POND INLET, NUNAVUT
At Art Class yesterday, we both strung beads on wire and made ourselves a bracelet. Tomorrow, we make a matching necklace. Phil and Hugh came into the Saloon to tell us that they wouldn't be at dinner in the dining room as they had reservations at Silk Road for the same time we did. Of course, we joined them. We reached Pond Inlet just as night fell and were greeted by the lights of the small village twinkling across the water. That did not prepare us for the scene we awoke to this morning.
What a magnificent setting. Pond Inlet, population 1,549, is at the northern tip of Baffin Island. It overlooks Bylot Island - that is a mix of mountains and glaciers with the odd iceberg thrown in. If you can imagine the top of the Rocky Mountains covered in snow with water half-way up the slopes, you would have an inkling of how gorgeous this place is.
After an early breakfast, we boarded the zodiacs for a ride into town. This was the roughest boarding we have experienced. We met our guides (Nigel and scope were there) and headed out on the hike to Salmon Creek we had planned. We walked along the shore spotting Longspurs and Pipits, Glaucous Gulls and Snow Geese, and Red-Throated Loons. The "strenuous hike" involved too many long stops along the way for explanations that we had already heard. It was warm while we were walking but we got chilled at the frequent long stops. At the halfway point, we were treated to some bannock.
Once we got into town, we started off on our own to find the Community Centre where we were to meet Chantal. On the way, we saw an ermine! We were not too sure of where we were going and asked a fellow how to get there. He replied that he was on his way there and to hop in his truck. We met Chantal as soon as we walked in the door. She introduced us to two of her friends, RCMP officers, and told us where we should go and what to do. She told us that if we asked at the Library, we could get a Certificate for being above the Arctic Circle with our names inscribed in Inuktitut. The Librarian told us about how difficult it was to produce a literate society here - too few teachers, scant curriculum, too many languages (each community has its own), and too few books translated into the different languages. People from the different communities cannot read books in other communities' languages. The cost of publishing books in small numbers in so many languages is prohibitive. We visited the Co-op Store, the most northerly Tim Hortons, the Northern Store where mangoes were $4.00 each, climbed Contemplation Hill to view the directional sign that Crystal donated to the community, and the Nattinnak Visitor's Centre where some spectacular carvings were on sale and which had a stuffed Narwhal on display, probably the only one we'll see, though I think I saw the fluke of one in Crocker Bay. We also explored a traditional Qammaq sod house that had been reconstructed for us.
We could see the influence that more tourism will have on these communities. While one little boy ran out to give each of us a high-five, we heard another tell one of our fellow passengers who asked if he could take a picture of him - $5. Here we saw the most children - hardly a woman went past without a baby strapped on her back.
Back at the ship, we had a late lunch and retired to our beds missing the local entertainment and photo op of all the passengers outside on the top two decks in their red parkas, waving at a drone with a camera.
Two more sea days await us on our way to Greenland. As the Shackleton leaves us, there will be no more unexpected excursions.