure the ironing board and I would not fall over the side.  It's a long way down, I thought as I peeked over the ledge.
The second set followed the same routine.  Sean did his best to capture the steepness of the cliffs and the vast Arctic landscape in the background.  There were sporadic moments when the wind died down but I still held on to everything with a closed fist.

The third and last set had me facing the mountain so that Arctic Bay and/or Victor Bay would be in the background.  Sean took plenty of wide angle and close up shots as I happily "ironed" for the camera.  After that, we called it quits, convinced that the photo-op was a success.  I folded the ironing board and packed up everything into my backpack.  I threw away the rocks I used for weights, except for one which I placed on the inukshuk.  Sean also placed a rock on the inukshuk.  We headed back the way we came, following the skidoo trail that many before us have used to drive up to the top of the mountain.  The ride across the bay was again bumpy but I didn't mind.  I thanked Sean for his assistance and borrowed his camera to copy the 175 raw pictures he took.  I spent a little over an hour editing the photos on my laptop  The entire excursion took two hours and definitely was a success.

Arctic Bay/KGVM is now on the extreme ironing map!  I think I'm the first person in Arctic Bay to do EI.  As for the most northern location in Canada, I'm not sure.  There are still the communities of Resolute and Grise Fiord, followed by the research station Eureka, and Canadian Forces Base Alert.  It's possible they have extreme ironers as well.  This won't be the end of my extreme ironing adventures.  There are still plenty of locations all around the world for me to iron on.  For those of you looking for a thrillseeking activity to be a part of, try extreme ironing.  Just be careful and play it safe.  

 In Nunavut Quest news, the annual dog sledding race finished in Pond Inlet over the May 3 - 4 weekend.  For the third time in a row, Andy Attagutalukutuk of Igloolik came in first place, winning $15,000.  He and his dogs completed the 395km journey from Igloolik in just 39 hours and 54 minutes.  Peter Siakuluk of Hall Beach came in second place, with a time of 44 hours and 15 minutes.  He was awarded $7,000.  And in third place came Michael Inuarak of Pond Inlet, with a time of 46 hours and 36 minutes.  He was awarded $4,000. 

Andy Attagutalukutuk
39 hours and 54 minutes
Peter Siakuluk
44 hours and 15 minutes
Michael Inuarak
46 hours and 36 minutes
Lee Inuaraq
47 hours, 6 minutes, and 30 seconds
Joey Aqiaruq
47 hours and 49 minutes
Moses Oyukuluk
49 hours and 31 minutes
Panuilie Okango
50 hours and 1 minute
Isaac Irngaut
63 hours, 27 minutes, and 30 seconds
Maren Vstula
Did not complete the race.

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