Polar Sea 360°

Episode 07

Arctic Crossroads

Reclaiming our Culture Map it

By Tanya Tagaq Gillis, award winning throat singer, born and raised in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Tanya has two critically-acclaimed albums with her band, Sinaa and Auk/Blood and has experimented in film. Her music video Tungijuq won “Best Short Drama” at the 2009 imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival Awards.

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

When I first started throat singing it woke something up within me; it became a way for me to express my Inuit culture. My interest wasn’t triggered until I was in my early twenties when my Mom sent me some throat singing on cassette tapes, but from there I really started digging into it.

To be honest, it comes naturally to me; it feels as if I have no choice to make the music I’m making. The sounds of music already exist; I’m just pulling them out of the universe and through my voice so other people can hear what’s already there too. I wasn’t trying to make it that way, it just kind of happened. I want to give people something a little unexpected with my music. Although my music seems experimental, I feel like I’m taking throat singing back to how it used to be. The songs that are considered traditional now – someone created them at some point. Now I’m just creating new songs and new sounds; and who knows how they will be considered 100 or 200 years from now. I mean people used to sing right into each other’s mouths! But since interference from western culture nobody knows what the really old traditions are anymore.

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“People from the South came and all of a sudden our culture became savage, wrong, and bad…”

Before missionaries and militaries and Canadian government representatives came North we had our own belief system. Now a lot of the youth seem to carry so much shame. It’s like this society is set up so that we’re not even supposed to feel good about ourselves anymore. People from the South came and all of a sudden our culture became savage, wrong, and bad and we needed to become more like them. Christianity brought shame. Throat singing stopped; when you discourage creativity cultures won’t progress. Abolishing that shame is important to me. If I can help just one person feel better in my whole music career, then I’m doing my job; as long as somebody is getting it.

“With my music I do my best to reflect the world back to itself”

With my music I do my best to reflect the world back to itself. I believe everybody has their own sounds and instincts inside of them but do not listen to them anymore. People are too busy thinking only with their minds and not listening to their feelings. It’s difficult to feel good about yourself when you work in a square room all day and drive a square car all evening and then you go to sleep in another square room all night. Society is that exact same square forcing us to be boxed into a certain way of living. You’re only supposed to act one way and nobody’s supposed to be messed up. It’s bullshit. We need to start taking care of ourselves emotionally and spiritually and I want to shed some light on that.

My music helps me leave it all behind, all the terrible things we’ve done to our environment and to ourselves. In my day-to-day life I think a lot about life but during my performances there’s definitely no thought to it. No, instead I dive into my subconscious, not necessarily to forget but to expose what’s actually there. I’m chasing a state of complete peace that you only get every once and a while, like during a very long run or eating a very perfect meal, or giving birth. Only at those times are you completely and totally aware of that moment; you’re not worried about the past or the future. It feels how everything should be if we weren’t confined. I chase that feeling time and time again through art, exercise, or singing.

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“I get angry because Canada thinks it’s such a nice multicultural country but it’s still very racist”

Another thing really driving my music is my anger with the effects of colonialism and the state of Nunavut right now. Life is hard, especially here, where abuse is normal. It’s tough. I’m really mad about a lot of things and it wasn’t until I started travelling and I saw a little more of how other people lived that I really got upset about the socioeconomic things going on in Nunavut. For example when I went to Europe I gained a way deeper respect for “white people” because I learned the roots of their culture because, let’s be frank, they spent the last couple thousand years scrapping over every little piece of land there was over there. Europeans were warring people and so when they came over to our land they were still warring people.

I get angry because Canada thinks it’s such a nice multicultural country but it’s still very racist. All you have to do is look at any internet news story concerning native people. The comment sections have oceans of people saying “when are these natives going to get over this?” and “Aboriginal people should quit asking for handouts.” The problem is that there is not a properly executed native studies curriculum in the public school system. Kids don’t learn that Aboriginal Peoples were strong and independent people living in harmony with nature before colonialism and treaty systems, so later they see these news stories without any context. It’s really difficult to witness this all happen.

Whenever my band travels to Germany we’ve noticed things are different, there is still kind of a shame about what happened during WWII. And that’s what I want in Canada. I want the systematic genocide of Indigenous Canadians to be held with reverence. I just want respect and knowledge surrounding our history.

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“I don’t want to spoon-feed people with my music. People can take what they want out of it”

I believe Canadians are good people and I think that if we were educated properly there would be a lot more understanding. We all need to do work. Aboriginal Peoples, the rest of the public, and the government need to work hand-in-hand to improve things.

That being said, I don’t want to spoon-feed people with my music. People can take what they want out of it because I don’t use lyrics. I just use what I feel about the situation to drive my singing and hopefully people will be clever enough to understand where that’s coming from. When I’m doing my music the last thing I want to do is be pointing fingers because it’s not about that. It’s about loving, understanding, helping out, and not being judgmental. I can’t blame the rest of Canada for not understanding the plights of Indigenous people but I can believe that if we spread the right knowledge, they will be on our side. It’s idyllic I know but I can hope.

This post is also available in: French, German

The Aggie Comes First Map it

By Manfred Becker, a German-Canadian filmmaker and editor. In his work he often explores personal stories and human trauma surrounding current or historical issues. While visiting Cambridge Bay Manfred addresses the complex history of the DEW Line and how the aggie or 'white man' continues to arrange the North to fit their own ideas.

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

Rick Chaulk has been working in the North for nearly 30 years. Originally from Bonavista, Newfoundland he says, “I once watched a polar bear pull a seal out of the sea. Experiences like that are worth long winter’s darkness.” And that bone chilling cold? I pry. “It’s not a question of weather, it’s about dressing the right way!” I guess after growing up on the windswept east coast of Newfoundland where 80 km gales are normal, extreme Arctic weather doesn’t concern him.

Rick manages a site perched on a hill above the hamlet of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Aside from the grey utilitarian military barracks, the installation’s most visible landmark is the three futuristic-looking domes that house state-of-the-art radar equipment. “This structure is part of a string of radar stations that were built across Alaska, Canada, and Greenland in the 1950’s to provide North America an early warning of incoming flying objects, friend or foe,” Rick carefully explains. The DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line is the biggest and most ambitious peacetime military project in Arctic history. It brought modern life and one of the first opportunities for wage employment to the Inuit, having long-term consequences on their hunting and trapping traditions. According to Rick, old foremen told the Inuit not to talk about their DEW Line work with their families, causing them to believe that “something was going on in there.”

The DEW Line was planned, built, and largely funded by the United States; although 42 of the 63 sites of were located in Canada. In the early 1960s, not long after their construction, 21 of the DEW Line sites were decommissioned. The remaining sites were operated by the Department of National Defense (DND) until they were replaced by the North Warning System in 1993, which continues to watch the Arctic skies today.

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“The DEW Line brought the first opportunities for wage employment to the Inuit, having long-term consequences”

The North Warning System, where Rick currently works, is operated by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). It’s a radar system that provides airspace surveillance in order to defend North America’s Arctic borders. When I ask Rick what foreign power would want to enter our continent via the North, Rick doesn’t flinch, “We still get unidentified objects on our radar screens. Even after communism finished, Russian pilots would fly into our airspace just to play a game of ‘dare.’”

To me, the domes still seem like a slightly surreal monument of the Cold War. The DEW Line brought modern health care, alcohol, and Hollywood movies to the people of the North, and it still stands as a reminder of the difference between two cultures; at times Canadian Inuit have had more in common with indigenous people of Siberia than their fellow Canadians down South. Whose Cold War was this anyhow?

Now it’s late August and the sky darkens at night. The white surface of one of the domes becomes a screen for our camera, as we project another iconic symbol of the uneasy relationship between ‘us’ Southerners and ‘them’ on it: Robert Flaherty’s ground-breaking film, Nanook of the North. The 1922 ‘documentary’ chronicles the daily life of an Inuit man Flaherty called Nanook.

For many people of the North, Flaherty is an insult. In one scene, Nanook is seen listening to a gramophone. Fascinated by the sound, Nanook puts a record between his teeth and tries to take a bite out of it. Tanya Gillis, a throat singer from Cambridge Bay who has contemporized the traditional art form, perfectly expresses the problem, “The film takes place among Inuit but it is really about how Southerners thought of us. That gramophone scene still makes me so angry. How much more condescending can you get?” Tanya grew up with the DEW domes high on the hill, watching it every day on her way to school, wondering what those structures were all about.

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While the DEW Line was simply a question of location – a military strategy to position us closer to “the Commies;” Flaherty’s bias came from his admiration for Nanook and his people, in his portrayal of the “fearless, lovable, happy-go-lucky Eskimo.” Flaherty also turned the North into a protagonist itself: Nanook works against nature and yet is shaped by it and the land on which he lives.

“The staged scenes perpetuate the myth of the noble savage”

But in Nanook of the North, as in other documentary depictions of reality there exists an element deceit. Truthfully there was no Nanook; Flaherty created the character. The man we call Nanook acts out the lives of his grandfathers. For example, Flaherty makes him relive a dangerous method of walrus hunting that Nanook’s people had long abandoned for guns; and in a seal hunt scene Flaherty had extras pull on a rope to emphasize the animal’s struggle, when in reality the seal had long been dead.

Watching the images of Nanook and his family flicker on the DEW Line dome, I wonder why Flaherty made the lives seem more difficult than they were. The staged scenes perpetuate the myth of the noble savage: their lifestyle timeless and unchanging, unaffected by the modern world. Flaherty took the myth of the dying race and turned it into art.

Nanook of the North represent how our dominant culture ‘preserves’ native culture but he does it through our own perception of what it means to be native? Flaherty says “I want to document these traditions before they are lost.” In fact, that culture is not lost but transformed. Just like the Inuit learned to live with our fear of the bomb. This is where the two, the noble savage and the monument to the Cold War, become one.

This post is also available in: French, German

Inuit Trails Map it

By Dr. Claudio Aporta, Argentinian-Canadian associate professor of Dalhousie’s Marine Affairs Program. Aporta is a co-author of the Pan Inuit Trails project, an effort to redefine modern maps of Nunavut. The online atlas has helped document thousands of kilometers of historical routes across Nunavut and hundreds of traditional Inuit place names.

Nunavut, Canada

A typical map of Canada makes the Arctic, forty percent its landmass, appear barren and sparsely populated. The rest of Canada, on the other hand, is comprehensively mapped and the mobility infrastructure we use to travel is mostly taken for granted. Extensive networks of streets, roads, highways, sidewalks, bike paths and walking trails are not only visible they are permanently engraved in our landscapes in all five continents. They allow us and our commodities to move within and between regions and they are in many ways historical evidence of our own presence and stories in the places we inhabit.

In the Arctic, Inuit and their ancestors and predecessors have also been making use of their lands, shores and oceans for thousands of years, but the difference remains: aside from old maps of early European explorers or traders in the region, most of these trails are etched merely in the minds of their users. The cultural history of the Arctic is ignored or questioned (implicitly or explicitly) every time the Arctic is portrayed as an empty and desolate place (as it is often done in the popular imagination, fueled by stories brought about by explorers, adventurers and other travellers). The Arctic, it turns out, is filled with history and Inuit travellers who are perceptively and culturally attuned to this environment can see historical traces everywhere within their territories, not only on the land but also in marine areas, including the sea ice.

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A semi-nomadic culture, creators of marvelously efficient and light technologies, such as the igloo, the kayak and the dogsled, the Inuit have systematically travelled large extensions of the Arctic, following intricate networks of routes not entirely unlike the ones we have developed in other geographies. One remarkable difference, however, is that the Inuit mobility infrastructure is not a permanent feature in the landscape. On the contrary, Inuit routes appear and disappear seasonally. Sled tracks become visible as travellers break the trails on the snow throughout the year, but the trails disappear under fresh snow after a blizzard, or they melt with the snow and ice in the spring and summer. Inuit routes, therefore, are ephemeral marks on the snow and ice, but their geographic layouts are part of Inuit memory and have been accurately passed on for generations. These trails are well known and very extensive, connecting communities across the North American Arctic. They have also permitted many generations of Inuit to travel to fertile fishing and hunting grounds and they have allowed people and commodities (as well as ideas and news) to move about the Arctic regions, helping Inuit groups develop senses of place and of regions.

“The cultural history of the Arctic is ignored every time the Arctic is portrayed as an empty and desolate place”

The Arctic is not the empty, unforgiving place that non-Inuit have created over a few centuries of observations and experiences. On the contrary, historical traces are everywhere to be seen by informed Inuit travellers as they move in their sleds, or as they remember the land in stories. These networks of routes are not portrayed in road maps or satellite photographs of the Arctic but they exist in the memories of individuals and communities, as part of a body of geographic knowledge that is oral in nature. For a traveller describing a trail, the reminiscence of the route is entangled with individual and collective memories of previous trips, as well as with environmental information of different sorts and place names in the Inuktitut language. It is through the use of place names that the trails are often described, as each community is deeply knowledgeable of the place names of their region. The Canadian Arctic can be understood as a network of trails, interconnecting Inuit settlements and other significant places. In addition, such trails should themselves be considered significant places, essential in the understanding of Inuit culture.

With all the changes the Arctic and Inuit have experienced in the last century, including their move to permanent settlements, the successful negotiations of land use rights, and the creation of a new territory (Nunavut), these networks of trails continue to take Inuit to resources that are still critically important, and they are still the main means of transportation, connecting Inuit communities across the North American Arctic.

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This post is also available in: French, German

Who owns the Northwest Passage?

Frank Griffiths, a professor Emeritus of international politics at the University of Toronto, talks with Polar Sea 360 writer, Kyla Garvey about the complicated relationship between Arctic sovereignty and the Northwest Passage. Griffiths has been writing and speaking about the Arctic and regional affairs of the circumpolar North since 1969.

What is the Northwest Passage?

A: The Canadian Arctic starts, broadly speaking, with the treeline. It continues north and ends in an archipelago, a large collection of islands, which stops hundreds of miles short of the North Pole. Between those islands are waterways that are navigable at certain times of the year. The islands are quite varied and the ice conditions between them are constantly changing so there may be a number of routes around them. The Northwest Passage is this series of passages, which allows you to go from the North Atlantic, through Canadian waters amid this archipelago, to the Beaufort Sea and then into the North Pacific.

Q: Why is the Northwest Passage such an important topic right now?

A: The Northwest Passage has become an important topic because of climate change. The thinning of Arctic ice throughout the region means that new navigation routes are opening up rapidly. As a result there is greater accessibility to minerals and resources and the possibility of a new, shorter shipping route between Europe and Asia. In my visits to the Arctic I’ve come to really appreciate the beautiful, natural environment that supports people and wildlife but I also worry about what is happening to this environment.

Q: Who owns the Northwest Passage?

“If our government really wants to secure Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage they should be strengthening Inuit occupancy”

A: From Canada’s point of view, we own the waters between Canada’s Arctic Islands – but there is a grey area. In practice Canada’s ownership is total but legally it is not complete because Canada does not control the whole thing, out to the hundredth degree.

In terms of complete ownership and sovereignty, think of the Northwest Passage like this: it’s similar to how I own my house, which has a garden in the corner of the backyard. I own it all but let’s say that over the years people have used a section of my garden as a walkway. This walkway has been there for years and even though it is runs through part of my garden, if somebody wants to use the walkway I have to allow them; they have a historical title. The difference between this scenario and the Northwest Passage is that there is no historic title through the Northwest Passage. The waterways have hardly ever been used for transit between the Atlantic and Pacific, until recently.

Q: What is Canada’s position in the Northwest Passage?

A: Canada’s position is that the waters between Canadian Arctic Islands are under our exclusive jurisdiction, which means that we alone say what happens; we control the resources in and the transit passing through the waters. So far Canada’s sovereignty, the internationally recognized right to exercise exclusive jurisdiction within a territorially delimited area, of the Northwest Passage has not been challenged.

What is contested is our right to exclusive jurisdiction over who goes through the Northwest Passage. The argument from the United States and most other countries is that the Northwest Passage is an international strait: a transit waterway that connects two high seas and allows liberal “rites of passage” to just about anyone to pass through. Canada does not acknowledge these claims of course; our view is these are “internal waters,” similar to Lake Winnipeg. The United States says that Canada has no right to restrict the navigation of supplies, submarine ships, or commercial vessels. Their primary concern is that if Canada gets away with its “internal waters” assertion, that we will close the Northwest Passage, which will set a negative precedent and affect other international waterways.

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“Canadian jurisdiction and control over the waterways of our Arctic archipelago is pretty much determined so we shouldn’t worry so much”

Q: Do you foresee any conflicts in the region because of these disagreements?

A: I don’t foresee any conflict in the region because of these disagreements, at least not right away. We are not investing large amounts into encouraging shipping through the passage. If we do anything in this area we will probably focus on improving the safety and development of commercial “destinational shipping” routes (for resource development) rather than “transit shipping,” which are vessels that pass through the waters to get from ocean to ocean.

Canadian jurisdiction and control over the waterways of our Arctic archipelago is pretty much determined so we shouldn’t worry so much. Other countries have small territorial claims in the Arctic, like Hans Island and the Beaufort Sea dividing line; in these cases we have what is called “managed disagreements.” There is no real threat. Some Canadians worry, for whatever reason, that Russians might land and set up shop and start to drill for oil, but this is a silly worry. If somebody challenged our titles to these waters we would either settle with them or go to the international court of justice in The Hague.

Q: Why is Canada so invested in Arctic sovereignty?

A: There are a lot of different reasons Canada asserts sovereignty over the Northwest Passage. Firstly, we want the right to control who comes through for environmental and socio-economic reasons. The waterways are populated, thinly perhaps, but there are Canadian citizens up there. Secondly, our national identity is important. We are a country of people who, even though they live far south and would rather go to Jamaica than go north, somehow identify ourselves as “northern” and “Arctic.” Liberal and conservative governments have spent some time cultivating this national identity. Mr. Harper, in particular has made a point of identifying himself with Arctic sovereignty however the Canadian government is ignoring their best defense of sovereignty.

The Canadian claim to exclusive jurisdictions to the waterways that make up the Northwest Passage is based, in part, on what’s called historic title. These waters have been occupied and used by Inuit, people who are now Canadians, for millennia. If the day came where we needed to defend ourselves in court, Canada would be defending our historic title; but, if our government really wants to secure sovereignty and unquestioned Canadian control over the Northwest Passage they should be strengthening Inuit occupancy.

The Government of Canada has treaty obligations, legal obligations to the Inuit that are not being acknowledged. Canada is not living up to the arrangements it made with the Inuit in negotiating the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which specified all sorts of things about education and support for Inuit, helping them find a brighter future. There are all kinds of things that would be a scandal down south; if the suicide rate among young males down south were what it is up north there would be something done. We should be supporting the Inuit; we should be living up to our promises.

This post is also available in: French, German

Northwest Passage, A Classic Canadian Tune

Stan Rogers’ iconic Canadian songs are instantly recognizable. Rogers was a strong, poetic songwriter with a maritime influence and country edge to his music. He grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and became an embodiment of the traditional, hardworking Canadian man. Outside of folk music circles and pockets of admiration across Canada most people had never heard of Rogers until he passed away at 33 in an airplane fire en route from Texas to his home in Dundas, Ontario.

Northwest Passage was Stan Rogers’ most celebrated song. Considered a classic in Canadian music history, it was released in 1981 on an album of the same name. The acappella chorus breaks up Stan’s booming verses while he sings about the history of early explorers who tried to find the route across Canada to the Pacific Ocean. Rogers’ appreciation for this historic journey mingles with his own expedition across great Canadian landscapes. The song continues to be sung around Canadian campfires and folk music festivals.

 
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This post is also available in: French, German

Free Living on La Belle Epoque

By Claudia Kirchberger. In 1995, while searching for freedom and adventure, Claudia and her partner, Jürgen Kirchberger said goodbye to an ordinary life to sail the world together and live a life under the open sky.

We are Claudia and Jürgen Kirchberger. Sailing is our lifestyle and we will try to hold on to it as long as it inspires and fascinates us! On board our vessel La Belle Epoque we cruise to far destinations, living by this motto:

What if I don’t want to grow up to live a secure and boring life? I want to find my own way, drifting around, speeding into dangerous corners, digging into unexplored grounds. I don’t want to live my life only on solid ground. I want to feel the deep oceans, the blue sky, free of the need to call just one place home, free of the need to turn back.

We are not a classic “skipper and wife” crew. We met each other back home in Austria when Jürgen was running a Café/Bar in my hometown. Back then Jürgen and I did not have any idea how to sail but we both dreamed of travelling the world and experiencing different cultures. Jürgen developed his interests in world exploration and unrestrained living during his youth. His self-confidence, preference for simplicity, and practical thinking help him live beyond the borders of ordinary society. His slightly anarchistic thinking and his easy humour are part of his personality that helps him enjoy life. I grew up on the family farm and attended boarding school. At school I found out how much I disliked group pressure and scheduled living. Fueled by the desire to experience more of the world I spent time earning money for travelling. My pacifist and socialist principals and my love to learn more about different cultures are central to my personality. My home lies in my relationship with Jürgen.

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“We don’t feel that we’ve left life behind; life has more to offer than living in one place and earning money”

We don’t feel that we have left life behind; rather, life has more to offer than living in one place and spending all of our time earning money. Every time we travel we gain something new. Not only are we experiencing new countries, cultures, and nature, we are also learning much more about our own strengths. There really is so much more in life.
We needed a mobile home, which could bring us to exciting places and give us the freedom to stay as long as we wanted.

We needed a home away from home. Travelling by plane and staying in hotels/motels/hostels is expensive and not a long term option; and makes it harder to reach remote places. Even camping is not a real option for us because you have no realistic ways to cook your own food. We also knew we would miss a place we could feel comfortable and be at home. We travelled by RV (recreation vehicle) for a while but it did not suit us because we were forced to depend on streets (and fuel).

We found our home in La Belle Epoque. She is our second sailing boat and a real offshore cruising vessel, which we bought in 2004. She was very run-down so we worked on her for five years to prepare her. The boat was built by a German family in the seventies and she still carries her first name, in honor of the family who did such a great job. The Belle Epoque was a wealthy economic time period in France’s history and we feel the title fits her because she helps us enjoy an extraordinarily “wealthy” time of our lives.

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“We found our home in La Belle Epoque”

The Northwest Passage made us realize how much we can handle, as long as we are willing to try. I think we grew very much by doing this. Crossing the Arctic on a sailboat is not an easy task for a small crew. It was challenging. All of our travels leave us with unique experiences but this trip in particular encouraged our interests in the most remote areas of the world.

Our advice to those who wish to leave society and live like us is, “Don´t just dream. Make a vision out of your dream and follow your vision.” It’s what my dad used to tell us; it means learning what you really want, making a plan, and working hard to make it reality. Do not plan too much at the beginning. Your experience only grows by doing and learning. Listen to the stories other people tell but do not believe that their way of doing things will work for you. You must find your own way at your own speed.

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This post is also available in: French, German

True Impressions aboard the Akademik Ioffe Map it

By Richard Tegnér, Swedish architect and Arctic hitchhiker. Richard reflects on his time aboard the cruise ship, Akademik Ioffe and shares his first impressions of Cambridge Bay.

August 24 - Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

Today is my last day on Akademik Ioffe and already I’m feeling sad about leaving the boat and all of the nice people I have befriended onboard. When I first met the group in Pond Inlet, I was waiting for them to come to the community centre where we would watch a performance together. As they walked in I thought to myself, what a boring looking bunch of elderly people. What in the world will I have in common with these men and women, what will we possibly have to talk about? Like all tourists they resembled an anonymous mass pouring out of the ship in their polar gear (they all had the same red windbreaker jackets). Cameras were pointed in all directions. These are going to be some trying days for me, I thought. Well, soon enough my preconceptions showed so very wrong. I have never in my life met so many interesting and pleasant individuals in such a short period of time.

I met Rick, a retired physician from Barrie, Ontario, Canada; Stephan, a German documentary filmmaker who left his job as a design engineer in Stuttgart to travel the world with his wife in a Land Rover; adventurers George and Mark who have a program called Storm Hunters; the Australian Vietnam war veteran Ken who, at 80 is writing his second book about encouraging everybody in his age bracket not to “just sit there with a blanket over their knees” but to see the world before it’s too late; George, from who-knows-where, and close to 80 years old, who twisted every question you had with a peculiar smile; Sal, a retired commercial developer from New York who I met in the sauna; and Esther from Israel who found a new joy in watercolour painting.

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“When I think that tomorrow I will be separated from all of this, my eyes tear up”

This evening the bar was a swinging good time. Gus managed the drinks and the soul of the lounge. Jamming sessions took place where everybody joined. Boris, the project leader of the expedition, played kazoo; crew member and naturalist, Jimmy played the banjo; and I found a guitar to join in with. I had so many happy moments (while I was sober and tipsy). At times there were more people behind the counter than in front of it. All the while, a storm barreled on outside with winds of 30 meters per second pushing us along. Luckily, the ship’s stabilizers work well.

It is remarkable how difficult it is to write about my experiences on board these days, which have been some of my happiest of my life. When I think that tomorrow I will be separated from all of this, my eyes tear up. The way to heaven is through purgatory. So now perhaps I will land on earth when we finish our joint adventure in Cambridge Bay.

When I look out through the window and see the dark water and ice cold winds of the rough Victoria Strait, I cannot claim that I would like to experience the billowing waters again. Along the Alaskan coast everything is open and there are few places for shelter; and it is still so far from Kodiak, Alaska or Nome, the possible ending point of my voyage.

This post is also available in: French, German

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