Saturday, April 29, 2017

Late April (2017)

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) is a public government organization that “assess[es] the potential impacts of proposed development in the Nunavut Settlement Area” before said projects are approved & authorized.  The NIRB is one of four organizations created by the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) to monitor & manage issues concerning land, water, offshore, and wildlife.  The NIRB’s main office is located in Cambridge Bay and its mandate “comes from Article 12 of the [NLCA], and the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act."  Whenever a major project is proposed in Nunavut, such as, mining & infrastructure, the NIRB investigates the “potential biophysical [&] socio-economic impact proposals and will make recommendations [&] decisions about which projects may proceed.”  In short, writing reports.  Lots of them.  I could spend more time going into detail about the inner workings of the NIRB, but their website does a much better job.
In case you’re wondering, the other three organizations are: the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB), the Nunavut Water Board (NWB), and the Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC).  I briefly teach about these four governing bodies to my Grade 10 Social Studies students when we study the NLCA. 
NIRB Representatives speak to students.
NIRB representatives came to Inuujaq School on Friday, April 21 to give an afternoon presentation to the high school students.  The presentation happened in the math & science classroom.  The representatives introduced themselves and spoke about the NIRB using the 5 Ws & 1 H – (Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?).  They gave several examples of projects they reviewed in the past & those currently being reviewed.  All their reports are online.  They were also looking for students interested in applying for the Summer Student Employee Equity Program (SSEEP).  The program “is designed to provide opportunities for Nunavummiut students to gain meaningful work experience or training within the Nunavut Public Service.”  The eligibility requirements & application instructions were displayed on the classroom StarBoard.
The presentation ended with a Q&A session.  The students left the room with a better understanding of the NIRB & its functions.
Kindergarten winners.
Grade 4 winners.
The attendance awards assembly for the month of March was also held on April 21.  The student body filed into the gym during the last period of the day to hear & see the lucky students who never missed a class for the month of March.  Their names were called out and were asked to come to the front to receive a certificate.  They were shy but all smiles.  A brief thought came into my mind while I was watching the assembly.  Maybe teachers should also get a certificate for perfect attendance?           
Arctic Bay is home to many talented Nunavummiut.  We have musicians, singers, dancers, carvers, and painters.  Paulette has been the high school art teacher for ten years and she runs a successful afterschool art program called Art Spark.  (She also teaches English Language Arts).  On Sunday, April 23, Art Spark held a fundraising event for its artists called Art Attack.  The aims of the event were: to showcase local art works, and raise publicity & financially support the artists who contributed their works.  There was a limited amount of hand-made tickets so I made sure to buy one as soon as they became available.  My ticket number was 14.

Inuujaq School’s gym was converted into an art gallery for the fundraiser.  The works of art – prints & paintings – were taped along the walls of the gym.  Tables were set up near the entrance to welcome guests, and sell snacks & juice.  People who didn’t purchase the special tickets were still allowed to attend; they just had to pay-at-the-door.  Guests were given a list of the works on display and the names of the artists who made them.  Everyone was given an hour to look at all the works.  Easy listening music played from a boombox in a corner.    

The main event was the draw.  Paulette stood in the middle of the gym and welcomed everyone to Art Attack 2017.  She explained how the draw works.  When your number is called, you have one minute to pick one work off the wall.  However, there is the possibility that your first choice may no longer be available so you need to have a 2nd choice, 3rd choice, and so on as backup.  Paulette and her Art Spark members began drawing numbers when everyone was ready. 

Everyone waits for their ticket numbers to be called.
The print I chose.
My number wasn’t the first one called.  It wasn’t the second one either.  I made sure not to look in the direction of the print I wanted because someone else might take it.  Thankfully, the print was still on the wall when my number was called.  I didn’t need a minute.  I immediately turned around and carefully took the print, titled, “Lauren Harris Berg” off the wall.  I was shown where I could get it carefully packed.  I also made plans to buy a frame from the Northern Store.  The draw continued until every ticket number was called and all the art works were off the wall.  Paulette thanked everyone for making Art Attack 2017 a success.               
On the evening of April 24, I received a knock on my door at home.  I wasn’t expecting visitors so I wondered who could it be?  Upon opening the door, I was greeted by an Inuit co-worker, Susan, and her mother, Hannah.  My sealskin parka & vest were ready.  They wanted me to try them on and see if any alterations needed to be made.  I invited them inside.
Me standing next to Hannah wearing
my sealskin parka.
Getting a well-made sealskin parka is an exciting experience.  You’re supporting & promoting traditional Inuit clothing.  You do have to budget because clothing made from sealskin or any animal is costly.  My budget for this project was $2,000 CAD.  You also have to sit down with the seamstress and discuss what you want the parka to look like.  The last thing you need is patience.  Making a parka takes time. 
Me showing the inukshuk design on the
back of my parka while standing next
to the seamstress, Hannah.
First, I bought the materials I wanted the parka to be made of: black & white sealskins, silver fox fur, leather, inner material, and a metal zipper.  The skins, fur, and leather were ordered from Billy Worb Furs Inc., and the inner material & metal zipper were purchased locally.  I sat down with Susan & Hannah in my classroom one afternoon in February, showed them everything I bought and discussed my design concept.  I kept my design simple.  The black sealskins would cover the majority of the parka, silver fox would line the hood, pockets on the sides & one inside, and a large white inukshuk on the back.  The inukshuk design is based on a large carving I bought from a local carver.  The leather would be used for the pockets and linings.  They asked me if I wanted anything else made because I had actually bought much more than I needed.  I suggested a sealskin vest and a pair of mitts.  Hannah would sow everything.
I tried the parka & the vest and they both fit.  I was very impressed by the final products and Susan took a picture of me standing next to Hannah.  I thanked her for her hard work and paid her the amount we agreed to.  There were enough materials to make complementing mitts.  I gave her the green light to go ahead and make them.  They would be ready in a week or two.

I began wearing my new warm parka the very next day.  People immediately noticed and complimented on how good it looks.  They also asked who made it and if they could touch the sealskin.  The compliments lasted the entire week and would most likely continue into the month of May.  I planned to wear the parka until the snow started to melt.            

And finally, National Canadian Film Day occurred on April 19th.  Unfortunately, the slow internet connectivity in Nunavut prevented Ryan from checking the Reel Canada live stream.  Everyone wanted to know if the students he filmed asking questions to Breakaway star Vinay Virmani actually made it into the broadcast.  Reel Canada sent a DVD copy of the live stream to Ryan at the end of the month.  He reviewed the footage and found that two students and the Grade 9 teacher were featured in the broadcast and Vinay Virmani did answer the questions they asked.  Ryan showed the video to the two students & teacher.  They were pleased and enjoyed bragging rights for the next several days.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nunavut Quest 2017

Easter Monday Games.
Arctic Bay residents celebrated Easter Monday by assembling out on the ice across from the Northern Store for an afternoon of Inuit games.  The games were organized by the Hamlet Office and announced on the community’s Facebook page.  The games got underway at 2pm.  I had to forgo participating because I needed to be ready for classes on Tuesday, April 18.  I spent the majority of Spring Break relaxing rather than preparing for school.  From what I saw from a distance, it looked like the participants, especially the kids, were having fun.
My students had quite a few questions about what I did over the break.  I shared photographs of my trip in Strathcona Sound and me ironing on top of my apartment.  Several students added that they watched me iron and took pictures with their iPods.  I encouraged them all to give extreme ironing a try but to be safe at the same time.  They said they would think about it.  I was over-prepared for the first day of school after Spring Break.  (Better to be over-prepared than ill-prepared).  Everyone had their minds set on the next big event: Nunavut Quest.
Nunavut Quest (NQ) is an annual dog sledding race that sees mushers compete for cash prizes.  The race is broken up into timed segments – the sled dogs need to rest & eat – and the timings determine the rankings.  The tournament began in 1999 when the territory of Nunavut was created.  The “race course” alternates between the communities of Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet, & Igloolik.  Unfortunately, a race was not held in 2016.  In 2015, the race began in Igloolik and Arctic Bay was the finish line.  This year, the competitors would begin in Arctic Bay and Igloolik would be the finish line.  The last time the race began in Arctic Bay was in 2013.  I remember that day quite well . . . because I documented it on this blog.

The competitors, sled dogs, and support teams began arriving in the community over the Easter weekend.  They came by skidoo and plane.  The noise level down at the ice rose significantly because there were so many sled dogs.  Tuesday, April 18, also happened to be the day of the opening ceremony for Nunavut Quest.  When I was walking home from school in the afternoon, I noticed a crowd had assembled out on the ice.  The race organizers were holding a qualifying race to determine the order in which the competitors would leave Arctic Bay.  From what I saw, the competitors raced their sled dogs to Uluksan Peninsula and back.
Community Hall.
The opening ceremony began at 7pm at the community hall.  A local band was on stage going through sound checks when I arrived.  The place was already packed with people sitting in a ‘U’ shape.  The band played an Inuktitut song to get the crowd warmed up before the formalities began.  A prayer was said and then the organizers came on stage and briefly spoke about the history & evolution of NQ. 

Competitors & Support team members.
The eight competitors were called up to the stage for everyone to see and so they could receive their bibs.  Their bib numbers determined their starting positions.  People walked up to the stage to snap pictures of the competitors receiving their bibs.  I took my pictures from the back.  My digital camera has a good zoom feature.  The support team drivers were also called up to the stage to be introduced and recognized for the hard work they were about to undertake in the coming days.  More pictures were taken. 
Parking Lot was full.
I think all the competing sled dogs should have been brought in to be acknowledged for the hard work they were about to undertake.  After all, they would be running around 100km a day, but unfortunately, the community hall isn’t big enough to accommodate that many dogs.  (Each competitor commanded a team of 10 dogs).           

April 20, 2017

The race began on the afternoon of Thursday, April 20.  They were supposed to leave on Wednesday, but bad weather caused a delay.  The ‘entire town’ assembled out on the ice to see the departure of the support teams & competitors.  Afternoon classes were cancelled.  A makeshift parking lot for vehicles was created out on the ice using a loader.  I walked down to the ice because my skidoo was ‘in the shop’.  The weather was perfect: sunny, clear skies, and no wind.  This was a far cry from 2013.  There was a lot human & animal activity.  While the dogs barked & huddled together, people stood around talking and/or walked around snapping photographs.  Someone brought their drone and filmed everything from a bird’s eye perspective.  The competitors were dressed in a mix of traditional Inuit & western style clothing.  They each carried a whip and kept a close watch on their dogs.  The supply team qamutiks were packed to the brim with food, tents, gas, oil, clothes, and emergency supplies.  Several students from Inuujaq School were part of the supply teams.

Support Teams leaving.
After waiting around for what seemed like an hour, the supply teams began to leave in a large convoy of skidoos & qamutiks.  They had to leave early so they could set up the first rest point.  People waved and shouted “Good luck!” in English & Inuktitut as the supply teams drove off towards Uluksan Point and beyond.  A part of me wanted to follow them – I have yet to experience a dog sledding competition in its entirety - but I had to stay behind and teach.  Maybe someday, I’ll get to tag along and fully document the experience.  Another hour would pass before the timed race would begin.
Support Teams leaving.

An NQ organizer shouted at the competitors to get ready.  People whipped out their iPhones, iPods, and cameras to film the departing mushers.  Two NQ organizers loudly counted down each musher, ending with the word, “Go!”  (A megaphone would have helped a lot).  Each competitor left in 30-second intervals.  Some dog teams left immediately while others needed coaxing.  Competitor #7 almost had a mishap because he nearly fell off his sled.  He wasn’t holding on properly and when his dogs took off, both his legs were lifted into the air.  Thankfully, he held on and laid down on his stomach.  The whole thing happened in a matter of seconds but my camera recorded it all.  (You can watch the video here).

When the eighth & final competitor left for Igloolik, the crowd slowly dispersed.  A long line of vehicles drove off the ice.  A lot of people on foot went to the Northern Store to buy things.  I & several teachers returned to school to clean up, correct work, and prepare for the next day.  If the weather remained ok, the competitors & their support team would arrive in Igloolik within a week.  Updates would be posted on Facebook.     

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Second Breakdown

I wanted to explore one more area around Arctic Bay before the end of Spring Break.  Looking at a large map of the Greater Arctic Bay area, I looked to the north and settled on Baillarge Bay.  Last year, I had only gone as far north as Ship Point, the corner where you turn right to enter Baillarge Bay.  John & I also tried to drive to the floe edge but my skidoo ran into trouble.  No, not this time.  I would explore another bay and come back without any problems.  I decided not to drive to the floe edge because I would be travelling alone.
My second day excursion began on the morning of Friday, April 14.  Following the same preparation procedures, I was ready to go after an hour.  I let my coworkers know where I was going and made sure my GPS & SPOT devices were with me.  The weather around Arctic Bay was somewhat sunny; hopefully it would be better beyond Victor Bay.  I used six bungee cords to attach two five-gallon red cans to the back of my skidoo.  The cans looked & felt securely attached but after my recent predicament in Strathcona Sound, I promised myself to look back every so often to make sure they weren’t missing.
I drove north, following the road to Victor Bay.  I didn’t see anyone when I arrived at the cabins, but what I did see was a newly plowed ice road.  The road followed the western side of Victor Bay and most likely stopped at a co-worker’s cabin at the very northern tip of the peninsula.  I drove onto the ice road and followed it to the end.  The ride was smooth & fast.  Sure enough, the road ended at the co-worker’s cabin.  I marked the location on my GPS and drove off the road.  Now back on rough ice & snow, I rode halfway across Victor Bay before turning north towards Cape Cunningham.  I pointed my skidoo towards the cape because last year the ice was smoother along the coast.  I would learn that relying on last year’s ice conditions are a mistake.
Cape Cunningham
The ice did not smooth out when I neared Cape Cunningham.  Instead, I entered a “minefield” of tall lumps of ice and snow.  I do not know the correct terminology that describes this kind of collection, but it’s like trying to navigate around a field littered with tree stumps.  On top of that, there was wind, and overcast clouds.  Hoping to eventually clear the minefield, I cautiously drove onward.  In my mind I was following an old saying by Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  What I should have done was turn around and return the way I came. 
The overcast clouds made it difficult for me to see the upcoming ice formations.  Suddenly, I drove up onto an ice drift I didn’t see, causing my skidoo to tilt to the right.  I should have squeezed the throttle and driven off the drift but, instead, I stopped.  The short pause proved to be the biggest mistake.  I squeezed the throttle to move but I knew what was coming.  My skidoo moved a few centimetres before tipping over.  Here we go again.
I pushed myself off the skidoo just before it settled on its right side and pressed the kill-switch button.  The engine turned off and I rolled away, cursing under my breath.  Sorry Mom.  I immediately began recovery procedures.  I took off my backpack and unslung my shotgun.  I removed the two gas cans from the back of the skidoo, making the machine lighter.  Using all my strength, I tried lifting the machine, but no luck.  I was successful the second time.  I stood back to see if anything was damaged.  Sure enough, the plastic right hand air deflector next to the windshield had broken off.  Thankfully, the rear-view mirror attached to it was still in one piece.  What was also good was that everything else appeared fine.  I turned the ignition key, hoping to the engine would restart.  It didn’t.  I tried again.  No luck.  I decided to wait.
The wind was picking up, making me think a whiteout was on the way.  I could already see one brewing in the direction of Baillarge Bay.  I removed my shotgun from its case and fired two slugs into the air: one towards the north & one towards the south.  If there were any polar bears eyeing me from a distance, hopefully the loud bangs had scared them away.  I wasn’t panicking at this point; I was just concerned.  I checked my GPS and noted that the co-worker’s cabin was just 10km behind me.  If I had to abandon the skidoo, I could walk to the cabin and hope someone was there to help me recover the machine.  I had packed a towing cable.  I could also activate my SPOT and hope someone in town would respond.  I stood around and ate some snacks, pondering on what I should do.
A good fifteen minutes passed before I decided to start the skidoo again.  I wasn’t going to give up.  I turned the ignition key but the engine wouldn’t start.  I turned & held the key for a little longer but the engine still didn’t cooperate.  Now I was getting really concerned because the engine may be flooded with gasoline.  Taking a big risk, I turned the key and held it for 10 seconds.  The engine coughed to life for a second before dying.  “Come on!” I shouted.  I turned the key and held it for another 10 seconds.  When the engine showed “signs of life” I gently squeezed the throttle.  The engine roared to life.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  “I’m not turning you off until I get back to town.”
I reattached the gas cans, packed up the broken deflector, and collected my backpack & shotgun.  I slowly drove towards the centre of Admiralty Inlet, avoiding blocks of ice and snow drifts.  I left my goggles on my head and braved the wind hitting my eyes.  Maybe my goggles were to blame for the tip over?  I successfully made it out of the minefield and found the main skidoo trail to Baillarge Bay & the floe edge.  I could see a whiteout happening in that direction but a part of me wanted to continue the journey.  The other wanted me to return to Arctic Bay.  After thinking it over in my mind, I sighed and decided to play it safe. 
I wiped my eyes and drove towards Victor Bay with a look of defeat.  Thankfully, nobody saw it because my face was covered with a facemask & goggles.  I returned to the plowed ice road by the cabin and covered a lot of ground in a short period of time.  I was home by 2:30pm.  When I told my coworkers what happened, JF came by to see the skidoo.  He was glad I brought back the broken deflector because we used the serial number to order a replacement off the skidoo website.  The part would arrive in two weeks.  I took my skidoo to a local Inuk mechanic who would clean the engine.  My machine would be out of commission for the next little while.
The key lesson I learned from this trip is to never rely on the ice conditions of the previous year.  Once again, the areas north of Ship Point continue to elude me.  But they’ll see me.  It’s inevitable.  There’s always a next time.   


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Extreme Ironing IV

April 12, 2017.  It’s now or next year.
The time had come for another extreme ironing stunt in the far northern community of Arctic Bay.  I have a reputation to uphold, following last year’s stunt that landed my picture in Nunatsiaq News.  I had bigger plans for this year but circumstances prevented me from turning them into reality.  Those plans have been postponed until 2018.  And no, I’m not saying what they are because that will spoil the surprise.  This year was Plan B.
For the newcomers & confused: extreme ironing (EI) is “an extreme sport in which people take ironing boards to remote locations and iron items of clothing.”  Why do we do this?  Because we can.  Why bore yourself the traditional way when you can get out of the house, enjoy the world, and iron your clothes at the same time.  Google “extreme ironing” and plenty of pictures & videos come up.  (Thank you Google for posting some of my past EI pictures in the Images section).  The extreme sport began in the late 1990s in the United Kingdom.  So far, I have done three EI stunts in Arctic Bay.  You can read about them here: Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3.
Planning an extreme ironing outing requires much thought and planning.  Plan B was ironing my formal attire on the roof of my apartment.  I recruited two coworkers, JF & John, to photograph the stunt.  JF would take pictures from the roof and John would photograph from street level.  I borrowed a long ladder from Frank to gain access to the roof.  I decided to iron my clothing midday when the sun would be high in the sky.  John’s girlfriend happened to be in town visiting and wanted to watch this hard-to-believe-this-sport-actually-exists stunt.  I gave her the title of Official Spectator.
JF & I discuss where we'll set up the ironing board & coat hanger.
JF & I lumbered up the ladder and stepped onto the roof of the fourplex.  I was standing on the roof for the first time.  There was a strong cold breeze passing through the neighbourhood.  John helped us bring up the ironing board, iron, coat hanger stand, and clothes.  It soon became apparent that the coat hanger would not stand for very long because of the wind.  I would have to hold it or JF would have to take the pictures quick enough before it fell over.  We set everything up close to the edge so that John & his girlfriend could see me.  With the cold wind steadily blowing from north, I gave everyone a thumbs up and started ironing.  Another one for the history books, I thought.

Me giving instructions to John.
The only instruction I gave my photographers was to keep snapping pictures while I ironed.  I would alternate my poses between ironing & looking at the camera . . .  and maybe throw in a smile here and there.  The wind decided to get in on the fun and blow over the coat hanger a few times.  We only included the coat hanger in several pictures when the wind stopped for several precious seconds.
Maybe I should have placed the coat hanger a little closer.
Posing for the camera with King George V Mountain in the background.
I was having the time of my life up there on the roof.  Despite the wind making my face & fingers cold, it was fun seeing Arctic Bay in a new perspective and ironing my dress pants & shirts at the same time.  Traditional ironers are missing so much!  I think my official spectator & photographers were having fun witnessing & documenting an important moment in Arctic Bay’s modern history.  JF & John weren’t the only ones documenting my antics.  Several people walking by snapped pictures with their iPods.  Someone driving in a pickup truck slowed down to see what I was doing.  I waved to him with my iron.  He must have thought he was dreaming.

JF & I came down after about 45 minutes.  The cold was making our fingers & faces numb.  It was the same for John & his girlfriend.  We brought everything down and warmed up inside my apartment.  I personally thanked the trio for helping me.  I copied all the photographs from both cameras in the afternoon.  I spent the rest of the day editing & cropping the pictures.  Most of them turned out quite well.  


If you haven’t tried EI, you should definitely consider it.  It’s a lot of fun.  Be safe & happy ironing!