From Cape Hay we travelled west then south through Parry Channel to a stop at Navy Board Inlet. Wind had picked up and seas were too rough for zodiac travel.  Foiled again.

We continued on east to the settlement of Pond Inlet.  Late in the afternoon it became showery and the cliffs along the shore started to whiten.

This was the first night we had a short time of darkness.

Ken Gunn - Greeter in Pond InletWe arrived at Pond Inlet early the following morning and were ashore by 9:30. Pond Inlet is a community of about 2000 people and predates European arrival.  In Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people, it is called Mittimatalik. We were expected, so were met and greeted as we climbed out of the zodiacs. One of the greeters was dressed in a beautiful fur coat so I complimented her on it.  She said “Yes, I bought it from the mail order store in Winnipeg (Manitoba).”  So much for native arts. 

We walked uphill through the community to a very modern Community Center.  The town has a school and school bus, at least one church, two stores, trucks delivering water and others collecting sewage, and an airstrip capable of accommodating 737s. Some of our group used the school bus for transportation, the rest of us straggled along and were gradually joined by several of the locals.

Beth had a wonderful experience outside the Community Center.  As is usual for her, she chatted with members of the community who had joined our throng. She describes the experience in the following blog.

Inside the center we were treated to a show of Inuit competition and song.  The program was run by one of the elders, a lady with a beautiful voice.  She opened the show by singing the national anthem, O Canada, in Inuktitut!  What an emotional moment for all us Canadians.  Much of the rest of the show was a demonstration of events contested at the Arctic Olympics, a competition which draws native athletes from all circumpolar areas of the world.  Most events were strange to us but were very serious to the demonstrators.  They involved feats of athleticism, competitions of strength and competitions of ability to endure pain.  Different from the “Southern” Olympics.

The show ended with a drumming duet accompanied by dancing and with a few native songs.  Great show!

After the show five of us headed to a small beach west of town. There were several seal carcasses along the shore and they were being fed on by Common Ravens and Thayer and Glaucous Gulls.  Also I caught a glimpse of an American Pipit in the grass above the beach.

Bylot-Island-glacier-across-from-Pond-Inlet-Justin-Peter.We caught zodiacs back to the Vavilov and were away by 2:00 PM.  We headed east between Bylot and Baffin Islands to Baffin Bay then turned south. Cliffs and glaciers on both islands were awesome.

The cabin staff always made up our rooms while we were at dinner.  This night, they added barf bags to the railing along the aisle.  Rather disconcerting!

Beth’s Comments on her experience.

While we were in Pond Inlet, I had the most amazing experience of the entire trip.  I was making my way to the community center when I spotted a woman and her young daughter.  Thinking I might get some insight into life in the Arctic, and hoping for an introduction to that sweet cherub, I stopped to visit.  Her mother introduced me to Anya, a three-year-old dressed in purple with unicorns on her boots.  Mom and I spoke for a few minutes.  She was born and raised in my hometown, and had moved to the far north when her husband was transferred there with the park services.  As the program was about to start, I said my good-byes and commented again on what a treasure Anya was.  “You are so right,” her mother said.  “Anya is a treasure indeed.”  And that’s how I heard the story of Anya.

Several years ago, Shelley and her husband had lost their long-awaited twins.  Even though they had an older daughter, they were grief-stricken, overcome with sorrow.  Some time later, a woman in the community approached them.  “Your grief must end,” she said.  “Take my child and make her yours.”    

I was stunned!  When I finally thought to say something, I asked if Anya’s birth mother still lived in the community.  “Oh, yes!” was the reply.  “She is Anya’s Nana, and I am her Mommy!”

They formally adopted Anna, so when they eventually leave Pond Inlet Anna will go with them, as the member of the family she really is.

Back on board, I told Mark, our cultural anthropologist, about my encounter.  He did not find it at all surprising.  It is the Inuit way.  If I have something you want or need, I should give it to you.  The concept of theft is unknown.  If you take something of mine, you must have needed it, so why should I deny you?

The icebergs and glaciers were beautiful.  It was wonderful to see polar bears and walrus in their natural habitat.  But what I will always remember is a three-year-old girl wearing a fluffy purple jacket and purple boots with unicorns.

Photo Captions and Credits

Greeter in Pond Inlet.  Photo by Ann Frederking

Entertainment troupe along with granddaughter at Pond Inlet. Photo by Ann Frederking 

Bylot Island glacier across from Pond Inlet: Justin Peter

Anya