adventure

On to Cape Dorset, Nunavut

On to Cape Dorset

The great expanse between Iqaluit & Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague   www.christinemontague.com

The great expanse between Iqaluit & Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

In late May 2014, I travelled from my home in the Greater Toronto Area (pop. 8,000,000+) to the Canadian arctic. I flew first to Baffin Island in Nunavut, the largest and northernmost territory of Canada. I stayed overnight in Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, and had a good look at that city's public art (Read Brush with Beauty: Part Iand Brush with Beauty: Part 2.).   But my true destination was Cape Dorset, on Dorset Island, near the Foxe Peninsula and on the Hudson Strait.

Cape Dorset (map https://goo.gl/maps/Ycjoz) is an Inuit community of about 1300 people (our local high school has more people). The Inuktitut name for Cape Dorset is Kinngait (high mountain) as the hamlet sits by the magnificent Kinngait mountain range.

Cape Dorset is the self-proclaimed "capital of Inuit art" and home to the world-renowned Kinngait Studios, the oldest professional printmaking studios in Canada. It is the most artistic community in Canada with over one fifth of the population employed in the arts (printing and carving). Walk the streets, and it is guaranteed you will meet carvers, either at work in their yard, or on their way to Kinngait Studios to sell the work they've completed.

Reaching Cape Dorset

Cape Dorset, on Dorset Island, can only be reached by plane, or when the ice breaks up by ship.  The turbo-prop planes of Canada North Air and First Air make the daily flight in (there may have been a merger since I first wrote this?) . Below is a Google satellite view of the hamlet and runway. The narrow grey bar on the right is the small Cape Dorset runway.  To the left of the runway, are the few roads of Cape Dorset, about 4 kilometres worth.

The airplane will only take one try to approach the runway and will return to Iqaluit if unsuccessful.  This means sudden fog, snow, and winds blowing in the wrong direction (wouldn't be good to be pushed back into the sea!) can result in the return to Iqaluit.

The Infamous Green Sticker

As a newbie to travel in the north, I didn't know to look for the infamous green sticker on my boarding pass.  The green sticker, for that is exactly what it is,  indicates the airline is not responsible for any expenses occurred when, if turned back, one  waits for the next day's flight (or the next day's flight after that, or the next day's flight after that...).

Google satellite view of the runway in Cape Dorset.
Google satellite view of the runway in Cape Dorset.

On the late May morning I made the flight to Dorset, I and the other three passengers seated in the sun-filled plane, thought the very personable steward was joking when, as we began our descent to the Cape Dorset runway, he announced we were turning back. Ha, ha, ha...no, wait, you're serious?! 

A sudden snow squall below made landing risky.

The others on the plane, regular travellers to the north, wildly looked at their boarding passes and proclaimed gleefully "No green stickers!".  And with relief,  I saw there was no green sticker on my boarding pass either.

Back in Iqaluit, my good fortune held. The other airline had room for me on their flight that day, and to the relief of the young clerk who had originally assigned me my pass without the sticker, I happily declined the hotel and food vouchers.

How can you not love the north?!! It gets in your blood immediately. ©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-plane-blog-3

How can you not love the north?!! It gets in your blood immediately. ©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-plane-blog-3

Approaching Dorset Island. Photo: Christine Montague   www.christinemontague.com

Approaching Dorset Island. Photo: Christine Montague  www.christinemontague.com

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-landing-blog-3

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-landing-blog-3

Landing...  Photo Copyright ©Christine Montague 

Landing...  Photo Copyright ©Christine Montague 

Down! My first gravel runway. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Down! My first gravel runway. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

I like small planes and found landing at Dorset exciting. Like the roads, the runway is not paved, so the surface is rougher. And the wind pushes the plane. I have never been on a flight where the plane wagged (the only word I could think of) as it came to a stop. 

I am a big city girl who always flies out of Pearson International Airport. Pearson is Canada's largest airport, second only in activity to the JFK Airport in the USA.  In 2013, it handled over 36 million passengers. It  directly employs almost as many people who live in Cape Dorset and if you include all the other employees at the airport,  you have 40times Dorset's population). So, I found it a memorable and favourable experience to disembark a 20 seat plane, have my large luggage in hand, and be on the road to the hotel in about 5 minutes.

My first view of Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague

My first view of Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset

Cape Dorset Walk About

I shot the photos above about 6 p.m. shortly after I arrived in town. (FYI Nunavut uses EDT in the summer and EST in the winter). The skies were overcast, as they had been apparently for days before my arrival.

But when I stepped out the door early the next morning, the weather was glorious!  Since my itinerary was to consist mostly of me exploring and photographing the hamlet, alone and on foot, what more could I have asked?!

Approaching the road from the entrance of Dorset Suites. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Approaching the road from the entrance of Dorset Suites. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

So that first morning, glove and care free, and my Sony a7Rin hand (my iPhone 5S camera served as backup), I turned right at the road towards Kinngait Studios, and the water beyond. 

A Canadian Feast For the Soul - An Arctic Visit to Iqaluit & Cape Dorset

I had the sudden good fortune to travel to Canada's arctic in 2014.  From the Greater Toronto Area (GTA),  I flew first to Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital city on Baffin Island, and after a day's visit, was off to Cape Dorset, a hamlet just over an hour's flight away on Dorset Island. My learning curve about Inuit art and culture, the arctic landscape and environment, and how to travel in the north was steep (as was food and travel expenses), but oh, what a wonderful, worthwhile feast for the eyes and mind.

©Christine-Montague-Iqaluit-panorama

©Christine-Montague-Iqaluit-panorama

Iqaluit

One of the many art showcases in Iqaluit airport.
One of the many art showcases in Iqaluit airport.

With about 7,000 people, Iqaluit is Canada's least populated capital city. It is the only Canadian capital not connected to any other settlement by road.  Travel to Iqaluit is only possible by plane, or if ice conditions permit, by boat.

It is a new city, declared such in 2001 after quickly rising from its status as a settlement (1970),  village (1974), and town (1980).

Iqaluit serves as the gateway to all the Baffin region communities (such as Cape Dorset), as well as to Greenland, Yellowknife,  Northern Quebec, Montreal and Ottawa. So it is only natural, that art about the Inuit culture, history and Nunavut's wildlife is evident the moment one steps off the plane.  

And, yes, like any place that is building a tourism industry,  much of this panders to what tourists want, and expect to see - polar bears, inukshuks, and romanticized Inuit life. But, that doesn't mean it isn't a joy to see, which it was, it's just that I expected to find art representing modern-day life in the north as well (note: this may have changed in the past 3 years).  

Below, is just a sample of what I saw - all in my first hour of strolling through Iqaluit!

Polar on the exterior wall of new office building in Iqaluit, Nuanvut, Canada. ©Christine Montague 

Polar on the exterior wall of new office building in Iqaluit, Nuanvut, Canada. ©Christine Montague 

Iqaluit. Stone Park. Photo ©Christine Montague

Iqaluit. Stone Park. Photo ©Christine Montague

©Christine-Montague-Stone-park-iqaluit-caribou

©Christine-Montague-Stone-park-iqaluit-caribou

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-Iqaluit-pipes

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-Iqaluit-pipes

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-iqaluit-raven_edited-1

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-iqaluit-raven_edited-1

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-iqaluit-

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-iqaluit-

Me, looking self conscious, but spiffy in my newly gifted hat  (made by a textile artist  from Pangnirtung). In front of public sculpture. Created co-operatively by multiple carvers.
Me, looking self conscious, but spiffy in my newly gifted hat (made by a textile artist from Pangnirtung). In front of public sculpture. Created co-operatively by multiple carvers.
Polar bear cubs. Public sculpture. Iqaluit, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Polar bear cubs. Public sculpture. Iqaluit, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Public sculpture. Iqaluit, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Public sculpture. Iqaluit, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Bear and Chairs ourside Igluvut Building. Four corners of Iqaluit. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Bear and Chairs ourside Igluvut Building. Four corners of Iqaluit. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Vertical wood trim like runners of a komatik, the Inuit sled. © Christine Montague

Vertical wood trim like runners of a komatik, the Inuit sled. © Christine Montague

Sign outside the Nunavut government building ©Christine Montague

Sign outside the Nunavut government building ©Christine Montague

The People. The other side of the Nunavut Government sign. Photo: ©Christine Montague

The People. The other side of the Nunavut Government sign. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Nunavet Government Building. Stair railings shaped like kayaks. Perdago over entrance like komatik (sled) runners. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Nunavet Government Building. Stair railings shaped like kayaks. Perdago over entrance like komatik (sled) runners. Photo: ©Christine Montague

"No parking" sign in shape of polar bear. Photo: ©Christine Montague

"No parking" sign in shape of polar bear. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Nunavut Vistas: 10 Panoramic Cape Dorset Landscapes

Inspired by family members who loved working in the Canadian Arctic,  I jumped at the chance to visit the tiny hamlet of Cape Dorset, Nunavut when the opportunity arrived in late spring (May 2014). My trip wouldn't allow time for me to paint, but there was endless opportunity for me to use my camera (new at the time)  the very small, very light, but full frame Sony A7r with a 35mm Zeiss lens. This was also my first camera to have a panoramic feature. It was tempting to make every photo a panoramic one, such was the breadth of the landscape before me.

©Christine Montague photographs of Cape Dorset, Nunavut

©Christine Montague photographs of Cape Dorset, Nunavut

©Christine Montague Cape Dorset in the evening sunlight. 

©Christine Montague Cape Dorset in the evening sunlight. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-RCMP-pano

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-RCMP-pano

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-park-pano. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-park-pano. 

©christine-cape-cape-dorset-park-pano

©christine-cape-cape-dorset-park-pano

©Christine-Montague-rcmp-pano

©Christine-Montague-rcmp-pano

©Christine-Montague-Gazebo-outside-pano

©Christine-Montague-Gazebo-outside-pano

©Christine-Montague. Kinngait Studios, the famous print shop. Construction begins on the new cultural centre and studios the summer of 2017. 

©Christine-Montague. Kinngait Studios, the famous print shop. Construction begins on the new cultural centre and studios the summer of 2017. 

©Christine-Montague_Cape-Dorset-school-bus. Sadly, for the community, the red and blue high school seen on the left, burnt down. 

©Christine-Montague_Cape-Dorset-school-bus. Sadly, for the community, the red and blue high school seen on the left, burnt down. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-Black-Roads-white-water

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-Black-Roads-white-water