Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Late September, Early October

OW Atlantic
CCGS Terry Fox
On September 25, the chemical tanker OW Atlantic returned to Arctic Bay to drop off a passenger who needed to catch a flight at the airport.  The CCGS Terry Fox, a heavy gulf and arctic icebreaker, was also in town, most likely acting as the Atlantic's escort.  The Terry Fox is named after the late Canadian cancer research activist, and was acquired by the Canadian Coast Guard in 1992.  The vessel is stationed in St. John's, Newfoundland, and operates in the Arctic during the summer shipping season, providing escort for the many sealift ships that deliver supplies to communities.  She performs these same duties in the Gulf of St. Lawrence during the winter months.  From a distance, the Terry Fox appears simple in design; the main structure is a five story block that sits near the front of the ship while the back is flat and used for hauling cargo.  The vessel is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2020. 
The large tanker ship, Havelstern arrived in Arctic Bay on September 27 to replenish the town's fuel supply.  The vessel anchored not far from the shoreline and ran a long pipe from the back of the ship to the oil tanks.  The ship is owned and operated by Coastal Shipping Limited, a division of Woodward Group of Companies. 
Arctic Bay was treated to several full moons during the first few days of October.  Maybe it's just me, but ever since coming to Canada's north, Earth's moon has been bright and fully visible at night more frequently up here than down south.  I photographed the moon on the evening of October 5th, capturing the light reflecting off the water in the bay.
Monday, October 6, began like any other day, but it would end in shock, grief, and heartache for a family of seven.  I was at school working after hours correcting class work when my thoughts were interrupted by a loud siren.  It sounded like an air-raid siren; the tone would crescendo, peak, decrescendo, and then repeat.  I grabbed my binoculars and looked out my window towards the Gas Station.  Maybe they're testing a new fire alarm, I thought.  Upon seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I put my binoculars away and went back to correcting.  After the siren continued wailing for another minute, my mind finally gave me the idea to go out into the hallway and look through the large window nearby.  My eyes locked on black smoke emerging from a small house perched on top of a hill to the left of the school.  The house was on fire!  I quickly grabbed my parka, boots, gloves, hat, and camera and dashed outside.

The loud "air-raid" siren was coming from the town fire hall.  It's used to alert firefighters and town residents of a serious emergency.  After taking a few steps outside, I could already smell burning wood.  A crowd was beginning to form around the house as smoke continued to billow.  A fire truck and water truck were already on scene as I neared the house.  Firefighters and volunteers were already breaking down the doors and shouting into the house, thinking there were people inside.  I took a few pictures of the tumultuous scene unfolding in front of me before positioning myself behind the house.  The siren at the fire hall was turned off but no one noticed. 

Large flames surged out of the rear window as the second water truck quickly backed up to the burning house.  I filmed a firefighter take the water hose from the truck, aim it towards the burning window and douse it with water.  Apparently, the fire started in the room adjacent to that window.  By this time, the crowd of onlookers was quite large and several of my high school students were standing next to me.  Flames suddenly emerged on the other side of the house, turning dusk into the day, but thankfully, the firefighters were able to beat back the flames and get the fire under control.
When the second water truck ran out of water, the driver quickly raced to the water pumping station behind the airport to refill the large tank.  It would take the truck about 15 minutes to get there and back.  When the water truck returned, the fire had been extinguished.  The firefighters doused the house's interior with more water for safe measure before entering the house to conduct an inspection.
"Not a good way to start the week," I commented out loud.  "With all that water, the house is now an indoor pool and a complete write-off." 
I took pictures of the house the following morning, now a charred wreck.  I would learn later that day that the fire started in a bedroom by a child lighting tissue paper.  The seven occupants lost their home, most of their possessions, and were forced to move in with another large family.  This underscores the well-known problem of overcrowding in northern communities.  The family of seven received many donations from the community.   
My Grade 10s were working on the second half of the Staking The Claim Module.  The later units look at how the Inuit across the north united and reasserted control of their lives & the land through the four land claim agreements in Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut.  My students learned about the many Inuit activists who were involved in the land claims negotiations, the reasons behind the land claims, the main points of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, and the Extinguishment Clause.  The students were surprised to learn that only 18% of Nunavut is Inuit Owned Lands; they wanted it to be much more.  However, they liked that the Inuit received $1.14 billion in compensation for giving up 82% of the land.
The Grade 10s also learned about the killing of Inuit sled dogs between 1950 & 1975 by the RCMP.  It has been alleged that the RCMP systemically killed 20,000 sled dogs to force the Inuit off the land and into government built communities.  The RCMP has denied this, arguing that only some were lawfully destroyed because they were diseased, starving, or aggressive.  Hopefully, the truth of what really happened will emerge in the near future.  Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths, a documentary made by Nunavut filmmaker Joelie Sanguya, investigates the sled dog killings.
Additionally, my Grade 10s, watched the documentary Martha of the North, that looks at the lives and hardships of the "High Arctic Exiles."  In the mid-1950s, hundreds of Inuit families from Nunavik were relocated to the high Arctic (Resolute & Grise Fiord) on the false promise of a better life.  They struggled to survive in a new and harsh climate without government assistance for many years.  Repeated requests to return home were denied.  It wouldn't be until the 1980s that the families would finally be allowed to return to Nunavik, (if they desired), and learn that they were sent to the high Arctic to affirm Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic.  Financial compensation and an apology from the federal government would come many years later. 
My Grade 11s finished the Industrialization Module by studying the long lasting political and social effects of imperialism in Africa & China, and the effects of industrialization in the 20th century.  Naturally, they had a review test before moving on to the Nationalism & Conflict module that focuses on the causes and consequences of the First World War.  I would finally have the opportunity to share the vast knowledge and many pictures I accumulated during my summer trip to France with the Juno Beach Centre.  Of course, that part of the module happens after the introduction & background sections.
The Grade 12s were hard at work on their projects and learning more about democracies and dictatorships.  All of them had settled on a chosen topic that fits with the social studies curriculum.  The tasks ahead are to write an essay, make a product of some kind, and then present their project to a panel of judges and an audience.
And finally, my drummers were getting better at reading percussion notation.  They were hesitant and even resistant at first, but after much explanation, practice, and perseverance, their understanding of how the notes are divided, organized, and written significantly improved.  On the first day of October, I made them all aware of the upcoming Halloween concert at the end of the month, so it was now time to get down to business.  We would practice the selected music more intensively and also look at more complex rhythms & rudiments.  This would ensure a well-crafted and memorable public performance. 


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