Fine Tolerance and the North West Passage. Newsletter No 12



Fine Tolerance and the North West Passage.
Newsletter No 12.
18.00 Zulu Wednesday 22nd December
Position: Iced in solid in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada.

It is beginning to become quite cold up here now with the winter so far being cooler than usual. There was a record cold day for November where the ambient temperature only reached a high of -43.9 degrees and then, throughout the entire third week of December, the wind chill factor did not rise above -50 degrees. To cold for even the primary school children to go out and play. We both believe now that it was quite a blessing that we didn't make the passage through the arctic in the one season. With the setting of the sun some three weeks ago we have observed the community growing closer and closer together. Families have come in from the land and are now all gathered together in town with the result that the community is growing even more together with each passing day. The winter clothing here has amazed us. While shop bought clothing such as jeans, track suits, and tee shirts are worn with the coming of the cold more and more people now wear more traditional clothing. It has been a delight to see and a pity to think that in another decade or so this style of clothing will more than likely disappear from the streets altogether.
Although it is Christmas time there is no frantic activity such as we are sure most of you are experiencing to the south of us. Liz and I are both enjoying there being no traffic jams, no line up at the check out counters at the local stores and no barrage of advertising assaulting our senses. Both stores have a small display of Christmas gifts and some houses have Christmas lights displayed but that is about the extent of the visible manifestations. The small children opposite where we are staying still practice their ice hockey on the side of the road under the light of the street corner lamp on one of the busiest intersections in town.
As school is now out for a two week break the hamlet have constructed a schedule of Christmas games and activities. These are not only for children but are for all ages and include a children's Christmas party, a snowmobile parade, arctic games, ice carving and an ice cutting competition, traditional social style games nights, a dog dress up competition, a rabbit skinning competition, and many more things besides. Most activities are conducted indoors and the games played reflect this. The summer time was a time for hunting, the long dark winter nights for socializing. All the Arctic games are formulated with this in mind. Although igloos are no longer used, except perhaps in the case of a emergency, the arctic games played all reflect and utilize a limited size small space. The more sporting variety of games require quite a strength and dexterity to perform. An example is the long jump. From a stationary kneeling position the jumper hurls himself forward and lands on his feet without his hands touching the floor at any time. If you're game and young enough give it a try. It's not easy but you can see how it is so well adapted to a limited space.
Kneel on the floor behind a marked line and then
swing your arms up behind you. With a mighty forward movement
Straighten your arms and legs, throwing your torso
forward and upward while bringing your legs under yourself so that
you land on the floor without falling backwards.
Someone then can measure the distance from your start line to where you landed.
As the real Santa is pretty busy at this time of year he had me dress up and play him at the Christmas party put on for the children by the hamlet. As children have been calling me Santa for years it was an easy roll to fall into. Liz acted as one of Santa's helpers. One thing that surprised us both was the number of children that had frost bite signs on the cheeks of their faces. Our estimate would have been nearly half the younger children present. It does not take long for any exposed skin to freeze and even five minutes of inattentiveness can cause problems. The photo below shows a boy on Santa's knee that had been well dressed for the outside conditions. All this style of clothing is hand made. We can only imagine that lack of numbers precludes it being mass produced to a quality that would suit the high Arctic.
Yesterday afternoon the hamlet ran a potluck dinner for the elders of the town followed by games in the evening. The photos below show what we mean by the style of local clothing. One interesting feature here is the way the small children are carried around. In the first photo below of two ladies, one holding a child by the hand, the other carrying a child in here arms, both are also 'packing a baby child. They are carried on their backs in what are called packing shirts. On each of these ladies backs there is a baby child in their packing shirts. Packing shirts are used inside or in summer time only. The last photo in this series is taken inside the house we are sitting. It shows a friend in her outdoors child packing parka. As she goes outside she will pull the fur hood over her head keeping the baby warm and snug against her back.
Our time here has been illuminating and informative. Many loosely conceived ideas have been destroyed and every day brings new insights into our lives. Fine Tolerance appears to be handling the ice well although it will not be until the thaw in six months time where any damage that has been sustained will show up. All outdoor photos, due to the light, are now difficult to manage with our limited photographic equipment although as the sun is due back in a little over three weeks time we will once again be able to take photos out of doors.The photo of Fine Tolerance below was taken in the brightest part of a clear day. Although there was no sign of snow in the air the flash appears to show up minute ice crystals that had been invisible to our eyes.
Liz and I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their encouragement during the year We hope that you all enjoyed the highs and lows of it along with us. May next year bring happiness and good health and may all your dreams  come true.
Yours   Phil and Liz
Fine Tolerance