One week in the city of Pangnirtung

Published on 23.03.2007 - Global Warming 101 Expedition

The city of Pangnirtung (meaning 'the place of the male caribou' in Inuktitut, one of the four Inuit languages) is an old whaling resort. Today it is the second biggest city of the Nunavut independent territory in Canada. It is situated on the Baffin island, facing the Baffin sea and Greenland, above the Arctic polar circle and 300 km away from the territorial capital of Iqaluit. With 1350 inhabitants, it is mostly a fishing city.

It is in this city that Will Steger's Global Warming 101 expedition stopped for one week. The people were most welcoming, as described by Abby Fenton who takes care of the expedition's educational part along with Elizabeth André: "Rounding the last bend we were met by our first band of villagers, waving and shouting encouragement. Snowmobiles began to whiz out to greet us, slowing down as they passed to take pictures. Trucks filled with friendly faces drove out to meet us. It seemed like the entire town of Pangnirtung had come out to welcome us in. As we pulled in to the village a large group gathered on the ice. We were greeted with warm handshakes, hugs, and pats on the back by people of all ages. A small group of children gathered around our sled riding with us from the ice to the dog yard."

The two days spent over there were dedicated to visiting the city's principal authorities and associations.

Every time they met someone new, whether it be at the 'Community Center', the 'Center for Arts and Crafts', or a certain Jessieloosie Esshuglutak's 'Educational Center', conversations were geared around climate change; and, each time, the adventurers were able to realize the extent with which these changes had an impact on the Inuits' daily lives. The fishing industry is no longer what it used to be, the old roads the snowmobiles used to use are not passable anymore because the ice has frozen, etc. It is most surprising to learn that the Inuits have been worrying about these climate changes for much longer than us. As a matter of fact, they started noticing the impacts in their city a quarter of a century ago.

Arriving in Pangnirtung on March 10, the expedition left on Saturday March 17 to go north. They are now going to follow the east coast of Baffin island towards Brouhton Island, a promising nice trek.

On March 18 and 19, the trekkers had to stay under their tent for two days because a huge storm had hit the expedition with winds reaching over 150 km/H. Here is what Elizabeth André, the expedition's educational coordinator, wrote about it: «Yesterday there was no hope of sending out a text and photo dispatch. Winds were gusting up to 70 miles per hour. It was impossible to walk outside without being blown down the glare ice of the river. Our tents were shredding, cords breaking, tent poles snapping, and blowing sand and snow was finding its way into every nook and cranny. On my watch, the graph of the barometric pressure plummeted for twenty-seven straight hours, indicating a storm of great intensity.
We decided to not travel that day and focus our efforts on not blowing away. We were lucky that the temperatures were unseasonably warm-10 degrees Fahrenheit. If this had been a typically-cold Arctic storm, we could have had a much less pleasant experience."

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