Qikiqtarjuaq: home of the icebergs

I’ve seen a lot of ice in my day. Specifically I saw a lot of ice while living in the Arctic. I may not have seen polar bears, narwhales and seals, and I didn’t really see the Northern Lights either, but oh boy you better believe I saw ice.

Icebergs are very humbling, as they remind you just how small humans are in comparison to the world. I was living in Qikiqtarjuaq, which is sometimes referred to as Iceberg Alley, because a lot of icebergs come by on their trip from Greenland to Labrador.

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Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut (2015)

While I was working for the tourism company in Iqaluit, I got to spend about 10 days in Qik, helping with a remote basecamp. I arrived in a really tiny plane – it had maybe 12 seats – and I was the only passenger. We flew over the spectacular ice caps and beautiful mountain ranges, which I could totally see through the thick, thick fog surrounding the plane. I did get to fly the plane for a few minutes though, so that was pretty invigorating (and very trusting of the pilots).

The pilots let me fly this little plane (for ten minutes) over Baffin Island (2015)

AND no big deal or anything, but Leonardo DiCaprio sat in my exact seat one week earlier, so I don’t know what that means but it’s something big.

I arrived in Qikiqtarjuaq to mist and clouds. The hamlet only has about 500 people so the community is very close. The children were the best – so friendly and excited to show me around and tell me about their home.

The guests arrived the next day and I met up with the other guides. We took an hour boat ride to the camp, maneuvering through icebergs. I have never been so cold in August. The guests stayed in yurts and we took them on day trips to the nearby Auyuittuq National Park to see wildlife, fjords and glaciers. Being the intern, my primary responsibility was to act as sous-chef to the professional chef managing the kitchen. Everything from washing dishes to storing food is a logistical nightmare that far north.

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These were the yurts that made up our base camp. We were so close to the ocean’s edge, with beautiful views of mountains and icebergs around us. Nunavut (2015)

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This is the dining hall yurt where the guests and guides would spend their time during meals and downtime. (Nunavut, 2015)

The best days though, were the ones where I got to go out with the guests. We went to a glacier, a waterfall, I led kayakers on the Arctic Ocean around icebergs. The kayaking with icebergs was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

There was one moment when the kayaking was terrifying. Icebergs are incredibly unstable, and while we were kayaking a piece of one broke off. We were a safe distance away, but the weight of the ice caused a lot of waves and was enough to startle the guests (and secretly the guide).

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I’ll never get tired of icebergs. (Nunavut, 2015)

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Lonely iceberg drifting along. (Nunavut, 2015)

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I wish I knew more about geology so I could appreciate the unique nature of these mountains. (Nunavut, 2015)

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We stumbled upon this baby waterfall along Coronation Fjord, 2015.

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Only by mid-August did we start getting really dark nights after a summer with the Midnight Sun. (Nunavut, 2015)

Yeah, Nunavut is really beautiful, and it’s not as inaccessible as most people think. While communities in the high Arctic like Qikiqtarjuaq are expensive to get to and logistically challenging, Iqaluit is only a three hour flight from Ottawa and tour companies off pretty reasonable seat sales. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I do wish more people were able to explore Nunavut, an area that makes up 1/5 of Canada’s land mass.

10 of the most beautiful days I’ve ever had, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go someplace so few get a chance to see.

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