I so cannot wait to be able to get safely closer to this iceberg, which will probably spend the winter locked in the ice near town. I know, I know, more iceberg photos. You'll just have to tough it out.
Arctic Bay froze yesterday, hopefully it will stay. If the calm weather remains, it will. Once again it is late from what I know as normal, the Thanksgiving Weekend. My understanding was normal used to be even earlier before I got here. The last six or so years have seen late freeze ups, from 3 weeks to almost twice that.
Late last night you could see that the grey ice had begun coalescing into new landfast ice, and this morning it was ice throughout the bay.
Though most of the boats had already been pulled up for the year the season wasn't done quite yet.
We've had windy, miserable weather for so long that many people were anxious to get out on the water. Anxious enough to bust through the forming ice to get to the open water in Admiralty Inlet.
Threading their way home after a long, and hopefully, successful day's hunt.
The last sunset of the season is only about a week and a half away. How quickly we change to the dark season. This year we've had so many overcast skies that the dark season has crept up even more quickly. There have been so very few dramatic sunrises and sets this fall, just varying shades of grey.
Once again freeze up is late as well, although the bay has been trying the last few days, it is just being foiled by the wind. Until it does freeze, this komatiq will just have to wait.
When most people think about our wildlife in the High Arctic it is our mammals that get all the attention. Polar Bear, Narwhal, Bowhead Whale, Beluga, Ringed Seal, Bearded Seal and the like all spring to mind first when you think about our oceanic fauna. So its not on very many people's radar that we have sharks up here.
Well, shark. The Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus) lives in these water, and is abundant here. I've never seen a live one, but a lot of people have. They are regularly seen just off the shore, and if you're in a place where there are carcasses laying about, say Narwhal carcasses, they congregate. For while these sharks are predators, and will take all manner of prey, they gain much of their food by scavenging.
The two I've seen have been right here in Arctic Bay, the latest a week ago. There have been large concentrations of sea-run char here this year, and many people have nets out. Attached at shore they jut out into the bay. Fresh char has been plentiful this summer. Usually its abundant in the Spring. One of these nets accidentally caught a much larger fish, a Greenland Shark that cruised the shallows looking for scraps.
This shark is a smallish one, about 9 feet. But, excluding the filter feeding Basking and Whale Sharks, the Greenland Shark is the second largest shark in the world, after the Great White Shark. The Greenland Shark will grow to 24 feet, and over 3,000 pounds. That's a big predator to have at your feet. A friend was standing on a small point jutting into Admiralty Inlet when a large one appeared at her feet. She beat a hasty retreat. There are reports of them taking caribou crossing stream mouths, but that may likely just be legends.
There are many unusual things about this fish, one of them is that about 90 percent in the Arctic are mostly blind. They are parasitized by a Copapod that attaches itself to their cornea. The sharks apparently do just find with their other senses, perhaps a testament to the time they spend in the dark and the deep sunless depths of the ocean. They are also suspected of having a very slow growth rate. One individual captured, tagged, and later re-captured was found to have only grown about a centimetre a year in length. If that was a constant then the largest individuals are extremely long lived. Although I suspect that the rate is variable. Like many sharks they are also ovoviviparous, meaning their eggs develop and hatch inside the female, and she give birth to live pups.
While the marine mammals may get all the glory in the Arctic they are not the only fascinating creatures here. Sometimes jaws lurk just off shore.
Last Thursday, sometime early in the morning the Anik F2 satellite decided it needed a little more sun. The Anik F2, a behemoth communications satellite parked in orbit above North America, oriented itself towards the Sun, rather than down here towards northern Canada. And for the better part of the day it gave us a glimpse into just how much we rely on technology up here these days.
My first glimpse into the failure came after I pulled myself out of bed and wandered to the office to check the email. It quickly became apparent that email and the internet weren't working. So after going through all the motions of resetting the modem, and my router without success, I went back to my day, giving up on my morning internet fix.
By the time I got to work a couple of hours later, the internet was still down, and I thought nothing more of it, until a call from our ISP. Not only was the internet down but there was no long distances service. It had been blowing a gale here that night and I assumed that that was why we were having problems. But it turned out that it wasn't just Arctic Bay's phones and internet that were down but all of Nunavut's and much of the North's.
Now on the face of things you might think that it was no big deal, but it could have been. But the satellite services that drive our long distance and internet drive ALL of our communications up here. We had no way of communicating with the rest of the world, and had it been down for days rather than the 18 hours or so it could have had serious consequences. Even in the 18 hours it was down with a little bad luck it could have.
No weather information was getting out from any of the airports and they cancelled all non-emergency flights. But, and this is a pretty big but, had there been an emergency there would have been no way of calling for it. Satellite phones were also down apparently. Television, and the systems they run on, however, were not done. Much of the information that got out, and got to communities, including communications by RCMP HQ to the detachments, was done through CBC. Thank god for the CBC.
We have excellent staff at our Health Centre, but there are always cases that need to be sent down to Iqaluit or Ottawa. No doctors staff the Health Centre, they come up for regular visits. Our nurses could give many doctors a good run for their money, but the fact remains that a serious medical emergency while the satellite was out of commission could have had serious consequences.
There were other problems that I have to say I never thought would crop up. Like much of the world we are largely a cashless society now. I mean there is still a lot of cash that changes hands up here, but most/many people use debit cards, and an in store card system. With the satellite down, well none of that, or credit cards worked at the store. We had enough cash on hand to buy groceries for a day, but beyond that we would have had to rely on the good graces of the stores to keep the commerce going, and our bellies full.
I commented several times that all we were missing was a major power failure and this would have been the manifestation of good old Y2K. But like I said back then there are few places better equipped for a total shut down of modern technology. I live in a place were many families have the skills and abilities to live like they did in old days. There are many up here who, up 'til the late sixties/early seventies, lived essentially the same way people did 5,000 years ago in the Arctic. And it is comforting to know that we would survive, if circumstances returned us to those days.