Aventura’s Logs

Arctic Bay

The Inuit name for Arctic Bay, Ikpiarjuk, ‘the pocket’, describes this
bay best, a deep indent protected on three sides by tall hills. Arctic
Bay is located off Admiralty Inlet, on the northern tip of Baffin
Island. Having tried and failed to reach here just over one week ago,
thwarted by the ice, Aventura’s crew was delighted to have finally made
it. After two weeks looking at the desolate shores of Dundas Harbour,
the 160 houses scattered over these muddy hills seemed like
civilisation, and a rainbow illuminated the hamlet as we approached.

 

Arctic Bay indeed proved to be an oasis. After formalities were
complete, Jimmy headed off to the only hotel, the Tangmaarvik Inn, where
Ruth Oyukuluk, whose family own the Inn, provided us with all we
desired. A fuel truck was arranged for Monday, several loads of dirty
clothes were cleaned, and once the crew discovered there was internet
access it was hard to prise them back to the boat.

Stories of bare shelves proved unfounded as the two supermarkets,
Northern and Coop, stocked all the essentials as well as surprises such
as asparagus and melons. Prices are high up here in the northern reaches
of Canada, as everything is flown in. As we queued to pay the other
customers, and the checkout girl herself, remarked cheerfully, ‘It is
expensive, isn’t it? Welcome to Arctic Bay!’ Indeed you wonder how the
local population can afford these prices. Jobs are scarce – some leave
the community to find work elsewhere. Hunting for what is here called
‘country food’, such as seals and narwhals, remains an essential part of
life, and must be done for families to survive. There are strict quotas
on what can be caught, and the hunt for the one bowhead whale the
community is permitted to hunt per year becomes an event everyone
shares, as is the meat it provides.

 

Few visitors ever make it here – in 2013 only 7 yachts passed through –
and now there were three in the anchorage, Aventura, Suilven and Arctic
Tern, soon joined by Revenge. Arctic Bay does not lie directly on the
route through the Northwest Passage, and yet makes an ideal stopover.
One of the best reasons to visit are the people. An Inuit community
where the language, Inuktitut, remains strong – English is very much a
second language – and traditions are kept alive. We received a warm
welcome from everyone we met, from the very moment when we went ashore
with the dinghy and a band of boys came wading out into the shallows to
haul us in, heedless of the cold Arctic waters soaking their trousers.
Young women with their babies tucked into the hoods of their traditonal
coats welcomed us, and young men heading out on their boats waved a
greeting. Nera befriended a gang of teenage girls, and when the time
came to leave – provisions stored, washing clean, emails sent, fuel
tanks full – she waved to her friends on the beach and said ‘I really
want to come back to Arctic Bay’. I can only echo her sentiment.

 

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