Week 07 Turned Out

Date Posted: 4.13.2009
Location: 66º08'N 65º41'W
Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada
Weather Conditions: Sunny and clear blue sky 7°F (-13°C)
“We did just see a polar bear come out of the pass last week,” says Steve while he leans back in his chair pointing across the fiord. He would know! Besides being an Inuit guide and hunter, Steve sits perched in the air control tower at the Pangnirtung Airport with the best view in the community—and he was the first to welcome us with a big smile as our DC3 airplane landed here late Thursday evening. We have since been told that they usually have one polar bear sighting in
town a year – but as it turns out, this was their third already this year!

Just landed in Pang!
Not that it fazed us much right at that moment. It had been a long day and the second Brian, one of our pilots, opened up the door on the plane, Mille jumped out with her focus on where and how to stake out the dogs so that we could begin off loading the plane next.  “I ran up to the tower to ask permission to stake out the dogs along the fence by the runway and Steve’s comments made me stop in my tracks. But it was when I turned to see where he was pointing and look across the fiord, I simply had to gasp for air: The view was so stunning” says Mille. In the Inuktitut language Nuna means "land." Nunavut means "Our land" and Nunatsiavut means "Our beautiful land". Oh boy is it beautiful here in Pangnirtung!!! And what a ride it has turned out to be to get here...

Listen as Mille gives the pronunciation of “Welcome” in Inuktitut a try and marvels at how fitting the sign is in Pang’s airport

    Polar Husky Pit Crew at work changing a flat
  tire on the loaded trailer
“Riding on a DC3 plane packed with Polar Huskies and gear is a pretty cool experience” grins Mikkel, but it turned out that the flight time to from Ottawa to Pang, as Pangnirtung is nicknamed, was a bit longer than we expected: eight long hours that is! That meant that even though Aaron gave it all he could to pull the dog truck into the Esso Arvitat where our plane was parked and waiting by mid-morning on Tuesday, it was already too late by the time we had navigated our way there through Ottawa. Ottawa, being Canada’s capital, involved some round-about maneuvering with the 40-foot dog truck and trailer.  However, the crossing of the Canadian border went as smooth as we could ever have wished for. Our timing was not helped by a flat tire that same morning, but not too many minutes were wasted on that either!

(Left) Coming up to the Canadian / United States border we had to cross over the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. More than 2.8 miles long (4.5 km) the narrow bridge spans the St. Marys River between the United States and Canada. Along the shore on the Canadian side is a huge mill making paper from trees – it is a crazy thoughts that the chemicals used in this process, like chlorine, will travel as transboundary pollution from here making its way up to Pang and other places in the Arctic.

Watch and come along as we cross the bridge!

 Having breakfast : Some American
 food culture

    Watch how some Canadian
  food culture, the Tim Horton
  coffee shop, came to be.
And though it turned out we were too late for departure that day, no minutes were wasted once Aaron actually backed us up to the plane. Whether or not we – being the Polar Huskies, Mille and Mikkel  - could not depart as planned, Aaron and John still had a plane to catch and we were to get everything unloaded onto the DC3 plane first! As you might remember from last week’s report, John most kindly volunteered to help drive our team to Ottawa before returning back to his Jerabek’s Bakery (yes, we did get John to supply us with loads of delicious bread for the trail all packed in our re-supplies). Aaron heads back to Education Basecamp but will be returning to meet up with us in Pangnirtung with Teacher Explorer Chris as we set out on the expedition trail in a little over a week.

Loading fast and furiously our plane crew – pilots Brian, Steve and plane engineer Mike – more than once made a serious second look at the trailer. They were wondering out loud how on earth we were able to pack that much into the trailer !? It turned out it was actually a challenge to get it all to fit on the plane, and we were nowhere done when it was time for Aaron and John to depart. But then, by the time they (barely) made it to their gate, yes – it turned out: the plane was canceled!

Explore outside Esso Avitat where our plane was parked

Watch Aaron back our load up to the plane

Loading dog food!  

Watch the sled being loaded
Our DC3 plane waited for us the next morning. At first the issue was the freezing rain and cold temperatures overnight, which made for a thick layer of ice on the wings. This meant the plane had to be de-iced – both an expense and time not planned. As it turned out though, that was not our biggest problem. Instead it was that the weather we had been driving with the entire way from Expedition Basecamp to Ottawa had now unexpectedly pushed north and a huge jet stream was hovering over the very region we had to fly through on our way to Pang. “A huge jet stream of this sort is pretty rare,” says Aaron. Mille explains,  “Because we were flying with such a heavy load, we had to fuel at least two, and with no good tail wind probably three times, on our way to Pang. One of these fuel stops is situated so that it is not possible to land there when there is much wind and the morning of our departure, of course, it turned out that winds were more than 70 knots.” Our pilot Brian gave us the option that we could either lower our load from 8000 some lbs (~ 3600 kg) to 6300 lbs (~ 2800 kg), or we would have to try to wait out the weather another day on the ground. That was an easy decision – we stayed put and hoped the weather would turn out for us and improve.

Watch our discussion on the weather conditions and a possible delay

    Mille and the Polar Huskies during the flight
It did! It also turned out that we could load twenty-five Polar Huskies standing neck-to-neck, head-to-tail, in the DC3 airplane! Pilots Brian and Steve had to give up on making space for the dog boxes in the plane and instead asked if we could somehow tie out the dogs in the space left. None of us were too sure how that was actually going to turn out, but the Polar Huskies showed once again that they are superstars! Boarding onto the place one at a time, Mille carefully placed them as if seating a big party, next to each other so that everyone could get along as best as possible. Once the plane took off, there was only an occasional bark, and that mostly was from Hershey who seemed more interested in getting the best possible view out the plane!

Watch the Polar Huskies hanging out during
the long flight

Flag of Nunavut  
Six hours and a single fuel stop later we landed in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, for a brief fuel stop. “I got out of the plane to arrange for our dog boxes to be stored there, and I saw the Inukshuk waiving in the air on the Nunavut flag. I admit it, I teared up. It turned out - We made it to Nunavut!” says Mille.

Watch the flag of Nunavut in Pang –
though something has worn off,
can you see what?
Watch the late-night-move to get
the gear and supplies off the
run-way before we call it a day!

On that note, make sure to check out the movie about Inukshuks and making Inukshuks posted to the Culture Zone by Ms. Jones’ students from Long Island in New York (USA), as well as the Happy 10th Anniversary cards for the people of Nunavut posted to the Culture Zone by students from Ms. Losego’s class in Tionesta, Pennsylvania (USA). Also, make sure to turn out for this week’s expert chat on Thursday, April 16 at 1 PM CT, to talk “World Resources” with Sheryl Eisenberg from this Green Life. “I am a huge fan of Sheryl’s writings, so I am going to see if I can log-in here from the high school in Pang to take part in that chat as well” says Mille.

    In Hanna’s kitchen:  Ulu’s – the traditional
  Inuit knife used by women!
  Watch some local APTN TV with Mille
at Hanna’s in Pang and learn some Inuktitut and syllabics
We are sitting at the high school as we are writing this right now! Our welcome in Pang has been so warm and we are honored to be staying with Hanna, a very respected Inuit Elder in the community. But then, Hanna is known for how she opens her home—a foster mom for children that come to her from all over the region. Hanna has a big laugh, a stern eye on everything, and her bannock is aaaaaamazing! It was not a day after our arrival that between our efforts and Hanna’s phone calls, we had the gear stored, the sleds pulled up and the Polar Huskies across town on the ice rolling in the snow. As it turns out, the Polar Huskies are facing the Akshayuk Pass where we will be heading when the sleds are loaded and the Polar Huskies are hitched to go in a little more than a week from now

Explore Hanna’s place where we are staying
while in Pang – inside...
Explore outside Hanna’s place – can you find the seal skins out to dry on stretchers?

Polar Husky Superstar Tucker  
One Polar Husky with barely enough patience to wait that long is Tucker, this weeks first Polar Husky Superstar. Tucker is one of the most high-powered wild personalities in the Kennel and it was his voice that could be heard the loudest once off the airplane in Pang. Tucker had no doubt: it turned out, and we had made it to where the fun is to begin!!! Now say it had not turned out in whatever situation and it was some tough going ahead—well, Tucker would still be ready and roaring. See Tucker is quite inspiring. He has endless enthusiasm, and he never stops pulling for it all to turn out no matter how tough the pulling might get. He deals with the consequences of whatever happens or takes place no matter how difficult it might look – and he does it with a wagging tail and the greatest Polar Husky smile on his face. That is exactly the qualities that make him a great lead dog.  While Tucker is quite shy around new people, in the field at times Tucker is so fearless that this turns out to be his biggest obstacle; that he doesn’t always see the obstacles!

Watch Tucker boarding the DC3 plane in Ottawa!

       Polar Husky Superstar Sunrise      
This week’s other Polar Husky Superstar, Sunrise, is just a youngster learning the ropes. However, like Tucker, she has a very sunny personality—which earned her the nickname Sunny! Sunny’s official title is “Kare 11 Polar Husky Sunrise. ” Right from when she was born Sunny had such a go-get-the-world personality that even before she had opened her eyes she was picked to be the mascot for the NBC KARE 11 TV station local to the Twin Cities in Minnesota where GoNorth! is based out of the University of Minnesota. Sunny went on the air, and more than 3000 names were submitted for her. Now, the morning program she is the mascot for is indeed named KARE 11 Sunrise, and it was the name that was most submitted for her by far. But more importantly, we thought it was the perfect name simply because she just shined! And boy has she shined this last week. Sunny actually grew up to be quite shy with people as well, much like her Uncle Tucker – and that is even though she was just three months old the first time she mingled with thousands of people like a real pro at the Minnesota State Fair. But today as a “teenager,” she can be a little unsure about the world. However, on this road trip she took everything from long hours driving to boarding a cargo plane and arriving on the ice in Nunavut, in stride – being sunny, and yes, it all turned out!

 Watch Sunny on the move in the car of Cathy, the co-principle of
 the high school here in Pang, who generously helped us move
 the Polar Huskies onto the ice!