My best Arctic trips, Part 2

So, there I was, driving and driving, more than 1,000 kilometres, watching out for reindeer as I took the long road north. I was in a strange state of mind during that summer of 2006.

I was grieving and was happiest alone when I could feel happy or sad or nothing at all. So my road trip to the Arctic Ocean off the top of Norway was a perfect voyage of recovery.

I arrived in Kirkenes to stay at this hotel which my friend had reserved for me. The room was small and dark and I was happy to have a window to open.

In Canada’s eastern Arctic, I couldn’t have driven to a place like Kirkenes, Norway, and even today that wouldn’t be possible due to the lack of roads. But Kirkenes, with a population of about 3,600, was then—and is now—a town built and maintained by transportation.

See the Russian sign on my hotel? One in 10 people in Kirkenes were Russian, I learned. That, too, was due to from transportation.

And the Russians also came to spend millions of dollars on shopping sprees in Kirkenes, while Norwegians travelled to Russia, where they shopped for cheaper gas, booze and food, and received better medical care than at home.

Up to 800 Russian fishing vessels also visited the port in the centre of town every year. Sailors poured out into the streets, which mostly had Russian names.

Coastal ferry boats also brought passengers up from southern Norway to Kirkenes, and they came up on bargain flights from Oslo, which is as far away as Montreal from Kuujjuaq—for less than $100 each way.

Or you could even drive all the way to Kirkenes, as I did, watching the scenery change from lush fields and forests to tundra.

Good transportation meant Kirkenes had a bright future in 2006. But its prosperity came from the ashes: in 1944, during the Second World War, Kirkenes burned to the ground. Then, through the 1960s, it thrived, mainly through its giant iron mine, which brought in 1,200 workers. Kirkenes had paved roads before any other community in the Norwegian Arctic as well as a swimming pool, a hospital and an airport.

Before that, the region of Kirkenes was a centre for the eastern Saami who called it “Akkalanjarga.” But the Saami traditional lands were broken up by the setting of the border between Norway, Russia and Finland, then by the development of the iron mine and all the people who came into the region…

The main street of Kirkenes: all ready for the partiers who would arrive later that day. It was in the 20Cs: every seat filled.

So I walked around town, visiting the Barents Secretariat, talking to a big fishing company owner and to a guy who worked at a corner store, for a Nunatsiaq News story that I would call, “Like Nunavut, with roads.”

I was feeling sociable because no one knew me enough to ask the questions I didn’t feel like answering, like “how are you?”

Throughout the day, I heard more Russian than Norwegian, and, although I was less than a hour from Russian border, I couldn’t cross to the Kola Peninsula and head to Murmansk. I would have had to send my passport to the Russian Embassy in Canada weeks before for a visa.

On my second evening in Kirkenes I sat at one of the outdoor patio bars with a Saami friend who had come to meet there. And the next day we headed off to the home of her parents by the Tana River which Saami call Deatnu.

I’ll let my photos speak for me here…you know. Some good times in the midnight sun, with lots of cloudberries (akpiq in Inuktitut, lakka in Finnish) and salmon, you want to keep for yourself.

The Tana River

And then I continued my drive….

The road I didn’t go down.
And I couldn’t drive fast.
And there were more reindeer.
I hit the coast and had to invent a selfie by these rocks.

And I kept on driving down the coast to a place called Havøysund with its Arctic wind park….

To be continued…

Miss Part 1? It’s here.

Or if you are interested in the links between Inuktitut, Saami and Finnish, here’s my take on it.

Siku girl encounters Covid-19…on paper

Where did the time go? Since the beginning of March to now there has been one story in my life: COVID-19.

Here are all stories I wrote for Nunatsiaq News, which I am putting here as a reference as much for myself as for anyone else who is interested in the infection, or fear of the infection, throughout Canada’s North. It’s affected the entire region: people, education, travel, mining…

At a later time, I will probably organize these stories by themes. But for now, you can follow my reporting about COVID-19 from the bottom to top along with some of the photos I posted on Twitter.

Nunavut government urges residents to take “staycations” this summer

Face coverings become mandatory for airline workers

Federal funds to provide urban Inuit with country food

Nunavut monitoring health of elders in Ottawa facility after two staff test positive for COVID-19 

Ottawa announces $650M more for Indigenous needs during pandemic

Agnico Eagle plans phased return of Nunavut workers to its gold mines

 Montreal’s reopening increases COVID-19 risks for homeless, says Indigenous coalition

The cold and hot spots of COVID-19 in North America

Arctic conference considers the challenges posed by COVID-19

Western Nunavut businesses crying out for government help, says chamber of commerce

Plans to replace Kugluktuk’s new power plant delayed

Canada moves to bar most pleasure craft from Arctic waters

Baker Lake’s Abluqta Society sends out food for the hungry

Staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at Ottawa seniors home with Nunavut residents

Nunavut resident on medical travel tests positive for COVID-19

Canadian North “temporarily” suspends seat selection on many flights

Western Nunavut eatery reinvents itself to survive the pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic delays construction of Nunavut elders facility

To boost COVID-19 prevention efforts, more Nunavut hamlets adopt booze bans

Lost your job due to the pandemic? Quebec housing corp. to help with rent

Nunavut’s Hope Bay goldfields to be bought by China’s SD Gold

Nunavut teachers’ union criticizes premier’s recruitment plans

Food arrives in Nunavut’s Clyde River 

Nunavut’s Kivalliq communities adopt more COVID-19 preventive measures 

Aurèle St-Amant, a pioneer of Nunavik’s co-op movement, dies at 83 from COVID-19

Temporary shelter offers homeless Inuit in Montreal protection from COVID-19

Increased Nutrition North subsidies take effect in Nunavut

Build an inuksuk, show your strength, TI urges urban Inuit youth

School’s out in Nunavut, and one mother says the kids are alright—most of the time 

Ottawa Inuit organization focuses on food security during pandemic

 Migratory geese and ducks are free of COVID-19: researcher 

In Cambridge Bay, schools reach out with activities and food

Nunavik health officials declare two more COVID-19 infections in Puvirnituq

Warrantless entries not justified to enforce Nunavut’s ban on gatherings, says official

When travelling by air, northern travellers now need masks

 Nunavut musician Becky Han steps onto Alianait’s virtual stage on Friday

 Subsidy keeps Agnico Eagle’s Nunavut mine workers on payroll

Nunavut’s ban on gatherings goes too far, says civil liberties watchdog

 Food for the hungry in Cambridge Bay

 COVID-19 restrictions move Inuit arts workshops online

 Canadian Rangers ready for patrol in Kuujjuaq

 Western Nunavut town moves to enforce COVID-19 bans

 Nunavik’s Raglan mine reopens despite outrage from Makivik Corp.

 In COVID-19 measure, Gjoa Haven bans sale of homemade baked goods

 Nunavut government worker’s creation lands on territory’s telephone book cover

 Coronavirus reaches Nunavik community of Inukjuak

Nunavik co-op workers gear up for COVID-19 prevention

After COVID-19 self-isolation, Nunavut student restarts his life

Nunavut canteen chef helps feed the hungry during COVID-19 hard times

 Inuk artist Asinnajaq wins a 2020 Sobey Art Award

 QIA commits $1.5M to aid small Inuit-owned businesses during pandemic

Keep schools closed, teachers home, says Nunavut Association of Municipalities 

Feds announce millions to help the North deal with COVID-19 

Nunavik declares tenth COVID-19 case in Puvirnituq

Nunavut mayors to discuss GN’s decision to recall teachers from outside territory

 After 11 COVID-19 infections, Greenland plans to slowly reopen Nuuk

Quebec may call back Nunavik school staff to help in health care 

Iqaluit man faces charges in connection with weekend firearms incident

Updated: Nunavik declares its 10th case of COVID-19

Under Nunavik’s COVID-19 lockdown, only charter flights travel to the region

If COVID-19 strikes, this Nunavut community is ready

Mining company helps fill hampers in Nunavut community

Nunavik’s COVID-19 alcohol restrictions lead to long lineups in Kuujjuaq


Creative SocialDistancing: many Nunavut residents have been getting outside and using snow to make great sculptures. This colourful drummer by Bernard Walsh of Cambridge Bay.

Nunavut asks out-of-territory teachers to return by April 21

Kivalliq Inuit Association directs COVID-19 money to elders, traditional activities

Canadian Rangers step up during COVID-19 crisis

To fight COVID-19 spread Greenland erects tent camp for homeless

COVID-19 could have big implications for Nunavut’s mining industry

Nunavik declares three more COVID-19 cases

Southern teachers in Nunavik remain on standby to leave region: union

Nunavut legal aid offices remain closed, but you can still call

Kitikmeot Inuit Association announces support for elders, on-the-land activities during pandemic

Studies underway to see if TB vaccine lessens COVID-19 symptoms


Remarkable #COVID19 generosity: Erik Hitkolok of Kugluktuk filled his sled with more than 200 frozen white fish and went on social media to offer them to people in his western Nunavut town.

COVID-19 leads to more Canadian North schedule changes

Northern airlines trim passenger service to the basics

Studies underway to see if TB vaccine lessens COVID-19 symptoms

Cambridge Bay bans alcohol imports for two weeks, citing COVID-19 concerns

Qikiqtani Inuit Association rolls out pandemic support plan

Western Nunavut gold producer TMAC reduces operations at Hope Bay


SocialDistancing during COVID-19 pandemic: Thomas Akilak won this weekend’s snow sculpture contest in Baker Lake, Nunavut: “It is important for us as a community to remain physically active and now that the weather is warming up we can enjoy time outdoors,” the hamlet said.

Greenland introduces temporary ban on alcohol sales in three communities

Snow sculptures keep Nunavut community creative during COVID-19 shutdown

Nunavut RCMP to don masks, gloves during COVID-19 pandemic

Nunavut mine goes into “lockdown” to reduce risk of COVID-19

Nunavik declares its first confirmed COVID-19 infection in Salluit


A terrific snow sculpture from Arviat, Nunavut where the hamlet organized a community-wide competition to get everyone out of their houses, respecting COVID-19 social distancing: here a large owl by Thomas Aniksak and a polar bear over a seal hole by Angie Curley.

Baffinland continues measures to keep COVID-19 out of Nunavut

Montreal day shelter offers lifeline to homeless Inuit women during COVID-19

Amid COVID-19 restrictions, TMAC keeps Nunavut gold mine going

Inuktut book titles available online for free during COVID-19 school closures

Quebec’s COVID-19 measures force Agnico Eagle to reduce operations in Nunavut

Nunavut artists will take a hit from this year’s Arctic cruise ban

Nunavik’s Raglan mine put into care and maintenance due to COVID-19

Canadian North changes schedule following new COVID-19 measures

Cambridge Bay pulls together to fight COVID-19

Passengers on Canadian North jets face new screening questions

Nunavik’s Raglan mine plans to send northern workers back home

Nunavut RCMP will ask callers about COVID-19 contact

Nunavut air travellers will face restrictions under N.W.T. travel ban

Nunavut mining company tries to quell concerns about potential for COVID-19


Love this bunny by the family of Jeannie Evalik in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

COVID-19 prompts Air Inuit to cut back flight schedule

Nunavut tells post-secondary students not to book travel home

To prevent COVID-19, Agnico Eagle will let Nunavut workers go home

COVID-19 closes Inuit organization offices in Nunavut

COVID-19 concerns prompt suspension of church services in Nunavut, Nunavik

Nunavut workers at TMAC gold mine will head home to avoid COVID-19

Quebec COVID-19 measures mean Nunavik man can’t visit his mother

Ottawa’s Inuit orgs batten down the hatches during COVID-19 emergency

Canadian North, Air Inuit reduce Arctic air services

Nunavut RCMP takes measures to reduce spread of COVID-19

Canadian High Arctic Research Station acts to reduce COVID-19 risk

Airlines serving Nunavut, Nunavik tighten COVID-19 prevention efforts

More Nunavut communities take measures to keep COVID-19 at bay

Nunavut’s Baffinland gears up its crisis management plan for COVID-19

Stay home and healthy, says Nunavut’s chief medical officer

To fight COVID-19, Nunavut mining company plans to screen workers

Three Nunavut communities ask visitors to stay away due to COVID-19 concerns

Nunavik’s regional airline steps up measures to prevent new coronavirus

Canadian North ramps up coronavirus plan

Nunavut Mining Symposium cancelled due to coronavirus

Nunavut mining company updates infectious disease plan for coronavirus

Greenland evades coronavirus for now