Day 11 |
Sep 17, 2010

Iqaluit, Canada 

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 63º 44’ 28”, W 068º 30’ 40”

Weather: Overcast with some splashes of sunlight in the afternoon.
Air Temperature: 8ºC

After two and a half foggy days at sea, it was nice to see some bright skies this morning as we sailed into Frobisher Bay towards our destination for the day – Iqaluit on Baffin Island. Iqaluit is the capital of Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut, which means ‘our land’ in the local language of Inuktitut. Nunavut is a territory of Canada that is both the least populated and largest of all Canada’s provinces and territories.

At about 8 am the ship started going through a rather narrow channel into Frobisher Bay. It was a moody morning with overcast skies breaking up, soft light and land ahoy! We had not seen any land for a while and it felt good to have reached our destination after a very pleasant and smooth passage from Greenland to Canada across Baffin Bay.

At 9:30 am our onboard historian Christian Walter presented “The Life and Art of the Inuit”, a very interesting lecture about the fascinating people of the Arctic.

Just before noon we were in front of Iqaluit and as soon as the ship anchored, Robin West -our Expedition Leader - and I, took one of the Zodiacs ashore to get the Canadian Immigration & Customs officials and bring them on board. Before the ship could be cleared and people were allowed off, these officers had to see each and every guest and crew member in person and compare their passport photos with the real life person! It took a while to achieve this, but by 2:15pm we were all cleared and the afternoon visit started.

The first part of the tour was a short walk into town with our local guides. We stopped at the displays in the Visitor Center, and then spent a half hour or so in the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum where they had some amazing Inuit handicrafts and historic relics on display. The second half of the tour was to be by bus. We had a good giggle when our ‘buses’ turned up – they were the classic old-fashioned school buses! Some of the taller guests had to squeeze into the seats – but we had a good tour despite the cramped space.

We drove through town to the other side of the bay where the original Hudson Bay Company had their headquarters, and then we had a tour of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly Building. This government building was quite impressive – especially some of the artwork on display. There was an exhibit of the most incredible pencil drawings of local elders – the artwork was so amazing that they looked like photos rather than drawings. In the center of the foyer was a very special piece – a mace made out of narwhal tusk with carved soapstone figurines holding it up. Everything on this piece of artwork is from the local area, including the silver-work on the head and the massive gemstones embedded in it.

The buses then took us to the St. Jude’s Parish Hall, where we enjoyed some snacks and an amazing show by two young Inuit women who performed their traditional throat singing for us. Sylvia and Madeleine had been life long friends and used to sing when they were little. They are now both married with children and living in separate towns, but today one of them happened to be visiting the other in Iqaluit. One could feel the deep friendship between the two of them as they performed this unique traditional artistic expression of throat singing. They hold each other face to face, sharing one microphone, and they sing by making sounds that resemble different sounds of nature. One was producing guttural deep rhythmic sounds, while the other was singing at a higher pitch in sync as they spun around. It was absolutely beautiful.

We then came back on board and by 7:30 pm the Prince Albert II was sailing towards the Lower Savage Islands, tomorrow’s destination.