Darwin's Theories Blog

New Theories for a New Time

Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada


It was cold - approaching -40, the one temperature to which you don't have to append F or C. I was there. I have the photos to prove it. I've put a few of them into a Flickr Set. My client Learning Tree sent me up there to teach a computer course in February, 2013.

Iqaluit ("place of many fishes" in Inuktituk, known for a while as Frobisher Bay, for the English explorer who pranced in thousands of years after the Innu settled it) is now an "artificial" town. Canada has brought technology, schooling, our two official languages, and our levels of government, and "given" them to the Innuit. Thus today live 7,000 people in a "city" (smaller than many towns) but totally dependent upon the outside world for food and energy. If there ever comes a total shutdown of the oil supply or of civil aviation, many of these people will probably starve. Do I worry too much?

The Frobisher Bay name hangs on in a few old maps, and in the city's airport code YFB - apparently it's easier to change the name of a city than its airport code. Oh, and the body of water it sits on the tip of is still called Frobisher Bay.

We tend to think of the Arctic as flat, tundra, but Iqaluit sits on the hills that form the side of Frobisher Bay. See the photostream cited above; this place is hilly! There is, in fact, a hillside right across from the Frobisher Inn. In one of those pictures you can see a tiny little cross on the top of it. I hiked up it one night to take pictures of the town at dusk; the next pictures shows how big the cross is up close. That was bloody cold - probably the coldest I've ever been in my life (or I'm feeling it more in my advanced age :-) ). One eyelid froze half shut due to tearing up from the wind; temp was near -36, wind chill must have been a lot colder as it was pretty breezy. Camera battery went from full to 30% in the cold, returned to 60% when thawed out. Walked down the lee side.

The internet service in this town back then really sucked, because it's satellite based. Long-established local business Coman Arctic was trying to get better internet using newer satellites. I don't know what the internet is like up there now. They have a free high-speed WiFi at the Tim Hortons (Trivia Factoid: Iqaluit is, I believe, the only Canadian Capital City to have [at the time] only one Tim Hortons!).

One night there was an "Ice Music" concert - two musicians from Norway playing percussion on xylophone and chimes and horn all carved from local ice (only modern feature was the electronic echo box). The young woman in the duo, Mari Kvien Brunvoll, has a beautiful singing voice. The evening was opened by some local talents: throat singers and more.

You can read more about this place in the Wikipedia article Iqaluit.

All considered, I had a great time, and would be glad to go again.

View Iqaluit in a larger map