Impressions of Labrador

A guest post by Lisa Moore

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In the sand, bear paws.

Noses of the Zodiacs scrudging into the sand. Haul. Wet ropes, lean back, heels sliding on wet pebbles, tug the Zodiac up snug.  Slap down the bright yellow wooden step. Swinging legs over the side, walking poles, knapsack, step. Step on the block. Step into the water and feel the tug on your rubber boot. Water rushing up over the top of the wooden step, swirling  away in all directions, smooth pebbles tumbling end over end, everything stirred up underfoot. Stab the walking stick, lapping kelp, up, up, on the beach. Bright GoreTex jackets, red, aqua, mosquito net hats, hiss of radios, MJ, MJ, Jason. Jason, MJ.

The resettled Moravian/Inuit community of Ramah—bear paw. Some of them still filled with water. Claw scrapes on stone. The bear had just rambled through. Haunch and rippling muscle/chunks of hunger and force, but gone. The print a cup surging with water, gleaming in the sun.

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Partridge eggs. Hold back the alder branches. Can you see them? Speckled. See them? I can’t see them. There. The mother just flew. Where? There, the mother.

On the ridge overlooking the beach the bear monitors are just fluorescent orange flecks on the grey stone. They were far away but I could hear them checking in with each other on the radios.

The fjord last night. But impossible to capture the intensity, the depth. Cracks running through the mountains, the black dykes, old molten lava, rust, caramel, cream, brown, black, white splotches of snow, the green like an old rug worn in places, the light slicing through. Light slashing up the mountains. Clouds bunched like grapes, like marbles, like bowling balls. Still blue up there. Blue as a GoreTex jacket. I wish you could see this. I miss you. How can I tell you about this? You would love this. There was no wind. It was still. A black bear just a dot.  A moving dot on skyward straining granite. 

I felt tears lifting up inside me. Like the water rushing around the yellow block by the Zodiac, swirling all directions around my rubber boot, and tugging on my ankles, my leg, this answer in my body to beauty all mingled up and confused with you would love this and I miss you and my god, my god, what is this, the tears are disorienting, salt water—what is this? This is wordless. This is big. This is still. This is forever. This is infinity. This is a fork in the fjord. This is which way do we go? Do we ever go back? Can one go back from this? This is every path ever taken. Never taken. This is giving up, giving over. This is smallness. This is a blasting apart of the inner things. This is we are together, aren’t we? We are in this together. This is missing you and wishing you could see. This is a bunch of people on a deck, on all the decks, nosing in, deep and deeper. This is nowhere. This is the only place. 

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The rocks are cinema and the light is unrequited. The light is, don’t mess with me. The light is, you have never seen anything like this light. You will never see it again. Okay, this is vast. The light is a love affair. The light is going. The light is pink now. The light makes creases and folds in the mountains. The light fingers through. The lit up caves and the lit up faces of the people on the deck. The light is a last hurrah. The pink of inner things. The pink of new things, like the cry of a grandchild, like don’t stop, please don’t stop. This is the pink of the fresh salmon pulled from the water this afternoon and cut up with a pocket knife, and dip/flicked in the ocean on the side of the Zodiac and we ate in raw like religion, like a gift.

On the beach this morning Michelle told us about sod houses. The windows were made of seal intestine, translucent. Just imagine in a snowstorm. Just imagine a child born. The frame might have been wood or whale bone. This is so long ago. The ghosts are translucent. The ghosts are windows made of brass. They sang in four voices. They covered houses in cured skins, and then sods, and when there was a fall of snow, the sod house was very warm. 

The floor of the house might have been slate or wood. Now it has collapsed and grasses overgrown. Let’s not walk over it. Let’s leave it alone. There would have been a cold trap built in the entrance. A depression in the earth into which the cold would sink. But keep your eyes on the water, because bears can approach from there. Swimming sometimes as much as eight miles. Keep your eyes on the land. Be alert. I wish you could have seen. What a fjord that was last night. The way the light slashed across the uppermost blade of mountain. The way it faded. Or lasted. Went dark. Bellowed like a trumpet in the dining room. Looked all sultry and come thither, crooked its finger, said the truth. Flipped a coin, told a joke; the light was a pole dancer a circus, a dream with monsters and empty streets and everything was wet. Everything it touched turned to gold.

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I was talking with another writer on the deck about how hard it is to write. We laughed about ‘hard’ work. Because it isn’t coal mining after all. It’s pure pleasure. It is one-hundred voltage thrill. But it is hard. That’s what we said. And we said of course it wasn’t hard. Nobody twisting your arm to write. What is the difference between intense pleasure and pain. What is the difference between desire and discipline? If we follow this fjord forever where will we end up.

In the sod houses they had soap stone lamps with a wick made of woven beach grass burning in seal oil. The idea of that tiny flame, the halo it must throw out, in the midst of these  mountains,standing up in the dark. I hear Maria, on the radio, say she has spotted a white beluga. Mathew James, Mathew James, Maria, she says. And he answers: Maria, Maria, Mathew James. The hiss and clutches of sound bursting out of the radios. Maria, Mathew James. It is still very early in the morning.

The truth is I got up at five to write. I stumbled out onto the deck, almost blinded by the morning sun. Did it ever go to bed? Did it get tiny like that little flame in a sod hut, maybe a hundred and fifty years ago, glowing through the intestine of a seal? A line of radiant mist on the horizon. Pure white, where it touched the earth. Burning upward. On the hill in Ramah this morning, a little graveyard. Grey stone, half devoured by the grass, sunken, almost gone, splotches of orange lichen and the dates softened by the rain. It’s only ten thirty in the morning, but I feel like I have experienced a century since that mist on the deck burned away. I cannot wait to see you. I have a lot to tell.    

The Northwest Passage!

A legend made real: that’s how the Northwest Passage feels for those who have the rare privilege of travelling there. The mythical sea route between Europe and Asia holds a peculiar fascination. The many failed attempts to find, and later, to traverse the passage through the ice-choked waters of what is now the Canadian Arctic archipelago only increased its lure and its lustre, through the era of exploration to the present day.

The story most associated with the Northwest Passage, that of Sir John Franklin‘s lost expedition, deepened last summer with the discovery of the wreck of his flagship, the HMS Erebus, on the sea floor off King William Island, by the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition.

Yet the great irony of the Northwest Passage is that a route across the North American Arctic had long existed—in the form of the migration and hunting routes of the Inuit and their predecessors. The recent increase in loss of sea ice due to global warming makes all the more poignant the oft-overlooked fact that the Northwest Passage traverses the Inuit homeland.

And of course, even before the ancient human presence in the North, whales, seabirds and other migratory creatures delved the waters of the Passage, while seals, walrus and polar bears depended on its sea ice for food.

All of this is very much on the minds of travellers aboard our Northwest Passage excursions. There is the place, and then there is the sense of place—which is exceedingly difficult to express. This video, by film maker Jason Van Bruggen, with its impressionistic, highly cinematic approach, comes as close as anything we’ve seen to conveying the magic, and the mystery of the Northwest Passage.

Travel the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada:
Into the Northwest Passage, August 26-September 11, 2016.
Out of the Northwest Passage, September 11-26, 2016.

The Labrador Revelation

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Margaret Atwood scans the coast of Labrador, looking for birds and bears

What does Margaret Atwood know about Labrador that the rest of us should?

Having visited The Big Land several times aboard Adventure Canada voyages, the author of The Labrador Fiasco has had the unusual experience of having seen this extraordinary region of Canada first hand. With her keen eyes, the veteran birder and traveller is a valued addition to the wildlife-spotting team aboard the Ocean Endeavour.

Many Canadians, if they think of Labrador at all, think of it as a backwater of the already-distant province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

But Atwood and her fellow voyagers know that Labrador has a unique culture and diverse history all its own. Numerous First Peoples made their homes here in a rich history dating back thousands of years. Thule, Maritime Archaic, and paleoeskimo artifacts abound. Ramah chert from this ‘remote’ region was traded widely across eastern North America. Today, the region is home to Inuit, concentrated on the coastal region, with Innu communities at Sheshatshiu and Davis Inlet.

Viking explorers reached these shores, which they called Markland, by 1000 AD. They were the first of the European visitors. Red Bay, Canada’s newest UNESCO world heritage site, was home to a Basque whaling station through the 1500s that comprised the New World’s first export industry.

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Adventure Canada geologist David Bathe and explorer Milbry Polk in Red Bay

Portuguese, Spaniards, English and French all plied the Labrador Sea for whale and fish. Later came Moravian missionaries from Germany, whose abandoned outposts now dot the coast. The resettlement of the people of Hebron and other missions is a painful chapter in Labrador history. Medical missionary Wilfrid Grenfell’s humanitarian work drew volunteers from around the world, and sent many Labradorians for training abroad.

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Remains of the abandoned Moravian mission at Hebron, Labrador

Today’s visitors to the Labrador coast are often shocked to realize the scale of Labrador: 294,330 sq km, more than twice the area of Newfoundland. And much of that is rugged mountain coastline, where the human spirit is humbled by geography rendered sublime.

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The Ocean Endeavour in Eclipse Harbour, Nunatsiavut, Labrador

A mere one percent of Labrador is developed. The region’s largest city has fewer than 10,000 citizens. There are few roads in the south, and none in the north.

Ships and boats are still the best way—often the only way—to visit the extraordinary locations that dot the virtually unpopulated coastline along the Labrador Sea.

Yet the biggest thing about The Big Land is the people. Hardy, thoughtful, hard-working, and welcoming, the people of Nunatsiavut are survivors—there are many hard stories here—whose hardship has not hardened their hearts.

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Brass band welcome, Nain, Labrador

From the brass band playing from the wharf in Nain, to the bear guard scanning the landscape of Nachvak Fiord, to the culturalist revisiting her abandoned home at Hebron, to the grandfather welcoming his toddler granddaughter from Toronto, the people of the Labrador coast show themselves at every turn to be the most welcoming of hosts.

Among a myriad of surprises and aha! moments, that’s the Labrador revelation. Perhaps that’s what keeps travellers like Ms. Atwood coming back time and again.

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Exploring Torngat Mountains National Park by Zodiac

Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Adventure Canada present , June 29-July 11, 2016.

All photographs by David Newland.

What Farley Knew

The late Canadian author, environmentalist, self-promoter, and shit-disturber Farley Mowat was born on this day in 1921. Nearly ninety-two years later, on May 6 of 2014, he died. Between those dates Mowat led a legendary life. A polarizing personality, he was widely loved and yet frequently reviled.

Pinocchio MowatIt’s Mowat’s storytelling that will remain his greatest legacy, and drew his most vociferous criticism. “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” was his mantra, and Mowat was duly dubbed “Hardly Know It” by many serious scientists, experts, and ordinary folk—especially Northerners—fed up with his penchant for myth-making. Saturday Night magazine depicted Farley Mowat as Pinocchio in a cover story that catalogued his errors, exaggerations and outright fibs.

For his part, Mowat claimed his wildly popular books—he sold 17 million of them, all over the world—brought much needed attention to serious causes: the starvation of the Ahalmuit (People of the Deer); the demonization of wolves (Never Cry Wolf); the plight of whales (A Whale for the Killing), seals and other marine life (Sea of Slaughter).

The factuality of Mowat’s work may often be sketchy, but his skill as a storyteller is undeniable. As Up Here noted in a reevaluation in 2009, (Farley Mowat: Liar or Saint?) the North has been hard on its writers at the best of times, and Hardly Know It might well have been reviled for his unpopular stance even if he’d been a stickler for accuracy.

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Certainly, if history judges his books by their emotional substance, Farley Mowat’s legacy will be a favourable one. Sympathy for wild creatures was once considered sentimental. Criticism of British and Canadian patriarchal authority in the North was weak-kneed. And advocacy for the Inuit way of life was anything but common when Farley Mowat first put pen to paper.

These were ideas Mowat introduced, and stood by, early on in his career. All are clearly in evidence in his Top of the World Trilogy. This compendium of old explorer’s journals, spanning several centuries, edited with commentary by Mowat, is well worth re-reading now: it’s vintage Mowat, and yet, published in 1973, it was well ahead of its time.

Favouring overlooked, underdog explorers like Samuel Hearne, Francis McClintock, and Captain Thierry Mallet, Mowat’s selections and commentary subvert the typical hero narrative, heaping scorn on hapless colonizers of the North acting on orders from far away, including the otherwise iconic Sir John Franklin.

Such views are common, if not dominant today, even in the South. Would that be the case without Farley Mowat? Clearly his most egregious missteps and misstatements will not stand the test of time, nor should they. But on what would have been his ninety-fourth birthday, perhaps we can admit that on some subjects, at least, Farley Knew It after all.

Editor’s note: the late Farley Mowat travelled as a special guest aboard Adventure Canada expeditions in 1995 and 1997. Among his many contributions he taught us invaluable lessons about garnering cheap publicity.

For a definitive take on this issue, see Ken McGoogan‘s thorough and beautiful overview of Farley Mowat’s literary legacy from the National Post.

The Colour of Memory

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We were blessed this week at Adventure Canada HQ to receive an email from Gilles Matte, a passenger on our recent Greenland & Wild Labrador expedition. Mr. Matte lives in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, outside Quebec city, where he works as an architect. In addition to his trade, however, he is a singularly talented illustrator and watercolourist—he has worked to produce handsome tomes documenting old Quebec, the oldest roadway in Canada, and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He is no stranger to capturing scenes of grandeur and contemplation, and we are proud to call him our friend.

With Mr. Matte’s generous permission, we are proud to present a selection of sketches and impressions from Greenland, Labrador, and Newfoundland.

Gilles, thank you for sharing your gift with us.

—Your friends at Adventure Canada

My First Adventure

I grew up canoeing in Algonquin Park. I’m used to sleeping under the stars and battling hordes of insects; I’m no stranger to the raw power of a thunderstorm or the perfect moments of stillness at the day’s end. I have shot rapids and portaged thousands of kilometres with a boat on my head and a song on my lips; I have fished for my supper and stared down moose in the deepest of swamps.

But nothing prepared me for Greenland and Labrador.

Evighedsfjord

Nothing prepared me for the Greenlandic fjords, their grey-blue waters and ice-capped, soaring peaks that slipped in and out of low wisps of cloud. Nothing prepared me for the playful seal that dogged our progress, nor the profound calm as winter approached the continent.

Davis Strait

Nothing prepared me for crossing the Davis Strait in storm-tossed seas; desperately clinging to my bunk (and my sanity) and waiting for my Scopolomine patches to kick in. And then, once they did: screaming into the wind from the observation deck, laughing as the bow of the Sea Adventurer smashed through the waves, hurling spray hundreds of feet into the air. The sound was like a thunderclap.

Torngat

Nothing prepared me for the glasslike waters and towering summits of the Torngat Mountains, the panoply of colour and might that lay quiet and daunting on the Labrador coast. The sunshine that day was like something out of a fairy tale. Nothing prepared me for our brush with the polar bear that morning, watching agape as he tore great hunks of flesh from a seal carcass.

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Nothing prepared me for driving a Zodiac in gale-force winds during our arrival at Hebron, the abandoned Moravian mission. The waves crashed over me in salty tumult, my hands numb inside the bricklayer’s gloves I’d borrowed off a friend. But we made it. I made it.

Nothing prepared me for the thrill of diving into the 3°C waters off Labrador’s coast, waters deemed too warm by our Expedition Leader, who compensated for this setback by tossing a few trays of ice cubes into the drink.

Polar swim

Kiddos, Nain

Nothing prepared me for the smiling faces of the children in Nain, the celebration at the school as we descended on the community en masse and equipped them with the gear for two complete hockey teams. They followed us back down to the docks, laughing and singing. Some of them hopped in our Zodiacs and rode around the harbour, hooting and hollering.

Nothing prepared me for the soft grass and undulating dunes of Byron Bay, or the majestic shoreline of Castle Island, or the perfect moments on deck when the sunrise would play against the ship just so. Nothing prepared me for the northern lights that pulled us from our bunks late one night, to shiver in raincoats and pyjamas and look up in wonder.

Henley Harbour

Byron BayDawn

Nothing prepared me for the warm welcome at Conche, the steam rising from our soaked overclothes as we inhaled plates of the freshest cod in Canada. As we ate elbow-to-elbow at tables of grinning Newfoundlanders beneath garlands of crepe paper, the guitar picked up, and then the accordion, and then someone started to dance. Black clouds and wind muttered and grumbled outside.

Fogo bell

Nothing prepared me for the unsurpassed hospitality of the town of Fogo, where I played a hundred-and-fifty-year-old pump organ, climbed into the belfry of a church, shouted from one of the corners of the flat earth, and ran along a coastline wild and heedless of man and all the more perfect for it.

Nothing prepared me for the stillness that would take hold of our hearts on the last morning as the Sea Adventurer made her way up the narrows and into St. John’s harbour, nor the song that would waft across the breeze.

St. John's

Nothing prepared me for the hundred-odd strangers who had come together in two short weeks to share in something marvellous, something inexplicable, something powerful.

I have been searching for a long time for a way to bring together my love for the wilderness with my love of the written word, and with Adventure Canada I have done just that. I would like to thank everyone aboard Greenland & Wild Labrador 2014 for making me feel welcome, for trusting in the new guy (my Zodiac was always the cool Zodiac, thank you), for experiencing this sublime corner of the world with me. There is no shortage of wonder to be sought, and the adventure is just beginning.

Saglek

—Mike Strizic

Conche selfie

Treasures abound at Inuit Art Auction

Kenojuak Ashevak - Hare Spirits

Kenojuak Ashevak – Hare Spirits

Join Adventure Canada for refreshments and viewing of this 2014 Waddington’s Inuit Art Auction! Culturalists Heidi Langille and Lynda Brown will be on hand to present throat-singing, along with members of the AC staff and expedition team.

Hop to see you on Sunday November 16 at 3:00 pm at Waddington’s location in Toronto, 275 King Street East, Second Floor. Read on to learn about the art on view.

This season, Waddington’s is offering over 300 works of classic Inuit Art featuring sculpture, graphics and textiles from important artists such as Osuitok Ipeelee, Kenojuak Ashevak, Pauta Saila, Karoo Ashevak, Jessie Oonark, George Tataniq, Judas Ullulaq and many more.

There is a wonderful selection of anonymous works from the earliest period of commercial Inuit art, and a marvelous group of drawings from 1959-62 consigned by the original collector who worked in Kingnait (Cape Dorset).

Elizabeth Nutaraluk -  Woman with braided hair

Elizabeth Nutaraluk – Woman with braided hair

You will discover pieces carved in the distinctive style of the Kivalliq region, such as Elizabeth Nutaraluk’s depiction of a woman with braids.  There is a significant grouping of pieces – perfect for your mantel or curio cabinet – presented in Waddington’s Small Wonders section of the catalogue.

Karoo Ashevak - Bird guarding next of eggs

Karoo Ashevak – Bird guarding nest of eggs

Works in this auction include some sure to be sought after gems like a subtly carved owl by Tudlik, and a laden hunter by Ennutsiak.  Also of note: an extraordinary piece by Davidialuk illustrating the invasion of a threatening spirit; one of the largest sculptures of a solitary man by John Kavik that has yet come to auction; and some graceful and stunning birds by Lukta Qiatsuq.

Osuitok Ipelee - Polar bear with cub and seal

Osuitok Ipelee – Polar bear with cub and seal

In short – there is something for every collector.

Exhibition/Preview:

November 15-17, 2014

Saturday the 15th & Sunday the16th from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Monday the 17th from 10:00 am to Noon

See you at Waddington’s!

 

Coolest Places on Earth features Adventure Canada

This amazing clip of footage from Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador itineraries is featured prominently in the travel show The Coolest Places On Earth, now playing on TV stations throughout the US.

Part of a half-hour episode devoted to Eastern and Central Canada, the clip highlights some of the amazing experiences passengers can look forward to aboard Adventure Canada’s East Coast itineraries.

We’re particularly pleased to be included at this time, as 2014 marks our 20th anniversary of operations in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a place we believe really is one of the coolest places on Earth!

Coolest Places Logo

 

 

Visit Newfoundland and Labrador with Adventure Canada on our “Greenland and Wild Labrador” trip, September 11-24, 2014.

For the love of Labrador

DavePaddonDave Paddon, who will travel with us to Newfoundland and Wild Labrador in 2014, has a love of Labrador that goes back generations. His dad, William Anthony Paddon, was the first Labrador-born Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. Dave’s parents, and his grandparents, worked with the legendary International Grenfell Association. We asked Dave, the ‘poet-pilot‘ and recitationist about his family history in Labrador.

 

Dave, you come from a pretty illustrious background, but the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. What do you do?

I’m a pilot. I’ve been flying since 1976 and I started out flying Twin Otters and helicopters in Labrador. It’s quite a treat for me to be included in ACs Labrador trips as I get to see my old stomping grounds. Right now I am an Airbus Captain at Air Canada.

Tell us a bit about your family history in Labrador.

My grandparents were engaged by the Grenfell Mission, a charitable organization that provided health care and educational services to the residents of northern Newfoundland and Labrador.

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Dave’s dad on the hospital vessel “Maravel” in 1949, getting ready to go ashore to see patients in Port Manvers Run, north of Nain.

Dad was born in Labrador and, after naval service in World War II he followed in his parents’ footsteps. My Mother came to Labrador after nursing wounded servicemen in London during the war.

Her hospital suffered a direct hit from a flying bomb one night and Dad’s ship was torpedoed so travelling around by dogteam and hospital vessel for many years was fairly mundane for them—although there were lots of adventures.

How did your background and upbringing influence you?

At one time I thought I would follow in Dad’s footsteps but eventually the Grenfell Mission was absorbed into the provincial health service and that kind of life disappeared.

I guess my upbringing instilled in me a strong love of Labrador which I still feel, even though I don’t live there any more.

How do you convey your own roots in the work you do?

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Dave’s dad, Dr. Tony Paddon, with Kirkina Makko.

In terms of my recitations: they are all rooted in my life in Newfoundland and Labrador. I grew up listening to wonderful stories and funny anecdotes while spending time in trapper’s cabins.

Seems like everyone was a “character” in those days and they provided me with a wealth of material.

For example, Kirkina Mukko. She was an Inuit lady and her story is fascinating if harrowing.

As a young girl her legs froze when the fire in her house went out when her father went to try and find food. As a result he (the father) amputated both legs with an axe!

Did a good job I guess as grandfather was able to complete the “surgery” and Kirkina subsequently got married and raised a family.

 

What do you bring of particular interest to AC passengers aboard ship?

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Dave’s grandfather, (Dr. Harry Paddon) feeding his dogs.

As well as my recitations I always look forward to telling people about the people and culture of Labrador and Newfoundland.

When on the coast of Labrador I particularly like to tell people that dad and grandfather covered the same area by dogteam and then to fill in some of the history of my ancestors I find that passengers are genuinely interested.

Finally, it’s Christmas time. Any fond memories?

I have wonderful Christmas memories of the Inuit who lived in Northwest River. They would go around the town stopping at houses and singing carols in Inuktitut. What a wonderful sound!

Click here and scroll down to hear Dave Paddon’s recitation ‘The Christmas Turr’.

 

 

10 Arctic Surprises

After six months working behind the scenes as Adventure Canada’s creative director, I’ve just returned from my first trip Into the Northwest Passage, travelling from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to Resolute, Nunavut as a Zodiac driver, musician and host.

The adventure was everything I’d hoped it would be: inspiring, invigorating, educational. And like any great voyage, this one featured its share of surprises, too. Here are a few things I hadn’t expected.

Icy Arm, Baffin Island

Icy Arm, Baffin Island

1) Geology rules. Until I visited the Arctic, I had never really seen geology for what it truly is: the continual reshaping of the planet itself, measured in millennia. Where soil is thin, human habitation scattered, and forest non-existent, geology is everywhere, eternal—and endlessly fascinating.

Ilulissat, Greenland

Ilulissat, Greenland

2) Europe is closer than it seems. Though Inuit culture looms large, western Greenland displays its Danish influence strongly. In busy ports like Sisimiut and Ilulissat you can buy Thai food in an Internet cafe, and watch publicly funded transit buses wend their way among brightly painted modernist houses surrounded by sled dogs.

Ice off Karrat Island, Greenland

Ice off Karrat Island, Greenland

3) Ice is amazing. From the massive chunks calving off Greenland’s Store Glacier, to the berg the size of a city block grounded in Ilulissat, to the 16 km2 floe we circumnavigated in Baffin Bay, to the slushy pans that blocked our transit of Bellot Strait, the Arctic ice never ceased to amaze.

Sled runner, Dundas Harbour

Sled runner, Dundas Harbour

4) Things last a long, long time. Detritus around former Hudson Bay posts, scraps and bones from traditional Inuit camps, tin cans from John Franklin’s expedition, foundations of Thule houses: all these items and more are preserved almost perfectly at scattered landings among the fiords of the Far North.

The Sea Adventurer

The Sea Adventurer in Karrat Fjord

5) The Arctic is huge. It’s not just that there’s a lot of area north of the Arctic Circle. The water, the landforms, the glaciers, and even the history of the Far North are epic-scaled. Lancaster Sound, for example, which we crossed three times, is the width of a Great Lake. Davis Strait takes more than a day to steam across, in good weather. Baffin Island covers over half a million km2. Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island in the world. The works of man are dwarfed. It’s humbling.

Coastal Greenland

Coastal Greenland

6) Water, water everywhere. If you’re like me, you probably pictured the Arctic as a vast expanse of either ice, or tundra. But when you visit by ship, during the relatively ice-free summer months, you begin to understand the importance of the ocean. The communities face seaward. The animals directly or indirectly depend on ocean life and ocean currents. And in a territory almost entirely without roads, the ocean (or the sea ice on it) supports travel, too.

Fort Ross, Devon Island

Fort Ross, Devon Island

7) It’s still wild. Over the ten days we spent in the Canadian Arctic, covering over a thousand kilometres, we saw four vessels other than the Sea Adventurer: a navy ship, a Students on Ice sailboat, a private yacht, and a Coast Guard icebreaker. While there’s a lot going on in the Arctic, including resource development, tourism, art, research, and education, the activity is concentrated mostly in the relatively few small communities. Between them lies a whole lot of space to explore.

Resolute Bay, Nunavut

Resolute Bay, Nunavut

8) It takes a village. The Inuit are an incredibly adaptive, resourceful people, among the most vital and successful of indigenous cultures active today. And while they developed many tools and technologies to survive on the meagre resources of the North, it’s clear that the central principle of their success was ‘together we stand.’ The family, the clan, and the community survive by collective effort. In the Arctic, no one can make it alone.

Arctic cotton, Sisimuit

Arctic cotton, Sisimiut

9) Small is the new big. The running joke is that if you’re lost in the woods in the Arctic, just stand up. Haha. True, you won’t find plants taller than, say, an Arctic poppy of about 15 cm in height, and most of what’s growing on the thin soil in the brief summer thaw is even smaller. But you really could get lost, fascinated by the incredible (and beautiful) array of plants, fungi, lichens and insects that have adapted to thrive on the tundra.

Woolly bear caterpillar, Dundas Harbour

Woolly bear caterpillar, Dundas Harbour

10) It’s alive! Despite desert-like conditions, permafrost, cold, long months of darkness, ice, wind, and just about every other challenge you can imagine, life thrives in the Arctic. Algae grows on the underside of ice pans, feeding phytoplankton that feed krill that feed fish that feed seals, walrus and whales that feed bears (and people.) Bird cliffs host tens of thousands of breeding pairs of kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, murres and other seabirds. There are jellyfish and snails and clams; spiders, caterpillars, even bees. It’s a forbidding environment and an unforgiving one, but the Arctic in its way is as alive as any place on Earth.

Spider Saxifrage, Port Leopold

Spider Saxifrage, Port Leopold

Arctic Fox, Beechey Island

Arctic Fox, Beechey Island

Lynda & Lamech, Radstock Bay

Lynda & Lamech, Radstock Bay

Ilulissat ice fjord, Greenland

Passengers and staff at Ilulissat ice fjord, Greenland

Happy Nunavut Day!

Photo: Jerry Kobalenko

Photo: Jerry Kobalenko

Twenty years ago today, Parliament passed the Nunavut Act, setting the stage for the creation of Nunavut Territory, which formally came into being April 1, 1999.

Today we congratulate the people of Nunavut as we celebrate this landmark agreement between the Inuit of Nunavut and the Government of Canada.

Having worked in what is now Nunavut since before it became a territory, we value our relationships with the people and the communities of the North.

At Adventure Canada, we’re proud to provide our passengers opportunities to learn about the language, the wildlife, and the landscape of the region.

We’re grateful to work with the Nunavummiut: to learn from their traditions, appreciate their contemporary culture, and to share their hopes for the future.

Please join us in wishing continued success to Canada’s newest territory!

Celebrate Nunavut’s milestone with a voyage Into the Northwest Passage, from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to Kugluktuk, Nunavut. August 6-20, 2013.

Baffin Island: a hot spot for art

When you think of the arts, what’s the first place that leaps to mind?

Places like Paris, New York, and Berlin are seen as the centre of the art world—but when it comes to creating art, remote Baffin Island, Nunavut, holds its own.

The communities of Pangnirtung, Kinngait (Cape Dorset), and the territorial capital Iqaluit with its many galleries are havens for gifted artists. Their world-renowned tapestries, limited edition prints, and soapstone carvings have put South Baffin on the map for many collectors and aficionados around the globe.

Combining contemporary technique and approach with traditional influence and values, the artists of South Baffin play an important role as ambassadors for the Arctic, its extraordinary landscapes and wildlife, and the very dynamic culture of the Inuit people.

Art and culture expert Carol Heppenstall has been guiding tours to Baffin Island for two decades. Here’s how she describes the experience:

Twenty one years ago I was asked to plan an arts tour to one of Canada’s most prolific locations – Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. The Inuit had been making “art” as we southerners define it for over 45 years in communities such as Iqaluit, Pangnirtung and Cape Dorset (now Kinngait). Here was an opportunity to visit these artists in their own communities and watch the creative process first hand. Those beautiful soapstone carvings, wool tapestries and limited edition prints all had their inspirational source in the land of the midnight sun. I am privileged to return to this, my first endeavor with the “Art is Adventure” programs. While a younger generation of artists has replaced those first elders I knew, the process of personal expression continues.

South Baffin draws art collectors, adventure travellers, bird watchers, animal lovers and Canadians passionate about our northern heritage. Summer is an ideal time to visit, as the days will be long, the sun high and bright, flowers blooming, birds on the wing and flowers on the move.

New York? Old hat. When it comes to art, South Baffin is a hot spot.

Join Caroll Heppenstall in South Baffin this summer, July 18, 2013 – July 25, 2013.

Labrador’s Torngats: did you know?

2014-Greenland-&-Wild-Labrador-2

Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador is a favourite destination for our staff. But to the world at large, the park is still a bit of a mystery. Small wonder: the Torngats are pretty far from the hustle and bustle of most people’s ordinary lives.

But for those who have visited, the Torngats rank among the world’s great places to visit. Why? Well, here’s a quick primer on this incredible Canadian wilderness destination:

1. It’s BIG. Torngat Mountains National Park comprises 9,600 km2 of area, basically forming the whole northern tip of Labarador.

2. A natural high: The Torngat range includes the tallest peaks in eastern Canada. Mount Caubvick (also known as Mont D’Iberville) tops out at 1,652 metres.

3. No car camping. This is not a weekend getaway, but a true wilderness. There are no roads to the park, and no roads or campsites in the park, either. You camp the way people have done for thousands of years: by choosing a likely-looking spot and pitching a tent.

4. You can see for miles. The park lies above the treeline, so the terrain you’ll see among the spectacular mountains is tundra. Which means the views are always spectacular!

5. You stay high and dry. Although the North Atlantic Ocean forms the eastern perimeter of the park, there is very little precipitation in the Torngats; desert-like conditions prevail.

6. It’s old! The precambrian rock that forms the Torngat mountains is part of the Canadian Shield, and is thought to have been formed several billion years ago.

7. Glaciers abound. There are more than forty active glaciers in the Torngats. Snowy peaks, crystal-clear streams and waterfalls are the inevitable, gorgeous result.

8. Grin and bear it: coastal Labrador is polar bear country. Fans of the mighty mammal stand a good chance of seeing them here along the coast. Not to mention caribou, peregrine falcons, whales, seals, and more Arctic char than you could ever eat, protected within park boundaries.

9. Aurora Borealis. The splendour of the northern lights, dancing across a crystal-clear northern night sky, is one of the Torngats’ many heavenly attractions.

10. It’s an ancient homeland. Torngat means ‘place of spirits’ and the land has been home to the Inuit and their ancestors for thousands of years. The Inuit of Nunavik and Nunatsiavut play a key role as partners in the management of Torngat Mountains National Park.

Visit Torngat Mountains National Park on these amazing trips:

Torngat Mountains Heli-Hiking, July 26, 2013 – Aug. 3, 2013
Torngat Safari Base Camp, Aug. 2, 2013 – Aug. 10, 2013
Greenland and Wild Labrador, Sept. 5, 2013 – Sept. 18, 2013
Newfoundland and Wild Labrador, June 19, 2014 – July 2, 2014

Tulugak: Inuit raven stories

In Tulugak: Inuit Raven stories, director Sylvia Cloutier brings together a diverse group of leading artists from Nunavut, Nunavik and Greenland to collaboratively explore Inuit stories through dance, music, circus, theatre and storytelling.

The cast includes Mathew Nuqingaq, master Inuit artist and drummer, whom AC passengers may recognize from trips north.

The show arrives will play at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in May, but if you’re in the Calgary area you can catch a performance at the Banff Centre this Saturday night. Perfect family-friendly entertainment!

RavenStories

Vanishing Point

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From the NFB: This feature documentary tells the story of 2 Inuit communities of the circumpolar north-one on Canada’s Baffin Island, the other in Northwest Greenland-that are linked by a migration led by an intrepid shaman.
As part of the University of Calgary‘s Aboriginal Awareness Week, the Native Centre, First Nations Student Association and the Arctic Institute of North America proudly present the award-winning film Vanishing Point on Tuesday March 12th.

Film-makers Steve Smith and Julia Szucs will be in attendance! (Previous AC passengers may recognize Julia from her videography work on past trips to the Arctic.)

Full details here.