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The mountains of Baffin behind me
General News · 20th December 2009
Scott Mercs
Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut is located about 100 miles north of the arctic circle, on the east coast of Baffin island. Daylight breaks the sky about 10:00 am and darkness returns about 2:00 pm. The village is small but big enough, and 500 residents are ready for the long winter.
I was posted here for one month to train the Inuit staff and manage the hotel until xmas shutdown. The view to the west is spectacular, and the mountains and fiords here run into Auyuittuq national park, home to the Penny ice cap and some of the largest vertical cliff faces in the world. Polar bears are frequent visitors to town, and last week a bear walked around the hotel in the middle of night and was scared away by the hamlet conservation officer with six warning shots.
According to Elizabeth Peacock, biologist for the government of Nunavut, polar bear populations are healthy and abundant in the Davis Strait area, with 2142 bears currently in the area and a quota of 46 allowable kills by Inuit hunters (there was no sport hunting in the Strait in 2008-09). The future does not look rosy, and biologists predict the number of bears will decline due to shrinking sea ice, though the ring-seal pupulation boom in the strait may prevent this decline for a few more years. Inuit people believe the bear is not threatened and will continue to be healthy as long as they have an input into the research and study of the bear.
Living off the land is so different up here. Instead of vegetables there is meat and mineral and nutrition-rich raw flesh and blood. In a land with no wood, animal hide and snow are vital. Fish run the way they did in the Strait of Georgia 100 years ago, and
the introduction of airplanes, rifles and ski-doos seem to keep hunger at bay. The entire modern arctic infrastructure is financed by the federal government through the Indian and Northern Affairs department, and hardly a dime up here is made without some form of government subsidy.

The canadian government created these villages in the 1950's and 60's to encourage arctic infrastructure development and make a stand for sovereignty, but there are far too few homes and not enough decent jobs. For those Inuit who are able to deal with modernity and its' minutae and sensory overload, there is much funding for post secondary eduaction and training in the big cities down south. For those Inuit who want their own homes and a level of comfort we expect in the south, there are always government and construction jobs available in each village. For Inuit who are wary of the gerbil-cage of wage-labor, there are strong social safety nets and subsidized co-op housing in every town. I suppose these people experience the same degree of sorrow, joy and hope as we do down south, and while our lifestyle in the south is subsidised by the wealth of questionable historic land aquisitions
and over-consumption, the modern Inuit world is subsidised to the same degree but in a different way by huge federal government injections of cash.

From the land of tommorrow, Scott.
Tulugak Hotel, Qikiqtarjuaq, Baffin Island.
Tulugak Hotel, Qikiqtarjuaq, Baffin Island.
Local dog team.
Local dog team.
Minus 18, 11:00 am, Nov, 26th.
Minus 18, 11:00 am, Nov, 26th.
Neighbors bear skins, shot in October.
Neighbors bear skins, shot in October.
one white persons' thoughts...
Comment by Scott Mercs on 5th January 2010
I have lived and worked in six arctic villages from two weeks to nine months at a time, usually in the middle of winter, and spend most of my days working beside people who have lived their entire lives in those same places. The effects of global warming are not a discussion of day to day life because these changes are happening on a level that does not appear to most Inuit to have a significant measureable impact. Inuit people read and watch southern media, are told their homeland is in peril, but carry on with their hunts and seasonal travels as usual. The science shows us the changes have begun, this is not really debateable, but on a daily level not so apparent in a land of so much snow and ice.
Nunavut Tungavik Corporation (www.tunngavik.com) represents the Inuit people and their socio-cultural aspirations, and they've launched their own empirical inquiry into the effects of global warming, documenting the actual effects as they occur throughout the north on their web-site.

The gift of southern people, and their scientists in particular, is their ability to understand huge eco-systems, to measure the flora and fauna there-in, and make assumptions about the future of these places. These southern people are respected in the arctic villages because they seem to be genuinely concerned about the land they are studying. When a "biologist" or "researcher" arrives on the plane, there are always Inuit ready and willing to help them. The scientific community seems united in their understanding that our planet is in peril from the threat of rapid climate change, and Inuit people, like most of us, accept this as truth.

The polar bear plight is a little depressing because so much attention is focussed on an animal that is not endangered (yet) while so many species that are more threatened, but not as sexy, face oblivion and the end of their days.



a changing North?
Comment by norberto rodriguez dela vega on 2nd January 2010
hi Scott,
It is good to hear from you and your work in the far North.

Let me pass you a wild suggestion my friend: what if you become somekind of a "climate change reporter" and let us know are things in those parts of the world, related with climate change? This is a unique opportunity to have first-hand news about this.

For instance, it would be very interesting to hear how much things are changing over there; what the elders are saying?; do they see these changes good or bad?; are they worried?; how much?; is climate change really happening in there?; what type of changes are happening (I have read that in some parts on the North they are seeing completely new animals and plants); how are they preparing their communities for these changes?, etc.

I think this kind of stories will help us with understanding the realities about climate change.

Take care amigo,
happy new year scott
Comment by sue on 31st December 2009
hey scott, great to hear about the farther North! I'm envious......when are you out of there? Remember to stop in at Whitehorse on your way by and say hi!!Take care Scott.
wow
Comment by megan stevens on 29th December 2009
wow Scott, good to hear you are alive and well, very nicely written article, have a great new year.
Contrast!
Comment by Andrew on 22nd December 2009
Time to spray-paint an evergreen on some of that snow. Perhaps a nice dash of purple sage.
Also, nice hat, but I was looking forwards to facemask and hostile environment gear!
good to hear from you
Comment by jude on 21st December 2009
happy solstice
hope you're writing lots, you have a real gift for it
thanks for sharing
Interesting!
Comment by Coreen on 20th December 2009
Very interesting, informative and well-written ~ thanks for writing this and sharing it! Have a great solstice and Merry Merry!
happy holidays
Comment by tom on 20th December 2009
hi Scott neat to hear what you are up to "up"there , all the best from the Gregg family
thanks
Comment by Elinor on 20th December 2009
thanks for sharing! really incredible to hear a first-hand account of this area.
i miss the arctic
Comment by Brigid on 20th December 2009
interesting article Scott, thanks
My short time up there really hooked me, i loved working w/ the Inuit and the beauty of the landscape is staggering