Day 3 |
Aug 27, 2013

Arviat, Nunavut, Canada

By Claudia Holgate, Climatologist and Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 61˚05’925 N, 093˚53’868 W
Weather: Clear with few clouds later
Air Temperature: 6.5° C, 44° F
Pressure: 1017 hPa
Wind: 10knots

We anchored quite far from our stop for the day and took half our guests on a four mile Zodiac run to the little Hamlet of Arviat. This small Inuit community of about 3,700 people gave us a fabulous welcome, and the group was split into three groups where we had different activities different planned for us.

The first activity was a walking tour of the town, where our guide told us a lot about the town and its people. We had a number of stops on the way. Our first was at a traditional camp where we had a cultural presentation by an Inuit elder, who explained how they made the tent out of seal skins and showed us some of the traditional tools that they made and used. My favourite were the Inuit snow goggles, made of caribou antlers with a small slit in them to cut out the glare.

Just over the road was the Visitor’s Centre, which had a small museum and was beautifully done. There was a lot of thought and care put into the presentation of information and artifacts. At the Visitor’s Centre, we also had an explanation of some of the activities and games that the Inuit play during the dark winter months to keep busy.

Our walk continued through town and to the small shop and community hall, where our guests could buy souvenirs and some local art or sculptures, but we didn’t have a lot of time here before heading off to the highlight of the tour: tea and cloudberry jam on traditional Inuit bread at Mark and Angie Eetak’s home. The reason this was such a wonderful visit, apart from the homemade cloudberry jam, were the stories that Angie told. She sat in her living room with a photo album and recounted stories of her life and the many people that she had met, including the Queen. She told us how she was told the protocol when talking to the Queen, but when the Queen appeared she forgot all the rules. She said the Queen asked her about her traditional dress and if she could buy one, but Angie said they were very personal so she wouldn’t sell it, so she had said no to the Queen! Our two-and-a-half hour visit was over quickly, and we headed back to the ship for lunch before the next group went out for the same tour in the afternoon.

Sue Flood introduced her film “A boy among Polar Bears” for those guests onboard. This is a documentary she made for the BBC and Discovery Channel about Apak Taqtu, a young boy growing up on Baffin Island. Apak’s father Andrew is one of the last great hunters and wants to pass on his knowledge to Apak before he dies. Through his eyes, we see both Arctic wildlife and Inuit culture.

As the second group was heading back to the ship, they were fortunate enough to see a polar bear in the water making its way to Arviat. We had magnificent sightings as the bear pulled itself out of the water on the shoreline on the island opposite Arviat.

Our day was not nearly over, as we had a large group of traditional performers come onto the ship to give us a demonstration of some of their traditional performing arts and sports. The performance started with traditional singing and drum dancing, and was interspersed by throat singing. This is an amazing sound created by two “singers” who produce the same guttural noises but in harmony with each other. It is difficult to describe and something I have never witnessed outside of Inuit communities.

The cultural performance was followed by a demonstration of some of the traditional sports by some of the regions best athletes. They included kicking a ball 2.5m in the air while holding one foot and landing back on the foot that they kicked with, as well as numerous amazing athletic feats.

Tonight was also the Captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner, which followed merely one hour after the cultural performance, so with a short amount of time, everybody had scrubbed up well and enjoyed the socializing before heading off to one of the extra special dinners on this voyage.