Clouds mostly obscured the three-hour flight, but as the plane began its descent, the terrain became more visible. Streams of open water could be seen zigzagging between huge sheets of sea ice. Tiny black spots, wildlife of some kind, dotted the huge expansive of white. As the plane approached land, the team members craned their necks to see out the window. The landscape was bare of all trees and buildings. All that could be seen for miles were rolling white hills, cliffs, gorges, and islands in the distance, covered in snow. Before they knew it, the plane had landed in Iqaluit. After three days on the road, Elizabeth, Abby, and John Huston arrived safely in Ottawa reuniting with Will, Jim, and Jerry at the airport. The six of them flew to Baffin Island the following morning, arriving in the capitol city of Iqaluit by noon.
Iqaluit, known as Frobisher Bay from the 1800s until 1987, means “place of many fish” in the Inuit language of Inuktitut. Aptly named, the city is located on the ocean in a protected harbor overlooking Frobisher Bay. It is the largest town on Baffin Island with a population of 7,200 (3,552 in 1991) and is the economic and governmental capital of Nunavut. Hiking routes pass through territorial parks providing access to ancient ruins of Thule stone houses hundreds of years old. Nearby Gaummaarviit Historic Park is the site of an ancient Thule encampment where the remains of Thule winter houses and summer tents have been excavated by archaeologists. The last week in April brings Iqaluit’s spring festival, Toonik Tyme, with igloo-building competitions, dog-sled racing, fishing and seal hunting contests, and concerts by local musicians.
The hours of sunlight per day in Iqaluit swings dramatically from 5.13 hours in December to 19.20 hours in June. Average monthly temperatures swing from 46° F (3.4° C) in June to -16° F (-22° C) in February (daily temperatures can drop down as low at -60° F without wind-chill). Iqaluit sees an average annual precipitation of 7.5 inches (19.2 cm) of rain and 17 inches (43 cm) of snow.
Expedition members and base camp staff are busy settling into their housing and base camp office in town. Wireless internet has been secured and phone lines activated. Visits are being scheduled with local elders, explorers, and government officials. Abby and Elizabeth are preparing for four presentations at local high schools and elementary schools. The Inuit team will arrive with their dogs on the 18th, and Nancy Moundalexis and John Stetson will arrive on the 20th with the dogs from the Homestead. The Expedition Team plans to depart from Iqaluit on February 23rd.