Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I was in Yellowknife for 8 days and when I came back it had stormed enough to shut the school for 2 days. During my absence my colleagues had dug out my porch twice but it still looked like this when I came back. The snow here sinters very tightly and it becomes extremely hard consequently shoveling it involves a fair deal of cutting and a sharp bladed shovel is a coveted item.

The next day I did a bit of skiing by the North Warning site. This was December 8; the last sunrise for 2007 was December 7. There was about 4 hours of twilight to ski in – less now.

A little out of sequence...

This narrative is a bit misplaced but I thought I would put it up anyways. It's about a motnh old now.

Saturday’s trip out to the gulf was slow starting. Friday night was the wrap up show for the hip hop dance / socialization program that was going on in the school all week. The program is meant for 100 students who attend instruction from 9 until 5 every day in lieu of classes. Given our school population of 220 or so this meant that we had 120 students who weren’t too happy to be in classes for the week.

Friday morning the principal asked if we could get some lighting up and running for the ceremonies and show that the group was putting on for the community in the evening. Well we do have a full selection of stage lighting but unfortunately it is sitting in boxes – never having been used. So step one was to secure some sort of light stand. Some digging in the storage room unearthed 2 stands that with some jury rigging could be pressed into service. At 2:30 the electrician was able to start rewiring the lights by patching into a 200 amp beaker box. While he was doing that I was stripping wire and fishing cable into our switch box. With a big effort we actually got it all finished by a little after 5 – and in time for a 7 o’clock curtain call.

The show went on until 10:30 and was very well received by the community and certainly showcased the week’s efforts by the students. The gym was packed with some 400 people attending. After doing some teardown and securing of equipment and cables it was past 11. I ended up getting to bed around 1:30 AM and woke up Saturday at 6 AM.

I was hoping for the weather to be poor but no such luck – a clear day with a full moon. A fair breeze was blowing from the north but I was hoping that it would slacken off. It takes about an hour to get ready for these trips by the time everything is packed, and prepped. Temp -34.

Traveling on the bay is very straight forward with very little loose snow so I stowed the skis on the sled and walked to where I head overland. A short hill leads up the plateau the forms the crest of the peninsula. I got the skis on and started to head south. The wind started to pick but was still blowing from behind me so it was bearable but the blowing snow moving in serpentine patterns along the ground portended of the possible travails of the trip back.

Hee is one part on the trip over the peninsula where the topography plateaus and undulates eough so that you loose sight of any man made bearings. However 2 very diminutive scatterings of boulders on slight rrieses provide a good pointer south. Even so every time it’s easy to stray off course and head for a long prow that looks to be running N-S but in actuality isn’t. A strony veer to the right brings one to the drainage othat empties out into the Gulf. It seems that other have been misled by the same uniformity and several marker stakes have been placed by people on skidoos to guide the way to where the tower can be seen.

They follow a longer path to get back to town since it’s esy to follow the tower lights in but for me I have to keep to a North path to minimize the distance and rough travlelling leg of the day.

Anyways by the time I get to the ocean – which is funny since it the only way to tell your are on it is by crossing the tidal cracking that forms just off shore. The light is lfat so I place a marker flag to at least set the track back. Moving out in to the ice I end up placing 2 more flags on small bergs as they are hard to see. While th flags are an easy marking device they aren’t critcal as I have the GPS with me – flags are just more convieninet than pulling out the GPS unit which has to be well insuldated in my jacket to prevent excessive battery drain.

Dawn comes as a ski oout to a berg that has grounded about 1 km off shore and near a jut of land coming in from the East. The sky is milky with thin cloud and almost a humidity laden layer of dense air by the surface – the sunrise is not what I hoped for picture wise. The moon, of course, doesn’t set now so it was still well up in the NW sky making it’s dalily circumnavigation of the heavens. The berg was plastered in snow and it the wind was biting. It was too cold to contemplate getting to camera ready – it was likely past -50 with the wind chill so using the camera was a noe shot deal.

I skied away from the berg not taking any shots. Of ocurse aftr going about 300m I had second thoughts and headed back , circled around it and re-convinced myself it wasn’t that great of a pic. I headed back towars shore once again – looking for the last flag that I had planted. I ended up heading to the over to another berg just west of the flag. Again I weighed the shot potential and though better of it and again headed towards the track back. Well after thinkig abot all the effort to get out here I skied back and took several shots – about 20 in rapid succession and that was it – battery dead and fingers very cold. Simple tasks take so long in the cold. I was tired anyways and headed back for cetain this time.

I picked pu the flags and started the slog back North. The sky was a cool blue with the sun not strong enough to even produce a hint of a shadow. It was an arduos trip back to the crown on the land. I still had the skis on the sled – as I had removed them to get the shots. I looked left and saw the headlight of a skidoo in the distance.

The owner headed my way, obtensisilby as it turned out ot seei f I needed nay help. After assuring him that I was indeed fine and actually choosing to be out here sans machine he carried on his way to go seal hunting. I continued north along my track over to the west arm of the bay. It was a long day.

Night Sky - all day

It was clear and no wind last Thursday – December 13 so I was able to get some more aurora and comet shots. Comet Holmes is now very prominent in the Cambridge Bay sky and as we are now in the epoch on no sunrise there is plenty of darkness to observe celestial phenomena. Comet Holmes is plainly visible to the naked eye and subtends about .5 of a degree. This shot clearly shows the nucleus and halo –which is not bad considering the shooting conditions / apparatus.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I took these shots on Sunday – the temp when I left the house was -34 but there was a breeze blowing from the north – always a problem since I was going south and I therefore the return trip would be into the wind. The wind seemed to die down a bit so off I went. It was ok crossing the bay – West Arm but I could definitely feel the cold coming through the north side of my jacket. When it came time to turn south and the wind was at my back, traveling was much better – though the wind did pick up and snow was blowing on the ground. When I started to cross over the top of the plateau the wind dropped and it was fairly nice out.

I got to the ice bergs at dawn and started to set up fro some pix – figured I shoot first and climbing after since the ice would get mucked up. Looking back to shore I noticed a black thing that wasn’t there a few minutes ago – which resolved itself into a lone musk ox. It regarded me with curiosity for a few minutes, slowly started to come out on the ice then thought better of it and went back to munching mosses and lichens.
The wind was picking up and was now coming out of the northwest. I took as many pix as I could before the batteries died and then proceeded to crampon all over the thing. I though that the ice would be brittle but it actually took the ice tools very well and I was getting one swing sticks. The wind picked up even more and before I could much more bouldering a cloud bank started to move in with the wind. Not much choice but to pack up and try and cross the plateau before the visibility degraded entirely. The lighting went totally flat and pulling the sled became a real chore as it hooked on every snow feature possible. I got back to where I could see the North Warning site just before the wind picked up again. By the time I was back on the bay and almost back to town a full on ground blizzard had picked up – which as of Tuesday morning is still blowing. All in all a good weekend.

These images were taken on the edge of the Queen Maude Gulf SW of town. These pics and the two above represent about 9 hours of skiing while pulling a sled – 5 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. It’s a huge logistical effort to get out to the edge of the passage but well worth once there. I keep the camera in a pack that I carry and the sled is used for extra clothing and emergency equipment such as a tarp, stove etc. I also had crampons and ice axes along for the ride as well on Sunday – which made for a fairly heavy load.

The trip out Saturday was good with no wind and clear skies. When I left town at 7 ish it was 35 below. The plan was to ski west along the western arm of the bay (not surprisingly known locally as West Arm) past the airport and North Warning hangar. It is interesting skiing along the ice of the bay – you only get reminded of the fact that you’re above 150m of ocean when you pass the pressure cracks in the ice which widen out, close and creak often.

From the bay I used the gps to head overland and crossed a low plateau, looking for an inlet of the gulf side of the peninsula. After a while the topography dips and you lose sight of any artificial structures and it becomes an easy place to get lost. Following several small hummocks a guides and the gps set me on to the north end of the inlet – which really looks to be more of a of a draw that leads down to a shallow bay on the ocean. Stopping to take some pix and having a more indirect path led to a slightly longer approach. A sun pillar formed right before sunrise which is unusual to see in most other places besides the Arctic.

Pulling the sled over the sea ice / snow is easy unfortunately traveling over the land represents more effort as I’m traveling more or less perpendicular to the drifts and stratugii (all of which sounds like you are walking on Styrofoam), catches the sled and makes pulling inconsistent. Keeping the camera batteries warm and useable is also a struggle. If I leave a battery in the camera and don’t open the case –it’ll be good for about an hour and half and give about 10 minutes of shooting time. If I keep the battery in a pocket and only load it when needed (which is a bit of a chore with gloves on) I get anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of shooting time. On Sunday, with the wind blowing batteries that were kept in a pocket with a hand warmer lasted about 15 minutes each.

The other wonderful thing is the plate for the tripod mount covers the battery compartment so I can’t put it on in the house before I leave. So the whole process to take a self portrait becomes complicated at best when the wind is blowing. First you have to get the battery compartment open, install the battery, warm fingers up. Find the tripod plate, warm fingers up, install trip plate, warm fingers up, position tripod, warm fingers, install camera, warm fingers, set camera, warm fingers and finally trip the shutter timer and get in the pic. You can do this maybe 10 times before the wind sucks all the energy out of the battery. The main concern is keeping your hands functional – if they get too cold it takes to long for them to warm up and the situation could become serious since there is no respite from the cold and wind except back at town – so it’s a process to say the least.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Just some shots of turns Island style

Just some shots of the NW passage past Long Point. Ice bergs are actually a rarity around here - so it's interesting to see them. These are all smaller ones that have grounded just off shore but there were some 30m high ones cruising in the main passage earlier

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The soccer teams did well in Kugluktuk with the boys placing first and the girl’s teams placing second. The basketball team is now of to Edmonton for a tournament. We just completed mid-term and did a report card, which was an interesting exercise in database logistics to print and deliver to parents. A brown out / power failure crashed the server so I spent the whole day fixing the server / system.

Was out skiing west of town last weekend and came across a large herd of Caribou – about 400 or so. After a while I noticed that there was a dead one lying just over the hill so I thought I’d get the antlers. When I walked over to it I was surprised to find the animal still alive. He knew he was dying – you could see it in the eyes.

From the marks in the snow it appears to have been dragging itself in the snow for several hours. It was a large older male so it looks like it lost a duel and likely broke its back in the conflict – no gunshot wounds. I did have a knife with me so I put the poor guy out of his misery so at least he wouldn’t be alive when wolves or foxes came around and started chewing on him.

Death makes interesting patterns – the drag of the antlers looked like snow angels and the path of the body made a sinusoidal-esque curve that matched the contouring of the hill - interesting what one considers to be a hill after being here for a while. I left his antlers.

These are a few images of what I see looking out my kitchen window – the tundra and the North Warning site – which most people still refer to as the DEW Line. Apparently when you phone up there they sometimes answer the phone “good morning – North Warning.” A falcon has taken to nesting under the main tower over the years - where it gets sticks for building supplies is anybody's guess.

These shots were taken about a month ago when the sun was setting due west of town –definitely not the case now.
Temp stady at 30 over the last 2 days. Clear this AM but a ground fog has rolled in.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Comet Holmes Pix

It was a nice calm night on Monday, only -30, so I was able to get a shot of the comet. It's coming straight on hence it shows up as the grey blob below centre of the image at this point. 30 seconds at f/4 with a digital - long enough for star trailing due to the rotation of the Earth.

High today of 30 with clear skies and becoming breezy with a wind chill of -49 by tonight.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Comet Holmes

Since it was clear in C Bay last night I was able to locate Comet Holmes currently in the constellation of Perseus visually. Also used the Celestron for a better view. It is also well viewed with binoculars. Mostly a fuzzy ball with limited tail development. Also was easily able to pick out M31 – the Andromeda Nebula, which is a nice spiral galaxy and part of the Local Group and our neighbour galaxy at 2.5 million light years distant

Clear and calm is AM with a crescent moon and Venus dominating the southern sky. The wind has changed from a stiff North wind to a light breeze issuing from the West.

Skied across the bay towards the Queen Maude Gulf yesterday. Clear but strong north wind – windchill at 43. Went out the edge of the passage and then back along the sea ice following the entrance to the bay.

As the barge was still working as late as October 31 there is a passage of very thin ice leading into the bay – which I was not keen on crossing. Two tugs and 3 barges are now over wintering in the bay – tied to the wharf.

Stopped by the Arctic Wanderer, which has been tied up at the North Warning / Government dock since September. It is listing a bit to starboard and providing enough of a windbreak to develop a nice size drift around it. There was some overflow /thin ice around the area and one ski got a little wet before a retreat was necessary.

Worked on the snowmobile for most of Saturday and managed to nicely fix a problem with the recoil starter only to have the machine develop a fuel issue. Limped it back home after it died out by the airport where may become a permanent fixture.

Low of 37 tonight with a wind-chill at 47 below. May have to get out my Snow Goose parka

Friday, November 2, 2007

Today was clear to start; well at least it was over town– nice view of the waning moon with a deep purple sky. Unfortunately by the time the sun came up it clouded over. The forecast always predicts sunny weather – it just never seems to arrive.

We have an elder sewing project at the heritage centre – which happens to be attached to the school. The ladies kindly made me a set of caribou mitts for snowmobiling. They’re very well done with wool liners. It’s cool to watch them work using traditional methods, right from working the hide to sewing with sinew thread.

I also picked up a set of seal skin mitts from a local seamstress that are more modern in craftsmanship but a very cool none the less.

There is a burgeoning carving industry here. Most people work in soapstone though Caribou antler and ivory are also prevalent media. There are some superior works available and it is possible to commission pieces if so desired.

Like many northern communities the artist will come to you if you let it be known that you are interested in buying pieces. Some of the ladies also hand sew wall hangings which are exquisite in detail - often they come by the school with their work.

Our soccer teams are going to a tournament in Kugluktuk this weekend. 40 students are participating and probably will have to miss school on Monday, as the charter can’t get them back any earlier. The Wolverines will no doubt kick butt.

Temp today is steady at 20 with an Easterly wind picking up. Windchill is at 28
Sunrise 9:24
Sunset 16:04

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Post All Hallowes Eve

Halloween night is a big deal for pre teens in Cambridge Bay. About 200 trick or treaters showed up at the door. They were for the most part accompanied by parents or older siblings and arrived by skidoo or truck.

A snow machine would pull up and costumed toddlers bundled up against the cold would waddle up the stairs and tentatively offer their bags whilst declaring “trick or treat.” Then off they would go, always with a thank you.

Official trick or treat time is 5:45 to 7:00 PM. The community hall had costume judging and activities starting at 7 and things aside from the occasional face painted stragglers things were quiet by 8 PM.

I ended up watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the local Buffy Fan club, which is headed up by my neighbour. They ran out of candy so I doled out goodies from their place while she readied for the Buffy club meeting – she couldn’t turn the lights on without attracting kiddies otherwise.

The grade 4/5 teacher was looking decidedly less stressed now that her Haunted house wnet over so well and all that was left to do was clean up the next day. I reminded her that she had signed up for Rememberence day duties and she was less than amused.

If you’re going to be in C Bay during Halloween – bring lots of treats.

Temp -17 but a stiff breeze today so windchill of -33.

Sunrise - 9:19 AM
Sunset - 4:09 PM
The sun only get about 10 degrees off the horizon at the moment. The moon on the other hand rises well in the north and is up for about 18 hours

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Kiilinik High School had Halloween activities today after lunch. Kids were OK and pretty much a good time without getting too wound up. Kullik, the K - 6 school, had stuff planned all day with the grade 4/5 class being largely responsible for the haunted house - or rather their teacher was.
Report cards next week.
Temp today -20 with a wind chill of -28 and a low of -35 with the wind chill. Generally not too bad - it'll be OK for the tricker treaters.

Monday, October 29, 2007

October 29 2007

Thought I'd start a blog about life in Cambridge Bay in Nunavut as there is a paucity of web info about this place.