Week 09 Our (Changing) Arctic...

Date Posted: 4.27.2009
Location: 66º08'N 65º41'W
Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada
Weather Conditions: Sunny blue sky 24°F (-4°C)
“My hands smell like seal meat – that’s so cool!” Chris bursts out with a chuckle. The grin pretty much hasn’t left his face since he and Aaron stepped out of the airplane landing in Pangnirtung on Saturday. Aaron and Chris have arrived, we each have a Pang hat (!) and the sleds are loaded. We are all grinning, Polar Huskies included. It’s time to strap on the skis—we are heading out on our Arctic journey!

  Explore the Auyuittuq Lodge where we are staying.

  Can you find Mille?
  Explore Pangnirtung from the ice on the fiord.

  Can you find the lodge?

Pang is famous for its tapestry art  
  Watch Anna Etuangat work her
  loom, weaving a large tapestry!
“Our Arctic” it reads across the brochure from the Uqqurmiut Centre, the local arts and crafts center here in Pang. And WOW! There are so many beautifully woven scarves, the infamous hand crocheted ‘Pang hats’ and tapestry in brilliant colors made on huge looms—the Arctic comes alive in colors and textures.

In the back of the workshop stands an enormous loom, maybe 20 feet wide (5 meters). The next job to be completed on this loom is a huge tapestry to be hung at the Olympic Winter Games 2010 in Vancouver. And guess what?  We saw a sneak peak of it yesterday!!! We walked into what we think must be Nunavut’s most famous print shop, simply because of the artists that at times work here. It was pretty quiet in the shop with no one working other than a man sitting with his back towards us working on a computer. However, the man turned out to be none other than Andrew Qappik himself! Andrew is the artist who created the design of Nunavut flag and the government logo with the bear! And now he is working on the tapestry for the Olympics! Yep, we were star struck!

Andrew continued to work on his computer screen with us curiously peaking over his shoulders and said, “I moved to Pangnirtung by dog team sitting in my mom’s Amautiq.” He told us about his move to Pang while pointing to a woman wearing the traditional Inuit ‘baby carrying’ parka featured in his Arctic world of sparkling colors on his computer monitor. Born on the land, he and his family came to Pangnirtung when the community was settled some fifty years ago!

(Side: Working on a tapestry to be displayed at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Andrew Qappiq designed the flag of Nunavut!)

This is Ezra’s great grandmother’s tent!  
  Watch Ezra share traditional
  ecological knowledge with
  Arctic plants and animals
In just fifty years it is quite amazing what has all come out of this little community and the changes it has undergone. Nowhere is one reminded more of that when visiting the local Angmarlik Centre. We almost missed it, and its historical treasures. For all we knew, this is where the Elders meet to have tea, play cards and plan their next fishing trips. Around here it seems perfectly normal for a 90-some year old to get on the snowmobile and charge out on the land to go fishing. But then, that’s their Arctic home. Since Pang was just established some 50-years ago, anyone from here with a birthday before 1960 was born on the land! Now consider this!  Right inside the door of the Angmarlik Centre is a traditional summer dwelling made from whale bone. The front end is covered by canvas as would have been the case once “qablunaat” (white man) came around with the Hudson Bay Company selling canvas to the Inuit. However, the rear of the structure was covered with skins of bearded seal as it would have been used before the arrival of the Hudson Bay Company. Ezra, a young tall Inuit, wise beyond his years, explained to us that his family would lay out one layer of bearded seal skins on the ceiling, then shrubs for insulation, then another layer or skins.

    School lunch delivery: a seal to be
  cooked up!

Ezra was not kidding, the tent was actually that of his great grand mother. She has passed away now, but she lived to be 107 years old! Imagine the change she experienced in her Arctic! Born in 1883, she lived on the land in the ancient traditional way of the Inuit before the white man came here. She saw the big Scottish whaling boats pull in to Cumberland Sound; she experienced the horror when in the early 1960’s the Royal Canadian Mountain Police came around to kill the sled dogs forcing the families in the region to gather up in the community of Pang; she was in line at the Hudson Bay Trading Post to be paid for her hard labor in biscuits on Saturdays; and she saw her great-grand kids grow up with satellite TV and ski-doos! Just imagine if she now was to experience climate change!

Respect for plants and animals is one of the traditional knowledge posters hanging at the school  

Listen to how Aaron loves to experience the changing Arctic!

Change, and making the best of change seems to be Pang’s second nature. Mille says, “In my journeys around the circumpolar Arctic I don’t think I have ever quite been in a place so ever changing. Especially a place that seems to find a way to embrace the change that is!” It’s pretty wild what has come out of Pang! Paul Okalik, the first Premier of Nunavut is from here. The alphabet used to write the Inuktitut language (syllabics) spread from here up the coast, and Baffin Island’s biggest team of hip hop dancers are from here!

    Aaron is excited about the students’
  snow samples!

On Tuesday night they performed a dance they had choreographed for us. It was at the community hall with tea, bannock and people from the community who came to learn about GoNorth! and how students in Pang are going to take part in our program entitled, “What’s Climate to You?,” collecting data for scientists while also creating their own climate diaries. Just that afternoon all the students in grades 6 - 9 were down at the river with the Polar Huskies to work with us!

Watch students working with Chris to measure snow depth


  Watch why Pang is beautiful to these students!


  Watch Andrew and his friends take on Pang

A local teacher signs the sled!  
People here in Pang have a lot to say about climate change—and its more than the “we see insects, change of animal behaviors, winds-are-changing” kind of scenarios. It is not a year ago that all hikers had to be evacuated out of the mountain pass that we will be heading towards when we take off. Summit Lake, a huge glacier lake up the pass, simply gave out violently sending cascades of water flooding down to the Pangnirtung Fiord as it drained the lake level several meters in a matter of days! Within a few months of that event, the bridge connecting up- and down-town Pangnirtung collapsed in a matter of days as the river running through the community rose to levels never seen before. Boulders came crashing and the permafrost holding together the river banks melted out. It was not just one old bridge, but a brand new bridge that was just about to be opened for traffic, collapsed!

  Watch the hip hop group perform
  “What’s Climate Change to You?”
    “Pang’s Newest Bridge”: Explore the three
  bridges, two of which collapsed, so the third
  was built. Can you find the Polar Huskies?

The two bridges washing-out was the students’ answers to “what’s climate change to us!” What is climate change to you? Make sure to add your thoughts to the Climate Zone and take part in the chat this Friday, May 1 at 11 AM CT. You get to talk about climate chaos with journalist Andrew Ripken of Dot Earth, a blog from the New York Times!

    Billy at Parks Canada

At Pang’s Parks Canada office they are keenly aware of the chaos created around here from these late events that are believed to be a result of the rapidly changing Arctic climate. The more than hundred glaciers in the park retreating, swollen rivers, erosion, alteration in water-courses and water-loosened falling rock is just some of what Billy could tell us about as he was giving us the overview of the rules for traveling through the Auyuttiq National Park. We should be at the mouth of the park within days of leaving with our loaded sleds here from Pang. The Akshayuk Pass we are heading up through, passing by the Penny Ice Cap, is actually named after Billy’s grandfather!

Polar Husky Superstar Disko  

This week’s Polar Husky Superstar, Disko, is ready to lead the way to get us into the pass and across the spine of Baffin Island onto Baffin Bay. Disko is named after an island in Baffin Bay! It is on the Greenlandic side of the strait and just about straight across from where we will be coming out on Baffin Bay as we get closer to our next destination of Qikiqtarjuaq. This is the island where Mille’s great-grandfather set up the first Arctic research station some 100 years ago. Disko is exactly that kind of a guy, a leader of the pack. Bold by nature, he has never been one to stand back from a challenge - even if it’s a polar bear charging into camp.  Very intelligent and affectionate, Disko is patient and positive, all the qualities that make him an excellent lead dog. Maybe most important is that Disko has more than 10,000 miles of expeditions under his paws (more than 5000 miles of that in Nunavut alone)—Disko knows how to read the land!

Disko and students are waiting for the school presentation to start!

    Beacon is always more than
  excited to meet new people!
We can guarantee you that no one is more ready to head for those mountains more than Beacon, who is this week’s other Polar Husky Superstar. Easily excited, Beacon loves challenges and is really not hesitant to do anything. He is indeed a big guy with a huge chest, but he is also very athletic and has a tremendous drive. Beacon actually runs in every position in the team but as a lead dog. He might just be a great lead dog—we simply have not put him to the test! He certainly has all the qualities. He is obsessed with going faster, faster, faster! He has confidence, but is not a bully and he is very intelligent just like his mother Freja, the great (retired) lead dog. We have to say we have no doubt what Beacon loves most: people! From writing his blog to greeting locals in the communities or on the trail, Beacon is always excited to share his Arctic—don’t miss him this Thursday blogging from the trail on our way to Qikitarjuaq!