RubiKon Adventures

Tales and travels of "GrizzLee", "Looksha Lori" & "Yukon Johann"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

RubiKon Adventure Quest 2011: The Edge of Canada and Caribou

“Ah! the clock is always slow; It is later than you think; Sadly later than you think; Far, far later than you think” ~Robert Service

We finished up our day in Inuvik touring the "Lady of Victory" a Catholic parish. The church building is often called the Igloo Church, and is a famous landmark in the region. Apparently it is the most-photographed building in the Inuvik.

Lori and Johann in front.
The building is engineered completely out of wood and they let us tour the upper areas to see how it is built. It is has an interesting history for sure.
The old wooden stairs are steep.

That evening we had a chartered plane take us out to Tuktoyaktuk or commonly referred to as Tuk by the locals. The rendevous place at the Arctic Inn had a unuique use for a retired canoe.
The flight out to Tuk, over the Mackenzie delta was amazing.
As we got closer to Tuk we began to see the Pingos. Pingos are a mound of earth-covered ice. They are only found in the Arctic. The area around Tuk has the largest concentraction of Pingos in the world. The name came from a native Inuvialuktun word meaning a small hill.
They look like minature volcanos.

Arriving at Tuk. Technically called a Hanmlet.

The tower seen here is part of the "Distant Early Warning (DEW Line) system setup in during the cold war. The government is still in the pocess of cleaning up these decommissioned sights. Old oil drums, pollutants and asbestos.
The town isn't a remarkable sigth by any means. It doesn't have spectacular beauty. The draw here is the local people. Many of them still hunt, fish, and trap. They rely on caribou and fishing year-round. They also hunt polar bears and harvest Beluga whales, which is a favortie dish for them.
Tuktoyaktuk is the gateway for exploring Pingo National Landmark, an area protecting eight nearby pingos in a region which contains approximately 1,350 of these Arctic ice-dome hills. From the top of the Pingo in town, which we hiked up, one can see some Pingos in the distance.
A reconstruction of an old sod hut can be seen in town.
In older times, locals would gather driftwood that would float down the Mackienzie river and into the sea to build the framework for the sod huts. Once finished, they would cut blocks of sod and stack them around the frame. They would burn fires in thse and it would stay very warm and cozy inside.
The village also maintains an underground freezer. Here we see Lori descending down into the ground.
The freezer decsends 25 meters into the perma frost. The elevation of Tuk is 5 meters. We descended below sea level.

The walls of sand are frozen and harder than concrete.
There are 19 rooms underground. Many locals have fish stored in there.
Here we see a seal stored for future consumption.
The tunnels are small and narrow. If you suffer from clausterphobia, this is not the place for you.

As in most communities up in the north, the Angelican church played a big role in the village history. Some of it positive, some of it not so great,
This ship used to take children away from the village, sometimes for many years, to residential schools. When the children would return, years later, many of them wouldn't recognize their parents and vice-versa.
Of course we had to dip our toes in the arctic ocean just to say we did it. GrizzLe seen standing here looking at Pingos in the distance. The rocks were sharp and the water is very cold. 150 miles north, the sea has permanent ice. When the sea freezes over, they build ice roads to Inuvik (150 miles to the south)
Mom and son...
Father and son...
 Eileen, our native tour guide. She still lives of the land for 9 months a year. She was happy to speak with us and answer all the questions we asked.

As we fly out, we see that oil exploration has begun. The pressures of the modern world are set to change this corner of the world dramatically. Locals are talking of pipelines, oil jobs and they started to build an all season road through the delta to connect up to the Dempster Hwy.
As we lift off, we see a floating oil drilling platform sitting in the bay.
It looks like a fort.
Looking to our right we see a Pingo. Quite the constrast and we can't help but think that we are fortunate witness this village on the cusp of change. Our emotions are mixed.

The delta is beautiful from the air and we were lucky to have such great weather. We witnessed the final edge edge of the trees in North America as they gave way to raw tundra land. We flew low over the land and on the way back and we saw numerous hunting camps. Very magical and memorable.
Our adventure drive up north on the Dmepster hwy is only half over. We have to drive the road back. Here we see what it is like driving through a narrow pass in the Richardson Mtns.
The earths crust is uplifted in dramatic fashion in this area. The land is geologically young and still recvering from the last ice-age.
There are very little trees in the mountains and it is well known that the Pocupine Caribou herd migrates through this area.
Looking back we can see the Dempster Hwy winding its way through the mtns. Photos have never been able to capture the beauty and vastness of the tundra. It must be experienced first hand to fully grasp its beauty.
Just shy of Wright's pass (Yukon, NWT Border) we came acorss a herd of more than 400 Caribou. It was an incedible sight.
We tried to approach the animals on foot, but they did not like our presence. We could hear them snorting and calling. Don't ever beleive it when someone tells you there is nothing up here. The land is full of magic.
We found antlers and bones lying about the tundra.

Of course we took our choice set of antlers still attached to the skull. A souvenier to take home with us.
With all the Dempster dirt and the antlers mounted on the rear, we now look like true northern bush travelers. Thankfully we got a shower tonight and we don't smell like bush travellers.
This is our view from camp at Eagle Plains. We are halfway back down the Dempster.
We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Until next time....

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