We were up at 6:30 to get ready for our first zodiac ride to Ulukhaktok and our 4-hour hike. The north wind was blowing and it was cold on the ride. We were glad of our waterproof clothing and needed the boots as we disembarked into 6 inches of water. On shore, I noticed a man with a birding scope so approached him. His name is Nigel and he is the ornithologist for the trip and was accompanying us on the hike. We had some local guides as well as a full complement of expedition crew. The geologist from Scotland, Tom Sharpe, with the wonderful sense of humour also was on the hike. The rocks here range from being 795 million years old to 720 million years old. The hike took us along ATV trails and into the muskeg and hills high above the town. It was about 5 miles in length. The colours of the lichen decorating the rocks ranged from pale beige to yellow, to bright orange and even black. The plants were delicate and small but very beautiful with crimson or golden leaves. Willow tree branches zig-zagged along the ground and were probably a hundred or more years old. The trees grow 6 inches tall at most due to the windy conditions and poor soil. We saw Glaucous Gulls, Ravens, two Pacific loons (lifer), snow buntings, a couple of little bitty birds that I think were pipits, and three hoary redpolls flying (lifer). There was also a small flock of Cackling Geese. They are a subspecies of the Canada Goose and are much smaller. There is a good chance for better views of hoary redpolls in Cambridge Bay. Also saw an unidentifiable duck near the ship. We would have seen more wildlife but it seems to me that the residents here shoot everything that moves or flies. Many of the sled dogs were chained out in the muskeg where their owners came out every few days to feed them. No wonder our Inuit guide said he watched one of his dogs catch a Pacific Loon and eat it. The dog's reward - he wasn't fed for another couple of days.
We visited the community centre where the community was selling arts and crafts. Norma had left her mittens at home and wanted to get some for her birthday here. She picked up a lovely pair adorned with a picture of a musk ox. Her present from me was an Inukshuk (we each got one from Crystal). She was not impressed by the birthday card she was given by the Captain which pictured a couple dancing. She thought it was more suitable for an anniversary so the card now resides in the garbage pail.
We went to a Mitt-making workshop given by three Inuit women from Ulukhaktok this afternoon. We learned how to do the blanket stitch and an X stitch. We worked diligently for 3 hours and I only finished one of mine, but now have something to do on down days. We were given some extra wool before being sent on our way.
I much preferred meeting the locals one to one in a setting where they were teaching us and talking freely about their lives than I did watching the performances the night before. Tonight, we plan a visit to the Saloon and dinner in the dining room. Tomorrow is another sea day.
Internet access is way to slow to update the blog. It may be better on the high seas tomorrow.