Sunday, May 28. Reveille was at 8am. We slowly crawled out of our sleeping bags, got dressed, and reluctantly emerged from our tents. We didn’t want to confront the many tasks that awaited us, but we had no choice. Today we would be returning to Arctic Bay. We couldn’t stay an extra day or more because there was school on Monday. I aimed to have everyone on the main skidoo trail by lunch time, otherwise we wouldn’t be going anywhere. The Canadian Arctic has the ability of making people stay out on the land longer than intended. There’s just so much to explore and experience.
We ate MREs for breakfast. The main meals, packaged in individual aluminum bags, were cooked using Coleman stoves. After breakfast, everyone went to work tearing down the camp. On the last day of an FTX, you should always roll up & pack your sleeping bag after you get dressed. One less duty to worry about. We moved everything out of the tents & cleaned out all the garbage. The tents were taken down and packed in the specially made bags. Personal belongings were placed in a designated area. The remaining MREs were packed in boxes and sealed with duct tape. The cadets did a garbage sweep of the camp site.
|Four wrapped chars.|
Ranger Samson gave everyone permission to pick a char to take home. About 40 chars were caught. Garbage bags were handed out to everyone to wrap the chars they picked. I asked Samson if I could take four because I knew people down south who would like char. He said yes. The remaining large fish were placed on flattened cardboard boxes, wrapped in large garbage bags, and then tied to Samson’s qamutik (sled). I placed my four chars in a large green barracks box. A two-foot char can fetch a good price in southern Canada.
|Female cadets disassembling their tent.|
The packing of the qamutiks was the last task to be completed. Packing a qamutik is not a simple task. Certain items need to be tied in specific places. For example, gas cans are usually tied to the rear of the qamutik. Ranger Samson showed & instructed the cadets on how to pack the qamutiks. Everything was tied down with rope.
|Cadets getting ready to leave.|
The skidoos were moved in front of the qamutiks and connected with tough ropes. The cadets divided themselves among the qamutiks and waited for the go ahead. I did one last role call before giving the signal that it was time to go. The four skidoos roared to life and left one by one. The drive home began.
Ranger Samson led the convoy. The weather was a lot better than Friday. The sun was out, shining brightly above the arctic landscape. It seems the weather is always better when you’re travelling home. We only drove a few kilometres before Samson signalled the convoy to stop. If you’re pulling a qamutik with rope, you have to do a rolling stop, otherwise the qamutik will slam into your skidoo. A sunbathing seal was spotted on the ice but the animal escaped down a hole in the ice before Samson could fire a shot from his high-powered rifle. We continued onwards.
The drive out of Moffet Inlet was long & monotonous. The further we got away from Ikpikituarjuk, the more leisurely we drove. Ranger Samson fell back and let another skidoo driver take the lead. I followed them out of the inlet. The ice was still thick and the bright sun made it easier to see the main skidoo trail. I got better at pulling a qamutik after every kilometre I drove.
The convoy came to a halt just past Ijuyuarjuk, the lake where we held last year’s FTX. The destination was decided before we left Ikpikituarjuk. The left-over rations were opened and cooked for tea time. I took photos of the surrounding landscape while the cadets ate.
It took another three hours to get to Arctic Bay. The drive was long but I kept myself busy by keeping my eyes on the trail and periodically looking back to see if anyone fell off the qamutik. The familiar landscape hadn’t changed in the last two days. Ice, snow, & mountains. The convoy spread out again but we all met up several kilometres before Arctic Bay. We refueled our skidoos before driving into town. We drove over several cracks in the ice but they weren’t big. The time was 6:45pm when we stopped in front of the Northern Store.
The cadets unloaded the qamutiks and placed all the corps-owned gear into a waiting pickup truck. Their personal belongings were packed in another pickup truck. I helped Frank, Civilian Instructor Reid, and a senior cadet move two of Samson’s qamutiks. The cadets were driven home, except I recruited two to help me unload all the corps-owned equipment at Frank’s shop. Once that was done, I drove them home. Frank gave me a lift home from the community hall because I had to park my skidoo out on the ice near the building. There was not enough snow for me to drive up to my apartment. I took a very long shower when I got home.
In my view, Operation Spring Fix 17 was a success. We travelled and camped at a lake that is not only a popular fishing destination, but it’s the furthest place the corps has ever camped from Arctic Bay. I’m just glad that nobody got hurt. We all learned a lot and had a great time out on the land.
Now I just have to get used to the taste of seal brains.
End of Operation Spring Fix 17 mini-series.