Catch Arctic fever in the land of the Midnight Sun
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In the land of the Midnight Sun, it’s hard to sleep but it’s not the light keeping you awake. It’s the excitement.
When Arctic Kingdom Polar Expedition’s convoy of snowmobiles and komatiks (wooden trailers on skis) heads off across the sea ice from Pond Inlet, en route to its base camp at Sirmilik National Park on Baffin Island, they launch into life-changing adventures.
Riding in the well-packed komatiks behind the snowmobiles, we feel the landscape assert its power. Stark mountains lie behind us. Ahead, nothing interrupts the endless sweep of ice. There’s no snow – just a crust on the ice that morphs from frosty white to shimmering blue. In places, a warm sun has melted the surface, creating ponds through which we splash like water skiers. Occasionally, deep cracks appear, stretching down to the ocean itself, but the imperturbable Arctic Kingdom guides don’t blink. After unhitching and pushing the long komatiks across, they rev their snowmobile engines and leap the gaps like Cirque de Soleil acrobats.
From our base camp nestled at the feet of 15,000-year-old icebergs, we make daily expeditions to the floe edge and meet the wild face-to-face. We wrestle into tight-fitting dry suits or zip on survival gear and head for the kayaks, frantic to be in or on the water when the whales come out to play. To see one eerily white beluga is awe-inspiring – to view dozens, cavorting just metres from you, is electrifying.
Like a boiling pot, the water churns with life. Belugas give way to sleek brownish-grey narwhals that swim beside kayaks and slide between snorkelers.
“It’s like a wildlife highway down there,” bubbles Jens, a German biology professor, as the belugas swim past him. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Not many people have.
Days blend into one another, with no darkness to punctuate their passing. We live surrounded by the wild, our soundscape filled with the breathing of mammoth bowhead whales and our landscape dotted with seals and polar bears, watching us as closely as we watch them. Gourmet meals are eaten quickly so we can hurry back outside to watch the sun dance across the ice and clamber up the sides of ancient icebergs. Each night, we stare at our watches in disbelief as we discover it’s long past midnight – again. Reluctantly, we retreat to cozy tents and slip beneath downy comforters, but sleep is elusive. Arctic fever is a relentless stimulant.
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