Monday, September 28, 2009

When You Lose Your Engine

Residents of Salluit had an unexpected visitor show up under tow last week. The MV Avataq, owned by Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping, apparently lost the power of propulsion somewhere out in Hudson Strait en route to Repulse Bay. Fortunately, there was an ocean-going tug in the general vicinity, and the MV Avataq was dragged into our sheltered bay with no smoke from her stack.

Doubly fortunate, since there was a very strong gale two days later, with winds topping out over 110 kilometers an hour from the south. Despite being on the leeward side of the bay, she broke away from her anchorage on the south side of Sugluk Fiord and drifted powerless to do anything towards the north shore. Luckily, a short distance before it would have grounded out its anchor managed to snag something on the bottom. People in town were very concerned about the crew during the gale and there was a very rare feeling of caring for others that day amongst the town folk.

The next day, the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Des Groseillier came into our fiord to keep an eye on the Avataq, pictured in the foreground to the right. The winds have died down, and mechanics have arrived to repair the engine: apparently some problem with the camshaft was the cause of the stoppage. NEAS reports on its schedule that she is expected to continue on her voyage tonight.

But I'm hedging my bets. It has not been an auspicious season for the annual summer northern sealift, so vital for supplying fuel, equipment, dry goods, vehicles and other important items to communities cut off from the southern road network. Earlier this month rival Desgagnés Transarctik's brand new vessel the MV Sedna Desgagnes ran aground on the east coast of Hudsons Bay and is out of commission for the balance of the season.

Thus endeth the Salluit Shipping News dispatch for today.

This is more of a panoramic shot from this morning showing most of Salluit, with the MV Avataq barely visible in the distance. And yes, that is snow on the roof tops. It's a very short shipping season.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

A Cure at Last!

After 22 years here in Salluit, I grown tired of constantly hitting my head against a stone wall. This self-abusive nervous tic has gotten so bad that I am now frequently dizzy, nauseated and seeing double.

I have long despaired of ever finding a way to treat my condition before irreparable cerebral damage sets in. Little did I suspect that the cure was here all along!

I think I'll dose myself right now!!!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Revised Post, but no apologies to Environment Canada

I'm calling "shenanigans" on Environment Canada.

Today, September 22 2009, is the autumnal equinox - the first day of autumn. Now when I attended grade school, we were all told that equinox means "equal night", i.e. when daytime and nighttime are equal 12 hour segments everywhere in the world, a consequence of the sun passing the celestial equator on a southbound swing.

But Environment Canada's meteorological website for Salluit today clearly shows 12:15 minutes of daylight and 11:45 minutes of darkness. Is Salluit such an anomaly that it gets to tack on 30 minutes more light than anywhere else in the world? We do things differently up here, but isn't this taking things a bit too far? I know this town is warped, but could we be living in a place which bends the rules of time and space?

Update Update Update

It seems that day and night are unequal at the equinoxes. Apparently, we only achieve diurnal synchronicity sometime after the fall equinox and before the vernal one. Here's the science (along with a really cool flash movie).

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Salluit - Awash with the spirits of capitalism

This past week Salluit's finest summarily drained 160 seized mickeys of vodka, presumably Smirnoffs, the preferred stock in trade for the town's burgeoning bootleggers. Purchased in Montreal for under $12, its street value up here averages $15o, and has gone for as high as $500 when the town's citizenery received their individual $15K "profit sharing" from the mine last year. The illicit liquor was seized either at the airport or in residences, and represents a miniscule proportion of the booze shipped into this community.

The police were inforcing a local bylaw (about the only bylaw they actually do enforce - don't get me started about mufflerless vehicles cruising the streets at 3:00AM) which allows residents to bring in a maximum $75/month of alcohol/person. Moreover, only 10 orders are approved by municipal employees on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays if they are not too busy figuring out other ways to screw up the town. Predictably, this severe measure has resulted in perhaps has been the most successful job creation program ever up here, bootlegging.

I should mention that alcohol is not retailed legally in Salluit. However, with a population of only 1,200, Salluit has 15 - 30 bootleggers by my reckoning. These entrepreneurs range from the full-time vendor with regular supply lines to the south to the occasional dabbler, who takes advantage of being down south on vacation or medical leave to ship a box of mickeys northward and make a little money on the side. But with market prices so high, there is plenty of money to go around for all concerned. No need yet to get greedy and resort to the Roaring 20's style of highjacking and turf wars.

In my shack I have over 400 empty mickeys which I collected over a 3-week period around town this spring. I don't know what prompted me to do so - perhaps it was a reaction to the collosal stupidity of our municipal council who feel, despite all the evidence gathered around the world over history, that limiting or prohibiting consumption of alcohol is the answer to all the societal ills which alcohol can engender and does not actually promote criminal activity. Also, being more than a little on the Obsessive/Compulsive side, once I started picking them up I found it hard to stop.

Dear reader, I need your help. There is a municipal election coming this November, and I would like to create some mischief with the empty bottles while at the same time making a pertinent and noble socio-political statement. Any ideas?

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Transpecies Avian Alliances?

Yesterday, I was hiking through the tundra back of the airport with my dog, Blue, pictured below. Actually, he has 52 other names, most of them hyphenated and ending with "-head", but I digress.

We were witness to unusual behaviour from a raven, actions so strange as to make me feel like ascribing noble sentiments to the bird, including being a "good Samaritan".

Ravens make excellent sentinels. During winter, when driving up the road leading to their local wintering grounds, a.k.a. the Salluit Municipal dump, you can notice that raven "guards" are posted here and there presumably to alert the rest of the colony that a potentially dangerous intruder is on his way.

But yesterday, this raven didn't alert any of its black-feathered brethren of our presence. Instead, it started dive-bombing my dog as he ran through the tundra, and making an uncharacteristic chirping sound rather than its usual throaty croak.

After it had finished harassing Blue, it flew 100 metres distant and circled a bit. Suddenly, a flock of Canada geese which presumably had been resting on the ground sprang upwards amid a clamour of honks, and started flying with the raven in the opposite direction. The raven then broke off from the geese, and came back to resume his Stuka-like swoops down at my dog.

Could it be the raven, perceiving danger, took it upon itself to rouse the geese to flight? Had the geese hired the raven as local muscle while sojourning in Salluit? Could I just be a sentimental fool and viewed the raven in athropomorphic terms? Or could the raven have difficulty in making up its mind which species of animal to harass next?

Well, I guess you had to be there, but I swear the bird attentionally alerted the geese no matter what you guys might think.

Above, Blue actually looking like a good dog. Right, yes, that small speck in the top right is a raven. I tried to get dog and bird to pose for a reenactment, but this is as good as she gets.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Total Bathroom Domination

You’re never at a loss for shampoo when you have teenage daughters. And I have three.

All around the rim of the bathtub, on the racks under the shower nozzle, in the soaptray, balanced precariously one atop the other . . . bottles of all shapes, sizes, colours and promises. One for greasy hair, another for dry hair, some with conditioner, others without. Volumizing, dandruff-destroying, poof-proof (hmmm... I know some people who would find this term offensive), body building, strengthening, repairing, anti-tangle . . . . . .

But very few products for “normal” hair, I’ve noticed. Teenage girls always have dysfunctional hair, hence the veritable pharmacopoeia of tonsorial products. And it’s a well-known fact that teenage girls shampoo their hair 3.75 times a day on average, hence the high percentage of these containers inverted, draining the last nanolitre of shampoo to where it can be expelled after squeezing and shaking it for half a hour.

I have been banished to the upstairs bathroom, which is fine with me. No one else wanted to use it, and for a while I was able to store my one can of shaving cream, razor, toothbrush and dental floss with plenty of room to spare. But lately I’ve noticed some cosmetic creepage making forays into my private lair. At first it was just a single eyeliner pencil, then a couple of strange hair brushes, weird-looking razors in the latest colours, and nail polish. By this morning, my entire bathroom was under the occupying forces of estrogen-saturated teenage girls, and my meager toiletries banished to the lowest shelf under the sink – you know, the space behind the trap, in the shadow, where the drain drips.

But I still have something atop the head that needs shampooing, so I shouldn’t complain too much or too loudly.

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