This summer, two Vancouver Aquarium staffers are visiting communities in Canada’s Arctic. Eric Solomon, director of the Aquarium’s Arctic Programs, and Neil Fisher, Aquarium photographer and videographer, will share their perspectives on people, places and experiences as they learn more about changes taking place in this region. This sixth installment is written by Neil Fisher.
We arrived in Iqaluit late Saturday evening, and the two most notable changes compared to Cambridge Bay are the darkness and the ice. Iqaluit is further enough south than Cambridge Bay that night is actually night – you can even spot a twinkling star or two. As amazing as the near-constant daylight of Cambridge Bay was, it’s a nice change to see the sky turn dark black. I could almost feel the darkness as my body finally felt like sleeping.
The trip from Cambridge Bay here to Iqaluit included stopovers in the towns of Resolute and Arctic Bay – both equally different than any other stop so far. Arctic Bay was a breathtaking combination of red bluffs, vertical fjord cliff walls, and brown-green rolling hills, with an air strip right along the edge of the ocean. The descent into Resolute provided a great view of Baffin Island’s west coast, which resembles something like a tropical paradise – crystal-clear blue water and long stretching golden brown beaches; however, the similarities end there. There is zero vegetation, no palm trees (or any trees for that matter), and instead of sandy beaches, sharp flat pieces of shale cover the entire landscape, and the near-freezing water is filled with large broken pieces of pack ice.
The ice is the second notable change here. Cambridge Bay was pretty much ice free, aside from two or three small patches in the west arm fjord, so arriving in Iqaluit and finding the bay filled with huge hunks of broken pack ice was interesting. From my understanding after speaking with people throughout the community, ice in the bay at this time of year has only been seen once before – around forty years ago. And even though some of the pieces of ice are seriously gigantic, technically they’re not icebergs, which are massive pieces of ice that have broken off a glacier. In contrast, the ice found in the Iqaluit bay is simply large broken pieces of ice, packed over a number of years.
It’s off to Pangnirtung now, or at least soon, hopefully. The display board here at the Iqaluit airport still says that our flight is delayed. Our plane just came in from Resolute and the weather is preventing it from taking off. Hopefully by the time of our next blog post, we’ll be writing from our destination.