A few weeks ago I introduced you to the first part of the most exciting journey of my life, the from Whitehorse on the Dempster Highway to Inuvik led. That was just the beginning of a journey that I will never forget. Even more impressive was my journey from Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean and on with the bush plane to Herschel Island in the Beaufort Sea. Inuvik is the northernmost point of the northwest territories, which can be reached in summer via a road connection. Here ends the Dempster Highway, which - depending on the weather - dusty or muddy track that leads from the Klondike region in the oil city in the Northwest Territories. If you want to travel further in the summer, you have to fly, venture into the wilderness on foot or travel by boat on the Mackenzie River. In winter, the Ice Road starts here, which connects the city with Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea every year during the cold season.
From Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean and the bush plane to Herschel Island
We decide to fly, and we take two flights: one we want to the Inuit Olympiad in Tuk, as the locals affectionately call the Inuit village Tuktoyaktuk. Our second destination is Herschel Island, where once the whalers spent the winter in the Arctic. I've been to Tuktoyaktuk on previous trips. So I already knew that agreed flight times in the far north are not necessarily binding. And so it was again this time. We are supposed to depart in the morning to visit a family in Tuk, who are to explain their city and the events during the Inuit Olympiad to us. But the flight is delayed: we wait - and wait - and wait. In response to our inquiries as to why the departure is delayed, the answer is succinct: "The aircraft is needed for other purposes." And so we continue to wait. After a few hours - after all, we don't want to miss the departure, should the plane suddenly become available - then it finally says: "We're flying." I didn't find out what caused the delay. But our stay in Tuk developed into an exciting and interesting stay on our trip from Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean.
We are received by Maureen Pokiak, a friendly woman from Saskatchewan, who, she tells us, came to Tuktoyaktuk as a teacher. Here she met her husband James, a true Inuit who still spends part of the summer hunting for seals to prepare supplies for the winter. The two also run a small tour company - Oopik Tours - and show visitors their place and its surroundings. Together with him she accompanies us today to the Circumpolar Games, a kind of Inuit Olympiad, which takes place every year in a different place in the Arctic. We look at the skill exercises that replace the athletic competitions of other Olympic Games in the Inuit world: the idea is to lift off the ground with one hand and reach a high-hanging fur animal with the other - the One-Hand Reach , Or, there's the one-foot-high kick, where the athlete has to touch one of his pelts hung over his head with one foot. The winner is the one who reaches the highest position. These are competitions of the men during the Inuit Olympiad. The women are more likely to compete for the commonplace: they are the ones who most quickly dissect a salmon and similar things.
Afterwards, Maureen takes us to his home, where we can taste regional specialties. This includes Muktuk or Maktaaq. This is the thick skin of whales, which is cut into pieces and smoked. It is one of the Arctic people's vitamin suppliers, with no other vitamin-containing products growing there. And Muktuk has more vitamin C than citrus, so it's good for preventing scurvy. It is still considered a special treat in the Arctic, and we can try it. It tastes a bit like nut.
James shows us the cooling systems from Tuktoyaktuk. These are nothing more than passages dug into the permafrost floor, to which you climb down a deep shaft. Every family in the village has its own cold room, where meat is stored all year round. Not a problem in summer, but in winter, when the polar bears are nearby, I imagine visiting the fridge in the village a little scary. James also draws our attention to the strange looking hills around Tuk: "These are pingos," he says, and laughs. "The frostbite of the north." He is not wrong, because they really originate in the polar regions, where the permafrost ensures that these strange hill forms form.
After an interesting day on our journey from Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean, we fly back to Inuvik and are already looking forward to our second trip, which we have planned for the next day. This time it goes to Herschel Island, an island in the Beaufort Sea, the Arctic Ocean. The island has a bay that offers protection from the arctic storms in winter. This was once used by the whalers who, after the short summer season, did not want to travel long distances around the American continent, but instead set up here for the winter. We have it easier: we fly - this time on time, as agreed - from Inuvik across the vastness of the tundra. For two hours we see nothing under us but again and again lakes, in which two white spots can be seen from time to time. "These are trumpet swans," our pilot explains. "They are territorial and each have a lake for themselves." A highlight on our flight along the edge of the Arctic Ocean is a grizzly, which, apparently disturbed by the noise of our aircraft, can simply plop into the grass and be banned by us during our flight Eyes haunted.
When we arrive on Herschel Island we land in the small bay in front of buildings that look rather weathered. Our pilot pulls the seaplane ashore and we climb a little shakily over tree trunks lying in the water. There is no jetty here. Everything is here, except for the few buildings, untouched nature. We can see that immediately when a caribou comes across the hills without any fear and watches us curiously as we go ashore. We are welcomed by a ranger who is on duty here during the summer. When I asked whether he would come back to civilization in between, he replied: "Only in autumn when the season is over." A lonely life away from the hustle and bustle. He explains to us that some of the houses are still remnants of the whaling settlement. In a warehouse we see barrels in which the whale oil was collected. And he shows us the abundance of flowers that make the tundra a true sea of colors every early summer. All flowers that I've never heard of before, and each of which has developed its own strategies for surviving in the harsh Arctic environment. A true marvel of nature that we get to know here.
With completely new and adventurous impressions, we fly back to Inuvik after a few hours and observe the midnight sun as it walks along the horizon, but does not disappear behind it. She dips the region in a very special light, which puts its own stamp on the experience. It is this and the incredible silence of the North that I can never forget in our memory of our trip to the Canadian Arctic from Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean.
Source: own research on site (this journey of Inuvik ans Eismeer was not supported by anyone)
Text: Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline (Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, they are scanned slides, they were made at a time when I did not have a digital camera yet.)
This article about our trip from Inuvik to the Arctic Ocean takes part in the blog parade “Travelers at the end of the world". There are other interesting articles on this topic.