Travel: Midnight in Igloolik (and a narrow escape!)
Readers of my blog will recall from my posts Incommunicado and Green-stickered that I was due to be away all last week visiting the little communities of Igloolik and Hall Beach for the quarterly Court sessions. Despite an aborted first attempt due to bad weather I finally made it to Igloolik a day late and, yesterday, I just managed to beat the weather and make it safely home again.
Anyway, I know the picture you see above is not particularly exciting but I include it here for your interest because I took the shot from the window of my lodgings in Igloolik at midnight!
Most southern Canadians will have at least heard of the Arctic ‘midnight sun’ (even though few will ever experience it), but I expect that for some of my readers, this will be something of an unheard of novelty. For those of you who fall into the latter category, a little explanation might be in order…
Without going into a lot of astronomical detail, the earth spins on an axis that is tilted at an angle relative to its path around the sun and, accordingly, in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, the regular day-night sequence that is experienced at other latitudes is quite a bit different as you approach the poles. Here in the Arctic, there is a period in the summer when the sun does not set for an extended period, and likewise, in the winter, there is a correspondingly long period when it does not rise.
The length of these periods varies depending on where exactly you are but for most of the Arctic communities in Canada the length of the ‘light season’ and the ‘dark season’ is about three months or so. In Igloolik, for example, the sun will rise one morning in mid-May and then not set until sometime in August. In November, just to balance things out, there will be a final sunset and the long Arctic night then lasts until sunrise the following February.
Most people who hear about this for the first time think that the long period without the sun sounds awful but, in fact, I have never found it unpleasant and most newcomers to the North adapt quite quickly and rarely complain. The midnight sun, on the other hand, takes quite a bit more getting used to and some people never fully adapt. Mark Christie, the other defense lawyer who accompanied me on this recent trip to Igloolik is very new to the Territory and he had a very difficult time sleeping due to the sun-shining all night long.
For myself, after twelve years up here, the light really doesn’t bother me as much as it did for my first couple of years but I have to say that I still prefer the dark season on the whole. One of the other facts of life in the Arctic is that there are many families who don’t keep what many people regard as ‘regular’ hours and thus it is not uncommon to be trying to sleep while children are playing outside your window at three o’clock in the morning!
The Narrow Escape…
After Igloolik, the whole Court party (consisting of the Judge, a Prosecutor, two defense counsel, a Court clerk, Court reporter, and two interpreters) decamped for the even smaller community of Hall Beach, which is about twenty minutes away by air.
The hotel where I stayed in Igloolik makes and delivers Pizzas three nights a week and Court Reporter, Jeannie Alainga, carried one to Hall Beach for the officers at the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment.
Court was scheduled to sit in Hall Beach for two days and we were all booked to fly out at 6pm on the last day of the week. As it happened though, my cases were all concluded very early on and I managed to re-book my flight so as to leave just after Court finished on the first day.
It was actually not a bad day weather-wise when Court was in session but as I was being taken to the airport a cloudbank rolled in obscuring the airfield. For a while, it looked very much as though I would be returning to the hotel for another night in Hall Beach but, luckily, the fog cleared just long enough for the plane to land and I made it home leaving the rest of the party to finish up the proceedings. This morning, after I woke up in my own bed at home, I checked the weather forecast for Hall Beach and this is what I saw:
It certainly looks as though I just got out it in time! As I sit here writing this, the rest of the Court will have some 6 hours to go before their flight and, judging by the weather outlook, things do not bode well for them… I rather suspect that if they end up getting stuck in Hall Beach for several days with nothing to do, they will have ample time to imagine me enjoying my weekend at home and will likely be cursing me roundly… Ah, the joys of Arctic travel!
Anyway … I did take a few more pictures on my trip despite being very busy and I will be posting them in due course. I am thinking that, next, I will put together a little collection that gives a general introduction to Court travel here in the Arctic and then do a series featuring the various communities in a bit more detail. Stay tuned…