I woke up on the morning of March 30th feeling excited. Several southern teachers and I had planned a day trip out on the land to satisfy our hunger to explore the vast arctic landscape. We hadn't had the time during the semester, so the spring break presented us with a golden opportunity. There would be seven of us on this excursion: myself, Kaitlynd, Sarah, Greg, Stephen, Lindsay, and Tom. Stephen is Kaitlynd's common-law partner, Lindsay is Kaitlynd's sister, and Tom works at Northern Properties. The rest of us teach at Inuujaq School.
|The skidoo Tom borrowed for the day.|
We didn't have a location in mind; we just decided to pick a direction, drive out onto the ice in Admiralty Inlet, see where we end up, and then come back. Our mode of transportation would be three skidoos and a qamutik (sled). Stephen & I had our own skidoos but Tom had to rent one for the day. We borrowed the qamutik from one of the local student support assistants.
Having a qamutik at our disposal meant we could bring more supplies, but I did my best to pack lightly. First and foremost was to bring all the essentials:
· Extra gas & oil
· Spare drive belt
· Two spark plugs
· Tool kit
· First aid kit
· Toilet paper
· Duct tape
· Over-the-counter medicines to combat colds, headaches, & motion sickness
When I hiked around Arctic Bay last year, I only had my machete to protect me against aggressive wildlife (ie. polar bears). I was also bringing my fillet knife on this trip but two knives wouldn't be enough to protect seven people from a serious emergency. Thankfully, and reassuringly for everyone, I had recently become the proud & responsible owner of a Maverick 88 12-gauge shotgun. The responsibility of polar bear protection rested on my shoulders. My ammunition consisted of 10 Remington slugs and 5 bear-bangers. A bear-banger is basically a small explosive loaded into a slug casing. The round is designed to create a loud bang when fired, in the hope of scaring off a polar bear. If they fail, then you use the more lethal slugs. I bought the bear-bangers in Iqaluit for $5 per round. I was also bringing earplugs and protective eye glasses, although, I seriously doubted I would have the time to put them on if a polar bear came charging towards us.
For food, I packed some snacks and filled a large thermos with hot chocolate. The last important items I packed were an ironing board, iron, dress pants, and dress shirt. It has been a year since my first extreme ironing stunt in Arctic Bay, so it was time to do it again!
Stephen drove up to my house pulling the borrowed qamutik. Greg was with him. I placed the ironing board & iron, as well as all the other stuff I was bringing inside the small wooden hut that was tied onto the qamutik. The Inuit build these small huts, called iglutaks, to give passengers a place to hide from the cold arctic winds. I followed Stephen & Greg down to the bay where Tom & Sarah were waiting for us. The weather was perfect: sunny with clear blue skies. When we got to the meeting place, Stephen roped the qamutik to the back of my skidoo.
The convoy left at 10:30am heading south. I was wearing a lot of warm clothes. My outerwear alone consisted of Baffin Impact Boots, Canada Goose Tundra Cargo snow pants, Resolute Parka, gloves, neck warmer, face mask, skidoo goggles, and toque. With my shotgun slung around me, I looked like an arctic warrior. I had my face completely covered so that I wouldn't get a sunburn and/or windburn (aka "raccoon face"). Stephen was in the front, I drove in the middle pulling the qamutik, and Tom & Sarah rode in the back. Kaitlynd & Lindsay sat in the iglutak.
This was my first time pulling a qamutik with a skidoo. I kept my speed between 40 - 48km/h. The ice & snow are not smooth when you leave the city limits. You inevitably drive over snow drifts and the journey turns into a bumpy affair. You really feel the bumps when riding in a qamutik. The Inuit place mattresses in the huts to ease the feel of the bumps but you still feel them nonetheless. My advice to anyone who suffers from motion sickness is to take Gravol before you leave.
|Checking the qamutik.|
We briefly stopped at Uluksaat Point - about 2km south of the town proper - to check on the ropes between my skidoo & the qamutik. Locals come to this spot to have a picnic and/or bonfire. You cannot stop abruptly while pulling a qamutik because you'll get hit from behind. Qamutiks usually don't come with brakes. You have to gradually slow down like a train before coming to a complete stop.
|If you want to explore Canada's Arctic landscape, you've got to be well dressed & equipped.|
We turned right and continued driving southwest, towards a faraway point on the other side of the frozen ice. The faraway point was 14km away but it looked a lot closer from the naked eye. I quickly got used to the monotonous drone of the skidoo engine and the bumps along the ice. The cold, however, began making my fingers numb despite the thickness of the gloves. People say it's better to wear mitts but I'm not a mitt person. I stopped the skidoo after about 7km to warm up my hands and to pull up the hood on my parka. I also switched on the handle bar warmers. Next time, I'm using those hand warmer packets inside my gloves.
We arrived at the faraway point at about 11:15am. When we switched off all the skidoo engines, everything was deafeningly quiet. We stretched our legs, ate some snacks, and photographed the surrounding area. But for me, the time had come. I walked over to the qamutik and brought out my iron, ironing board, and dress clothes. With no polar bear in sight, I walked out onto the ice and set up the ironing board.
Quick background information: Extreme Ironing (EI) is an extreme sport and performance art where you take an ironing board to a remote location and iron pieces of clothing.
|Sarah - first time extreme ironer.|
|Tom - first time extreme ironer.|
While I ironed my dress shirt and dress pants under the bright arctic sun, everyone photographed the spectacle with a sense of awe, wonder, and amusement. I made sure the photographers got every angle so that I would have plenty of pictures to choose from for this blog post. I even managed to convince Sarah & Tom to give it a try. The others were . . . let's say, too shy.
We drove north towards the cliffs after I placed all my ironing equipment back on the qamutik. It took us about thirty minutes to cross the entire width of the frozen ice. The cliffs grew in size as we slowly got closer to them. We turned right and headed back towards Uluksaat Point. We stopped about halfway because Stephen & Greg wanted to climb up a rocky hill that leaned against the cliffs. I didn't mind the stop because my hands were getting cold again.
|Stephen & Greg (bottom right) climb up to the top of the rocky hill.|
|Me extreme ironing in front of the cliffs.|
I photographed the two climbers with the immense cliff faces as the backdrop. The sight of the cliffs reminded me of when I walked along the top edges two years ago. To the left of the climbers I noticed a pair of inukshuks sitting on top of a smaller hill. My mind suddenly a "qulliq moment" - (the northern equivalent of a light bulb moment). I took out my extreme ironing equipment and hiked up to the two inukshuks. I set up my ironing board between them and got Sarah to take pictures of me extreme ironing my formal shirt & pants. I think I'm going to start an extreme ironing club next year.
We continued our drive back to Arctic Bay but stopped at Uluksaat Point to take a group photo. Greg took the photos with his camera. After that, everyone headed home. Stephen showed me where to drop off the qamutik before we called it a day. Overall, the day trip was a lot of fun. We got to see another piece of the vast and endless arctic landscape and I was able to do some extreme ironing.
But this is not the end of the story because I was not ready to call it a day. I still wanted to go somewhere with my skidoo. After relaxing in my house for two hours, I got back on my skidoo and drove towards King George V Mountain (KGVM). I followed the skidoo paths to the left side of the mountain. This time, my ascent would be successful because there was plenty of snow on the ground. (My previous attempt last November failed due to a lack of snow, thus failing to cover all the sharp pointed rocks).
|Arctic Bay Airport.|
|Planes on the tarmac.|
I safely reached the summit of KGVM after carefully maneuvering previously made skidoo paths. My skidoo didn't have trouble ascending the steep and sometimes slippery hillsides. I turned off my skidoo and took off my helmet. All I could hear was silence. I walked over to the left side of the mountain to see the airport. Just as the airport came into view, a First Air plane landed on the runway. It was too late for me to film the moment. I did the next best thing and photographed the plane taxiing to the terminal.
Looking out over the bay, I photographed the long winding skidoo path our convoy created that morning. I was surprised to see it from KGVM. I also photographed the inukshuk where I extreme ironed last April. It was still there, all in one piece. The last thing for me to do was to film the First Air plane taking off and flying towards Resolute Bay.
I headed back the way I came but took a detour near the bottom of the mountain. I explored a different skidoo path before emerging onto the road to the Sewage Lagoon. I followed the road in the opposite direction, passing the town garbage dump. I crossed the road to the airport and drove onto the ice in the bay. I aimed my skidoo towards the other side of the bay drove until I reached home. I would spend the next hour or two editing all the pictures I collected.