Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Moonlit Grise Fiord

Grise Fiord lies along a beach and is enclosed on the
landward side by steep rocky mountains
I’m halfway through the week in Grise Fiord and the stone tool making workshop has been going great. Grise Fiord is Canada’s northernmost community, with a population of about 114 people living on the steep south coast of Ellesmere Island. I’ve met the one nurse in town, the two RCMP officers, and the 30 students enrolled at Umimmak School. Its dark and beautiful here.

Grise Fiord.  I'm staying in the big white building on the left.
The sun rose and set for the last time several weeks ago and is now so low below the horizon that even at mid-day it is still dark enough to star gaze while having your lunch. The moon has been full since I arrived and the light from the moon combined with clear skies mean that moonrise to moonset are the bright times of the day. The community still runs on a regular 9 to 5 schedule, but when the cycle of day and night or light and darkness don’t sync with the clock on the wall, it can be a disorienting experience. I don’t find myself particularly tired, but I do feel like I could sleep at anytime during the day or night. The sun won’t rise here again until February. In the workshops, I’m talking to the students about the Independence I people who lived 800 km north of here in Quttinirpaaq National Park up to 4500 years ago. It’s numbing to think about their lives, living in musk ox skin tents with their families through an even longer and darker winter. With sunlight removed from the equation and without contact with the outside world, it’s easy to imagine spending the winter sleeping, conserving energy and following the cycle of the moon for your light and brief waking periods.

I took this shot of the south end of town on Monday night to catch the snow blowing over the mountain top.

The town is built along the shore edge, so a turbulent ridge of sea ice forms along the beach between the community at the flat expanse of the fiord.

This new building is the new Hamlet office and community centre.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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