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Dispatch 1: Delayed Start

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September 21 Photos
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Joey Wenig

September 21, 2014

Today was not originally going to be our first day aboard ship. The plan was to board last Friday, in Kugluktuk. Unfortunately, rain there caused flooding on the airstrip, closing the airport, so we had to reroute through Cambridge Bay after a couple of extra days in Yellowknife. This turned out to not be so bad, because Yellowknife in September is picturesque. The leaves were in their fall colors, and, although it rained on Friday afternoon, the weather was generally pleasant. In anticipation of being mostly ship-bound for the next three weeks or so, lots of walking was in order. The view from the Pilot’s Monument, on a rocky hill in Old Town Yellowknife, made for a nice destination. This was also reported to have been a good spot to watch the beautiful northern lights that appeared on Thursday and Saturday nights.

But finally, this morning we all made our way to the Yellowknife airport and boarded flights to Cambridge Bay, which sits on the southern side of Victoria Island and along the historic Northwest Passage. On our way in, we flew over a landscape the likes of which I’d never seen before. It struck me as how I would imagine the surface of the moon to look if you added enough water so that most, but not all, of the land was submerged, and then dusted everything that was left with a light layer of snow.

After landing, we assembled in the one-room airport as one of the two helicopters aboard the C.C.G.S. Louis S. St. Laurent (that’s a mouthful--I’ll just call it the Louis from here on) ferried people onto the ship in groups of four. It was my first time in a helicopter, and I’ve gotta say, helicopters are really cool.

Upon arriving on the Louis, we were shown to our cabins. Now, the Louis is a big ship, at well over a hundred meters long, and when you’re below decks, it can be difficult to get your bearings. So once I was shown my cabin, I was hesitant to leave, worried that I’d never find it again. A tour of the boat by one of the ship’s mates helped us rookies familiarize ourselves with the layout, but I think it’ll take a couple of days before I can get around without taking a few wrong turns and having to retrace my steps. The tour also revealed some nice perks to life on board the Louis—like a ping pong table, a comfy library, and a dining area with soft serve ice cream available twenty-fours hours a day.

Following dinner and an emergency drill, the newly arrived scientists began the hefty task of unpacking and setting up equipment—some of which was shipped months ago—making sure that nothing was broken, or left behind, or lost in transit. This process will continue over the next couple of days as we get underway and head west, towards our destination—the Beaufort Sea.

Originally published: September 23, 2014

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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