Nunavut: Return from Qikiqtarjuaq

As I mentioned in my recent post, Prague vs. Qikiqtarjuaq, I was scheduled to be away all this week on Court circuit. The plan was to visit both Qikiqtarjuaq, a little island community just above the Arctic Circle, and then travel on to Clyde River a bit further north. I made it into Qikiqtarjuaq on Monday, as planned, but the Clyde River portion of the trip ended up being cancelled due to bad weather. Accordingly, much to the pleasure of all involved, we made it home a day early…

Qikiqtarjuaq has a population of somewhere between 500 or 600 people and the name means ‘Big Island’. This seems a little odd given that it sits only a few kilometers off the coast of Baffin Island, which is the fifth largest island in the world. I can only assume that, when it was settled, the original Inuit inhabitants were unaware that Baffin Island is not part of the Canadian mainland. In the above picture, which I took as we were landing on Monday morning, you can get a little bit of a sense of the community. I must apologize for quality of the picture, however, as the windows of the aircraft were not all that clean.

This is the hotel where we were all billeted during the circuit. It sits on a little spit of land that projects out towards Davis Strait and, if you look to the left, you can just make out one the several icebergs that were visible from the community.

Here is the slightly closer view of the same iceberg. It is difficult to say exactly how large it is from this vantage point. When we flew in, it appeared to be at least 4 or 5 kilometers from town, which may help you get some idea of the size.

As with almost ever community in the Territory, a below ground water and sewage infrastructure is not possible so these utilities are handled by trucks that deliver the former, and then haul away the latter. Thankfully, they don’t use the same trucks for these separate functions…

The hotel has ten rooms and, since the manager occupies one of them, and all the rooms are doubles, this means that the maximum occupancy is eighteen guests. There were ten people in the Court party, and quite a number of other guests, so this meant that almost everyone had to share rooms. I am happy to note that the Judge and I were both lucky enough to have rooms of our own.

This is the building where Court was held. The stop sign, as you can see is has both English and Inuktitut on it. French Canadians, apparently, can just drive right through…

Most Judges insist on sitting in the front seat of the truck for the drive to the airport, but Mr. Justice Mahar was quite happy to climb into the back with the luggage.

Flying by chartered aircraft has a lot of advantages even despite the fact that these small aircraft have no toilets. Unlike scheduled flights on larger airlines, we have the freedom to depart whenever we like and the pilots are not rigorously constrained to a particular flight path…

For the first 5 or 10 kilometers after takeoff, the pilots kept us at about 50 feet above the water as we wended our way through the nearby fiords. Once we got to cruising altitude, we briefly followed the Akshayuk Pass that runs all the way to the community of Pangnirtung and I gave my camera to one of the pilots to take the picture you see above. Pangnirtung, and the Pass, by the way, are both incredibly spectacular and I shall feature them in a future post…

37 thoughts on “Nunavut: Return from Qikiqtarjuaq”

  1. I’ve really been enjoying your posts on the Canadian North. There is something very compelling about the bleak serenity of it all.

  2. Wow!! How amazing!! I have long wanted to visit Greenland… just a dream I think, but your photos and post really make me want to go! Thanks!! I’ve posted this on facebook so others can see your pics and read all about your voyage!

    1. Thank you very much .. On this last trip, there was a retired couple at the hotel when we were there. They got a good package trip that took them to Iqaluit, Pond Inlet and Qikiqtarjuaq. They said they had been to very other Province and Territory in Canada and wanted to finally see Nunavut. Everybody remarked how odd it was that ‘Qik’ was on their itinerary…. it is not one of the locations that tends to get tourist traffic.

    1. When we first came to Iqaluit 12 years ago, there used to be regular weekly flights to Nuuk, over in Greenland. They may be starting to do the occasional flight again and I would like to hop over some time…

    1. Hmmm … let’s see….

      Try: kik-ik-TAR-zhoo-ak (the ‘zh’ being a sort of soft ‘j’ sound).

      That is how most non-native speakers (the ‘Qallunat’) pronounce it…. Inuit (mustn’t say Eskimo) speakers pronounce it fractionally differently. The ‘TAR’ portion finishes with a very slight glottal stop. It is almost as though it is spelled ‘TARk’ but without ‘quite’ actually enunciating the final ‘k’.

  3. So good to travel with you again, John. Your humour always makes the trying obstacles that we often encounter ‘on the road’ more tolerable … even fun? It’s a shame, though, that all the pictures in the world couldn’t truly capture the breathtaking views from the plane as we skimmed so low over the water and up through the icefield and fiords. It’s a rare moment on a circuit when everyone falls silent in awe.

    Oh … a bit of trivia: I’m told by an interpreter that, as there’s no one word for ‘stop’ in Inuktitut, the syllabics on the sign actually say “don’t go”. Who knew?

    1. It was a shame the window beside me was so grimy…. I took quite a few pictures but ended up dumping them 😦

      The ‘don’t go’ translation seems appropriate given the sign right outside the Court and the number of people who didn’t bother to show up 🙂

  4. Such an interesting post, John. I can imagine the beauty… especially when flying so low. Very accommodating of the pilot to take the photo for you.

  5. Having spent 2 years in Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay as we called it then) I love hearing about the north. Great pictures. Evelyne

      1. I was there in the late 60’s working for the Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development as it was called then. Transferred to Calgary with the Dept and worked for Parks Canada for the next 30 years. Loved the North!

  6. So interesting and so beautiful. Very different, and challenging way to live. Many years ago I read a book about a young couple (they were anthropologists) and their baby who lived in Baffin Bay for a year or two. Can’t remember the name of the book, but it was fascinating. I think the long winter nearly drove the poor young woman crazy. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I really enjoyed this post. You are showing sites I have never even seen in pictures before, so I feel privileged to learn a little something. Even the signage…I didn’t know the Inuit language was Inukitut. I see this absolutely beautiful, pristine landscape and know I’d love it, but I honestly cannot imagine living in such a remote place. I’m utterly fascinated. My son is a Los Angeles attorney…I really do need to share this trip with him! Debra

  8. What a thrill to read this blog today. I grew up in Northern Saskatchewan, and appreciate the uniqueness of this amazing place and those who live there. Bravo. Virginia

  9. Hi John,
    I enjoyed this post. Air Greenland is running flights between Iqaluit and Nuuk right now! I think they fly twice a week until September.

  10. Thanks for taking us along on your trips It is so facinating to read about the people and places you are visiting/working and see the wonderful phots. I would love to visit those places but not sure I can handle the cold. Do you prepare your own food while at those locations or are there local restaurants serving local foods?

    1. No local restaurants at all…. the hotels where we stay provide meals but it is typically a ‘what they cook is what you get’ sort of deal. Some of us do take food from home, or buy it in the local store, and I have done that on occasion, but I mostly go with whatever is provided.

      BTW … the cold is not as hard to handle as you might think. I would actually prefer the dry cold of an Arctic winter to the dampness of a New England/Maritime Province winter, which actually seems colder!

  11. A pleasure reading this account and brigs back many memories the trip I made to what was then Broughton Island in Sept. 1990. I was part of a crew of six men asked to help build a church building there for the local congregation. The stark beauty of the area, the friendliness of the people, and the fabulous taste of arctic char are all treasured. Thanks for posting your pictures and writing.

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