Last night I attended an event billed as the Discovery Feast held at the CB community hall. It was an amazing experience that brought together so many of the interesting things I have already written about – and generated many more that I need to follow up on ! I am having difficulty knowing where to start !
The event was sponsored by the Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) at the culmination of the month-long annual Operation Nunalivut conducted by the Canadian joint task force – this year based out of Cambridge Bay. It was a celebration of the partnership between a number of groups – ARF, Canadian forces, Parks Canada and the people of Nunavut in the project to find the lost ships of the Franklin expedition.
I had previously written about the ARF’s ship – the Martin Bergmann – which I had photographed in the ice at the CB dock. What I hadn’t found out in my previous research (not a very good reporter eh ?!) was that the wreck of HMS Erebus was discovered in September 2014 off the coast of another small community called Gjoa Haven some 370 km SW of CB. Apparently the search area had recently been narrowed down based on information provided by Inuit oral historian Louie Kamookak.
What I hadn’t learned either was that the founder of ARF is Jim Balsilles the former co-owner of Research in Motion which developed the BlackBerry phone – essentially creating the smart phone and resulting explosion of that technology. (Yes – it is a Canadian company and the rest is history as they say.) Jim is – obviously – an avid fan of the Arctic and the Franklin history and it is fortunate to have such a Canadian icon behind the project. (On another side note – for many years he has been trying, without success, to buy a professional sports team which is the wont of mega-wealthy business people. His latest attempt was the Phoenix Coyotes of the National (ice) Hockey League which he planned to move to Hamilton, Ontario !)
The evening consisted of presentations and entertainment from several groups and of course the dinner – the whole of which represented the traditional Inuit feast that would have been held after a successful hunting or fishing trip. It started with Inuit drum dancing, the lighting of a qulliq (an Inuit oil lamp) and the dinner which featured baked Arctic Char, roast Muskox (both harvested locally) and Bannock which is a flat bread made with flour, baking soda and water and fried in lard ! All very delicious. After the meal there were presentations by ARF, Canadian forces and Parks Canada rounded off with more entertainment in the form of Throat Singing and Arctic Sports demonstrations.
There were many special moments throughout the evening but the highlight was seeing a video presentation – with running commentary from one of the divers – of a dive under the ice to the wreck of the Erebus just a week ago. This was a joint operation for both military training and archeological purposes. According to the navy diving officer who did the presentation we were creating history as the first public audience in the world to see such video footage of the wreck – very special ! (See photos for more details.)
From the video and in reply to several questions from the audience we learned that the ice over the wreck site is now about 2M (6 FT) thick and in order to cut a hole in the ice they use a portable boiler to make hot water which is squirted under high pressure to cut out a square block in the ice ! (There is no other way to do it as the machinery required would be too heavy and bulky to transport to such a remote site.) The water temperature under the ice is minus 1-2C and the divers use a standard dry suit with tri-laminate coating and wear extra woolies according to their personal temperature tolerance !
All so fascinating and a wonderful evening. Please visit each photo for the relevant details of same as there is too much information to cross reference here.