A Full Moon and a Frozen Sea

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Already a week has passed, and things begin to feel like home. It’s hard to write about poetically, at this point, it is all too fresh. Here are some photos. A timeline of sorts.

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The morning I flew to Arctic Bay, Gwen bequeathed me with these beautiful, handmade sheepskin slippers. She had been my roommate aboard the Sea Spirit, and knew how often I came home with desperately frozen feet, running straight into the shower to thaw them back to life. Hopefully that won’t be so common an occurrence, anymore.

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I arrived, and was warmly welcomed home by my host family, Sheba and Joe. I’ll post pictures of my house another time – it is spacious, warm, and very new, only three years old. My room has a view over the frozen sea (see above) and my bed has Spider-Man sheets. Success.

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On my first day, a young girl gave me a handmade magic wand as a welcome present. It seemed like a good omen. I made a photograph of it.

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Also on my first day – a tour of the town by snowmobile, learning where everything is. So fun to travel by skidoo!

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My new home in the lovely blue light that takes up a large part of the day.

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Selfie during my first excursion with a 4×5 since photographing at Reid’s wedding in June.

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I went out onto the ice in front of town, and was followed by these two puppies, who approached me soundlessly from behind and scared me half to death, at first.

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Then, the first magic day. The first day out on the land, with clear skies. I accompanied Joe to Nanisivik, about 45 minutes away by skidoo, where he has a job as a sort of security person and wildlife monitor (aka: look for polar bears). It was my first time out for that long by snowmobile, and I absolutely loved being out there. The landscape around Arctic Bay is intensely beautiful and very diverse, and Clare was right – the winter turns the ocean into a giant highway, where you can easily push 90 km/hour on the snowmobile with no problems. The twinkle of other snowmobile lights dotted the horizon line like stars.

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Joe and his new skidoo. They are actually incredibly comfortable to ride on, and especially to drive – with heated handlebars and a good windshield, it is a lot warmer than driving a “quad”, or four-wheeler.

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We eventually arrived at Nanisivik, to beautiful pink skies and patches of reflective ice. Joe walked around doing his job and I tagged along, relieved to get my blood moving again after so long sitting down. Clare had lent me a giant parka that fit me sort of like a tent, a giant flapping sheath of warmth that the wind still managed to creep into around the edges. It was much better than the short insulated jackets I had brought with me, but I could tell I was going to need an upgrade as winter progressed.

I stood there, trying to absorb the beauty of it all, when suddenly Joe asked if I wanted to head back to Arctic Bay to try and see the sun before it disappeared for the winter. I realized then that we were behind a mountain, and today was the last day of sun! Suddenly it seemed like a race against time, but as we rounded the point, there it was. Beautiful and huge, sinking down into the horizon, permanently. I made the last-sun picture that I had dreamt so long about!

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It was a spectacular first outing. I loved it. It made me want to go out on the land every day, and I was so excited that I had ended up living with Sheba and Joe, as Joe goes to Nanisivik twice a week for work, and there is always room in the passenger seat.

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What really struck me, after returning from Nanisivik around lunchtime, was how exhausted the cold made me. I felt I could hardly move, and laid in bed for the majority of the day’s remainder. It had only been around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, relatively warm – it was going to take getting used to. I resolved to spend time outdoors every day, to slowly convince my body that this was normal.

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Life continued. Now inhabiting a world free of gluten-free products at the grocery store, I made a cauliflower-crust pizza for my host family.

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I also went shopping for fabric for a parka. Here is the seal section of the local fabric store.

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One moonlit night, I went out with Clare to photograph near a lake. I was deeply, almost painfully tired, and didn’t have it in me to use a tripod, but here are some quick, handheld test-shots of the landscape.

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Then yesterday, back out to Nanisivik under the full moon. It was utterly glorious.

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Here, at Sheba’s parents’ cabin – a sort of veranda for seal hunting. Looks pretty luxurious, if you ask me.

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On Saturdays, Joe goes up into the hills behind Nanisivik, so I followed. What should await us there but jagged, colorful canyons, turquoise rivers weaving their way through the base of them. The light wasn’t quite right for a 4×5, but one day, it will be.

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On the way back, we met some seal hunters, who had just shot a seal but failed to retrieve it before it sank. I had never seen a seal’s breathing hole – an aglu – before, and was fascinated by the idea of the hunt, by skidoo and by quad, out there on the ice. One day, I resolved, I would have to find someone to take me with them. It’s amazing to speed over the ice like that, trying to imagine all the vibrant life going on beneath you at any given moment.

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It is now Sunday – a week ago since I woke up here my first morning. Inuktitut vocabulary words newly posted onto my wall – it’s a challenging language. Outside the horizon is glowing golden-orange, a sunrise surely just beneath it, the sky clear and cold.

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2 thoughts on “A Full Moon and a Frozen Sea

  1. Incredible, otherworldly photographs! Although I’m happy about the warmth I’m getting in this part of the world, a part of me wants to hop on a plane, see those hills of snow, and stay there for the sights. :)

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