Heart of the Arctic – Day 5

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Cape Dorset, 64˚14′ N  76˚31′ W
Sunny again,  9˚C     

1-IMG_4730aA full, action-packed day in the picturesque hamlet of Cape Dorset(Kingait), the Mecca of Inuit art. We went ashore  in the morning. It was low tide and we all walked up the wet beach.  Lots of mosquitoes onshore.  I had put sunscreen on, but hadn’t thought about bug spray. I obviously hadn’t learned anything after the bugs in Kangiksujuaq. [Note to put it in my backpack when I come ashore next.]

At the edge of the beach were a number of fishing boats, steel cargo containers, and houses. 1-IMG_4748I recognized the white beachhouse I stayed at in 2000 when I visited on behalf of Above&Beyond magazine.

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Carvings on Christina’s table in her Cape Dorset house.

We were divided into groups for town tours. Mary Mathewsie was our guide. Our first stop was Christina’s house on the hill. She had lots of carvings on display around the house for folks to buy. During the winter when things were tough for folks, carvers would come to her house and she’d buy their pieces from them to sell later.

Our tour stopped at the Kinngait Visitor’s Centre where I bought a little hat and a soapstone polar bear for my daughter. Then we went to the Elder’s Centre where an retired teacher told us stories about Cape Dorset. She had a drum and sang an Inuktitut version of  “You Are My Sunshine,” and guests joined in singing the English version. The elder now passes on her knowledge and skills to young people in Cape Dorset, encouraging them to embrace their rich heritage.

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Twenty-three-year-old Adamie Mathewsie demonstrated his carving skill and talent, turning blocks of soapstone into incredible dancing bears.

After the Visitor’s Centre, Mary took us to her house where her son, Adamie, was outside  carving  a small block of soapstone into an incredible dancing bear. There was a whalebone and long strip of baleen on the ground outside her house. so neat to inspect the baleen up close. On the way down the street to the Co-op to see the art, two little boys stopped to ask if I’d like to buy a carving. I couldn’t say no and bought a little Inukshuk.

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Kavavow Mannumi prepares to add a second layer of colour and texture to an owl print designed by Ningeokuluk Teevee, which will be included in the 2015 annual fall graphics collection of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op.

Then we trooped down to the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, the printmaking shop that John’s father, James Houston, helped start. We watched Printmaker  Kavvavow Mannumi at work.

There were all kinds of gorgeous prints and carvings for sale at the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op and passengers enjoyed choosing pieces. I found a lovely little soapstone bird and a wee dancing bear. By this time, it was lunch and a large contingent returned to the ship. Some of the locals joined us and gave a lovely throat singing demonstration on board, but it had ended by the time I arrived back.

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Gorgeous hike scenery.

After lunch, we returned to Cape Dorset and I joined the group hiking out to Mallikjuaq Park where there was a waterfall, not far outside of town. I was a little behind everyone and two little 14-year-old girls, Pits, short for Pitseolak, and  Aillipee came up to chat. 1-IMG_4842aThey escorted me all the way to the waterfall. They were very interested in the ship and had many questions. We chatted about a variety of things of interest to teenagers – school, music, movies, clothes, smoking. They laughed at my constant photographing of wildflowers.

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Waterfalling into red cooler.

We walked out past the waterfall, part of which was tumbling into a red cooler, to a rocky cliff top where slob ice was smashing against rocks on the Hudson Strait coast below. 1-IMG_4827Ailleepee asked me if I had a souvenir. I only had a pen and gave it to her. Halfway back to town she realized it had fallen out of her pocket. One of the passengers, Christine, gave Ailleepee her pink Blue Jays cap after overhearing her say pink was her favourite colour. I was sorry we didn’t have a souvenir for Pits. She was quiet and said nothing once we joined up with the other hikers.

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A rather poor selfie of Pits, Ailleepee and me on way back to Cape Dorset.

The girls left with a “good-bye” at the edge of town. I found the last of the shoppers at the Co-op and we headed back to the zodiacs.  A few men were on the beach with beautiful carvings they’d made, but by then I had no money to buy anything. Lee leant me $10 to buy a little postcard drawing of our ship by an elder she knew.

I think most passengers brought back prints or carvings to the ship. I had an interesting talk with one gentleman about the two large carvings he had bought. He didn’t love them, but had been told that the carver was up and coming, so invested in them with the hopes that he’d develop a feeling for them. I hope he does.1-IMG_4751a

We weighed anchor and rolling waves  carried us along our way eastward along the south Baffin shore. Shortly after Recap started, Matthew James came and asked in advance of our stop at Kimmirut near the Soper River, if I could talk about Dewey Soper. So I ran downstairs to my cabin and reread the info I had brought about him. Then came up and gave an abridged version about the naturalist J. Dewey Soper to the passengers. He  first went to the Arctic in 1924 aboard the old sailing steamship Arctic on the second Eastern Arctic Patrol. He made three extensive trips to Baffin before 1931, conducting research and exploring 50,000 kms of  Baffin Island. One of his claims to fame was the discovery of the nesting grounds of the blue goose, which made it into the 1929 Ripley’s Believe It or Not under the title “Wild Goose Chase.”  Soper was forever after nicknamed Blue Goose Soper.1-IMG_4785a

After dinner we were treated to John Houston’s film about his father James, which was a fabulous way to wind up a day admiring Inuit art, created from printmaking techniques introduced by him.

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About Season Osborne

I am a writer with a passion for Arctic history. After finding a photo of Capt. Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, who claimed the Arctic for Canada in 1909, I was inspired to write my master’s thesis on Bernier’s contribution to Arctic sovereignty. This ultimately led to extensive research into Canadian and ‘foreign’ expeditions to the North, which morphed into my recent book, In the Shadow of the Pole: An Early History of Arctic Expeditions, 1871-1912.
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