Let’s say for a moment that you live in Resolute Bay and run out of dog food. What do you do? Well, it’s a bit of a trick question because you probably wouldn’t have any dog food to start with. And the local Co-Op probably wouldn’t either.

If you really wanted a bag, you could have it shipped from Iqaluit for, let’s see, $139 per kilogram plus 26% in tariffs. For a 20 kilo bag, that’s $3,502.80, which makes the original $70 you’d have to pay for the food itself seem pretty good.

Why is it so expensive?

Many of these communities are pretty isolated. Ironically, travel between communities can be easier in the winter when the ice serves as an extension of the land and people can travel by snow machine. But moving cargo from one point to another for most of the year must be by plane. That’s expensive and logistically difficult.

It's not easy getting cargo to and from isolated communities. On this flight to Tuktoyaktuk, half the seats were removed and replaced with cargo.

During the brief summer period when the ice recedes, the open sea becomes a barrier for personal travel but allows cargo to move by ship. Sealift ships begin to make the rounds at this time of year, restocking communities with everything from dry goods to spare parts, new appliances and cars. It’s the one time a year that it is possible to bring in cargo that couldn’t otherwise fit (expensively) on a small plane.

The annual arrival of the sealift at Grise Fiord.

But you’d better hope you got your order in on time and cross your fingers that your snow machine doesn’t break the day after the ship leaves because you won’t see it again for a year.

Crates line the shore at Grise Fiord on the day the sealift arrives.

It makes for some resourceful people for sure, but it is also the reason that reliance on local foods and animal products is not just culturally and socially significant but also economically and nutritionally necessary.

Seal entrails make the perfect dog food in communities such as Grise Fiord.

It’s sealift season again in the North and the ships have begun to make their rounds to Canadian Arctic communities. No doubt they’re a welcome site.

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