So the adventure keeps on rolling here on Baffin Island. I don’t know how exciting it is to read about us waiting around, but sometimes the best stories come when your schedule and plans go completely awry.
I’m sitting here writing this at Cape Hooper – where FOX 4, an old Distant Early Warning sight, was set up in the 60s. Now it is the sight of a massive, two year long clean-up operation. The workers stay in a little trailer camp off to the side of a pretty impressive runway (larger than some of the towns’ that I’ve been through recently).
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/61394102 – For a picture!
Why we are here is the fun part though. After sitting in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut from Friday through Monday, we were finally called in from the BBC crew out at the ice island. They had managed to store a fuel cache for us on the ice, so that when we got there we would be able to refuel the helicopter. This was pretty important because the distance from Qikiqtarjuaq to the ice was pretty much the exact limit of the helicopters range on one tank of gas and 4 jerry cans that we have stored away for back up. The nearest community to the iceberg, Clyde River, has issued a warning that they were not releasing fuel to anyone. So it was iceberg or bust!
The bummer was that we had sat out some beauty days in Qikiqtarjuaq. Perfect for flying and perfect for work on the ice. Best not to think of what might have been though…(but hard not to!).
Anyways, it was all systems go on Wednesday. The weather in town was great, so we took off and the ride up the coast of Baffin Island is once again, amazing. Breathtaking, incredible, majestic…throw in any beauty and impressing adjective you want.
About an hour into our two hour trip, we got a satellite phone call from our BBC logistics contact in the UK. We were startled, to say the least, a piece of the ice island had broken away from the main part of the berg, and even more astounded to learn that it was where the fuel had been cached and they had planned for us to land! Apparently, the ship had been moored alongside at the time as well and had to slip its ropes in a good hurry. I have heard other stories since, but in the long run, a 3 mile fracture resulted and then completely separated from the main iceberg and is now freely floating in the sea (away from everything else which is still grounded). To say the least, Mike (pilot) and I are extremely relieved that we weren’t just touching down when all of the excitement began!
After stopping at the same camp where we are now (again), we continued back to Qikiqtarjuaq for the night. We’re a little bit of a joke (harmless I believe) to the rest of the guests (or the 1 guest and the manager) of the little Qik hotel. Every night was supposed to be our last, so the return after actually flying away was a bit much. I did have my own welcoming crew at the airport though – my gaggle of four Bieber fashion girls came running up the road and walked me to the hotel. After whatever disappointment you went through that day, those girls would surely cheer you up.
Where are we? That was Monday. So on to Tuesday. We were up pretty early because the ship crew had been able to get some more fuel on the ice Monday night and we thought we would have another shot. I’d say it was at the crack of dawn, but that isn’t too much after dusk here. Flying by 7:30 and we were again cruising down the stunning coast line, spirits high. Almost exactly where we received our rerouting phone call the day before, we hit just a wall of weather. Fog, cloud, rain – whatever could form in the sky ahead, did. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle of the arctic or something. So it was another trip back to Cape Hooper to try and wait it out. As we still had a full day ahead of us, we were hopeful that the weather would clear and we’d still be able to make our way north. Of course things just don’t always go as you plan up here (maybe I should’ve learned that already, but you got to keep hoping). So it is now Wednesday evening and we still haven’t left Cape Hooper/Fox 4! These guys are super nice to let us bunk up and eat all of their delicious food (I’m going to come home and need a few long runs after this!). They are having their own issues – the planes that were supposed to bring in more food haven’t been able to land because of the same weather, so they are on their last full meal tonight the cook tells me. Maybe Mike and I will be cracking open our little survival kit tomorrow night and chowing down on some Hershey’s. Could be worse – if this camp wasn’t here we’d be on some random island. This is much more comfortable and warm, and safe! They have 8 polar bear monitors in a camp of 45 people! I have yet to see one, but apparently there was a good 12 foot one at the end of my bunk trailer last night…As long as it stays down at the other end, I’m cool.
One of the locals from the closest town (150 k away…) taught us some fun polar bear lessons today. Apparently, if you ask to see a polar bear – you’ll get what you ask for. And if you are staring at one and it starts stretching its front limbs and shoulders, it’s just limbering up – so watch out. They’ll also leave you alone if you’re the black sheep of your family. Which I don’t think I am, but hopefully I’m not the baby either.
We’re all wondering a bit, what’s next. Every time I see someone in camp that I haven’t seen for 2 hours, the question is, “You’re still here?”. It’s up to the fog, whenever it lifts, we’ll go. We have only enough fuel to either get us to the iceberg or back to Qikiqtarjuaq. So no iffy attempts. We did try once to get out yesterday afternoon – we were going to island hop underneath the cloud ceiling (of 300 feet), but after getting around the next island south, there was complete opaque fog and nothing to see. So that was our only ‘playing around’ fuel, now it is only definite flights!
It looks like tonight is another night at Fox 4! Thankfully I have a good friend in this pilot, or else I think we would both be going a bit mad by this point! And tomorrow is another day – I do wish that it would bring some blue skies!