Out on the Land, Out on the Ice

Spring arrived, and qamutik season began. The sea ice edge now looks sort of like a parking lot.

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Time is racing past, as time likes to do. Lately I’ve adopted a more production-oriented mindset: “Make now, edit later!” I’m creating new content far, far faster than I have time to edit or work with, but that’s okay. That’s the point of being here.

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Some of you may recall my mentioning a photographic workshop for young people. Ever since I got here, that has actually been happening! I have three dedicated students who I meet twice a week if the schedule works for everyone (which is rare, but we do what we can). We talk about pictures, then go out and make them. Here are a few from a memorable excursion, themed “Nature & Adventure Photography”.

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Photo workshop participant Ruben, near the summit of one of the mountains surrounding Arctic Bay. 

workshop_mountain_.jpgLawson, taking charge of the safety of the camera gear while the other students climb a challenging hill. 

Recently, there was the Fishing Derby, one of the main reasons I chose to visit Arctic Bay in May. Over the May Long Weekend, four lakes were chosen for an ice fishing competition. People went out camping in groups, visiting and socializing, and fishing as much as they could or wanted to. The person who caught the largest fish at each lake won a considerable sum of money, but for many people the social/community aspect was the big appeal.

So, we went – to Kuugarjuk, the furthest destination, some 9 hours away by snowmobile. This was the first significant trip I’d made riding on a qamutik (sled), and was surprised how pleasant it was to travel that way. The 9 hours were an adventure, hanging out with the kids on the back of the sled as the world passed quietly by. We traveled over the sea ice for the majority of the journey, then drove onto the land and followed a riverbed to the camp.

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Getting the qamutik ready in Arctic Bay. 

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View on the back of the qamutik. 

When we eventually arrived at camp, I was surprised to discover that I already knew almost everyone there! For three nights, we camped, fished, and visited with friends. While we didn’t have especially good luck actually catching the fish, that wasn’t the point, for us. I took, as you might expect, thousands of photographs, and had a generally amazing experience. The “real” photographs, reflections, and stories are going to take much longer for me to work through and edit, but here are some snapshots to start.

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Arriving in camp. 

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Our massive Arctic Oven tent, manufactured by Alaska Tent & Tarp! By my standards, this is a huge tent. “Living large,” Susan and Darcy teased me. 

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The inside of the tent – plenty of room for everyone to sleep, cook, eat, and hang out. 

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Camp, as viewed from a hilltop in the early morning. 

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My friend Mavis teaching her son Martin to jig for char. 

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Clara teaching her son Spencer to fish. 

After three and a half days, we drove back to Arctic Bay in a huge procession of skidoos and qamutiks, stopping at several different lakes along the way to visit people.

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Packing the qamutik. 

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A rest stop on the sea ice, where we celebrated Samson’s birthday with cake and tea, served off the back of the qamutik. 

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Nap time on the ride home to Arctic Bay. 

For me, the Fishing Derby was a huge adventure, and I spent the following week in town, working on photos, drawings, and writings based on the experience. I also began preparing to spend a few days at the school’s Spring Camp, which I just returned from last night – another adventure on the land, resulting in thousands of photographs and great stories that I look forward to sharing.

However – everything in its time. After all, I’m here to create, and if I appear to be somewhat absent from this blog or social media, it’s a sign that great and more important things are probably going on. School ends next week, and thus begins Spring Camping season, where people go out on the land for weeks at a time. We’ll see what happens next!

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