Sunday, July 19, 2015
Kangiqsujuaq (Wakeham Bay), 61˚36′ N 71˚58′ W
Our early morning wakeup call – 06:30 – found us at anchor off the scenic village of Kangiksujuaq (Wakeham Bay), surrounded by rounded, brown hills, skimmed with low green vegetation. Another stunning blue sky day, with the temperature hovering at 9˚C.
Morning meeting and quick breakfast, as had to be at the gangway for staff zodiac departure at 8:00. The shore was a five minute ride away. Our first wet landing, which means we get out on the shore instead of onto a dock. The tide was out when we landed and so several of us were positioned at points up the extended beach to direct guests around the rough patches of ground.
Shortly after, the guests disembarked into shallow water and trooped up a rocky terrain, skirting the slippery kelp. The passengers were split into groups. Each group had a local guide take them on a short walking tour of the hamlet (population 696). Guests visited the meteorite interpretation centre, which had displays with photographs and artifacts detailing the local history. One of the outstanding geological features of the area is the circular lake created by a meteorite that smashed into the earth 1.4 million years ago. The resulting crater is the deepest lake in North America at 1,300 metres deep.
The tour ended at the gymnasium in the centre of town, where we got a lesson in indoor Inuit baseball, and admired samples of local crafts in an interpretive centre in the same building. Muskox, caribou, and fox skins, as well as seal skin purses were laid out for folks to feel and admire.
We were wonderfully welcomed by the community with a delicious spread of homemade bannock and coffee. In an upstairs room, we had the opportunity to try country food – dried caribou, arctic char and muktuk (beluga skin and blubber). Muktuk, considered a delicacy by the Inuit, is rich in vitamin C and a valuable part of an arctic diet. As well, there were bowls of little wild blueberries, local sorrel, and other tasty greens that put the typical southern mixed salad greens to shame. A frozen mix of fish roe, fat and blueberries made a very tasty “icecream.”
The morning highlight, though, was the throat singing performance by two young local women. Our own Heidi Langille teamed up with one of the women for a throat song. Heidi later coached the entire company through a throat singing lesson at recap, and had everyone giving their best “hum-mah.”
In the kitchen at the gymnasium, I met Bernie who was busy cutting bannock into triangle slices for the guests. His wife had been one of the women who spent several nights making it for our arrival. Bernie asked me about Chef Tojo, our celebrity Japanese chef who invented the California roll (Seriously, he did! Tojo’s Restaurant). Bernie had fresh Arctic char and wanted to see what kind of creation Chef Tojosan would make with it. It turned out, though, that Tojosan had returned to the ship.
Bernie had been arctic char fishing the day before and generously gave us fresh fish to take back to Sushi Chef Tojo. The char was later transformed into hors d’oeuvres, dressed up with special seasoning on plates brought around the lounge before the evening’s recap.
Just as folks were starting to troop back to the zodiacs, Bernie dashed home and returned with more fish. He gave more to John Harris, Tojo’s associate and food organizer, and then presented me with a black garbage bag wrapped frozen char. He said it was a gift. The fish had come into his net free, as a gift to him, and he wanted me to have it. I was quite honoured. Back at the ship when I told Ree and John, they suggested it would be great for fish printing. I thought that was a fun, creative use of the fish. I wasn’t quite sure how to get it home anyhow.
Bernie also gave me a necklace to give to the little boy he saw as one of the passengers. That is Roman, Stephen Borys, Director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s, son. On the end of a twisted sinew-like rope was a beige piece of bone. Bernie told me it was a walrus tooth that had broken off. He wanted to give it to the little boy, but hadn’t had a chance. I put the necklace around my neck and thought of how generous a stranger could be. At the beach, I saw Roman and gave him Bernie’s present. He was excited about it and clearly realized how special it was. He wore it for the rest of the trip.
I didn’t yet mention that accompanying everyone on the town tour – en masse- were mosquitoes. They swarmed around our faces, and got into our ears eyes and mouths. Despite the swarms of mosies, however, there wasn’t as much blood loss as might be expected. The bugs didn’t seem as ferocious as their southern cousins.
The tide had come in by the time we were ready to leave, so not as far to walk to get into the zodiacs, and a few people were a little wetter climbing into the boat. Two young people, cadets from New Zealand who are part of the ship’s crew, didn’t have boots and so took off their shoes and waded in the 2˚C water to climb into the zodiac.
I enjoyed the afternoon sunshine sitting on an outdoor couch on the aft deck. It was sheltered from the wind by a bit of a wall. By late afternoon, it had warmed up closer to 15˚C and folks were reading and dozing in the sun and fresh air. I took my journal, intending to write, but instead had a lovely chat with Caroline from North Carolina who had been inspired to come to the Arctic after seeing Aaju make a presentation at her local college.
I was fortunate to be in the first group of dinner guests treated to official art of Japanese sushi roll making by the great sushi Chef Tojosan. He demonstrated how to make a sushi roll with the rice on the inside of the seaweed paper, and then how to roll it with rice on the outside. The most impressive thing was how he skilfully cut a whole cucumber into a wide thin strip, like a cinnamon roll, and used it instead of seaweed paper to roll on the outside of the sushi.
Then each of us had an opportunity to make our own sushi roll.
After dinner, I could hear Brian Faber in the next cabin playing Dvorak’s New World Symphony on his saxophone. Rather a surreal and wonderful. He later joined Tom Kovacs with his horse’s head on, as Tom carried us over the waves with his fabulous guitar playing that had folks on their feet and dancing. We sailed westward through Hudson Strait towards Digges Island at the southern entrance to Hudson Bay.