It is icy cold and foggy as we negotiate the narrows leading to Gjoa Haven, a place named after Roald Amundsen's ship Gjöa, the first vessel ever to navigate the Northwest Passage. For Amundsen, the voyage took a total of three years (1903-1906). We hope that our crossing will be considerably shorter!
From Gjoa Haven, we will begin probably the most crucial leg of our voyage and, henceforth, it is going to be all about ice! The ice will dictate all our movements; when we can go, which way we should go and how far we are able to go. This means that we have to continuously follow the movements of the ice that can sometimes be unbelievably rapid and unpredictable. We have two sources that provide us with information, our support person back in Finland, Esko Pettay, who sends us ice charts by email and Peter Semotiuk in Cambridge Bay who reads us the daily weather report on the radio and emails ice charts as necessary. On the charts (by Canadian Ice Service), the ice concentration is marked in different colours; white means open or ice-free water (our favourite!), blue means less that 1/10 ice, i.e. 10 % ice coverage, green areas have 1/10 – 3/10 ice, yellow areas are covered by 4/10 – 6/10 ice, orange areas by 7/10 – 8/10, and red areas by 9/10 – 10/10, i.e. solid ice. Besides the ice concentration, also the size, type and thickness of the ice are of significance when planning our ongoing voyage. In reality, all coloured areas except blue and perhaps green are impassable for Sarema. And we will do everything in our power to avoid going into areas coloured yellow, orange or red!
So, understandably, we are studying the ice charts with ever increasing interest. At the moment, the east end of Bellot Strait is still blocked by ice, and if the situation does not improve by the time we have to proceed through preferably ice-free Peel Sound, the only option left is to continue north and sail around Somerset Island. This would mean one extra day's sailing. Since the ice is melting at an increasing rate, the blockage could disappear within the next few days or with luck, the winds will sweep the ice south down the Gulf of Boothia and clear the passage for us. For now, there is nothing else for us to do but wait and hope for the best!
While waiting for the ice to melt, we decided to give you a crash course in two native languages. But first, a few words about the natives themselves. In Alaska, Eskimo is a commonly used word that refers collectively to both the Yupik and the Inupiat tribes, whereas in Canada, and in Nunavut in particular, you should never use the word Eskimo as it is considered to be pejorative by the natives. They call themselves Inuit, and so should we. Now, back to the languages. There are several native languages and dialects, some on the verge of extinction, some still in everyday use especially amongst the old. Here, we have chosen two of the most widely spoken languages, namely Iñupiaq used by the Alaskan Eskimo and Inuinnaqtun spokenby the Inuit.
English - Iñupiaq - Inuinnaqtun
cold, to get cold - alappaa - alappaa
hurry - qilamik - qilamik
caribou - tuttu - tuktu
knife (woman's) - ulu - ulu
grandmother - aana - anaanaga
grandfather - taata - ataataga
good morning - uvlaalluataq - ublaami
thank you - taikuu - quana
As you can see, many of the words are the same in both languages and then again, some words are completely different. From personal experience, we can say that if you ever contemplate visiting the Polar Region, the word to memorize is ALAPPAA!