A wonderful day…start to finish

L-R: Marvin, David, Jacob, Richard and Sam and children enjoying a very social evening. ©Arctic Return


David and Richard calling in. 

Thought we should catch up on our very eventful days. It’s hard sometimes to keep track of which day, or what has happened (and when?) after such a long journey, but we think we’re now straightened away and happy to share our report from Gjoa Haven.

We chose to spend what turned out to be three days, in all, at Point de la Guiche. It was personally important for us and from our expedition’s point of view, to give this location (at the end of a long journey) it’s just due, and to pay it the proper respect, considering it’s tremendous significance in the annals of Arctic history and the story of John Rae.

The time spent here at Point de la Guiche has allowed Richard and I, to not only forge a meaningful relationship with this spot, but also, we’ve come away with even greater understanding and appreciation of what happened here 165 years ago.

In 1854, having completed his work at Point de la Guiche, Rae and his companions turned around and went back to Naujaat; where his and our journeys both began. That we would instead reach out to Gjoa Haven at the end of the Arctic Return expedition, to head home from there instead, was a logistical decision made, as the option of returning to Naujaat, the way we had come, was not one available to us. So, instead, now having successfully concluded the skiing expedition part of the Arctic Return project, at this historic place, we organized for several Inuit from Gjoa Haven to come and collect us.

We were all packed first thing this morning and around 11:30am, Jacob, Marvin and Leeroy, arrived from the community on two snowmobiles with ‘qamutiit’ (two qamutiks) in tow. It was absolutely wonderful to see them. They were very friendly and happy to make the trip here to come and get us.

In very short order, they too had set their tent up. It wasn’t long at all when, to our delight, 76 year-old Jacob, a most remarkable man, brought out the bannock he had taken the time to bake for us, before leaving his own house this very morning.

So it was, that with bannock, strawberry jam, tea and coffee served up quickly, we just sat back and relaxed to spend the better part of an hour or more, just talking. Jacob had also brought along a leg of raw caribou. He took great delight in cutting pieces off from it to then hand them around to everyone inside the tent. Richard and I, greatly rejuvenated by the sheer warmth of their friendship and all the good food, could not have asked for a finer conclusion to our time here at Point de la Guiche. (It was also very nice to be able to actually stand up in a tent, for the first time in what had now, unbelievably, been over a month).

Though I think we could well have easily stayed several more days quite happily living this way with our new friends at Point de la Guiche, the time did come (all-too-soon), to load our gear, sleds and ourselves, for the trip to their community.

Richard and I, very happy, and with bellies pleasantly full, jumped into the qamutiit boxes for the three and one half hour ride from Point de la Guiche, across the sea-ice of Rae Strait to Gjoa Haven. We arrived around 5pm. Everyone we met was very friendly; some waving, others stopping to say hello, or ask our names. What was really great was that just about everyone in the community knew about our journey in some way.

Jacob, and his son Marvin, keep a fishing shack on the ice. They generously offered it to us for the night. That way we wouldn’t have to put the tent up again.  This was a very kind offer. One Richard and I were quick to take up.

Sleeping plans sorted, Richard and I then made for the nearest Quick Stop, to replenish our coffee supply.  FULL DISCLOSURE: we then stopped off for a Cheeseburger and Fries. I devoured mine, instantly. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten, a Cheeseburger and Fries, so quickly in my life. Richard, uncharacteristically, I should add, and for the first time ever, took a couple seconds more eating his, than I had…’trying to savour it,’ was the word. Huh!

Perhaps a little sluggish right after that, we went for brief walkabout in town to take it in, talk to more people and enjoy the active, but quiet, mellow ambiance that is so common to Inuit hamlets in Canada’s Arctic.

Before our first day back to civilization was ended, Richard and I spent a most wonderful evening at Jacob’s and Marvin’s house; just sitting and talking. It was as if we had known each other for years. We talked about all manner of things: hunting, qamutiit,  life in general, and drank a lot of tea and ate more of his terrific bannock. We were spoiled.

What a wonderful privilege for us to to have spent this time with these two men, not only out on the land, but also in their homes; to chat and laugh in their good company and enjoy the steady stream of comings and goings of children, relatives and friends— a very social evening, to be sure. It was also a privilege.  Richard and I cannot but wholeheartedly thank them for their genuinely warm friendship and hospitality.

Yes, that was our Tuesday, April 30th…just a wonderful day from start to finish. The weather remains relatively cold, but calm and sunny. A fitting end to a successful expedition.

No better day could have been had!