The Arctic
artic night
Arctic Night Copyright© 2000 Victor Young
The aurora of my heart.  The actual aurora was green and although the night was well below zero, I stayed out til the snow rolled in.

The train arrives on Tuesday morning and leaves Tuesday night, then again on Friday.  The trip up from Winnepeg takes two and a half days.  I have never experienced beauty like the full moon over the frozen tundra.  I snuck out onto the back platform of the train and sat there for almost an hour watching the moon rise.  Because the tundra is so flat, the rising moon is huge, almost alming. There is not a lot of tourism but there is indeed some.  People will ride the train two days (Canadian rail had some elegance), arriving in the morning, shop at Hudson Bay Trading Co., take a boat tour out to the old fort, eat arctic char for an early dinner and then catch the train back to Winnepeg.  (If you have never eaten arctic char, you are missing one of the most amazing tastes ever!).

There was almost no crime in town.  A bit of crime related to alcohol in the winter, but not much else.  The big news the first time I was up was that two men had come in on the train and robbed the bank.  The mounties, of course knew that the train out was their only transportation and so prevented them from getting near it.  They then had the choice of trying the train again on Friday or trying to travel across the tundra.  They caught them frost bitten and starving a few days later, not 100 miles out of town.

When I went up in the summer I borrowed a canoe from one of the locals and paddled out into the bay.  I ended up in the middle of a pod of white whales.  They all had to spy hop us, checking us out.  They would pop straight up out of the water and the twist their bodies to enter head first right next to the boat.  The entrance made almost no wave or splash.  It is both frightening and exhilarating to have a twenty foot white whale swim under your boat so close that you can touch it.

polar bear 1 There is a kind of tractor they drive over the tundra.  I went out with a couple of  biologists and while we were eating, this young 350 lb. male smelled the food and stopped by for lunch.  We scrambled back into the tractor and Bill took the safety off the rifle.  Polar bears will push on the ice with their forepaws to break it when they hunt seals and to this guy, our windshield was just more ice.  When he stood up and placed his paws on the windshield, Bill started the engine and that scared him away.  Both shots were taken with a 350mm lens, least you mistake the closeness for courage on my part.

The easiest place to see bears is at the town dump.  I caught up with Bill again when he was darting and putting a collar on a
polar bear 2

mother and three cubs that were becoming nuisance bears.  He darted the mother first and then the cubs.  He gave them all shots of something and weighed the cubs.  He couldn't lift the mother into the truck so I helped.  Then we put the cubs in on top of her and he drove them out into the bush.  There are only 26 miles of road so he couldn't take them all that far but the bay was about to freeze and when it does, the bears leave the town and head out onto the ice to hunt seals.

Copyright© 2000 by Victor Young

Pictures of the arctic landscape