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

 

New roof, new life for CamBay’s old stone church

An old stone church, a landmark in the western Nunavut community of Cambridge Bay, celebrated its 60th anniversary — and new roof — with a barbecue Sept. 12, just two days shy of the anniversary date of its first mass: Sept. 14, 1954.

Here you can see the new roof of the old stone church and the plywood now covering the windows. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Here you can see the new roof of the old stone church and the plywood now covering its windows. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Father André Pierre Marie Steinmann, an Oblate missionary much better known for his years in northern Quebec, built the church, which had fallen into disrepair.

But this past summer Cambridge Bay Coast Guard auxiliary was able to carry out $100,000-worth of renovation work, which is still not complete.

And they undertook the project with no government assistance — raising the needed money only through fundraising.

“Rocks and mortar — we knew we could do it on our own,” said Wilf Wilcox, a local businessman and member of the local Roman Catholic congregation. “We had the blessing of the community and the church.

And we didn’t want any red-tape.”

Wilcox’s mother, Bella, who attended the Sept. 12 BBQ, is among those who still remember when the church was used.

Nine parishioners attended its first mass on Sept. 14, 1954.

Ida Neglak sits in front of the newly-renovated old stone church.  (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Ida Neglak sits in front of the newly-renovated old stone church. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

After Father Steinmann’s arrival in Cambridge Bay from northern Quebec in 1953, he worked with local parishioners and two fellow missionaries, Fathers Lemer and Menez, to build the church.

Their materials: seal oil and clay as mortar and broken rocks for the walls — plentiful around Cambridge Bay.

Built for warmth, the church retained heat with an insulating layer of caribou fur between two layers of stone walls.

But soon after its completion, Father Steinmann left the western Arctic.

After several attempts to reconstruct the crumbling structure — not easy because of the original mortar used, vandals set fire to the church in 2006.

A cross on a wall in front of the old stone church. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

A cross on a wall in front of the old stone church. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

While the roof and interior burned completely that day, snow still clung to the outside as the fire blazed and didn’t melt, due to the insulation from the double walls and fur lining.

The stone church isn’t the only legacy of Father Steinmann to be found today in Cambridge Bay.

In 1954, Father Steinmann purchased the Eagle, a small longline fishing boat, said to have been towed from Tuktoyaktok to Cambridge Bay, leaking all the way.

Father Steinmann's boat, the Eagle, as it sits today in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Father Steinmann’s boat, the Eagle, as it sits today in Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

When the Eagle arrived, Steinmann had left for northern Quebec, where he had already spent the years between 1938 and the early 1950s, in Wakeham Bay (now Kangiqsujuaq), Sugluk (now Salluit) and Koartak (now Quaqtaq).

There’s no record of what he intended to use the Eagle for, so the boat stayed on the beach, not far from the semi-submerged hulk of the Maud, once sailed by Norwegian Roald Amundsen, the first European adventurer to successfully voyage through the Northwest Passage.

In the Nunavik community of Puvirnituq, then called Povungnituk or POV, Father Steinmann and Pitaaluk, the tall, Inuktitut-speaking Hudson’s Bay Co. manager Peter Murdoch, worked with Inuit living in camps around today’s community to set up a new way of trading and buying goods — which would eventually grow into today’s co-operatives in Nunavik and serve as an inspiration to those in Nunavut.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Father Steinmann encouraged artists, such as the great artist Davidialuk Alasuak, to portray Inuit legends and humour in his carvings and prints.

Father Steinmann himself was said to have owned “the best examples of erotic Eskimo carvings to be found in the world,” according to an article on Inuit art and co-operatives by anthropologist Nelson Graburn, which was published in the journal Museum Anthropology in 2000.

Father Steinmann’s cramped quarters were said to be crammed with “mythological carvings and humorous nudes.”

Some say Father Steinmann’s earthiness was intended to draw Inuit away from the strait-laced Anglicans towards Roman Catholicism.

But others in Puvirnituq have told me that Steinmann, like some other Oblate missionaries and Roman Catholic priests, including Eric Dejaeger, sentenced this Sept. 12,  was banished from northern Quebec after he had abused youth there.

This practice he picked up again on his return to the region, according to many in that Hudson Bay community, and one which produced a legacy of child sex abuse.

Cambridge Bay Catholics now worship at our Lady of the Arctic, built in the 1970s.  They hope the old stone church will be used for special events, such weddings or baptisms.

Look for further posts from A date with Siku girl from Cambridge Bay.

Recent posts include:

Two Arctic ships, two explorers, Franklin and Amundsen

Today, Arctic explorers take cruise ships

Parts of this post were previously published in a Nunatsiaq News feature from 2011.

A view of the church with its new roof on. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

A view of the church with its new roof. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)