Baker Lake has several bloggers operating there. Which isn't surprising given how large the community is. Was anyone else surprised to learn that about 2400 people live there? If I'm not mistaken there are about 4 blogs that are active, but the blogger that I'm most familiar with is Jennith's. Jennith just celebrated her 5 year blogoversary, and if I'm not mistaken three of those years have been in Nunavut.
Jennith and I have been corresponding and commenting back and forth since before her move to Nunavut. She writes the delightful Blog Bog of the Tundra. Often her posts are accompanied by some very nice photography as she explores the wild and flora around Baker Lake, the Rockies, or the Canadian Shield.
We managed to get together at her place for coffee and a fantastic muffin one Sunday morning during a lull in the conference. It was a wonderful conversation that went by far too quickly.
And here is proof, an out of focus portrait of the two of us. Had the focus set on just the centre, darn wildlife photography. At least the packing bunny is a little sharper.
So I'm slowly settling in from my trip to Baker Lake. Trying to return my daily life back to non-travel rhythms. My last bit of luggage arrived last night (and in true northern tradition that "luggage" was a duct taped cardboard box filled with caribou meat). So it is time to revist some of my trip to Baker Lake.
The one week in Baker Lake saw not one, but two blizzards hit. I'm guessing that the Kivaliq region is a little breezier than up here. The first Blizzard was the more intense of the two, with winds hitting 110 kms/hour and lasting two days. It shut down our conference as we weren't all staying at the same hotel, and it was unsafe to wander outside. With nil visibility there is a real danger of losing one's way, as evidenced by the sad news of the young man in Arviat who left the store there, only to lose his way in the storm and perish a small distance out of town.
So how poor is the visibility? This photo was taken from outside the front door of the hotel at 10:00 am. It is the house across the street. And there were times that you couldn't see it at all. At night, at the height of the blizzard I couldn't even make out any other lights in town.
This one was taken about four hours later, when the storm had abated somewhat. It was taken from the warm confines of my room, looking down the street towards the centre of town.
My first stint as a Beat writer at 10,000 Birds is up. 10,000 Birds is quite simply the 600 pound gorilla of Nature Blogging, widely read and a force in the wild bird enthusiast community. I'm honoured to be included in their cabal of Beat writers.
An Arctic Primer is my introduction to my beat, Arctic Canada. Now the pressure is off until... Christmas Day? Seriously, Christmas Day is one month away? I'm off to pound my head against the wall.
One of the aspects of life up here is that if you are traveling anywhere, you're traveling by airplane. It is pretty much the only option. Certainly a goodly number of people go between communities by snowmobile, it is the only affordable option, but there are no roads, no buses, and for all intents and purposes no marine travel.
And if you travel any amount of time you are going to experience travel disruptions because of weather. I am about to experience the form of travel known as a Milk Run.
My original travel plans to return to Arctic Bay from Baker Lake was to leave yesterday, flying by turboprop to Rankin, and then by jet to Iqaluit, a little more than a three hour journey. I wasn't returning to Arctic Bay for two days, because of travel connections. That (Iqaluit to Arctic Bay) is in itself a three hour plus flight in a turboprop.
But the weather intruded, cancelling our plans from yesterday and resulting in the Milk Run option. For those of you not familiar with the term a milk run is a journey that consists of several stops along the way.
For this particular trip I will leave shortly for Rankin Inlet, then on to Chesterfield Inlet, Coral Harbour, Cape Dorset and finally on to Iqaluit, landing about 6 and a quarter hours later. I suspect this will be a very long day, although I am looking forward to seeing parts of the territory I wouldn't otherwise get to see. A larger part of the land of milk runs and honey buckets.
I've been away from home for the past week. Work has taken me to Baker Lake, Nunavut's only inland community, in the Kivaliq region. I'm here for training workshops/conference with the other Economic Development Officers from across the territory.
Bake Lake is windy.
I have a few other impressions of the place (not many as we've worked from 9 am right through to 9pm most days, sometimes over meal periods as well), but windy is the one big one. I arrived a week ago today and we're at the tail end (hopefully) of our second blizzard. We're to fly out today, but its not looking good at the moment.
The first blizzard was awe inducing. Winds over a hundred kilometres an hour coupled with snow falling horizontally is an impressive sight. From the inside of our hotel room. You can not over estimate the danger being outside in a storm such as this brings. Two neighbouring communities had people had people lost in the storm. In one case a 74 year old man was luckily found alive after being lost on the land during the blizzard. The other one ended in tragedy, when a young man, running an errand at the store, lost his way in the storm and ended up a couple of kilometres from the community, succumbing to the elements.
Right now the second storm seems to be abating somewhat, as we await word on whether the weather (see what I did there?) will allow our plane in and out. That's one hurdle, the storm is moving to Rankin our next stop, so there is only a slim chance we'll be flying today. And a miss today will impact all the travel plans for the rest of the journey.
But it is all part of travel in the north. As much as we like to talk about the weather there isn't much we can do about it. Other than anchor down, relax and see what the day brings.
More on Baker when I can get a couple of photos uploaded.
I didn't see a redpoll in Arctic Bay for the first several years I lived there. I knew they were a bird that was expected in the area, one that even apparently wintered there (and that alone should make them stand out), but despite that I seemed to live in an area devoid of them.
Two summers ago, Travis came back from Victor Bay with the report of a bird "like a Snow Bunting with red on it". When I opened up the bird guide and flipped by the page with the redpolls on it, he said "that's it!" and pointed to a redpoll. Although it wasn't the first time, and certainly wouldn't be the last, my son (not quite seven at the time) once again out birded me.
He took me to the spot, to try and help his hopeless father find the bird, but alas it was not there.
Then, that fall, two Hoary Redpolls appeared at Uluksa, the first of either redpoll species I've seen here. The resurgence had begun.
In February a report of seven "Snow Buntings" in a canyon nearby sent me and a friend looking for what I was sure would be redpolls not snowbuntings on Valentine's Day. A day that I should have spent with my wife, but a glorious day despite only catching but a snippet of redpoll song on the wind, and seeing no more than their tracks in the snow. They did winter here!
Although not a daily sight through out the spring, summer and fall, I saw redpolls regularily, including at least two Common Redpoll that established a small territory at First Bridge. Ice fishing last month my boy again pointed some out to me, hearing their soft calls and prompting me to go take a closer look. There was a dozen of them foraging on exposed seed heads on a steep hill.
This past Saturday, he again was the catalyst for another sighting. As I puttered in the yard, trying to better cover some of the junk stored in the yard, exposed. He shouted BIRD! and pointed to the sky. He said it even more urgently as I looked at the more obvious ravens in the neighbourhood. There! and pointed to the sky above our home.
There was a large flock of redpolls, most likely Hoary Redpolls, flying over the house. More than 20 and more than I'd ever seen, even at my parent's feeders. I'm not sure why, but they are certainly making a resurgence to the area where I live. If the ravens aren't careful, these might be making a play for my constant avian companions.
This is an expansion of the thoughts I was trying to express in my Remembrance Day address this morning, through my tears.
Remembrance comes easy for me. I've had family in pretty much every major conflict from the Napoleanic Wars on through to Korea. My Great-great-Grandfather was at Waterloo, and he took a French bayonet through his hand, injuring him permanently. Uncles and cousins were in the Second World War, of course one of them, Clare, gave me my name and his death gave me part of my identity.
My Grandfather was a soldier in the Great War. When I was small I had the keen interest in soldiers and military things that most young boys have. The kind of thing that gets them to draw tanks and planes and bombs. So I pestered my Grandfather to tell me about the war, to tell me about being a soldier.
One time, I asked Grandpa if he had killed anyone. Grandpa kind of paused and looked away. Then he told me that it was what they had to do. He told me about a time that he came upon a German soldier. Both reached for their grenades, Grandpa his Mills Bomb, the German his potato masher. Grandpa's was on target, landing between the other man's feet, killing him.
We ask our young men and women who go to war to do terrible things for us, and to make terrible sacrifices. They do it at our behest, so we do not have to. War is Hell, my Grandfather knew that as well as any man. But he also knew that sometimes we have to go to war. After the Great War I'm sure my Grandfather hoped and prayed there would never be a need to go to war again, it was after all the "War to end all wars". But when the world found itself at war again, he was at the front of the line trying to go back. He couldn't because of a hernia, but he served at home, and recruited young men and women, knowing full well that they would be making terrible sacrifices and doing terrible things.
We might have success at war, but war itself is a failure. It is our failure to find another way, to resolve a particular conflict, or to stop some group from doing terrible things. Sometimes, unfortunately, in our world, it is a necessity.
Remembrance requires more of us than two minutes of silence once a year. It requires us to acknowledge constantly the terrible sacrifices we ask others to make for us, and the terrible things we ask them to do on our behalf. It requires us to constantly seek the resolution, and to prepare when we fail at that. It requires us to remember all of the time, what happens when we fail in this world to find peace, and security.
Photo of my grandfather's carving underground near Vimy courtesy of J. Richardson
Most of my comment spam, which admittedly is pretty small all things considered, comes from the Philippines. Its pretty easy to spot, usually it happens on an older post, there'll be link to a commercial website and a comment along the line of "Thanks for the excellent post. It gives me something to think about."
As soon as I find one, I mark it as Spam, then go to my Statcounter to collect the IP address. Like I said it is almost always from an IP address in the Philippines, although recently one came from Cairo Egypt. Then I block the IP address from commenting. They have hundreds, so at most blocking each IP address just slows them down, and gives me a small feeling of satisfaction.
This morning something different happened. It appears as though one of the people employed to leave the spam actually enjoys the blog. I had a comment on an old post, then did my usual thing, blocked and deleted. But the IP address keeps returning, going back through the archives and reading page after page of the blog, at last count over sixty page views.
I suspect there is someone occasionally looking over their shoulder, as there were occasional gaps in time between page views. So whoever you are two things... 1) Please stop leaving spam, I know it's your job and everything, but if there is one thing that gets me seething in hate its these attempts to hijack my stuff for someone else's gain. And 2) Welcome. Really, its great to have you have a look around here. I hope you're enjoying reading about this tiny life. Make yourself at home, and if you get one of those unblocked IP addresses, leave a legitimate comment, one without a commercial link, one telling me what you think about my Arctic home. Good to have you on board.