2022: The year I met Ollie the Muskox

You could say 2022 was a year with highs and lows. It included a car crash, allergic reactions, a lot of remote work, terrific hikes, reunions with friends, some interesting stories and a memorable spring visit to Cambridge Bay, with its bright sun and endless views that included encounters with Ollie the Muskox.

I felt like a migratory bird heading to the Arctic: I just had to go.

Walking around Cambridge Bay: the historical park & town all, road with a view to Mt. Pelly in the the background, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) and a bunting catching some rays. (Photos by Jane George)

And so, I was happy: for a couple of days during the annual Umingmak Frolics, held every spring in Cambridge Bay, I was able to be out on the ice outside town and watch snowmobile races.

People in Cambridge Bay came out in beautiful heavy parkas to watch the Frolics snowmobile races. Temp was maybe -25 C. (Photos by Jane George)

There was even a canteen and BBQ set up on the ice. You can see Cambridge Bay in the background. Walking out to the races even required some skill because it was easy to fall.

Check out the colour of ice, still thick enough to hold vehicles. (Photo by Jane George)

I had always wanted to be in this western Nunavut community for the Umingmak Frolics, named after the muskox which can be plentiful on Victoria Island.

The muskox made of recycled iron by the Red Fish Studio, along with some of the items at a sale (Photos by Jane George)

Although I had written about the Umingmak Frolics for years, going there was never deemed newsworthy enough to travel across Nunavut to attend and meet Ollie, the muskox festival mascot, myself.

Ollie poses with some of his many fans. (Photo by Jane George)

But, after I first decided I would go to the Umingmak Frolics, I had challenges to overcome. Without the backing of a steady employer, for the first time in 30 years, covering flight expenses was daunting. But thanks to a buddy pass on Canadian North from a friend and cashing in some points of my own I was able to fly from Montreal to Cambridge Bay via Iqaluit and Yellowknife. Friends put me up along the way.

In Iqaluit, I was able to take some long walks & visit friends. (Photo by Jane George)

I also picked up from some work from CBC North, which was great. You can read some of the stories I did then and later in 2022 here.

While the Frolics may not have had a heavy news content, I ended up being in Cambridge Bay to cover the fire of the community’s youth centre.

The youth centre burns down on Victoria Day….(Photo by Jane George)

Being so used to working over so many years while in Cambridge Bay, it seemed comfortable to be back in that routine again.

But even while I worked, I managed to visit with friends (which was one of the main reasons that I wanted to come.) These friends include Eva Kakolak and her two blind sons Ashlee and Anthony, whom I have known for years. Ashlee, on the right, played some music for me when I stopped by.

And then it was back to island life in my home base in southern Quebec from which I ended up working remotely for CBC until the end of September.

Siku girl takes a quick photo look-back to 2021

2021 is already three and a half months in the past but it’s taken me that long to process the year: personally, the past year brought big changes, the departure from my long-time job at Nunatsiaq News to a new role during the fall at CBC North. Not to overlook the August death of friend and former boss Jim Bell to cancer.

That being said I want to share some photos which capture some important landmarks.

First let’s talk a bit about Iqaluit’s water crisis, which isn’t over yet.

On Oct. 12 I looked out my window at CBC North’s office in Iqaluit and photographed people going in and out of the Arctic Ventures store to get water. A few minutes before we had received a city order not to consume any water from the tap. I took the photos at the top because somewhere in my head I was thinking the water situation could develop into a crisis, like any aircraft which makes an unannounced landing in Iqaluit. Soon we were getting water deliveries in bulk and bottles or from the river.

Within 10 days of the start of the water crisis, I started to develop a severe, now chronic, allergic response to over-chlorination (probably) that continues today and leaves me on heavy antihistamines and possible more treatment to come. I am sure others in Iqaluit have similarly suffered, as complaints about rashes surface on social media. I’ll look forward to learning more about the health impacts of the water on people like me.

Meanwhile there were meetings and a federal election to get through during the fall of 2021, along with cooler weather and shorter days.

So far I have been obliged to spend 2022 out of the North while I try to heal from the water’s impact and elude COVID.

Keep you posted on my next steps.