Saturday, February 26, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Before coming here I was on track for a globalized life; a career in the diplomatic corps, maybe, or a branch of the United Nations. My eyes always looked outwards, and growing up in a city like Vancouver meant I was constantly immersed in a vast array of cultures, peoples, languages and religions. Travel defined me, be it cruising the museums of Paris or finding my way through the jungles of Myanmar. I was set to join the international citizenry, equally comfortable in Dubai or New York or Toronto.
"Boy, if I hadn't had my rifle with me I would have been done for!"
"Good thing I had that fire going!"
"Damn thing looked me straight in the eye and figured I didn't look too tasty."
Friday, February 18, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The array and work crew arrived over the weekend, and they have spent the past 4 days installing it on the roof of our community gym. It is great to finally see the product of my labour, not to mention the satisfaction of being able to make a tangible contribution to a place that has given so much to me. Once the school returns from March Break this array will form the centerpiece of a series of climate change/energy efficiency seminars I have prepared for the students, which will be a lot of fun.
Over the course of this project I have often been asked: why solar? It might seem counter-intuitive, but the North is actually an excellent location for this sort of renewable energy. While it's true that efficiency drops during the winter, this is more than compensated by the 24 hour sunlight of summer. Additionally, the newest generations of photovoltaics are so sensitive that they can generate significant current even from moonlight, as well as ambient light reflected from the snow. With proper energy discipline this particular array should be able to power the entire gym from late May-August, and over its lifespan (~25 years) will save more than $300,000 in electricity costs.
What's next? Now that I have gained some experience in project management it is exciting to think about the possibilities that exist in these small communities. It would require a comparatively small capital investment to make these remote villages effectively self-sufficient in terms of energy.
Monday, February 14, 2011
A 15-year-old Inuit boy is recovering in a Montreal hospital and risks losing some of his toes from frostbite after he and a friend were lost on the tundra in northern Quebec for four days. Isajah Nastapoka, who goes by the name of Wille, and 17-year-old Kasudluak Kasudluak, who was found in good shape, were separated while hunting for polar bears earlier this month near their village of Inukjuak.
They had few supplies, and it was –35 C.
Nastapoka and Kasudluak left Inukjuak on a snowmobile, but got lost. They travelled 30 kilometres before the snowmobile ran out of gas. They had no food or water, and the temperature plummeted as night fell.
"I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. I was worried. Scared … you can freeze easily your hands and feet, and nose and ears in a matter of minutes if you're exposed to the wind," she said.
Dr. François Provost, who works at the Inukjuak dispensary and co-ordinated the search, said he kept in radio contact as local Inuit rangers fanned out on snowmobiles.
"After three days, I have to say my worries for them were very high. I thought maybe the cold had taken them. The chances to survive in those situations are extremely low," said Provost.
Provost soon heard an excited voice on the radio.
"The team was always talking to each other, and then suddenly we hear that voice, saying, 'We found them, we found one!'" said Provost.
When they found Nastapoka four days after he went missing, he had walked 80 kilometres south.
Suffering from hypothermia, he had taken off his jacket and was lying down in a hole he had dug in the snow.
Nastapoka was flown to a hospital, where he saw his mother, who was overcome with emotion.
"I was crying, sobbing and thanking everyone, and thanking God … I couldn't talk. I was too happy, we were all crying and screaming, and thanking every one," she said.
Kasudluak was later found still walking, having faced his own ordeal. He said at one point, he fought off a pack of wolves, shooting one. Nastapoka was airlifted to Montreal, where doctors are trying to save as much as they can of his blackened, frostbitten toes.
The soft-spoken teen had little to say about his ordeal, but remembered how it felt.
"Scared, a little bit," he said.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
These games are very old, and were originally developed both as a means of entertainment and maintaining physical conditioning during the long winter months. For example: the stick-pull game, where competitors battle to pull a wooden stick slick with moose fat from their opponents hand, develops the tenacity needed to pluck slippery fish from the rivers in the spring. The stick is even tapered on both ends to resemble the tail of a fish.
The kids really enjoyed themselves, and even though for most of them it was their first time trying these games out they did really well!
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
During his talk he said something that stuck in my mind. A major part of the land claims centers on traditional useage and 'ownership' of particular regions, but he mentioned that in the time of his grandfather the term used to describe a people of an area - got'ine - was an idea that translated not as "I own this land" but "This land owns me."
I think that is a beautiful concept, even if it does create some legal ambiguities.
Perhaps their nicest quality is how quiet they are when walking in snow. Compared to my big winter boots, which are about as subtle as a snowplow, they are almost silent in fresh powder.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Saturday, February 5, 2011
There are compensations, of course. The children are a delight, and it is such a privilage to live in the heart of one of the last true frontiers on Earth. Despite the considerable amount of time I've spent on my own, I've never felt bored. There's always something to look forward to, be it an excursion with the school, or something as gradual as the changing of the seasons. I believe in the work that I am doing here, and have never regretted my decision to return. It just might be nice to be able to go out to a pub with my friends for a change!
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
That said, there is much to appreciate about warmer days. This morning saw a chinook blow through town, bumping temperatures to a blissful -10 and and offering a reminder that winter doesn't last forever. It is amazing to be able to take a deep breath without feeling it burn, and to wander about town without gloves or even a jacket. To top it off, the chinook has conjured some beautiful cloud formations.