The seven natural wonders of the Arctic world

The ancient Greeks had their list of the seven wonders of the world: This one is is entirely my own subjective list of the seven natural wonders of the Arctic, because I haven’t seen everything in the circumpolar world.

But I challenge readers of a Date with Siku Girl to suggest other places that belong on the following list:

1) The Fossil Forest on Nunavut’s Axel Heiberg Island: the Geodetic Hills are pinkish and rounded, streaked with darker lines that mark the remnants of forests that grew 45 million years ago. A tall, lush forest flourished there when the average mean temperature on Axel Heiberg ranged from seven to 15 Celsius. Worried about life? Climate change? You can contemplate eternity here while you look at those ancient stumps.

An ancient stump on the Geodetic Hills of Axel Heiberg. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

An ancient stump on the Geodetic Hills of Axel Heiberg. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

2) Northern Ellesmere Island in Nunavut’s High Arctic: best to visit this beautiful place in the summer, when you can see something. Then the hills come alive with wildflowers, but maybe only for a couple of weeks or perhaps a few days. There is a valley north of Carl Ritter Bay that I would like to return to some July to once again see this view extend before me.

This valley in northern Ellesmere is the most beautiful place I ever see. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

This valley in northern Ellesmere is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

3) Sunset over Mt. Pelly near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut: from every angle, and particularly at sunset, when it catches the last rays, this flat 200-metre-high esker looks great.  And its an esker with a backstory: Inuit lore says Ovayuk and two smaller hills are a family of starving giants who were crossing Victoria Island looking for food. The father, Ovayok, died first. His bladder burst, creating the lakes left below.

You can see Mt. Belly at sunset behind the town of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

You can see Mt. Pelly at sunset behind the town of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

4) Northern Norway’s fiords: why take a cruise? Drive: A surprise awaits you around every twist in the road as you travel from Kirkenes south to Tromsø. It’s hard to focus on the road because the scenery — mountains, fiords, fields, sheep and reindeer — is so awesome. Luckily, there are lots of places to stop, including the World Heritage Site for the Alta rock drawings and the Riddu Riddu indigenous arts festival north of Tromsø. So there’s no hurry at all.

Mountains, fields and fiords, all above the Arctic Circle. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Mountains, fields and fiords, all above the Arctic Circle. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

5) Finnish lakes at sidsummer: Okay I’m biased because the Finnish language and summer in Finland is part of my life, but there’s nothing more heart-warming to me than to see the sun dipping down and staying on the horizon for hours, while the sunlight seems to make everything glow. I just want to stay there forever.

Midsummer in Finland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Midsummer in Finland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

6) Iceland’s geysers and algae balls: take your pick, they’re both wonderful in a weird way.

I hold a jar with an algae ball from Myvatn, Iceland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

I hold a jar with an algae ball from Myvatn in northern Iceland during a 2003 visit. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The “lake balls,” the strange, ball-shaped algae called “kúluskítur,” or “balls of shit” in Icelandic, or “Cladophora aegagropila” in Latin, only exist in two lakes: Lake Akan on Hokkaido Island in Japan, and Myvatn, which I visited on a Canadian state visit to Iceland in 2003.

Geyser, Iceland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Geyser, Iceland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The geysers seemed to be everywhere, and, during later trips to Iceland, I grew to love their smaller, less explosive relatives, hot springs that keep swimming pools steaming.

7) Pangnirtung, Nunavut: this fiord can’t look bad in any light… and it’s as beautiful now as it was in 1993 when I took this photo.

A snowmobile heads out over the sea ice in Pangnirtung's fiord in May 1993. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

A snowmobile heads out over the sea ice in Pangnirtung’s fiord in May 1993. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

(And there are other sights worthy of mention which I have seen, such as Nuuk, Greenland‘s Sermitsiaq mountain or

Sermitsiaq mountain, a landmark in Nuuk. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Sermitsiaq mountain, a landmark in Nuuk. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Nunavik’s plateaus in spring or fall when there are no mosquitoes or

Koksoak river near Kuujjuaq in early June. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Koksoak river near Kuujjuaq in early June. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

 

the flowers of Nunavut’s Bathurst Inlet in July or

A carpet of flowers covers the land around Bathurst Inlet in July. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

A carpet of flowers covers the land around Bathurst Inlet in July. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

the floe edge in north Baffin or

At the floe edge, ice churns constantly. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

At the floe edge, ice churns constantly. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

the hoodoos of Bylot island.

In the valley of the hoodoos on Bylot Island, 1996. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

In the valley of the hoodoos on Bylot Island, 1996. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

As well, there are places I have not seen that I am sure would rival these sights, such as Little Diomede off Alaska or lush southern Greenland in the summer.

Have you read my “Like an iceberg” series? Check them out here:

Like an iceberg: on being a journalist in the Arctic

Like an iceberg, 1991…cont.

Like an iceberg, 1991…more

Like an iceberg, 1992, “Shots in the dark” 

Like an iceberg, 1992, “Sad stories”

Like an iceberg, 1993, “Learning the language of the snows”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., “Spring”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., “Chesterfield Inlet”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., more “Chesterfield Inlet”

Like an iceberg, 1994: “Seals and more”

Like an iceberg, 1994, cont., “No news is good news”

Like an iceberg, 1994 cont., more “No news is good news”

Like an iceberg, 1994 cont., “A place with four names”

Like an iceberg, 1995, “More sad stories”

Like an iceberg, 1995 cont., “No place like Nome”

Like an iceberg, 1995 cont., “Greenland”

Like an iceberg, 1995, cont. “Secrets”

Like an iceberg, 1996, “Hard Lessons”

Like an iceberg, 1996 cont., “Working together”

Like an iceberg, 1996 cont., “At the edge of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1996, more “At the edge of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1996, cont. “Choices” 

Like an iceberg, 1997, “Qaggiq”

Like an iceberg, 1997, more “Qaggiq”

Like an iceberg, 1997, “Qaggiq” cont.

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Qaggiq and hockey”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Brain surgery in POV”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont.: “Masks on an island”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Abusers on the pulpit”

Like an iceberg, 1998, “Bearing gifts”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “At the top of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “A bad week” 

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont.: more from “A bad week”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “Memories”

Like an iceberg, 1999, “The avalanche”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “An exorcism, followed by a penis cutting”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., more on “the Avalanche”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Robins in the Arctic”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Fossil hunting”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Where forests grew” 

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont.,”And then there was Nunavut”

Like an iceberg … the end

 

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A memorable junket, Part IV: my 2003 journey with the GG

As the days went on, some delegates on Governor General Adrienne Clarkson’s 2003 state visit to Finland and Iceland, started to worry about their weight. Not me: I ate little, drank nothing and concentrated on collecting a stash of the organic chocolate bars that were handed around the airplane after meals so I could take these home as gifts.

Polar Gambit, published Oct. 27, 2003 in Maclean's

Polar Gambit, published Oct. 27, 2003 in Maclean’s

I patched up things with Sheila Watt-Cloutier, then the president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (now Council), who was worried I’d somehow portray the presence of Inuit on the trip badly in my stories.

But because I was the only journalist on board, my presence also sparked a perceptible unease amongst Canada’s royal envoys — with John Ralston Saul, Clarkson’s husband, coming back to chat me up on the airplane, to quietly sound me out on how I had found the state visit.

While I toiled to finish my Maclean’s piece (due while I was in Iceland) and to meet my relentless Nunatsiaq News deadlines, I managed to fend off all other pressures — after all, I had experienced much worse in Nunavik.

But I also missed out on many opportunities during the state visit: for example, a lunch in Iceland where my table companions included noted photographer Ed Burtynsky and author Jane Urquhart. However, instead of talking to them about his art or her writing, we were obliged to make small talk with the other person at the table, the local mayor’s wife.

I attended only one or two of the many concerts or art exhibits which were included on the agenda as I tried to meet my deadlines.

And, much to my regret now, I don’t even remember meeting author and fellow delegate Wayne Johnston, whose books I continue to read.

However, while travelling on the airplane from point A to B, I did talk to the wild salmon marketers from B.C., Ontario wine producers and an architect from Toronto. Most of them weren’t even sure why they were asked to be on the trip.

And I also passed the time with many of the academics who had with an interest in the North, among them, François Trudel from Université Laval, Peter Johnson, then chair of the Polar Commission, and Shelagh Grant, author of many northern histories.

However, in my professional coverage of the trip, I managed to leave out its many high points for me (as a person, not a journalist) — which I still recall today:

  • talking on many occasions with Gen. Romeo Dallaire and his wife, Elizabeth Dallaire, (who were on the Finnish portion of the junket) about his experiences in Rwanda and post-traumatic stress;
  • returning to Helsinki again in the autumn, where the damp smell of wet yellow birch leaves reminded me of studying in Helsinki;
  • privately interviewing Finnish president Tarja Halonen and visiting the palace, which I used to walk by every day where I lived in Katajanokka;
  • catching a glimpse a Saami friend from Tromsø, Norway in Rovaniemi, Finland, from our bus (hei, Marit!) and talking briefly to her;
  • taking in the site of Iceland’s first parliament,Thingvelir, with its towering natural forum of rock; and, last, but not least,

    Governor General Adrienne Clarkson holds an algae bar near Lake Myvatn, Iceland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

    Governor General Adrienne Clarkson holds an algae bar near Lake Myvatn, Iceland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

  • stopping in Myvatn in northern Iceland where I held an algae ball (priceless) and also encouraged Clarkson to do the same.

You might wonder why a glass jar with a silly algae ball somehow still sums up that 2003 state visit for me.

But you just had to love those “lake balls,” the strange, ball-shaped algae called “kúluskítur,” or “balls of shit” in Icelandic, or “Cladophora aegagropila” in Latin, which only exist in two lakes in the world: Lake Akan on Hokkaido Island in Japan, and in Myvatn.

Seeing those algae balls made up for all the frustrations and fatigue of the 2003 junket and made me smile— who could ask for more?

I hold a jar with an algae ball from Myvatn, Iceland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

I hold a jar with an algae ball from Lake Myvatn, Iceland. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

You can read earlier instalments of A memorable junket here:

Remembering a memorable junket: Siku girl’s 2003 travels with the GG

Remembering a memorable junket, Part II: Siku girl’s 2003 travels with the GG

Remembering a memorable junket, Part III: Siku girl travels with the GG in 2003

Did you miss A Date with Siku girl’s Like an iceberg? You can read it all here:

Like an iceberg: on being a journalist in the Arctic

Like an iceberg, 1991…cont.

Like an iceberg, 1991…more

Like an iceberg, 1992, “Shots in the dark” 

Like an iceberg, 1992, “Sad stories”

Like an iceberg, 1993, “Learning the language of the snows”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., “Spring”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., “Chesterfield Inlet”

Like an iceberg, 1993 cont., more “Chesterfield Inlet”

Like an iceberg, 1994: “Seals and more”

Like an iceberg, 1994, cont., “No news is good news”

Like an iceberg, 1994 cont., more “No news is good news”

Like an iceberg, 1994 cont., “A place with four names”

Like an iceberg, 1995, “More sad stories”

Like an iceberg, 1995 cont., “No place like Nome”

Like an iceberg, 1995 cont., “Greenland”

Like an iceberg, 1995, cont. “Secrets”

Like an iceberg, 1996, “Hard Lessons”

Like an iceberg, 1996 cont., “Working together”

Like an iceberg, 1996 cont., “At the edge of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1996, more “At the edge of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1996, cont. “Choices” 

Like an iceberg, 1997, “Qaggiq”

Like an iceberg, 1997, more “Qaggiq”

Like an iceberg, 1997, “Qaggiq” cont.

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Qaggiq and hockey”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Brain surgery in POV”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont.: “Masks on an island”

Like an iceberg, 1997 cont., “Abusers on the pulpit”

Like an iceberg, 1998, “Bearing gifts”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “At the top of the world”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “A bad week” 

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont.: more from “A bad week”

Like an iceberg, 1998 cont., “Memories”

Like an iceberg, 1999, “The avalanche”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “An exorcism, followed by a penis cutting”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., more on “the Avalanche”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Robins in the Arctic”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Fossil hunting”

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont., “Where forests grew” 

Like an iceberg, 1999 cont.,”And then there was Nunavut”

Like an iceberg … the end