Planes, Trains and Automobiles … and Red Plastic Sleds

Posted On February 7, 2008

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Air Inuit

After two days of travel, we have arrived in Kuujjuaraapik-Whapmagoostui, Quebec, the southernmost Inuit community and northernmost Cree community in the Hudson Bay area of the subarctic. We flew from London, Heathrow to Montreal, then caught the 900 mile Air Inuit flight north to Kuujjuaraapik-Whapmagoostui the next morning. The cross-Atlantic flight was nearly empty, thus we left a trail of enormous carbon footprints in our wake. Hopefully our work, the data we gather and the insights into climate – past, present, and future – we produce will help offset this.

Kuujjuaraapik-Whapmagoostui is a village of approximately 500 Inuit and 800 Cree accessible only by air most of the year – and by boat for one month in the summer. The rugged landscape of low hills is covered with subarctic tundra and taiga – lichen covered rocky outcroppings and scrub pine – and is pockmarked with ponds, rivers, and sand dunes. The village itself is located where the Great Whale River enters the Hudson Bay. The river itself is just downslope from the research center where we bunk, Centre détudes Nordique. Lined up along the bank are 50 or 60 identical green canoes resting upside down on supports.

While we awaited the forklift that would move our shipping containers, I walked down to the river. On my way I passed a group of local children with a red plastic sled. We greeted each other, they were friendly and enthusiastic, but only one – the oldest, a girl of 12 – spoke enough English to communicate with me. I tried my poor French, but when that produced quizzical looks, I assumed that they spoke Inuktitut or Cree. No matter, the language of children is universal, and we had fun when I took video clips of their sled runs down the hill toward the river and then played them back for them. As with children everywhere, this produced a lot of laughs, attempts to upstage one another, and occasional annoyance when someone was unseated by a playmate.


We went out to the research site, 8 km north of town on the shore of the Bay, to see our work spaces (transport containers) placed. I took panoramic images of the site which I will try to attach to this blog. Internet service is slow and intermittent here, the low temperature (-32 C) seems to affect the satellite communications.

Pack Ice on the Hudson Bay


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