On our way to Arctic Watch Lodge

July 11, 2017

Today we were scheduled to fly from Yellowknife to Arctic Watch Lodge, which is located on Somerset Island at 74° north latitude. Yesterday we had got our boots (on loan) and parkas for the trip; in today’s Yellowknife weather (28° C) we started overheating after about 30 seconds in the parkas, but we were expecting temperatures more like 2° C at the lodge. And today the plan was to have breakfast at 7 am and then to meet in the lounge of the hotel as 7:45 am, ready to depart.

But last night a note had been left on our door saying that the new departure time would be 10:45 am, due to weather conditions in Resolute. That meant we could sleep in to a more reasonable time and have a leisurely breakfast. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was quite good with choices of yogurt, eggs, bacon, sausage, French toast, pancakes, and even porridge. And after breakfast we even had time to return to our room and watch a stage of the Tour de France on television.

At 10:45 am Katherine, the lodge’s Yellowknife agent, announced that there would be a further delay, until 12:45 pm. So we decided we would go out and get an early lunch. Katherine recommended the Birchwood Café, which was run by the local Dene and apparently had really good coffee. As we entered the café another patron recommended the London Fog tea, calling it “amazing”. It was made with vanilla Earl Grey tea, honey, and steamed milk; Rosemary tried it and was glad she did.

Back at the hotel we found out there was another delay, until 2 pm this time. It wasn’t looking too promising but at 2 pm it was announced that there was a small weather window, so we would leave immediately. So we all hurriedly jumped into the bus and headed to the airport with our driver Murray, only a ten-minute trip. However the idea of “leave immediately” turned into an hour of waiting at the Summit Air departure lounge.

Ready to leave Yellowknife

Ready to leave Yellowknife

But finally we were airborne in our Dash-8 and were on our way to Cambridge Bay, where the plane would refuel. We flew at 24000 feet over the grey-and-blue landscape of lakes speckling the Canadian Shield for a couple of hours before arriving there.

Radar installation at Cambridge Bay

Radar installation at Cambridge Bay

We all disembarked from the plane while they topped up the fuel and trooped into the terminal building. It wasn’t very big, not surprisingly, but it did have a stuffed musk-ox decorating the baggage carousel. We had a 20-minute wait, so we went outside to look for birds. There weren’t too many birds around but we did see a couple of Snow Buntings and several families of Cackling Geese with young. Or were they Canada Geese? When they were on land they looked like Canadas but when they went into the water they looked like Cackling again.

Mystery geese at Cambridge Bay airport

Mystery geese at Cambridge Bay airport

Back in the terminal the wait continued; it had been decided that the weather at the lodge was unsuitable for landing, so we would be heading back to Yellowknife. So they had to make a flight plan and do all the related paperwork, and after about an hour and a half we all got back on the plane. By the time we got back to Yellowknife it was 10 pm, so we had club sandwiches in the bar and then went to bed.

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