Chris Ripken
Chris Ripken
Location: Auyuittuq NP, NU, Canada
Current Temp: 5°F / -15°C
Today's Date: 2013-04-13
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Field Report

At last we are reporting to you from the tent! Friday was a busy day, spent interviewing several elders in Qik, purchasing fuel for the stoves and lanterns and then filling fuel bottles, meeting with Parks Canada staff about the forthcoming journey through Auyuittuq National Park, and packing all our gear into our pulks for next-day departure. Our stay in Qik was unfortunately too quick, but we were fortunate to meet some wonderful people while there, and to be treated to some northern lights the evening before our departure as well.

We had some great conversations with folks while in Qik, and learned some interesting facts. Some of the biggest struggles this small community of about 500 people faces are high unemployment and lack of adequate housing. Many existing homes are in major disrepair and are overcrowded, and, as you can imagine, building a new home in a remote Arctic community such as this is neither easy nor cheap. Despite these struggles, this community is a strong one. Sharing and helping others are values that are highly regarded here.

On Saturday morning, we met with Raymond Arnaquq, the son of Billy Arnaquq, one of the Qik elders who we interviewed. Raymond and his cousin Daniel were going to take us and our pulks and gear by snow machine and qamutiq sled into the park a little ways, to get us past the area where we'd be at greatest risk of encountering a polar bear. The snow machines pull the sleds, which can hold people and gear (or, for hunters, their game). Once our five 200+ pound pulks were loaded onto the sleds, we climbed aboard too, and set out from town into the wild.

The day couldn't have been more perfect. Bright sunshine and warmer than average temps (in the teens Fahrenheit) made our ride on the sleds more pleasant than might otherwise have been the case. The ride, however, was still very bumpy! As you'll see in our video, traveling across the snow and ice into the Arctic wilderness is not a smooth journey. We stayed warm, though, bundled up in our Canada Goose parkas and our warmest hats and mitts.

To describe the beauty of this place in words is difficult. This area of the Arctic is largely snow-covered ice and rock, which may to some sound barren and unappealing. But we can assure you this is far from the case. High mountain peaks of granite surround the rivers and fjords on which we travel. Everything is covered in snow, which is brilliant white in the bright sunshine. Seals lounge out on the ice in spots, and the tracks of small animals such as Arctic hare and fox criss-cross the rivers in spots.

As Raymond and Daniel dropped us off and departed back to Qik, we set up camp in the shadows of the mountains. The silence here is astounding, the wilderness pristine. The days ahead will bring many challenges but will undoubtably also bring a new understanding of this land that has such global importance today. The team is elated, and our spirits are high.