Thursday, February 9, 2017

Early February (2017)

A favourite hobby for the people of Arctic Bay is to guess and/or bet when the sun returns.  I always thought the return of the sun was on a fixed date, but many say there are three possibilities: February 4, 5, & 6.  The sun disappears from view from mid-November to early February, a period of time known as dark season.  Truth be told, there never is 24 hours of darkness.  There is a brief period of sunlight or twilight at lunch time but you do not see the sun.  No one celebrates or says "goodbye" to the sun in November, but everyone sets aside time to see the sun for the first time in the New Year.  The whole event reminds me of Ray Bradbury's short story, All Summer in A Day.  

My English students read the short story and watched the 1982 PBS adaptation I downloaded from YouTube.  The attitudes of the characters, who are children, are very similar to the people in Arctic Bay, and other high arctic communities, when the sun appears after a long absence.  Joy, happiness, and warmth.  The only thing we do that the story doesn’t depict is angrily closing our curtains several months later because the bright shining sun is preventing us from getting much needed sleep.
In the days leading up to the return of the sun, my students asked me which day I thought the sun would come back.  I placed my “bets” on February 6 only because that was when the sun reappeared last year.  Of course, one can see the sun much earlier if they go up to the summit of King George V Mountain (KGVM) or the old Nanisivik Airport.  The sun could be seen from the top of KGVM on January 30.

For me, the sun returned on Saturday, February 4, only because I “cheated”.  I was driving over to the school’s gym for afternoon cadet sports and arrived at the building earlier than planned.  I used the spare time to quickly drive up the rocky hill behind the Co-op store to photograph the sun.  The sun was just peaking over a mountain.  I took several pictures before returning to the gym.
The sun officially returned to Arctic Bay on February 5.  I was glad I didn’t bet real money because I was a day late.  I’m sure everyone in town paused for a moment to look at the bright shining star that hadn’t been seen since November of last year.  The sun only appeared for about 10 minutes but it was worth it.  From now on, an extra 20 minutes would be added every day to the amount of time the sun would stay up in the sky.  By late April, there will be 24-hour sunlight.

Inuujaq School held its annual Return of the Sun concert Monday, February 6.  Everyone gathered in the gym for the festivities.  My guitarists & I sat the front of the gym, nervous but excited for our first public concert.  We had prepared three songs for the occasion.  Several classes also prepared sketches to perform for the assembly.  Local elder B. Tatatuapik began the ceremony by lighting a traditional qulliq lamp.  The gym lights were turned off to symbolize dark season . . . and to make it easier to see the flames.  The gym lights were turned on after a short period time to symbolize the return of the sun.  Tatatuapik also told a traditional Inuit story & sang an Inuktitut song about the sun coming back.
Grade 1.
Grade 2.
Grade 5.
K-5 Classes were called individually to perform their songs about the return of the sun.  Most of the songs were sung a cappella.  The Grade 3 teacher provided musical accompaniment on her accordion for her students.  The Grade 6 class presented a poem they wrote for the assembly and the Grade 7 class performed a few Inuktitut songs.  Several male students from the Grade 7 class took turns playing an Inuit drum.
Grade 7.
The moment had finally arrived.  It was now time for my guitarists and I to perform.  We played three songs: Au Claire De La Lune, Ode To Joy, & You Are My Sunshine.  The audience liked the songs, but the performance would have been better if we had stage microphones. 
Me performing with my guitarists.
Grade 8 Teacher John & the
sun poster his students
I know some of you are wondering why these songs are always played at the sun celebration?  The main reason is that I teach beginner guitar and I receive new students every year.  Most of them have a very basic or no knowledge of guitar and they only have 5 weeks to prepare.  That’s not a lot of time.  I did look at other possible songs but more time was needed to learn & coordinate all the parts.
The Grade 8s presented a large sun poster they constructed for the occasion and shared their thoughts on why they look forward to the sun coming back.  The Grade 9 class presented a video of themselves hiking up a nearby hill to see the sun before everyone else.  Overall, the assembly was a success. 

Linda Ham & Ronnie Suluk from the Canada-Nunavut Geoscience Office (CNGO), visited Inuujaq School on February 7 to give a presentation on The Fury and Hecla Strait Geoscience Project.  Grades 9 – 12 students & teachers assembled in the high school science classroom for the presentation.  The presenters prepared a bilingual PowerPoint slideshow with very informative slides.  I’ll give you the Cole’s Notes version of their talk.
The CNGO will be mapping and doing aeromagnetic surveys of the Fury & Hecla Strait during the summers of 2017 & 2018.  The strait and the area around it “have not been mapped or studied recently by geologists.”  The work will be used to produce “maps of the bedrock, glacial deposits, and permafrost.”  These maps will be made available to the public.
The students were interested in the information being presented because the strait is not far from the main skidoo trail they use to travel to Igloolik.  There probably is a skidoo trail that leads directly to the strait but it’s “off the beaten path.”  Maybe one day I’ll visit the Fury & Hecla Strait and find out what really caused that loud 'ping' sound in November 2016.
Linda & Ronnie continued the presentation by explaining how the aeromagnetic survey will work.  A plane carrying a magnetometer will fly a grid-like pattern over the strait & the surrounding area, measuring “the magnetization of magnetic material in the Earth.”  The collected data will be given to a geophysicist who, using computer modelling, will produce maps where the various colours represent the magnetic content of different types of rock.
The presentation finished with a brief Q&A session and information on how to become a geologist and/or geophysicist.
I received a letter from the Department of National Defence bearing good news.  I was informed that I was being promoted to the rank of Second-Lieutenant in the Cadet Instructor Cadre (CIC).  The CIC is a corps of reserve officers that are involved in Canadian cadet program.  This would be great news to share at the upcoming change of command parade.  (More on that in a future post).
Even though the sun came back, the temperatures are still really cold and the nights are long.  If there is no wind, then the cold is bearable.  Temperatures have been in the low minus thirties without wind chill.  Wind chill pushes the temperature even lower to the minus forties.  I’m glad I have thick outer clothing to keep me warm.  However, starting my skidoo has become a challenge.  I have to set aside at least 15 minutes for my skidoo to warm up and even after that, the engine sometimes coughs when I drive.  Life in Canada’s far north.

*Return of the Sun Assembly photos provided by Ryan, media teacher.  Thank you.   

February 7, 2017

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