Arriving at Arctic Watch Lodge

July 12, 2017

Today was our second attempt to get to the lodge, but the weather forecast today was much more in our favour. We had breakfast at 7 am and checked out; our departure from the hotel was at 8:30 am with the flight leaving at 10 am. Sure enough everything went smoothly and we were in the air shortly after 10 am. This time we sat on the other side of the plane, so when we went over the gold mine about an hour into the journey we could look down and see it.

Cambridge Bay was a very brief stop, just long enough for us to use the washroom. Yesterday the airport had been empty, but today it was full of people all waiting for the Air North flight to take off. We sped on directly to the lodge, and when after just under two hours of flying we landed on the lodge’s dirt airstrip we all cheered!

Cambridge Bay’s baggage carousel

Cambridge Bay’s baggage carousel

The area was definitely a lunar landscape, with gravel and rocks everywhere, but if you looked closely the ground was scattered with flowers. After getting off we walked the tundra for a few minutes. The temperature was close to freezing and there were snow flurries, but we had our expedition parkas so it wasn’t too bad. The wind stung our cheeks and our hands (shouldn’t have left the gloves in our packs). Soon we arrived at the river, where some of the staff rowed us across in rubber boats.

The group waiting to depart

The group waiting to depart

The lodge is entirely made up of tents, with one large tent in the middle and two rows of sleeping tents beside it. We all met in the “great room” and were given hut shoes to put on, followed by tea and home-made macaroons. Here we met all the staff and we were told about the camp procedures.

Arctic Watch Lodge

Arctic Watch Lodge

We were now in the Central time zone, so we had to change our watches from 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm. This seemed a bit arbitrary to us, since we were in an isolated location with 24 hours of daylight, but there was probably a good reason for it. We learned what time the daily meeting was (8 am), how to use the toilets (don’t let the water run), what to do if you wanted to go out for a walk (get a radio and bear spray from a staff member), and so on. And finally we were given our hut assignments; we were in the Canada Goose hut, which was on the outside row with an unobstructed view of the Cunningham River estuary.

Canada Goose hut

Canada Goose hut

We got ourselves settled in to our room and then had a quick look around the camp. Dinner was at 6:30 pm and it was really good, as it should be since the staff included not only a chef but also a sous-chef. There was roast chicken, potatoes, and salad followed by carrot cake for dessert. We all introduced ourselves one by one, but with 26 guests we still didn’t know most of the names.

Purple Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage

After dinner we went for a walk, armed with the radio and bear spray. It was nice to stretch our legs and see the land. We were joined by Dave the dentist from Tucson and Karen the obstetric nurse from Florida, and after wandering around for a bit we settled on following the road down to the bay. We didn’t see any belugas but we had been told they had started to arrive. By the time we got back to the lodge it was 10:30 pm—it’s easy to stay up late when it doesn’t get dark. But the generator goes off at 11 pm and then there’s no more heat in the rooms, so that’s basically bedtime.

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