Monday, February 25, 2013

Pangnirtung Circuit - Part 2

Court finished on Thursday February 14th just before lunch, and the flight back to Iqaluit wasn’t until 6:45.  This meant that I had a chance to see a little more of Pangnirtung than just the community hall where court was held.  

The first stop was taking a closer look at the Old Blubber Station. It was a beautiful sunny day.

One member of the court party left for a quick snowmobile trip to Akshayuk (or Pangnirtung) Pass in Ayuittuq National Park.  Myself and two others decided to check out the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts & Crafts instead.  The centre has two buildings, one for printing and one for textiles.  Below are a couple of pictures that I took inside the print studio.  The first picture was taken on the ground floor where the artists work. The second picture was taken from the balcony where prints from all of the collections are stored. A fair amount of money was spent that afternoon.  There were far more works that I admired than I had money for that day, so I foresee many future visits and bank account depletions.

Another place that I went that day was the Pangnirtung fish plant. Turbot fishing had just started shortly before we arrived and there was no turbot yet processed for sale.  I did bring home some tasty arctic char fillets though.  

It was a little after 4 p.m. when I headed back to the hotel from the fish plant.  It was getting a bit dark, but I managed to take these two pictures.

During the circuit, the court party stayed at the AuyuittuqLodge.  John Thompson, co-counsel on the circuit, already described the hotel in his blog but I’m going to throw my opinion out there too.  It would be hard not to write about the hotel when writing about Pangnirtung.

Incredibly, the food was mostly delicious.  This is a very surprising thing for anyone familiar with the typical deep-fried-with-a-side-of-frozen Inns North dining experience.  Even though I’ve been pretty disciplined about what I eat lately, Chef Louis’ food was tempting enough to lure me off plan a few times.  I’d say that the food was better than any of the places in Nunavut that I’ve stayed at so far.

The rooms are pretty terrible though.  I think that my room was almost the worst room that I’ve stayed in so far in Nunavut.  My tiny room had no desk or chair or place to work other than sitting on one of the two single beds.  The rooms also had no private bathrooms so it was necessary to use a communal one down the hall.  One night my room had no heat.  I think it was actually colder than the 13-degree room that I experienced in Sanikiluaq.  Fortunately, unlike Sanikiluaq, the heat was fixed right away so I only had one miserable sleepless night.  (Also, unlike Sanikiluaq I don’t think I was in any danger of carbon monoxide poisoning once the heat was turned on again.)

Overall, I had a great experience being in Pangnirtung.  This was what my walk to work looked like even on a blah low-contrast kind of day.  Hard not to love that.

I'll Fall With Your Knife - Peter Murphy
Visoko -Yulia Savicheva

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pangnirtung Circuit – Part 1

There were three things that everyone said about Pangnirtung before I left for my first circuit there: 1) Pangnirtung is unbelievably, stunningly gorgeous; 2) Bring lots of money to spend on prints and textiles; and 3) Lucky you getting sent for circuit there. You’re going to love it in Pang!

View looking down the street, walking toward the hotel.
Old Blubber Station and stunningly gorgeous mountains.
Across from the Northern Store and the RCMP detachment.

Everyone was right.  Pangnirtung is a very special place.  The scenery was incredible.  I found myself distracted by the beauty of the mountains every time I stepped outside.  My spending on prints, a Pang hat, a handmade ulu, presents for my daughters (the details of which I’m keeping secret until their birthday in March) and arctic char fillets from the fish plant was probably a not insignificant contribution to the local economy. I loved it in Pangnirtung and I can't wait to be sent there again.

The experience of flying into Pangnirtung is every bit as incredible as the actual place.  Pangnirtung is located in a fiord.  Our plane dropped below the clouds and flew into the fiord, toward the community. By the time our plane reached Pangnirtung, it had descended below the tops of the mountains.  But then we flew right on past the town and the runway.  When we passed the runway, I thought, we’re flying into a fiord… we are flying between mountains on both sides… the runway is all the way back there... what the…? And then I began to wonder if we were really going to do the crazy thing that I was thinking we might do.

That crazy thing was exactly what we did.  Suddenly the plane made a sharp 180-degree turn, right inside the fiord.  For part of the time it actually looked like we could fly right into a wall of solid rock.  As soon as the 180-degree turn was done, we descended very rapidly to the runway (which pretty much begins right in the middle of the community) and landed safely. 

Experiencing the Pang landing and realizing that I found it thrilling and fun instead of terrifying made it very clear to me how much I’ve changed over the past two-and-a-half years.  Before I moved to Nunavut, I rarely went anywhere and was slightly anxious about flying whenever I did.  Now it would be really unusual for me to go a month without flying somewhere.  I've been to nine Nunavut communities now 13 if you include airports.  I love flying, and I’m never nervous about it, even in terrible weather.  I think that I’ve grown to love flying so much that I’m going to give a flying lesson a try next summer to see if I enjoy it. Why stop at being a passenger?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Court in Pond Inlet

A little over a week ago I went to Pond Inlet for the first time.  At more than 72 degrees north, Pond Inlet is one of the northernmost communities in Nunavut.  Or anywhere, really.    

A consequence of the very high latitude is that the winters are very long and dark.  This year, the return of the sun did not take place until January 31st.   It was dark every morning when we went to court, and dark when we went back to the hotel at the end of every day.

At lunchtime though, there was light in the sky, and everything had a strange and beautiful glow.  I haven’t been to every community in Nunavut yet, but I've heard that Pond Inlet truly is one of the most gorgeous places in the territory.  I wish I could have seen more of it than I did.  I zoomed in to take this picture, and it isn’t very well composed, but just look at that pink mountain. 

I did get one shot that I really liked. 

I wish that I could have taken more and better pictures, but daylight hours and spare minutes were seriously limited.  It was a really busy court circuit.  Co-defence counsel, the Crowns and I arrived early Saturday evening. I was meeting clients during almost every minute of Sunday and Monday morning. Once circuit began, the court days were long. And when court wasn’t sitting, I was preparing and meeting clients.

Given that court was so busy, I was grateful that my hotel room was pretty comfortable (double bed! a bathroom to myself! coffee maker!) and that I didn’t have to share my room with anyone. And most especially not with a complete stranger, an axe murderer, or someone who snores.  It’s the little things.  

Here’s a picture of my circuit home away from home.

For a while it wasn’t looking good for getting back to Iqaluit on Friday when circuit was done.  All day Thursday (just in time for the first day of sun) Pond Inlet was blanketed in ice fog.  The way it works in Pond Inlet is that instead of flying in and out the same day, the plane crews fly in the night before, overnight in the community, and fly out first thing in the morning.  So, if the plane isn’t able to get in the night before, everyone is out of luck the following day.

Somehow both planes did get in on Thursday night, but then Iqaluit was under a blizzard warning for Friday.  On Friday morning at the airport our boarding passes were green-stickered with LANDING SUBJECT TO WEATHER. We might be leaving Pond, but where we were going to end up remained to be determined.

Happily, we did beat the blizzard to Iqaluit, and I got home right on time for a much-needed weekend off.  Next stop: Pangnirtung on February 9th.

Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye
Strange Days - Matthew Good Band

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sanikiluaq Circuit

In mid-January I was very happy to get to go to Sanikiluaq for a court circuit.  The geography geek in me likes the fact that is the southmost Nunavut community, located near the bottom of Hudson Bay, in the Belcher Islands.  I had also recently read The Long Exile - A true story of deception and survival in the Canadian Arctic by Melanie McGrath.  The book is about the forced high arctic relocation of Inuit families from the east coast of Hudson Bay. Sanikiluaq is not very far from where the story begins.

To get to Sanikiluaq on commercial flights from Iqaluit, you need to fly to Ottawa, and then to Montreal, staying overnight in either Ottawa or Montreal. To make the most of the trip, my plan was to overnight in Montreal on the way there, and to overnight in Ottawa on the way back. In the magic place inside my head, the stop in Montreal was going to be so much fun.  I mean, how could it not be? It’s Montreal! On the way back the plan was to stay with my brother Rob and my friend Mel and catch up with friends and family in Ottawa for an extra day or two before heading back to Iqaluit. 

The reality of the Montreal stop on the way was a bit less awesome than I'd hoped. My flight from Ottawa arrived in Montreal at about 7:30 p.m. and I had to wake up 5 a.m. to make my 8 a.m. flight to Sanikiluaq the following morning. This meant that my fabulous Montreal experience was actually a rather unexciting night at the Sheraton Montreal Airport Hotel, which is really more of a Dorval experience than a Montreal one. Oh well. 

At the airport in the morning, I met up with others in the court party and the four of us spent the day traveling together. We briefly stopped in Kuujjuarapik in northern Quebec. After that stop, when we were on the way from Kuujjuarapik to Sanikilluaq the pilot announced that there was some kind of instrument problem, and she turned the plane around and headed all the way south to La Grande near James Bay.  After an hour or so the problem was fixed, and we were able to fly to Sanikiluaq. As the next scheduled flight to Sanikiluaq wouldn’t have been until the Monday when court was to begin, it was a big relief that the plane was fixed and that we arrived just a couple of hours later than scheduled.

All of the court party except for the judge stayed at the old Amaulik Hotel in Sanikiluaq.  Here’s a picture of it.

I think it would be fair to say that the place is rustic. There was no working internet. Also not working for the first three days was the heat in my room, which meant that it went down to 13 degrees at night.  Most of the time I tried to leave the door open to the rest of the hotel which was heated, and that would bring the temperature up to about 17 degrees.  Despite the refrigeration, my room was a luxury suite compared to others.  It had its very own bathroom so I didn’t have to trudge down the hall to the ladies' communal one. There was also a couch, coffee table and a chair in my room, giving me a place that I could meet with clients.

Here’s a picture of the walk from court to the hotel.  It was a really cold week.

I took this picture of a boat not far from the Northern store.  I wish that I’d been able to get out more and take pictures, but the weather was pretty awful the whole time.  Also, when I’m in a community for a circuit, I work long hours.  Circuit court is a very intense experience. When the court only comes to a community a few times each year, it’s really important to try to get as much done as possible in the few days we have.

Although it was busy, court went well and somehow we finished quite early.  I had been scheduled to leave Sanikiluaq on a commercial flight on Friday the 18th, but as we finished on Wednesday, I decided to take the court charter straight back to Iqaluit instead.  I was sad that it meant that I wouldn’t see my family and friends over the weekend before heading north again.  However, one of my personal rules about circuit travel is to always take the first flight out at as soon as we’re done.  The reason for this is that you never know what’s going to happen with the weather, cancellations, or with planes going mechanical, and if you don’t leave when you can, you might end up stuck somewhere for a very long time.  As it turned out, I was wise to follow my rule because if I had tried to get out on Friday’s commercial flight, I would have been grounded until at least Monday because of bad weather.  It would have meant no friends and family anyway, and no time to get ready for my next circuit in Pond Inlet.

Co-defence counsel on the circuit beat me to blogging about the Sanikiluaq circuit in his blog Sybaritica so I’m linking to it here.  The first picture in his post shows me (in the grey/green jacket and backpack) taking a picture similar to the one below, but closer to the plane.  He’s also got a pretty amusing picture of how I got my Qiniq modem working again using gum, duct tape and a rock.

Civil Twilight - The Weakerthans
You Could Be Happy - Snow Patrol
Titanium - David Guetta & Sia