Heart of the Arctic – Day 6

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Kimmirut, 62˚50′ N  69˚51′ W
Sunny,  blue skies,  9˚C     

 1-IMG_4867-001Another glorious, sunny day, we are so lucky. We wouldn’t be arriving at Kimmirut until lunch time, so had the option to sleep in with a 07:00 wakeup, or early bird breakfast at 06:00. I took the early bird option but went up to the bridge hoping to see Ashe Inlet on Big Island. But the screen with the ship’s track on it showed that we had already passed it. However, the ship is not travelling close to the shore, so I wouldn’t have seen much, anyhow.  The coastline has lower hills on this side of Hudson Strait. The water is a deep, dark,  shall I say, ‘marine’ blue.1-IMG_4869

Up on the top deck some other early birds were out in the sunshine with binoculars. Susan from Thunder Bay was gracefully doing tai chi. She successfully stood on one leg as the boat gently rolled over the waves.

We spotted lots of birds  — mostly glaucous gulls, and passed a largish iceberg.

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My colleagues and zodiac companions en route to Kimmirut: Cathie Hickson, Milbry Polk, Linda Kuprat Kindberg, Ree Brennin-Houston.

At 09:00 George and Michael did a joint presentation on birds in the Nautilus Lounge. George made a bit of a flap in a yellow bird outfit. I missed it because I was upstairs in the Aurora Lounge talking about 300 years of European whaling. It was fun. Ree was there and had some very interesting things to add about whales.

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Arriving in Kimmirut by zodiac, you can see the HBC in stone on hillside.

Late morning, we anchored off Kimmiurut (Lake Harbour, population 455). There was some ice in the bay. Kimmirut is surrounded by sand coloured hills. On the side of the hill beside the town, the letters HBC are layed out in rocks. It doesn’t stand for Hudson’s Bay Company but for Here Before Christ. Kimmirut means “heel”. The Heel is a huge barefaced rock directly across from the townsite. We zodiaced passed the odd floating chunks of ice to the beach.

Folks had two options – to go on the town tour or hike out to a park near the old RCMP post. However, ice blocked the zodiac landing spot for the park hike, so hike destination was changed to head out to where there is a reversing waterfall. Seriously, the high tide that comes up from Hudson Strait backs over the waterfall into Soper Lake, making it reverse.

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Two komatiks on the shore, awaiting winter. The ‘Heel’ of Kimmirut is in the background.

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Yup, dandelions grow everywhere in Canada.

The bugs once again were plentiful and overly friendly. However, I was ready.  I remembered to bring my bug shirt. It was very warm (about 18C) so I took off my jacket and put my bug shirt over my t-shirt. Somehow the bugs found they could bite through the netting, though. I was told I was supposed to   soak my shirt in bug repellent first.  Hmmm. I sprayed it instead, but not as effective as I’d hoped. It might have been better than not having one, though. That could’ve been one of those maybe I’m lucky, maybe I’m not moments. No – I was absolutely lucky to be in Kimmirut.

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Part of the gang hiking to the end of the road and beyond.

Most of the staff, including myself, was assigned to the town tour, as at recap last night only a show of hands added up to about 10 folks wanting to hike. So, Cathie was going to lead the hikers herself with a guide from the town. But once all the hikers gathered up the hill from the beach, there were over 60 people. I eagerly volunteered for the hike then, and was eager to see some of the countryside. We trooped up the hill to the end of the road outside of town and beyond.

Both Ilipee, the guide, and Cathie carried guns. It was possible that we might encounter bears out of town and Cathie was very concerned that the group stick together. We were such a large group and of different hiking abilities, so it turned out to be difficult to keep in a close pack. We walked out to where the dirt road ended. We had a gorgeous lookout view of Soper Lake. But it was low tide, so didn’t see any reversing waterfalls. The serious hikers carried on from there and I took the 16 people who didn’t think they were up to any off-roading back to town. The only big white dangerous thing we saw were the water trucks heading out to fill up with water from the lake (no bears).

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Those who turned back, got to town in time to see some of the fun activities at the community centre, whereas the long hikers got back after the festivities had all ended.

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Some of the hikers who turned back at the end of the road. Gorgeous view of an azure Lake Soper behind.

Things were just getting going in the community centre’s gymnasium when I arrived with the last of the short hikers. It seemed like most of the community had gathered in the gym to welcome us.

1-IMG_4954There was a terrific demonstration of Inuit games. A couple of young fellows did the traditional one foot high kick. The competitor stands on one foot, jumps in the air and hits a ball or piece of seal that is suspended from a gallows sort of set up.He has to land on the same foot as he kicks with. The ball is then raised higher and the competition gets harder.  Here is a beautiful example of the high kick. Amazing Inuit high kick

Brian Faber did an astoundingly excellent high kick.

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An audience member and her dolly, watching the games at the community centre .

John, Aaju and Heidi also impressively participated in the muskox shoulder push to the delight of everyone in the gym. The local competitors did not have any participants from the ship competing in their knuckle hop, though. In this game, the competitor gets into a plank, or push up position, but on their knuckles instead of the palm of their hands, and has to hop forward on their knuckles. It looks totally brutal. Easier on snow maybe than the gymnasium floor.

3-IMG_5000Then Elvis arrived in his sequin studded white outfit and played a couple of classic tunes, jail house rock and a Beatles number. I’m sure it was the first time Elvis had visited Kimmirut. It was such fun, and enjoyed by the entire audience.

It was truly humbling how warm and welcoming Kimmirut was, considering that we increased the town’s population by 50 percent.

1-IMG_5014By 17:00 (5:00 p.m.) we were heading back to the ship. The hikers arrived as we were loading into zodiacs. It was a gorgeous evening and many stood on deck to watch the ship head out of the harbour to the Strait.

At 21:00 (9:00 p.m.), Tyler Yarema – The man the myth and the legend – heated up the lounge with his fabulous piano playing. He kindly paused mid song so we could watch the glorious sunset off the aft deck.1-IMG_5025 But then his music continued well into the night, as we cruised towards the eastern entrance of Hudson Strait.

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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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