Ulukhaktok

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I stared out the window of our plane with awe as we soared above the Earth. The vast landscape of trees and small hills stretched to the horizon. To the north, a line was visible. the trees became thinner, smaller and not so dense. Then there were no trees at all. Just snow and ice.

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The landscape from above looks like another planet. Inhospitable, harsh and barren. I wondered how humans could live in such a place. It sure is beautiful though.

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Our plane landed in Kugluktuk first to unload supplies and passengers. That was our first taste of the environment. We were prepared but we jumped around like school kids at finally being in the arctic and feeling the cold on our faces.
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After thirty minutes of waiting in the tiny airport “terminal” we boarded our plane again. There were now five passengers left, including Katrina, Gen and I. A further forty minutes of flying saw us approach Ulukhaktok airport.

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I expected the landing to be a little more bumpy or even slippery but our pilot had a deft hand at landing the plane. We stepped off and set foot on the tarmac, our excitement contained to a hint of nervousness. Tristan greeted us inside, along with a host of new friends.
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Of course, the arctic is not an inhospitable place at all. Ulukhaktok is a prime example of a small town that is bustling, full of activity, warmth and acceptance. Upon arriving we were greeted by everyone who walked past us. Tristan guided us around town after dropping our bags off at our accommodations. The first day was a bit of a blur now that I think back, Days kind of meld together here. We also got to see one of only a handful of polar-grizly bear hybrids ever found (pictured above). It was shot just outside of town.

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We have been working hard on our separate projects. Katrina is in high demand for her hairdressing skills. She has even taken on around 10-12 apprentices for her time here. There is also a few “hair nights” planned.

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The days here are strange but I thought they would be stranger. It is not as hard as I thought it would be but it is also very different to what I imagined also. The sun rises at around 10:30 but isn’t full light until 11:30 or so. Then it begins setting at around 2:30 before finally disappearing at close to 3:30-4pm. All the while, the sun never goes higher than a few millimeters above the horizon to the south. It just barely manages to get its full circular shape visible before beginning its descent.

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Katrina and I were also invited to the school to give a presentation on Australia. The grade 1 & 2s thoroughly enjoyed our slideshow of Australian animals, landscape and lifestyle. They were very interested in any animals that were big and scary – sharks and crocodiles. We fielded questions like “do you live in water? Do you have crocodiles in your pool? How big do waves get?”

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So far the weather has been beautiful. Each day has been between -25c and -30c, we  have only had one day so far that was really windy and gave us a wind chill of -44c.
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Walking on the frozen Arctic Ocean has been quite a novelty, It’s so peaceful out there, walking around and just staring into the distance at the beautiful landscape.
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The sunset’s here are just breath taking every evening it is different and more magical than the last.
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The night after our presentation at the school, we had a walk around town. Katrina and I went out first to photograph the Aurora Borealis, which makes a nightly appearance here. We got some amazing photographs and then went home to bed at around 10pm, thinking we could get an early night for once.

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Fifteen minutes after getting inside, Tristan came knocking on the door to invite us on his nightly jaunt around town. It is hard to say no to the man so we followed him out. We did a few laps around town before the Aurora really started putting on a show. The whole sky was alight with twirls and streams of green and white light. Some seemingly falling vertically, some flowing horizontally. We stood in awe for fifteen minutes. Even Tristan admitted to being very impressed. Sadly we did not have our camera on us to capture it all at the peak of the show.
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For a small town, Ulukhaktok has a lot happening in it. Every night there is something happening, from sewing and skills classes to junior rangers (similar to scouts) and sports. The times are pretty irregular too, for example, tool making skills class is 7-10pm, then volleyball is 10pm to whenever everyone goes home. Consequently, nights are always busy and the mornings are slow.

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The days are heavily organised around meals. Breakfast may be the least important meal of the day, whereas lunch is the most. Everyone goes home at midday to eat, including the teachers and students at the school. It’s so nice to sit and have lunch with the family all together.

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My Arctic attire

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The Community

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Dog sled team on the ice

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Out on the ice when a white out storm started to approach

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Out on the ice

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Everybody’s mode of transport a Ski-doo

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We are at the half way mark of our journey, time is flying by us so quickly but we are making the most out of every minute in the day. I have been busy filming and interviewing while Katrina has quickly become the town’s favourite. She has been going up to the school most afternoons, sharing her skills with the high school students and giving all the girls fringes (bangs are the flavour of the month).

 

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