Time enough to download images of Arctic Bay while waiting for laundry to dry, and to note some interesting tidbits about this hamlet, more or less at random:
Laundry cost: $50. Access is the one hotel’s laundry facility. No load limit; just wash till you’re done. No access to showers though. I washed my head in the janitor’s sink.
Room rates: $295 per night, per person. “It costs us so much to get things here,” said the clerk when I asked. The hotel has ten rooms, is made of metal siding, utilitarian; very clean and well kept. Lunch: $40 per person. Only one room is booked these last two days. While I sit typing in the dining room, I watch one cook come in and prepare one meal for one man; later one dishwasher comes to clean.
Internet: free…in the hotel.
Cell phone provider: none. No cell service. This is a marked departure from Greenland, where even the smallest community warrants a tower. I’m told the lower limit in Greenland is 20 residents.
Number of residents in Arctic Bay: 600, mostly Inuit. Officially it’s a “hamlet.”
Number of industrial-sized satellite dishes in town: 7.
Number of churches: 2. Two buildings. They are next to each other and joined in the middle. No sign announces the denomination of either.
Months bay is ice free: 3. Usually.
Hobby and passion of most: hunting. Narwhals arrive here in spring. The Killer Whales find the pods further out in Lancaster and herd them into the shallow ends of bays for slaughter. When the Narwhals get this far up Admiralty Inlet, they are tired and scared and are an easy kill for villagers who take to the bay in open boats. Narwhal is a favorite food animal and their yearly visit, much anticipated.
Number of restaurants, cafes: none.
Number of groceries: two. Presumably this is to encourage competition and keep prices low.
Can of Campbell’s Chunky Beef Soup (540ml): $12.89.
Can of tinned coffee (925 grams): $22.49.
12 pack of Coke: $25 … on sale now, $14.95.
Presumably this sale is driven by the immanent (August) arrival of the once-yearly supply ship. The whole village turns out. Containers are lifted to the beach, items disgorged, rushed to the store, rushed to houses. Les and Ali saw the ship unload last year. As it lowered a pallet on which sat a new washer and dryer, one of the wires broke, tipping both items into the bay. Next delivery? Next year.
In winter, locals will go out into the bay and cut holes into the seven foot thick ice, lower nets and catch scads of Arctic Char as they run up the fjord.
In winter, the local gendarmes can visit Pond Inlet (next town east) via snowmobile. It’s a 24 hour run. “We pack tea and a tin of soup; we don’t stop,” said one officer. Half of the journey is on the frozen sea.
In winter, water is delivered to Arctic Bay homes still frozen, chipped from the reservoir near the diesel tank farm, put in large plastic bags, placed on doorsteps. Each house must melt its own. “We don’t use much water in winter,” said one woman.
Cost of a new house: $250,000. Houses are very small, usually one story and in no way extravagant. The price is driven by the cost of transporting all materials here. We are well above tree line. Nothing grows here that one could use to build with. Consequently, there is a severe housing shortage in Arctic Bay. One man we met is married and has four children; he lives with his in-laws. This is usual.
Cost of seal meat: depends. Seal hunting is common and the meat is still a preferred source of protein. Hunters who bring back more than they can use often sell it from the center of town to locals and visitors for a small fee. Seal meat can also be purchased in both of the two groceries, where it is in the freezer section, pre-portioned, and $25 a pound. It is flown in.
“My best shot ever,” said the man who delivered our diesel to the shore, “got a seal on the ice from 100 yards.”
Cost of diesel: $4.68 a gallon. “Diesel costs less here than it does in Newfoundland,” reports Les. Ironically, it’s Newfoundland where these fuels are refined and shipped from.