Excerpts from a
Clyde River, June 4th, 1997
Clyde River Airport
After we landed and disembarked, an airport employee unloaded the luggage and other cargo onto the back of a pick-up truck and brought it over to the small group of passengers. We got our bags off the back of the truck. My ride didn’t seem to be around so I approached a woman who was meeting people. She asked the driver of a van to give me a ride to Clyde River. The driver dropped off two new nurses at the Health Care Center, a box of supplies at a construction site and then me at Beverly’s house. (I had corresponded with Beverly who organized a place for me to stay in Clyde River and someone to take me to the icebergs.)
Beverly came out to meet me and we walked through the melting snow and the mud to Reepika’s house.
Reepika was shy. Beverly translated for us, and Reepika said her English is poor and doesn’t cook southern food very well. I told her I was looking forward to eating northern food.
Beverly decided that since it was a sunny day, I should go immediately to the icebergs. Reepika made me a delicious omelet. After lunch I repacked my pack and put on my warmest clothes. Beverly came back and after some rapid fire Inuktitut, they decided that my clothes weren’t warm enough. Reepika lent me a parka. It would be too wet out on the ice floe for my boots so they lent me a pair of boots that were much too big for me.
Jaako, my guide came over, picked up my stuff and led me over to his house, which was just across the back yard and down the street. The snow was melting and there was debris everywhere. The houses in Clyde River are built on posts because of the permafrost. There are no trees. The houses stand as though ready to be moved, giving the town a look of impermanence. There are very few vehicles, except for snowmobiles, and the streets are graveled. The population of Clyde River is about six hundred.
At Jaako’s house, Jaako’s wife made me a cup of coffee and they showed me a husky puppy while Jaako and Noah, his son, and his nephew, Moses got ready. Jaako’s wife smiled a lot although her teeth were in a glass in the bathroom. They decided my boots are too large and lent me a pair that fit perfectly. I left Reepika’s boots there. Finally, I was ready to everyone’s satisfaction.
We walked down to the shore and they put my stuff into the kamotik. I sat sideways at the back and soon figured out that I have the preferred position. Whenever we flew through a wet patch, Noah got splashed. It was sunny but the wind made me put on my hood and I huddle under the borrowed coat.
We rode out for about an hour and came to the first iceberg. I immediately set up my tripod and took some pictures. There was water on the ice and I was glad to have Jaako’s wife’s boots. Noah took me to the center of the berg where the light shone turquoise through the thinner parts of the rampart of ice. I could hear the ice melting with a soft popping sound as trapped air was released. Sheets of water were running down the inside curve like a small waterfall. I cupped my hands and drank. The water was sweet and cold. Meanwhile Jaako filled the kettle with water, boiled it and filled two thermoses for later.
We continued on to another group of bergs. Here we found a seal blowhole. The cousins took turns holding onto each other and breaking in the snow to see how big the hole was under the snow that had drifted in over it. It was about three feet long. I realized I must be very careful in the snowdrifts because the holes can be hidden. I took more photos – some of the icebergs look extraordinary with the clouds radiating outward and the sun back-lighting them.
The ice floe had begun to crack. Only about eight inches now but they will widen until the cracks are too wide to cross. To the north, I could see icebergs on the horizon and then to the east, icebergs began to appear on the horizon, stretching straight up into the air. An inversion. We rode from iceberg to iceberg, until I was too tired to do more, so we began the two-hour snowmobile ride back to Clyde River.
Friday, June 6th
I packed carefully. Sunblock, sunglasses, extra pair of long underwear, socks and boots, my sketchbooks, and all my camera gear, the sleeping bag and my tripod. Jaako, my guide came for me at 2:30. We walked over to Jaako’s house, then down to the ski-do and kamotik which was already loaded. Jaako’s son, Noah and his nephew, Moses came along too. There was water on the ice so the snowmobile would bog down and we would proceed slowly at times. I took pictures as we went.
Jaako said it was too wet to camp on the sea ice and I agreed. We pulled up to the shore – a knoll that was snow-free and strewn with rocks.
It was obviously a camp spot as there were several rings of rocks for holding down the tent. The tent went up quickly and the camp stove came out immediately, the kettle filled with snow and put on for tea. Jaako threw in a handful of tea bags and boiled the kettle some more. Noah translated for his dad who speaks Inuktitut and Moses smiled a lot but didn’t say much. They wanted to know if I was hungry. We settled on tea and a snack before we headed out so we ripped open all the cookies and ate them.
I took along all of my photography equipment, pulled up both hoods and my neck tube and climbed into the kamotik. Off again. We could just see the icebergs in the distance. The cracks in the sea ice had widened and we had to fly over them at top speed.
We went from iceberg to iceberg and each time I set up my tripod and took pictures. I asked Jaako to drive around to the other side where there was sunlight on the ice. After that, he drove around to exactly the right spot so I could get the best shot without even getting out of the kamotik! Of course I would get out, wander with all my gear, changing lenses, filters, thinking and working. This was surprisingly hard work.
Each time we stopped at an iceberg, Jaako looked around carefully for polar bears. At one spot, there were great slabs of ice and Noah told me not to wander too far. Then clouds moved in and the light became flat. We headed back to camp.
Return to Journey to Zero Degrees