A Slowly Progressing Spring in Arviat

Experiencing spring in Nunavut varies from region to region and most people in the south don’t believe that -15C to -20C can be enjoyable, but after a winter of -35C and -50C it doesn’t really seem that bad. This was our first winter in Arviat since moving from Baker Lake and it was a reasonably quiet period, with the exception of a few trips for work or some short trips down south.

When spring comes around in the arctic it seems like each of the communities comes alive with the explosion of activities, travel on the land between communities, and six year olds.  An event that Arviat is known for in the spring is their fishing derbies, where prizes can be up to $10,000.00 for the largest or ugliest fish (yes there is a prize for the ugliest fish called the sculpin). This year our wildlife office hosted the judges so the community came by with their catches to be measured and recorded; the largest being a lake trout at around 39 inches (about 100 cm).

This spring Sophia and I were also able to buy a cabin from a friend here in Arviat so we’re in the process of doing repairs.  The cabin though is located about 12km north of Arviat along the coast so we’ll probably be getting visits from some polar bears in the fall.

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With my promotion to regional manager last June, I don’t get out on patrols anymore and am pretty much confined to administration duties and running the region (Kivalliq).  However, on April 24th I had an opportunity to join a coworker and his dad to travel to Churchill, Manitoba to pick up two utv’s (utility task vehicle) they had ordered. The idea was to drive down by snow machine, load one of the utv’s onto a qamutiq (Inuit sled) and drive the other one back to Arviat. The trip was uneventful and went smoothly with a great opportunity to see some beautiful areas along the way and to see Churchill.

This is a pretty well travelled route usually taking about eleven hours with an overnight in Churchill. The route generally follows the coast line on the sea ice and skirts onto land occasionally, with lots of evidence of polar bear tracks and caribou. There are various wildlife viewing lodges along the way owned by different companies as well as derelict bombardiers from the old shipping days, though you can still find some running ones that are still used.  If the idea of travelling 11 hours one way in a day on a snow machine seems a bit crazy you’d be right, but I could write a book on the adventures and accomplishments this father and son team have done.

The trail along the coast to Churchill for the people of Nunavut is not only used to buy equipment, gear or other specialty equipment, but also to buy alcohol.  Communities in Nunavut are either dry, controlled, or wet; meaning that alcohol is either not allowed, allowed with approval from a liquor committee, or no-restrictions, meaning they can have a bar.  Arviat is considered a dry community, which means that it is illegal to possess and consume alcohol; so bootlegging is very well established. Churchill is not dry so the local bootleggers from Arviat, Rankin Inlet, and Whale Cove will travel there and purchase large amounts of alcohol and then resell in the communities. As an example, a 40oz of rum or vodka could fetch from $400-$600 a bottle. The trail we took showed numerous signs of people drinking along the way, or in some cases losing their load.

On an end note, due to our isolation and lack of specialized services we sometimes have to tackle things that people in the south take for granted; like giving your dog a rabies shot. Loka wasn’t at all impressed with this idea. ~Rob

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