About 2 days ago Arctic Bay (the body of water) froze over and I think it is safe to say that it is frozen for the season. After several calm days it should be thick enough that no amount of wind will break it up. It will be a nice smooth surface for snowmobiles and travel this year.
Judging from what I saw, Adam's Sound is well on its way to be frozen over as well, and if this weather holds travel on Admiralty should be nice and smooth as well.
Freeze up is only a little bit late this year, about two weeks past normal, which is right around Thanksgiving weekend. It hasn't froze over here at Thanksgiving now for several years, as has been as much as 5 or 6 weeks later. Winter is upon us.
Our temperature dipped this past week, hanging out in the mid minus teens, and I'm feeling it this year. -15C in late October shouldn't feel as cold as it does. But it does, and I'm just going to have to suck it up. We are only a couple weeks from the dark season.
Those who know the online me, know that I've adopted the Gyrfalcon, KIggavik in Inuktitut, as an online identity (if you will). Our Bed and Breakfast and other business names were called Kiggavik. A quick glance to this blog's URL will show you that it contains "Kiggavik", and pretty much anywhere I've needed a screen name that is what I've chosen. They are magnificent birds, filled with grace and power. And even though I see them annually in the wild I've had no idea of how truely powerful and awe inducing they are, until I held one in my hands this past week.
Thursday night, a Gyrfalcon was seen by two local youths, locked in battle with two Ravens. All three birds tumbled to the ground, on the shore of Arctic Bay and the youths were able to chase the Ravens away. The Gyrfalcon seemed unable to fly, so they took it to a local home, who took it to the local Wildlife Officer. I found out about it, as it happens so often these days, on Facebook.
I've helped with injured birds in the past, so I got a hold of the Wildlife Officer and offered to help, and the next morning was in his office, staring back at a beautiful, and large, raptor. I had no idea that it would be as large as it was. It is one thing to know that this is the largest of the falcons, but when you're constantly looking at them as they are a couple of hundred feet up a huge cliff, you can get a false idea of their size. I sure did. She stood over two feet tall, with a wingspan of well over four feet I'm guessing.
She (and I'm assuming she was a female based on her size) was an adult and was very alert. Luckily, I was able to pick the brain of someone with actual wildlife rehabilitation experience, my friend Dave (of Bird TLC and Around Anchorage fame). A quick exam showed there was no obvious injuries, that she was able to use her wings, and that she was somewhat undernourished. She had no shortage of strength and I discovered that her talons and beak were powerful reminders of that, even through leather gloves.
She hadn't eaten, but after having some water she downed the caribou meat that had been fed her, and later that night polished off an entire ptarmigan, followed by a pound of ground beef the next day. She also destroyed the cardboard that had lined the dog kennel she was temporarily housed in.
As she seemed strong, uninjured and only hungry enough to tackle a couple of Ravens, we decided to release her Sunday morning. Driving to the hills towards Nanisivik (choosing a spot with wide open tundra in case we had to try and capture her) we set the cage on the ground and opened the door.
She wasted no time in coming out, and stood on a low rock, calmly watching us and taking stock of her new found freedom. After waiting and watching a few moments she threw herself into the air, and flew with strong wing beats low over the tundra, sliding down into a small valley, and out of sight.
There was a fish derby today, down by the water lake. The whole family went down, as did a good many town's folk. As is usual in these things, I spent most of my time being distracted, rather than fishing.
Once again Travis has shown is remarkable ability to detect birds. While we were standing out on the lake, with him Leah and Hilary all fishing, he suddenly called out. "Dad! I hear a bird." After a few minutes I could hear a Raven in the distance and I asked if that was it. No, he said, it's a redpoll or a Snow Bunting. He paused and listened, and above the ATV that was driving by pointed back past shore to the hills lining the lake. Over there.
So I walked, and paused, and listened, and walked, and listened, and sure enough there was the soft twitter of birds. Up on the hill were a dozen Hoary Redpolls feeding on the stalks of seed. My camera? Back in town of course.
So I drove back home, and returned to find that everyone was ready to pick up stakes and move to another part of the lake. I quickly scanned the hills, but they were gone.
Back at the other end of the lake, while the others headed out on the ice, I walked, and paused, and listened. Lemming, fox, hare and weasel tracks were scattered in the snow. But nothing showed itself. Nothing betrayed its presence save the Ravens, wheeling and calling high above.
I stood, and listened, and the inuksuit stood with me.
Hilary pointed out the moon rising above King George after work today. I rushed out and snapped a couple of shots, but with a hand held long lens in low light there was far too much camera shake for a useful photo.
Or was there? Here is the best of the bunch, after being played with in Aperture.
I first met Bobby on perhaps my second day up here in Arctic Bay. Down by the breakwater my partner at the time and I discovered that we had a flat tire on the truck. As we started to change it Bobby came up, and started to help, pretty much changing the tire for us.
It was obvious that he had had some developmental problems, but even more obvious that he had a big booming laugh. He'd throw his had back and laugh like no one I knew. I reached into my wallet to pay him for his trouble, but he declined. He talked with us a short while and then was off.
Bobby was constantly helping, and he was everywhere. He threw himself into life with the enthusiasm and energy of a young kid. Always joking, always off in his own world. I think I can only recall him angry or upset two or three times, these past 11 years.
He had a mischievous bent to him. For awhile, after I retired, I worked at the airport handling cargo for the airline. Bobby worked for the local cartage company, and after the cargo was unloaded from the jet, we'd be working together loading it onto the truck taking it back to Arctic Bay. We'd often joke with the packages, pretending that the light box we just picked up was heavy, watching the reaction of the person you passed it to. Bobby could take it further, he'd pick up a heavy box like it weighed nothing at all and pass it casually to me. It was the better joke of the two, and impossible for most to pull off.
But he was strong.
He was often in a place that none of us could see, laughing at a joke that only he knew, or making some exaggerated movements that meant something to him, and him alone. And he was everywhere, on his bike, or fishing at the breakwater, or dragging a huge magnet bar on wheels, meant to be pulled behind a truck, behind him, picking up nails from the road. Just to be helpful.
I most often saw him in three places. Riding on his bike, sitting on a crate just outside of town looking out over the bay listening to his iPod, or at the breakwater fishing. Sometimes he'd be in a little boat, or standing on pan of ice, with the boat pulled up along side.
Yesterday, I ran quickly to the store to pick up my boy and give him a ride home. As we left Bobby was at the Breakwater, standing in the little boat. A passenger remarked that it was him, we all looked and kept going. It was the last time we'd see him.
Bobby fell into the water sometime shortly after that. Whether he lost his balance, slipped, or had one of the seizures he'd sometimes have I don't know. As I drove home from work someone flagged me down and told me he was at the Health Centre, not breathing. Although I waited to hear that he was revived it was not to be. Bobby drowned yesterday afternoon.
I'll miss him, his habit of always helping out and giving of himself. And that laugh, oh how I'll miss that laugh.
I just heard the news of the passing of someone who has been a part of my life, well, for all of it. Garry was the fast friend of my family, he and his family were pretty much always there. He lived life large, and always always was looking to take another back road to somewhere. He had a thirst for the road less taken. He and Barb were such a part of my parents world I cannot imagine how they will imagine their life without him in it. I can imagine even less the loss that Barb, Lee, Michelle and Shauneen must feel at this moment.
I wish I had the capacity for words that could explain to them all how much a presence he has been, and even though he isn't with us, how much he'll continue to be, and how we must continue to love life, like he would. So I'll fall to someone else's words, words I just read the other day.
The Thing is
(By Ellen Bass)
to love life, to love it even when you have no stomach for it and everything you've held dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands, your throat filled with the silt of it. When grief sits with you, its tropical heat thickening the air, heavy as water more fit for gills than lungs; when grief weights you like your own flesh only more of it, an obesity of grief, you think, How can a body withstand this? Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you I will love you, again.
There is a skiff of grey ice on the bay this morning, and the most beautifully subtle light, accompanied by a light snow fall. It is unlikely that the ice will stay, unless we get a string of windless days, despite it being past normal freeze up time.
Narwhal were there somewhere. A small pod was apparently in the bay, close to town earlier, but despite this I couldn't find them. The sharp exhale/inhale of breath far off was the only clue to their presence. Once and it was gone. They are there somewhere, but they won't be for long, they'll follow the edge of the ice and leave us soon.