Ulukhaktok, a village of 460 on the western coast of vast Victoria island, has probably the widest main street in all of Canada. Years ago it was the landing field of a much smaller place and one flew in between scattered houses on either side. Now the airport is several miles away and the town has grown.
On Saturday Crystal Serenity landed nearly 900 passengers by Zodiacs, the largest number ever to come ashore in Arctic Canada and indeed perhaps anywhere from an expedition ship. The cheerful local population, largely Inuit, greeted us with great enthusiasm and several dozen local volunteers helped show our guests around. Others ran demonstrations in the local arts and crafts centre—Holman has been famous for its prints for decades—or staffed tables in the school gym with local crafts for sale or ran similar tables in the community centre. I was in town from 6.30 am to 5.30 pm providing colour commentary, helping people around, and chatting with people as various as the local RCMP and a 7th Day Adventist preacher. It was tiring for all our staff off the ship but it all went very well; some guests hiked the nearby hills, others played on Canada’s most northerly golf course, others kayaked while a few even took helicopter rides.I had a chance to chat with Ken Burton, our VMM director, who was heading over to Cambridge Bay to join the One Ocean voyage the museum is co-sponsoring; he had a great trip over from Anchorage and left boots that will be hard to fill.
The VMM graphic exhibition “Across the Top of the World” occupies a large and conspicuous place on the walls outside one of the ship’s several night clubs and the VMM’s presence at the information table will ensure guests will continue to learn about us and our Arctic work.Sunday we are at sea but life is far from quiet; the trip’s success depends on careful organization and staff spent much of the morning planning the days ahead. Some gave talks on Inuit print making and on Arctic birds while others were on deck watching for wild life. Talks are well attended by around 300 guests and others watch simulcasts on their cabin tvs. Stay tuned Monday for an account of our trip to CamBay and the current state of Maud, Amundsen’s last ship that sank here in 1931 and that was investigated two decades ago by a team from the museum and the Underwater Archaeological Society of BC. She is now out of the water and getting ready for a long voyage to Norway on a barge.
Words by Hector Williams, photo by Ken BurtonMen's Tops