Week 05 Time to Celebrate!
Team GoNorth!: Mikkel, Aaron, Chris and Mille pose for a Team Picture with the flag of Nunavut. They are joined by Mighty Polar Huskies Khan and Disko.
Date Posted: 3.30.2009
Location: 44º54'N 92º47'W
Expedition Basecamp, Minnesota, USA
Weather Conditions: Cloudy, 25°F (-4°C)
On Wednesday, Nunavut celebrates its 10-year anniversary! Before April 1, 1999 the Canadian land that is now Nunavut - “our land” - was known as Northwest Territories, or as the native Inuit people who have been here thousands of years call it - Nunatsiaq, “beautiful land”! In Inuktitut syllabics it is written like this ᓄᓇᑦᓯᐊᖅ! “We were actually on an expedition in the Northwest Territories then, and I remember the celebrations on April 1st” says Mille excitedly. It is hard to believe ten years have already gone by! That was Nazca's, who is one of this week’s Polar Husky Superstars, first expedition as just a youngster. It was also the first year we brought a high-speed satellite communication system in the field!
Soon we will be back in the land of the polar bears with satellite communication system and all. Getting ready to head out, on Saturday our expedition team came together to take some team photos and not least to sign some official GoNorth! Nunavut 2009 posters. In the upper-right corner of the poster you can see ᓄᓇᕗᑦ which is how Nunavut is written in syllabics, the alphabet used when writing Inuktitut. “I remember the first time I was in Nunavut during the Arctic Transect 2004 expedition—the first community we came into was Baker Lake and first sign I saw with Inuktitut syllabics was a stop sign!” says Aaron. Not that there is a whole lot of stop signs in Nunavut. Mikkel goes on, “I have never been to Nunavut before but simply looking at the map and the vast spaces, this place is huuuge! I am thinking we are not going to run across too many stop signs while there!” But, it may be a few polar bears sooner than first anticipated.
The expedition will be setting out from the community of Pangnirtung, instead of Cape Dorset as originally planned. This will have us circumnavigating any bad ice conditions in the Hudson Strait. It is not that Cumberland Sound does not have bad ice conditions, there simply is no ice! With an enormous polyneya (open water year-round) at the mouth of the sound, we will definitely be traveling over land as we set out on the expedition. Whether or not we will be traveling in river beds or if we climb our way up to dogsled alongside the glacier, will not be decided until we get there. At that time we will go over the maps with the local Inuit Elders and hunters in the community who know the land. The glacier is part of the Auyuittuq National Park. Autuittuq means “the land that never melts” in Inuktitut and as this land stretches down to the coastline on the east side of Baffin Island it is home to more than a few polar bears!
One plan actually had our team taking off today! We have to fly to the Baffin Island from ‘somewhere’ in Canada. The closest city to Expedition Basecamp where we can do this is from is the city of Winnipeg in Manitoba – about an 8-eight hour drive on a good day. So, we were heading for Winnipeg until we ran into some roadblocks with the airline. Mille was feverishly working with the airlines most of the week, not feeling like there was much to celebrate about our attempts to depart so far, but as it turns out that was maybe our luck anyway! We just had word yesterday that the road we would have been traveling on is closed for traffic as a “state of emergency.” That means that only emergency personnel and rescue crews are allowed to travel there. See, on our way to the land of the polar bear via Winnipeg – driving to Winnipeg from Minnesota - we would be traveling through the land of the Red River. Yes, this is the river you may have heard a great deal about in the news lately.
Because of the very warm temperatures in this region this spring, it has not only been a flood in the Polar Husky dog yard as Beacon reported in the Beacon Blog, it is causing the most serious flood conditions ever recorded in the Red River Valley. While everything is melted down here, the ice is still jamming the flow of the river around Winnipeg. Since this river runs north, it is spilling over into the flood plain causing catastrophic water levels. This is very serious for everyone who lives in the Fargo/Moorhead region who are afraid of losing their homes and entire towns to the water. However, it is also a lesson for all of us here in North America. The reason is that this region is big “farm country” from where we get much of our grain on this continent. Aaron explains, “My parents farm where I grew up in Good Thunder (yes, that is indeed where Good Thunder the Polar Husky gets his name), which is just south of the Minnesota River and actually feeds into the Red River. These rivers were formed some 9,500 years ago (!) from an enormous huge glacial lake, Lake Agassiz, which was created as the ice age was coming to an end and glacier ice was melting. This lake was so big that it held more water than contained by all lakes in the world today! But more importantly to us today, as it dried out, it left a flood plain with soil that is incredible for growing crops. Basically, this is why there are a lot of farmers in the Red River Valley and the region where I grew up!”
Here comes the wild part! If you were able to dogsled the entire way – once you set the dogsled on the ice of the water that flows in the Red River – you would continue all the way north through a huge lake called Lake Winnipeg and north onwards to Hudson bay which empties out in the Hudson Strait and the Arctic Ocean! Exactly where we are going...
While people along the red river are holding their collected breath these days, last night around the world hundreds of millions of people were turning their lights out for Earth Hour. That included the team members. Did you or your neighborhood? If you took part in this huge celebration to call attention to climate change, make sure to share your experiences with the rest of us by posting to the Community Map in the Culture Zone!
“My students and I really had a blast in the Zones this week” says Teacher Explorer Chris. There was lots of exploring going on there! Why explore? Well, that is the question we set out to answer over the past four weeks. Our own cool scientist Henry Huntington had a great answer in this week’s chat when he said that “You learn a great deal, and to me that’s the most important part of exploring—the chance to learn new things.” Don’t miss this week’s chat Thursday, April 2nd at 1 PM on World Resources with expert Peter Meisen from the Global Network Energy Institute. Simply put, Peter’s organization works with how we can use the resources on earth in a peaceful way by making a huge global energy network!
This week’s other Polar Husky Superstar, Nazca, is Khan’s mother! Actually, she is the mother, grand-mother or great-grandmother of much of the Kennel! Khan and Nazca share their sweet and happy nature. However, unlike Khan with his massive chest and broad shoulders, Nazca is built like a thoroughbred racing horse - slim with powerful hind-quarters to kick her into the highest possible gear at the shortest possible distance. Nazca has for most of her life been the fastest Polar Husky in the Kennel. Although she is now ten years old and will be the oldest Polar Husky on the expedition, few Polar huskies can outrun this old lady. But more than that, Nazca is one of the brightest, she is extremely good at connecting the dots and most importantly, she has heart. Nazca is very shy with new people and prefers to sit back and watch the chaos unfold. However, as on the last couple of expeditions, she has truly stepped up to take on the job as a lead dog. It is not much in her nature, but with her tremendous spirit and wit, Nazca is sure to be leading much of the way as she returns to Nunavut once again!
On that note, let’s celebrate Nunavut this week! Send us notes online in the Culture Zone or straight to Education Basecamp at Howl [at] PolarHusky.com. Let's congratulate the people of Nunavut with writings, drawings, movies, audio, you name it. The Team will bring everything with them and hand it over once in Nunavut because it is Time to Celebrate!