North winds prevent Art from flying

Published on 18.04.2011 - Polar Flight 90

Map flight of the Polar Pumpkin

Map flight of the Polar Pumpkin

© Art Mortvedt / IPF

On 10 April, Art Mortvedt had the chance to have a good weather window to take his Polar Pumpkin from Inuvik to Ulukhaktok (see our map). But since then bad weather has forced him to stay on the ground...

This does not mean that Art is getting bored because he has to wait for the winds to calm down. First, he has to go to the airport every day to check his Cessna - the way it is attached to the ground,organizing gear, defueling tasks, warming a quart of oil that he expects to add before he takes off for the next flight, Here is what Art writes on wednesday 13 April : " ... First Air and Aklak Air both arrived with commercial flights while I was at the airport; so it was - for a while - a busy hub of activity. In these colder temperatures - as I go north - it's been a challenge to keep the Pumpkin's oil temperature as warm as I'd like it - approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit. So also today - in quite a brutal wind chill - I shortened the cowl flap linkage on the airplane; such that I will hopefully keep more heat inside the cowling, and with the engine. Every so often I had to go inside the terminal building to warm the fingertips, and other appendages...."

More strong northerly winds

About the weather forecasts, Art has a cold analyse of the situation : "...More strong northerly winds between Ulukhaktok and Resolute Bay - so no flying for me again today. Two problems: first, there are a series of low pressure systems off the west coast of Greenland, and a large high pressure system off the west coast of the Canadian Archipelago. Circulation around a high is clockwise; and circulation around a low is counter clockwise. The boundary where these pressure systems meet - called the "pressure gradient" - happens to be right across my course to Resolute Bay. Winds gusting to 35 knots, with turbulence, were forecast. The second problem is that I must burn 100LL AvGas - and no substitutes. There is little or no AvGas available here in Ulukhaktok; so I must make it to Resolute Bay with the fuel that I put on in Inuvik. Therefore, I must not encounter a significant headwind enroute; or I'll be out "camping in the hinterland", wondering just who might be so kind to bring me a few drops of AvGas."

So, with philosophy, Art is playing the tourist in Ulukhaktokt, meeting people, listening to old hunter stories and walking around. On 12 April, he has even been invited to a workshop  entitled "Ulukhaktok Food Security Adaptation - Climate Change Impacts on Inuit Food Security in the ISR (Inuvialuit Settlement Region)".

The workshop was planned for 3 arctic communities in this region; and that day was presented by Dr. Vasiliki Douglas, with the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. Besides the workshop, a nice meal was served. Art had hoped to try polar bear, musk ox, whale, or seal soup; but no such luck.

Climate change and global warming are debated topics

Approximately 20 persons - including many elders - were in attendance. Much of interest was discussed, including many issues of equal concern by folks in the "farther west" arctic where Art lives. Climate change/global warming are topics that will likely be hotly debated for the foreseeable future. Scientists, and others - across the world - are trying to get a handle on specific climate change data, which can be used to understand the change, and to make reasonable responses. It was mentioned that last April at this time, the bay in front of Ulukhaktok was nearly ice free. This year the bay is solid ice; and there is no evidence of melting whatsoever. So . . . what's really going on?... This year - with the bay fully frozen over - polar bear hunting was far better than usual. This year, so far, the community has harvested 18 polar bears. The general consensus among some hunters was that the polar bear population in the region is healthy, and/or growing. ...

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