'Auyuittuq' - The Land that Never Melts
Baffin Island and Iqaluit
Around 04:45 I rolled down the runway to climb out over the town, heading north and inland towards Frobisher Bay. Later I would learn that the sound of my plane would be mistaken for that of Sam's Pelican Ultralight. I would also learn that he had departed with a friend the previous evening from Kimmirut to Iqaluit in order to attend a funeral of a friend, but they never arrived. They perished when their plane struck a mountain in the low clouds.
Baffin Island is a naked landscape, other than the small stunted forest in Katanilik Park near Kimmirut, most of the sparse vegetation must hug the ground. Caribou and smaller herbivores along with their predators roam this island of rock, ice and snow. I stayed low, 3,500 ft below the clouds until I got closer to Frobisher Bay and could reach Iqaluit radio. Reporting inbound from Kimmirut, the reply came back and he asked if I had seen a plane that was missing. I answered that flight service had not mentioned a missing plane, otherwise I would have been paying better attention. Low clouds with rain showers had moved up the bay, it was necessary to fly southeast and drop down to almost 200 ft over the ice filled sea in order to approach runway 35 at Iqaluit. Taxiing past the distinctive yellow plastic terminal building, I found the open-ended hangar where the Polar Pilots keep their C172 and parked between two buildings. In the hangar, out of the intermittent rain showers, I made some breakfast and waited for a couple of hours, then walked to the main terminal and called Bert.
Over the next couple of days, Bert and I attended meetings with several search and rescue organizations that were formulating plans to find Sam's missing ultralight and its two occupants. It was a very interesting and educational experience to watch how such a large search effort is choreographed, unhappily, not everyone could hear the music or work with their partner to figure out the steps to this dance. Sam, his passenger, and the plane would not be found for 10 days. For over 20 days a large low-pressure system over Hudson Bay was causing this poor weather to funnel up Frobisher Bay from the southeast. The conditions would hamper the search effort and could possibly keep me from doing much exploring.
Bert is a retired teacher and I enjoyed listening to his stories of the history and makeup of the people and places of this northern land. He showed me an ancient Thule settlement near the Grinnel River, rusted remnants of equipment from World War II, the whaling and military background of Iqaluit, and spoke of his involvement with the celebrations when Nunavut was born. I want to thank Bert for making my stay one that I will never forget.
On Sunday the ceilings lifted so I flew across the bay and then headed south towards York Sound and an alluvial flood plain between two large glaciers. I had advised the military rescue coordinator of my route, and I circled into many of the dead end fiords on the southern coast, looking for Sam, but when I reached the beginning of the Everett mountains, it was getting very windy. A huge lenticular cloud blocked my path, I turned around, headed back to cross the bay at an island chain called Frobishers' Furthest, and then followed the north shore into Iqaluit.
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