Last stopover in Canada’s North

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7 October 2013

Tara has been anchored in Pond Inlet (Nunavut, Canada) since early Sunday afternoon. This town of about 3,000 inhabitants is the largest of the 4 Canadian hamlets north of the 72nd parallel. The majority here are Inuit, and it’s one of the few hamlets that has gained in population in recent years. Located on Eclipse Sound, it offers a breathtaking view of this majestic fjord.

Any approach by sea into Pond Inlet is a wonder to behold. Glaciers drain into the Navy Board Inlet, snow covered mountain peaks with various forms, sculptured icebergs and in the middle of all this, large ochre and brown expanses of Arctic tundra. For the last 10 days aboard Tara, we’ve basked in the lovely Canadian countryside of this Nunavut region.

Just after landing on the shores of “Pond” in Tara’s dinghy, we witnessed a scene from another era. On a hill overlooking the beach where we landed, an Inuit was slicing ​​meat from a frozen narwhal for his dogs who were not barking but howling with excitement. It was feeding time. The man’s 3 children were playing a little further away and also watched this familiar scene. A little puppy carousing behind its mother (who firmly but gently calmed him down from time to time) was receiving his ration of caresses from the childrens’ hands.

On Sundays at Pond Inlet, narwhal meat is portioned for the dogs while children play. There aren’t many farms in France where a pig is still butchered by the family on the weekend, although I know of some in the Massif Central.

Actually, at Pond people still have to fend for themselves to survive. But for how much longer? Supermarkets are appearing on a regular basis even in these remote areas where bananas only grow on shelves!

What was also striking was the calm in this village. Sure, it’s Sunday, but this town is more extensive and populated than Tuk and Arctic Bay. There’s only one main street and encounters are somewhat limited. But when they occur, they are spontaneous and warm, despite the cold where you wouldn’t even put a caribou outside!

With an airport, a large supermarket, a cooperative, a cultural center and a hotel, Pond Inlet is rapidly developing and is already a tourist destination in its own right. It’s a sign of the times that gradually subsistence-level hunting and fishing is being replaced by other jobs that can pay for televisions and frozen foods, while the local narwhale steak will be saved for parties! Fishing for narwhal will become an activity reserved for tourists.

Following decades of survival, most Inuits also want to have a little ease, comfort, and  be  able to take a steak out of the freezer after “fishing” in the supermarket.

After Pond Inlet — only 2,500 kilometers from Montreal — we’ll take the fjord with the same name to reach Baffin Sea, and then sail across to Greenland. Tara is slowly regaining southern latitudes and the most northern part of Tara Oceans Polar Circle Expedition is now behind us.

Vincent Hilaire