Iqaluit? What Were You Doing Up There?
That was my aunt’s first reaction when she found out I had been to Iqaluit, Nunavut, in July. So I’ll tell you: one of my clients asked me to go there to give a training session on their passport photography equipment to their client up there. Given that they were essentially offering me one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities I’ve heard so much about, I was more than happy to go. It goes without saying, of course, that I was going to bring my camera with me. I’d have been crazy not to. So let me tell you a bit about my trip.
The Flight Was An Experience In Itself
There are no direct flights from Montreal to Iqaluit. This didn’t surprise me at all. I was fully expecting to go from Montreal to some tiny little airport in a small city about halfway between here and there, somewhere in the middle of… wait, Ottawa? My connecting flight is in Ottawa? I was not expecting that. I half-considered driving to Ottawa and leaving my car at the airport there, but I decided not to. In hindsight, it probably would have been a good idea. Here’s why:
First, a little background information on the Great White (but not at that time of year) North. Nunavut is fairly isolated. The only ways to get things up there are by plane (no major airlines fly there and only 1 airline has a daily flight) or by ship (which, obviously, takes a bit of time). As a result, it’s very difficult to deliver anything.
My client was unable to send the equipment up there through any shipping services in time for my training session due to the logistical issues, so they sent it to me to bring on the plane with me. Everything was nicely packed in a rather large box, but I had to take it through the oversized-luggage inspection area to clear security. Long story short: I barely made it to the flight, and that was only because of a combination of it being delayed and a very nice Air Canada gate agent taking pity on me.
One More Day
Fast-forward a bit: I made my connecting flight from Ottawa and had just met my contact in Iqaluit. So here we were calmly waiting for the luggage to be unloaded from the plane so we could pick up this box (for reference: it was a little larger than 2x2x2). The conveyor belt started. Other peoples’ luggage started coming out. The belt stopped. The box wasn’t there. After speaking with an agent there, I called my client to give them an update. Good news: I landed safely in Iqaluit. Bad news: the box decided to stay overnight in Ottawa. It will be coming in on the next flight, tomorrow.
Apparently this happens quite often. Since there is limited space on the planes and there are so few of them on any given day, less important items like passport photo equipment sometimes get bumped from the flight in favour of items with more broad appeal, like food and medicine. Fair enough. I’ll just have to stay an extra day, that’s all.
I stayed in a nice place called the Frobisher Inn (fun fact: Iqaluit was called “Frobisher Bay” until around 30 years ago). It was a nice, warm, modern place with incredibly slow Wi-Fi. I had been warned about how slow the Internet connections are up there, so I wasn’t too surprised. To put things in perspective: if the average Internet connection that we’re used to has the power of an average race horse, the Internet connection up there is similar to a hamster on a wheel. But the connection was functional, the place was clean and the service was great. So all in all, pretty good.
This is definitely a place unlike what I’ve been to before. As it’s so far north, there are no trees. Vegetation is limited to small shrubs and grasses. Also, since the ground is permanently frozen, construction techniques are very different. Since they can’t build a conventional foundation, all of the buildings are on stilts.
Shooting photos up there was definitely interesting. Unfortunately it was heavily overcast and the temperature hovered around 12 degrees for most of the time I was there, but I was told that it had been around 20 with clear skies the previous week. Fortunately the skies did give me quite the sunset on my second night there. Being so far north, the sun didn’t actually set at all. I left the room around 9:00pm to wander around town taking photos, and I didn’t get back until around 10:30. I was able to shoot hand-held the entire time because it was so bright!
It was definitely a nice change of pace. No traffic to deal with, clean (cold for July) fresh air, friendly people and a landscape unlike anything I’d had the opportunity to experience before. Add in the fact that there were about 22 hours of daylight per day at that time of year, and you really couldn’t ask for much more!