Heading north

 

Polar bear at the airport – Yellowknife

I sat with my head buried in the toilet, throwing up my lunch and dinner. Something had invaded my body and really smacked me around. The night was spent wrenching while Teeny called Australia for advice from my parents. We needed to catch a flight north from Calgary to Yellowknife in five hours.

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Why walk around a lake when you can walk over it.

 

A day earlier we had arrived in Calgary for a third time on this trip. This would be our longest stay – two-and-a-half days. We had dinner with our good friend Patrik again and were joined by one of his best friends as well as three of his cousins. I regret not being able to spend more time in Calgary, and with Patrik. The guy is an outstanding person.

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Flags from every community in the NWT.

 

The sickness abated with only a couple of hours from take off to spare. Standing at the check-in counter, I swayed and fought to stay on my feet. My stomach was on fire but I managed to win the battle through deep slow breaths.

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Preparing for our adventures

Less than an hour saw us land in Edmonton. As we stepped off the plane our names were called for a final time over the airport PA. We were late for our connecting flight.  Genevieve, our good friend and colleague sat in her seat with our two seats empty next to her. We thankfully filled them before take off. They waited an extra fifteen minutes for us thankfully.

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Sunset in Yellowknife at 3pm.

We joked with Gen and caught up with all of our goings on since our first meeting and fairwell in Halifax. The flight to Yellowknife was around two hours and I think Teeny and I slept for most of it. We were stunned when we arrived at the North West territories capital city and stepped off the plane.

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What strikes you first is the incredibly flat terrain of the area. In Yellowknife there are still trees, being further south than the “tree line” of the arctic region. My first thought was that the region resembled a wasteland – referring to the harsh, aggressive feeling of the environment. There is just no hiding from the elements. It was around -20C, not the coldest we have experienced on this trip, but it bit into you through a wind that races across the land with nothing in its path to impede it. It reminded me of the interior of Queensland. Like the plains around Barcaldine, but insanely cold instead of dry and hot.

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Of course, Yellowknife is not a wasteland at all. The city of 20,000 people is a hub for the Northwest Territories economy, specifically due to natural resources such as gold and diamonds, government employment and transport (air and land (the tv series Ice Road Truckers is based in the area)). The airport is the busiest in Northern Canada, with over 400,000 passengers and 30,000 tonnes of cargo handled yearly. The region also benefits from tourism, mainly from the Japanese, who travel to the area to experience traditional culture and witness the Aurora Borealis.

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We walked around Yellowknife briefly with a stop at the museum for lunch. A great little museum with some very interesting displays focusing on first nations tribes and Inuit. We had lunch but I could barely touch my food. It felt like the worst hangover in the world but I was just plain old sick as a dog.

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Downtown Yellowknife

There are some very interesting crossroads in history between Canada and Australia, particularly interesting are the people who have influenced the history. I have discovered a few – some glaringly obvious and some not so. Captain James Cook, for instance, fought the French in Canada before his voyage to Australia. John Franklin, was Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania (1836-42) and nephew of Matthew Flinders. He mapped and explored parts of Northern Canada before eventually vanishing while attempting to discover the Northwest Passage.

 

His expedition of 134 men divided across two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, set sail from Greenhithe, England, on the 19th May 1845. They were last seen by Europeans on the 26 July 1845. Inuit hunters later confirmed to members of the Hudson’s Bay Company that the expedition ships became stuck in sea ice. The men tried to escape on food but died of starvation, disease and exposure. Remains believed to have been those of the expedition crew have been found with blade-cuts in the bones, leading to the belief that the crew may have resorted to cannibalism. Franklin’s grave has never been found but a letter discovered on King William Island states that he died on the 11th of June, 1847. Two years after the expedition disappeared. The Franklin River and the town of Franklin (both in Tassie) are named in his honour. His statue sits proudly in Franklin square in Hobart with Lord Tennyson’s epitaph:

Not here! The white north hath thy bones and thou

Heroic sailor soul

Art passing on thine happier voyage now

Toward no earthly pole

We have now arrived in Ulukhaktok and settled into our home-stay. We had a tour of town, visiting the main sights. Stay tuned for that installment.

 

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