Court Circuit to Pangnirtung (Pt.1)

Pang 1 - 1

My colleague and co-defense counsel, Tamara Fairchild, just posted an nice article about our recent court circuit to Pangnirtung, a little hamlet on the east coast of Baffin Island. For those of my readers who haven’t still had a look at her blog, which I posted about yesterday, please go and have a look and (leave a welcoming comment, perhaps).

Anybody who has ever spent any time in this very scenic location will have the above-pictured scene forever etched in their memory, as it has been included in thousands of photographs, paintings, prints and tapestries. The view is of the entrance to Auyuittuq Pass and the odd tip-tilted mountain top on the left is so uniquely memorable that I could instantly recognize it in a rudimentary pencil sketch from 50 feet away.

Anyway… Tamara beat me to the punch in posting about our trip and I see that she has chosen to do her post in two parts. I’ve decided to do the same so that I don’t duplicate anything she writes, and also so that I can maybe supplement what she has to say with some other pictorial views and a different perspective…

Pang 1 - 2

One thing Tamara wrote about was her impressions of the landing at Pang (as it is affectionately abbreviated), which can be quite alarming, especially the first time one approaches towards the large mountain you see above. When landing from this direction, you really do fly straight towards the rock face and then turn at the very last minute to make the runway. When I did it for my first time (some 13 years ago), the members of the court party christened the promontory ‘Patsy Cline Mountain’ (which will make immediate sense to anyone who has ever seen the, somewhat less than accurate, movie about the singer’s life… or ending thereof).

Pang 1 - 3

As Tamara mentioned, the airport runway is pretty much in the middle of town and the sudden drop after the sharp turn quite memorable. Still, the flight towards the mountain face, while initially alarming,  is fairly safe in and of itself but the landings at this particular location are often hazardous for other reasons…

Pang 1 - 4

A pilot once told me that the airstrip in Pangnirtung is generally recognized as being one of the more dangerous in Canada, and a glance at the Aeronautical Information entry for the airport tends to support that.

Pang 1 - 5

Here, an aircraft  is shown landing from the other direction and you can see that the runway is just at the base of some very steep rock faces. Aside from the proximity of unyielding mother earth, landings here can be complicated by cross-winds, which spill over the crest of the hill and create dangerous turbulence. Take-offs, as well as landings, can be quite hairy because of this and I recall, on one memorable occasion, going into a steep bank only fifty-feet after takeoff because of the wind.

Pang 1 - 6

The wind in Pangnirtung is no joke, even aside from flight concerns. It is probably the narrowness of the fiord which contributes to the force of the winds, but they can be severe. If you look closely, you can see that the house in the above picture has cables running over the roof and tethering it to the ground. If you walk around town, you can see many of the houses near the water are protected this way. 

Pang 1 - 7

I’m going to close out part 1 of my post about Pangnirtung with this very pretty view of the mountains tinged with pink in the early evening (it might be morning, I forget now)… The little figure you see in the foreground is heading out the ice on Cumberland sound for the Halibut fishing. This takes place for anywhere from two weeks to three months each year (depending on the ice conditions) and is undertaken as commercial venture rather than for immediate local sustenance. It brings in a lot of money for the community but the numbers of people engaged in it (about a fifth of the community overall) means that there were quite a few absences in court.

In my next part of the post, I will show you a little more of the community. Stay tuned…

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