The Iceman Cometh Home

Sigh. It’s back to reality for me. Back home from the Arctic. Back to the jolly unpredictability of automatically flushing toilets. Back to a dichotomy of night and day.

Since I was mostly without internet for the the duration of my Arctic adventures, I suppose I’ll fill you in on what happened. I will start from where we left off: Resolute Bay.

Resolute more or less consists of a small Inuit community (population 229) and an airport. I’m told it’s the northernmost place in this hemisphere to which you can take a commercial flight. When I say “airport” don’t think tarmac and terminals. The runways are gravel. The buildings are very small and very hearty. The planes, too, are very small and very hearty.

waiting for our twin-otter planes in Resolute

Resolute is also home to the Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP), which provides such exciting luxuries as hot running water, a pool table, and a kitchen. Outside, it’s foggy and frigid, with bare ground stretching to the left and right, and iceberg-littered water swathing the horizon. Inside, it’s a huddled group of scientists and explorers. Most of them are waiting for the fog to lift so they can hop a tiny plane to whatever wild, remote Arctic island is their destination. Many of them are wearing an endearing mishmash of down vests and woolen things. None of them are wearing shoes (a sign over the door in the entryway reads: Leave your boots here. THIS MEANS YOU! )

After dinner, the eight members of my group met for a round of icebreakers (which, of course, is a funny pun when you’re in the Arctic). We were assigned a tent, since the beds available inside the PCSP hut were already taken.

Above the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set during the summer. You can imagine that waking up at 2:30am to broad daylight is disorienting. Waking up at 2:30 to broad daylight and roaring airplane propellers is even more disorienting.

The following morning we waited in a large warehouse before climbing the ladder into the tiny belly of our tiny twin-otter plane, and taking off at last for Axel Heiberg Island.

More soon,

The Arctic: Ice Ice, Baby

Looking out the window of the plane yesterday, I was ecstatic when I realized that no, that’s not a very lost sailboat on the water down there.  No, indeed, ladies and gentlemen…


And it is not alone.

Yes, folks, welcome to the Arctic.  Resolute Bay, specifically.  We arrived here yesterday after roughly seven hours of flights up from Ottawa.  This will be our last stop before hopping a twin-otter plane to Axel Heiberg Island, two hours even further north of here. 

The word barren, while accurate, does not do justice to the Arctic.  It is starkly beautiful.

Sleeping in the tent last night was less than cozy (note to self: wear a hat to bed), but I am still excited out of my mind to be here.  We are hopefully flying to Axel in half an hour, but the fog may postpone our departure.  Visibility is maybe 200 meters at most.  Not prime flying weather.

It’s quite a hike from our camp at Axel to the nearest internet access, so this may be the last you hear from me for a while.  Stay tuned…


Following is an inventory of my life between now and February, 2009:

* approximate number of days away from home: 165
* approximate number of days on which the sun will, in fact, not set: 55
* types of boats used: 4
* species of penguins likely to be seen: 3
* continents: 3
* oceans: 3
* layers of clothing I will need to wear: unfathomable
* degrees of latitude crossed: 148
* number of times my brain has exploded in excitement: lost count
* pairs of underwear I will bring: 4, maybe 5