Saturday, 17 March 2018

Iqaluit in March: Experiencing an Arctic Winter

Visiting Iqaluit for the IAFS was like a home coming and a new experience rolled into one. A home coming because I had spent so much time in and around Iqaluit in 2013 and 2014 conducting my PhD field work. I even stayed in the Nunavut Arctic College's Q units during the IAFS as I had in my previous stays in Iqaluit. A new experience because I have never experienced an Arctic winter before. We actually lucked out with the weather with beautiful sunny, windless blue-sky days a little warmer than might be typical but days still no warmer than about -15C and dropping below -20C at night. The Arctic winter I experienced was no colder than a cold, sunny, winter day in Ottawa

Iqaluit in winter from the breakwater (left) and Frobisher Bay from behind the visitors centre (right)
both pictures show extensive rough ice where the tides heave up the sea ice close to shore.

The city of Iqaluit has both stayed the same and changed. All the old buildings and institutions are still there but some new buildings have been added. The new airport building has now opened, replacing the old “yellow submarine”. There are some new small low rise colourful apartment buildings in the centre replacing open spaces. The empty field with inuksuks next to the Nunavut Arctic College is in the process of being transformed into a huge expansion of the college.

Iqaluit's new airport building (top left) that recently replaced the old "yellow submarine" (top right).
Iqaluit's new colourful downtown buildings (middle). The igloo shaped building is Iqaluit's cathedral.
The new Nunavut Arctic College building under construction (bottom left) and the field of Inuksuk's
in 2013 (bottom right) where the building is now being constructed.

There is a beautiful new, bright fitness centre with swimming pool and gym. I was super excited to get the opportunity to swim in the new pool because when I was in Iqaluit last time it was nothing more than pylon supports for the building. The Iqaluit Director of Recreation, Amy Elgersma, was at Lake Hazen for a couple of weeks in 2014 so I had heard many stories and challenges of building a swimming pool in the Arctic.

Iqaluit's new aquatic centre with swimming pool and gym. The pool is upstairs, I suspect to minimise the impact to the permafrost, the colourful windows (left) allow in lots of natural light. There is a six lane 25m pool and a kiddies
pool with water slide (right). The whole building is suspended off the ground on pylons to allow air circulation
underneath and help keep the permafrost cold.

There was not much more snow this time in March 2018 than when I arrived at the end of May 2013 (a very snowy year) but the snow we encountered at the start of March this time was hard packed wind slab that we could walk on without sinking in compared to the soft snow that was hard to travel over that I encountered in May in previous years. As this was my first visit to the Arctic in the winter, it was interesting to compare my summer photos from 2013 and 2014 with my winter photos from 2018.
Iqaluit in summer and winter: Apex beach with the boat we use to shelter in out of the wind for lunch while conducting field work near Apex in 2013 and 2014 (top). Hudson Bay Company building at Apex (middle). Sylvia Grinnell River from the pavillion in Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park (bottom).

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