Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

Our search for Bowhead Whales begins in Nunavut

Our search for Bowhead Whales begins in Nunavut

photograph of a First Air Jet aircraft at the Ottawa Airport, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

My journey in search of Bowhead whales in the Canadian arctic began in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.  In Ottawa I board a First Air jetliner headed for Iqaluit on Baffin Island.

photograph of cloudy skies above Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada

Iqaluit is located in Nunavut on the south coast of Baffin Island.  On the summer day that I arrived, it was a pleasant sunny day.  In the winter, however, Iqaluit is considered Canada’s coldest city.

photograph of Mattaaq Cresent intersection in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

Awaiting a connecting flight to Pangnirtung, I took a quick walk about the city.  It was interesting for me to see a stop sign with the Inuktitut language on it.  It is one of the official languages.

photograph of a First Air prop plane landing on the dirt runway in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada

From Iqaluit, I finally boarded a First Air prop plane and flew north on the east coast of Baffin Island to the Inuit hamlet of Pangnirtung.

photograph of a First Air prop plane on the dirt runway in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada

The tight landing at Pangnirtung on the short dirt runway was a moment I shall not soon forget.

photograph of rain clouds above pangnirtung fjord on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.

Pangnirtung, or Pang as the local people call it, is located on the north coast of the Pangnirtung Fjord.  That fjord merges into Cumberland Sound, which is on the distant horizon, and is located across the water from Greenland.

photograph of rain clouds above pangnirtung fjord on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.

I visited Pangnirtung in the summer when the sun never sets.  That is why it is referred to as “The Land of the Midnight Sun”.  In the winter, when this area experiences three and half months of total darkness, it is said to be experiencing the “Polar Night”.

photograph of the hamlet of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada

Pang sits close to the ocean shoreline, and behind it, snow was still visible on the mountains.

photograph of the low tide along the shoreline at Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.

A number of fishing boats, used for fishing turbot, lay stranded awaiting the return of high tide.  Beyond fishing, the residents here also engage in stone carving, traditional arts, printmaking, and even weaving.

photograph of an Inuit mother carrying her child on her back in Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, Canada.

Along the main street, an Inuit mother was making her way home with her child in an amauti, a baby carrier worn by the Inuit women of the eastern Arctic.

photograph of a dirt road in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada

For me, it was hard to adapt to the endless sunlight.  It took close to two weeks to sort things out and get a good sleep.  On my first night in Pang, the endless daylight was a problem for me, but not for the local Inuit kids even at midnight.  It was as if time stood still.  I soon learned that in the Land of the Midnight Sun, a wristwatch and time are actually quite irrelevant.  Knowing that the Polar Night would return soon enough, with its 24-hour days of total darkness, the people and kids in Pangnirtung were taking full advantage of every second of sunlight.

photograph of bob filming in the village of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

With my camera in hand, I began to document the world around me.

photograph of a bowhead whale jawbone in a laneway in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

I had come to this hamlet to take part in scientific efforts to search for and locate Bowhead Whales in the Canadian waters off Baffin Island.  As I learned firsthand on this trip, Bowhead Whales are one of the largest whale species that can be found in the Arctic Ocean.  This massive Bowhead Whale jawbone in Pangnirtung gives you some idea of what I could expect when filming out on the ocean.

photograph of inuit toboggans sitting on the grass in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada.

As I walked about the hamlet, I found many different types of wooden toboggans sitting idle on the summer grass.

photograph of an inuit toboggan sitting on rocks in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada.

Snow on the distant hilltops in Auyuittuq National Park attests to the chill summer temperatures.

photograph of inuit toboggans sitting on green grass in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada.

In the summertime, all-terrain vehicles rule the roads in Pangnirtung, while the toboggans sit awaiting the return of winter snow.

photograph of a husky dog in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.

I wondered if this husky dog was eager for the snows of winter to return.

photograph of a ringed seal skin stretched and drying in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.

On one back street, I came across this ringed seal skin that had been stretched and left to dry in the traditional Inuit way.

photograph of an Inuit boy standing beside a ringed seal skin stretched and drying in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.

Along the way, a young Inuit boy gave me a smile as he stood beside a drying skin.

photograph of a bowhead whale jawbone in a laneway in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

Bowhead Whales grow to be very large, upwards of 21.2 meters long or 70 feet in length.  They also live a very long life, often living beyond 200 years.  As a result they are the longest-living mammals on the planet.

This 18th-century drawing of whaling in the Arctic gives you some idea of what life was like for both whalers and Bowhead Whales back in those days.

bowhead whales swim in fjord - cumberland sound - baffin island - canada

Today, Bowhead whales are protected in Canadian waters by the Canadian Fisheries Act.

In 1921, the Hudson’s Bay Company built this blubber station in Pangnirtung.  Along with the whale blubber, the station also traded with the local Inuit for the pelts of white fox.

photograph of the former hudson's bay company blubber station buildings in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada

Whaling in Canada ended in the 1920’s, but still, a couple of the original Hudson’s Bay Company’s former whaling buildings remain in the hamlet.

photograph of the former hudson's bay company blubber station buildings and boats in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada

photograph of wooden crosses in the public cemetery in Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

On that cloudy day, it seemed apt that I should find myself in the local cemetery perched where the hamlet meets the ocean.  Endless wooden crosses stretched down to the water’s edge.

auquittuq lodge, Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

As the clock pushed 11 p.m., I decided to call it a day and headed back to the Auyuittuq Lodge in Pangnirtung.

photograph of midnight in Nunavut, the land of the midnight sun, Canada.

At five minutes after midnight, with the sun just above the horizon, there was no denying I was in “The Land of The Midnight Sun”.

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Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

2 comments

  • From: Mike Philbin
    Oxford, United Kingdom
    2008: “Bukkakeworld” and “Planet of the Owls” novels.
    2011: “Yoroppa” and “View from a Stolen Window” novels.
    2013: “Custodian” free planet novel one (publisher pending).

    Bob,

    It’s great that you made it to Kekerten Island to take pictures of these whales and the Inuit life style.

    The whole point of the Free Planet website is that we REALISE, just realise, that we have a limited resource situation LIVE, right now, on this planet. We need to take back (as Custodians) what is ours (i.e. the Diversity) and protect Planet Earth from the GREED of the Profit-based Game.

    http://mikephilbin.blogspot.ca/2012/08/born-in-1812-bowhead-whale-200-year-old.html

  • They have a viable population in Hudson Bay. What is the probability that this population can link up with the one off Svalbard? The Svalbard population is so small, that there is great danger that it will breed itself out of existence. If it can link up with the Hudson Bay population, then it would give it more genetic diversity.

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