Sunday, 8 June 2014

Impressions of Iqaluit

Emma Micalizzi

View of part of the town from a hill behind the hospital.
When I arrived in Iqaluit, my first impressions were that it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be.  And for the first several days we were lulled into a false sense of security.  With the warm weather, I wore fewer and fewer layers until a day with gusts of wind up to 80 km an hour, followed by snow and freezing rain in the next several days, reminded me that we are still in the arctic.  The city of Iqaluit is sort of like the weather: it can be nice if you stand the right way.  The town is full of colourful, brightly painted houses sitting atop the frozen Frobisher Bay, with rolling, snowy blue hills in the distance.  But the dump is on fire and the noxious smoke seems to follow us wherever we go.  The city is also littered with garbage.  Walking to the field sites, we pass old couches, mattresses, broken down cars, coffee cups, dirty diapers, and pop cans.  Fortunately, there is a town clean-up next weekend that should help to get rid of some of the garbage (but hopefully not our plant tags!).

If you stop to look closely at any spot in the tundra, chances are that plants are growing there.  What looks like an infinite area of vast, empty space is actually full of life.  The plants here seem to ignore any bad weather and many species are already flowering, but at the cost of having the occasional coat of freezing rain.  The animals are also busy despite the weather. We’ve seen lemmings, bumblebees, and several birds. Zoe points out whenever we see a Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, or Wheatear, and I am learning that there are really very few songbirds here.  I am most fascinated by the ravens up here, however, which seem to have developed a complex vocabulary full of many distinct noises that sound unlike  anything I’ve ever heard before.
A perseverant snow buttercup (Ranunculus nivalis).
A willow (Salix sp.) catkin before and after being hit with freezing rain

I am enjoying the experience of being in Iqaluit, and I look forward to when the brown hills of the tundra become green and flowered.  Some of the views along the hikes to and within the sites are stunning - I am having a hard time believing that this is my summer job when it’s not far off from what I would be doing for fun.  I look forward to watching the plants green up, flower, and set fruit and I look forward to seeing what Iqaluit has to offer this summer.

The view along my "commute" - taken from Apex Trail

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