Welcome to Tuktoyaktuk !

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20 September 2013

Since Wednesday evening Tara has been anchored near this Inuit village in the Northwest Territory of Canada. Canada, the second largest country in the world in area, gets its name from the Huron word “Kanata” which means village. The 870 inhabitants of this peaceful hamlet at the end of the world are extremely kind and welcoming. Our entry into the land of the Inuits is full of promise.

The night-time arrival in “Tuk,” as they say here, was full of poetry and delighted the entire crew. Not only because after 10 days at sea any stopover would be welcome, but also because certain parents of crew members were very eager to see their children.

Little by little the village of wooden houses appeared before us, well after nightfall. I don’t know if it was psychological or real, but we got whiffs of delicious cooking that were not coming from our kitchen. A few metal hulls of fishing boats were washed up on the beach, and there was a general impression of gentle calm.

The day dawned with the same sensation. Amid colorful houses, the villagers who were walking or driving their pick-up trucks were smiling and friendly. They often gave us a friendly wave of the hand when they didn’t have time to stop.

Whether doing formalities for entry into Canada, shopping at the supermarket for supplies, or simple exchanges in everyday life – everything was easy. Most of the Inuit we met were very curious and intrigued by Tara. Most of the 800 residents are Inuit, and the few Canadians who work here are in the royal Gendarmerie, business or education.

Tuktoyaktuk (in the Inuit language “the place of caribou”) is a haven of peace, and we’re enjoying relatively mild conditions at this end of summer, with temperatures around 4°C.

The only way to get to Tuk during this season is by plane or boat, just like Pevek, its Russian neighbor on the other side of the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea. Only in winter can one get to Tuk (formerly called Port Brabant) by car, when the Mackenzie River is frozen. Our new crew of sailors and scientists arrived by plane, after 2 days of flight for some, according to where they were coming from. We will leave Tuk this Friday night, still 6 hours behind Paris time.

Before us stands the Northwest Passage and its maze of canals. The big question is: Will the exit door of the expedition’s second passage – towards Baffin Bay and Greenland – remain open long enough for us? The ice leaves us little time and space, and we must not miss this brief opening.

Vincent Hilaire