Return to Main Page

Back to The Amazing Adventures of Larry and Mark chapter selection page

(If you have received this from another source and would like to reply, you can send comments to:  (auburndocreich@aol.com)

The Amazing Adventures of Larry and Mark
Tuesday, September 2. 
 
Up early.  Already, the town was humming more than it was the day earlier.  
Yesterday was Labor Day, and they take it seriously up here.  We
grabbed a quick breakfast in the town's only restaurant in the hotel.
 
Mabel, our contact in town, took us in a beat-up pickup truck (no paved roads - everything
gets beat-up here!) out to the tiny cabin we were to stay in for five days.  Originally, we thought
that we might be taking a small open boat many miles up the coast to a camp there, but that
was not the case.  That would have been the MOST dangerous part of the trip.  It was always
windy, and the water was choppy and, in the middle of "summer," all of 34 degrees F.  During our
stay, we saw a monument to three Japanese kayakers who, in the 1970's, died when their kayaks
overturned just offshore from where we are staying. 
 
 
Our little green cabin came fully equipped with electric lights (not working,) refrigerator (no electricity) and
all the comforts of home during an ice-storm and power failure in winter in Auburn.  But there was a mattress, a small couch, table, wood stove, white-gas lantern and cookstove (just like Boy Scouts!) and a curtain in the corner with a bucket.  This really was better than what we had expected.  We thought we were going to be in a tent. 
 Standing at the cabin, this is a view of the Arctic Ocean and the rocky shore. 
This would be million-dollar-plus ocean frontage if it were on Cape Cod.  What do you
need to do to build a cabin out here?  For an Inuit, all you have to do is bring out the materials
and start building.  No land to buy, no permits to get.  Nunavut is owned by its native people.
If one of them wants to build, they might go tell a neighbor (who might be his uncle or cousin)
"I want to build here."  And if the new builder is polite, he will not place his new cabin where
it might affect the view or the fishing of his neighbor.  But if a non-Inuit wanted to build, it would
very difficult to get permits to do what the natives can do for free.
 
When they build these cabins, nothing goes to waste.  Everything has to be trucked out from town,
and all that stuff has to be shipped to town from hundreds of miles south.  There is no natural
source of firewood, so every scrap of wooden building material and pallet gets used to fuel
wood stoves.  See those two dark spots in front of the cabin?  One is a very old couch and the
other is the rear seat of a car - more about them later.
 
Standing out on the point, this is a view back at the cabins.  Ours is the one on the left.  There is even
a satellite dish on the cabin.  Maybe during the short summer they bring a generator out to electrify
the place but we didn't see it.    We fished off the shore in the choppy water of the Arctic Ocean, hoping to catch the
arctic char which is a delicious fish similar to the salmon, but we couldn't get the lures far out enough to
get to the deeper water where the fish are.
 
 
 For two days, we had an additional guest with us.  Old Tom was a cook and general fixer-upper, who
was with us because the hunting team he was working with got moved to our territory because
grizzly bears were moving in to where his team was supposed to camp.  The increase in temperatures is allowing the grizzlies to move further north into territory that hadn't seen them before.
You can see our excellent stove, and our neat plumbing.
 
 
There was only one floor mattress and one couch, so I sought to prove that I could sleep
anywhere, and ------- I did!
 
 
Every camp has one of these racks for drying meat and fish.  The rack is enclosed with wire mesh to keep
animals out (more on that later.)  They cannot dry during the brief, very buggy summer but once it cools
below 40 degrees, the constant wind dries the char and caribou very quickly.  Historically, they most
often preserve by drying or smoking or both.  I had the opportunity to taste heat-smoked and (raw)
cold-smoked and dried char, and it was always delicious.  Nowadays, many of the Inuit have freezers,
but they don't have to be ON from November to April.
 
 
 
At the time we left about September 10, the snows and winter winds were starting. The arctic char
season was just ending.  These fish spend their winters under the ice - many of them swim upstream
into the fresh-water ponds.  The Inuit were all looking forward to the great caribou migration which was
about to start within weeks of our departure.   They wait for the Arctic ocean to freeze in the Cambridge Bay
 area  and cross south over the ice to mainland Canada, down towards the Northwest Territories. The wolves
 follow them and cross over as well. Grizzlies await them on the other side. Many caribou drown when they
try to cross the sea ice too early to get away from the wolves. Eventually all the sea ice gets to around 10 feet
deep or more. It was good we left just before all this was about to happen. Sometimes it's difficult to
fly out when you wait too long.
 
 
 
 
We met our senior guide, Clarence.  Because we felt at home in the cabin
we were in, he went home to his family summer cabin a few miles away each evening. 
I suppose if we'd been further out in the tundra we would have camped with him and
gotten to know more about him.  He's in his late 30's, and he said that he's already
considered one of the "elders." Elders are highly respected for their wisdom, and their
existence is evidence that they have learned to live in this very challenging environment.
 
 If you make a mistake out here in the 8-month long very cold season, it can kill. 
Last year, two teenagers out for a fun ride on a snowmobile got dis-oriented  in a
white-out and were found frozen the next day, only a couple
hundred yards from town.
 This is Devin - Clarence's step-son and our assistant guide.
Devin is learning from Clarence and hopes to become a full-fledged guide
himself someday.  I was behind Devin on his 4-wheel ATV
"quad" for five days. 
 
This is Clarence's father, Oomingmak.  In the Inuit language, the word for
musk ox is Oomingmak.  He gave Mark a name, and then gave me a name
based on being a dentist.  The name for "tooth fixer" was long and
complicated, but it got shortened to "Kigo." 
 
 
 
Out at Clarence's house, Mark participated in bringing in the arctic
char.  During char season, they cast out gill nets about 50 feet long into the
Arctic Ocean, and char swimming by the nets get their gills caught. 
 
 
 The boat brought in about 8 char that day. Notice that
nobody wears a life vest.  There's no point.  If  you fall in that water
with our without a life vest, you don't have much time to get out. 
 
 
 Clarence displayed a beautiful arctic char before his wife
took care of it.
 
 
 This is Clarence's wife.  She is very good with that curved knife that's
wickedly sharp called an ooloo.  Every home has one.  She can cut the useful
filets from that arctic char in about a minute.
 
 
 Clarence's daughter.  And this is SUMMER!
 
 The play yard and sandbox. All the toys are there, but you have to use
your imagination a little to see sand.
 
 
 Early September marks just about the end of the char season.  We enjoyed having some of the fish every day.  Mark was a little crazy about the char.  Given the chance, he had char for three meals a day.  All the Inuit who fish try to put as much of this away for long storage for the many months they cannot
fish except through 5-10 FEET OF ICE!
 
 
 More soon:  we head out into the tundra
 
Larry Reich

(If you have received this from another source and would like to reply, you can send comments to:

auburndocreich@aol.com)

Back to the top
 

Return to Main Page

Back to The Amazing Adventures of Larry and Mark chapter selection page