Nunavut: Thumb-twiddling in Kimmirut…

I am writing this post in the tiny hamlet of a Kimmirut, a community of only 300 souls which happens to be the closest neighbor to my home  city of Iqaluit. The name ‘Kimmirut’ is roughly translated as ‘the Heel’ and the hamlet takes it’s name from the odd-shaped rock in the harbor that is featured in the above photograph. As you can see, there is indeed a resemblance (given a little poetic-license) to an upturned human heel.

Anyway, I flew down here on Monday morning with two Crown Prosecutors, a witness coordinator and another defense lawyer. Things began reasonably well, in the sense that I made it to Iqaluit airport without serious incident, but from that point, things seems to have gone down hill all the way. The rest of the court party has failed to materialize (due to a deterioration in landing conditions), and I am now stuck here with nothing to do, no internet connection and, as it happens, no luggage…

Kimmirut is only about thirty minutes by air from Iqaluit and the airstrip runway in the community is so short that the Twin-Otter, which you see pictured above, is one of the few aircraft able to land there. This aircraft not only provides passenger service, but also carries food and other supplies to the residents Because the plane is so small, several cargo trips are required on the 4 of 5 days a week that flights are made.

Our flight left at 9:30 in the morning. There was no cargo on this flight as there were 8 passengers along with luggage, the bulk of which is strapped into the forward end of the fuselage behind the pilots.

We lumbered into the air easily enough but the weather was nastily wet and windy and we began bouncing around in quite a lively fashion only a few minutes into the trip. It grew progressively worse as we continued (giving me false hopes that we might end up going back home again), and the final approach was somewhat exciting to say the least. Landing in Kimmirut can occasionally be a little bit hairy under the best of circumstances, and a couple of pictures taken on a previous visit should illustrate why…

In this picture, you can just about see the whole town. A Twin-Otter has just made it’s take off from the tiny airstrip and, although it is not easy to see,  you may just be able to make out that the end of the runway closest to the camera terminates in rather an abrupt and nasty drop-off.

This shot, which shows the entire length of the runway, was taken from the hill at the ‘landward’ end. On most flights, aircraft take off toward the sea and also approach from that direction for landing. Sometimes though, the wind requires an approach from the other direction and that was the case yesterday. On these occasions, the aircraft must come in very low over the hill and then suddenly drop down steeply in order to hit the runway as close to the near end as possible. This is what we did (occasioning a few nervous screams from some of the passengers) but we also had the added excitement of a very strong headwind that died just as we cleared the hill causing us to drop very roughly. We hit the runway with a good bone-jarring bump and then bounced back into the air for six or eight feet before coming back again. During the bounce we must have made a good horizontal distance of nearly a hundred feet and, though I was not one of the passengers who screamed (no, really), I did cross my fingers in hopes of not plunging over the drop at the far end!

Well, we made it, of course, and here you can see some of my fellow passengers approaching gate number one at Kimmirut International. The luggage gets delivered off to the side of the building in a pick-up truck, but, as I mention above, the bag with my clothing and files did not, for some unknown reason get loaded with the rest of the gear. The lady at the airport promised me that they would bring it in on a later flight that day but, alas, after we made our landing the wind got worse and there have been no flights since.

This picture, also taken on a previous trip, is taken down by the water and the large building you can see on the shore at the very end of town is where I am sitting at the moment. It houses both the community Co-op store and the eight room hotel. The rooms on the shore side have a lovely view of the harbor but my room is on the other side and the window looks out onto a sheer rock-face.

I took this picture yesterday from just outside the hotel. The building with the pink roof is a government building and it was here that I was supposed to meet my clients. Unfortunately, since they couldn’t actually spare me any office space, I had to meet the three individuals who bothered to show up outside in the wind.

As I say, things have not gone well this trip. The power went out before we arrived, the cleaning staff failed to materialize to clean our rooms, and the hotel was completely  out of water. Thankfully, as you see above, the water truck arrived just before lunch and rectified the situation.

We awoke the next morning and headed off to the building where Court was to be held (with me wearing jeans and no tie) but we were there less than fifteen minutes before we heard that the Court Party would be unable to land. Since the docket lists only 15 accused, and since the Court was only expected to be here for a day, it was decided that they would not try to come later in the afternoon but will wait until the following morning to try again. Accordingly, my colleagues and I will be twiddling our thumbs back at the hotel for at least another twenty four hours.

I am closing this post with an interesting picture of a large whalebone leaning against the community Visitor’s Center. On the ground, to the right, you can see a couple of empty juice bottles, which should give you some idea of the scale. I am not sure what bone this is exactly, but it looks rather like a vertebra. All I can think of when I look at it is what would a rack of spareribs from this beast look like?

Anyway… since I can’t post from here without an internet connection, I will actually be home by the time you read this. The question remains, however, as to just when that might be. If my luggage doesn’t arrive today (and it doesn’t look good at all), then I have a feeling that the clothes I am wearing may be able to walk home by themselves. The nice lady who runs the hotel has offered (with some hilarity) to lend me a pair of her underwear while I do a laundry. However, as the offer comes with a condition that I pose for pictures to be duly passed around, I have politely declined thus far. Still, if I end up getting stuck here much longer, who knows what I might be ready for?

***UPDATE: The above post was written two days ago. The Court party could not arrange a Charter and cancelled the rest of the circuit. Luckily, I and two colleagues managed to snag a ride on a flight out yesterday leaving two of our number behind. My luggage did not materialize in time to do me any good but I happy to report that, for the remainder of my stay, I managed to remain relatively panty free…

11 thoughts on “Nunavut: Thumb-twiddling in Kimmirut…”

  1. You are quite the adventurer. If everything had gone exactly as planned then your trip would not have been so memorable. You can wear clean underwear any old day but experiences like this only come around once in a lifetime.

  2. Sorry the rest of us couldn’t make it to you, John. I was one of the four in Iqaluit who were twiddling our thumbs at the airport waiting for the wind to subside so we could get to you. We tried, my friend, but after years of literally bouncing down a runway (none as hair-raising as your landing story, though), I’m one of the first to vote ‘no’ when the pilot says, “Welll … we can give it a try.”

    I’m glad you made it back in time to celebrate your wife’s birthday, though. Many happy returns to Darlene.

    1. I think Malcolm K. gets the prize for a landing story. His plane bounced right off the runway in (I think) Clyde River… he slept through it and only woke to find everyong screaming and yelling *after* it happaned 🙂

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