Arctic Adventure 40 – Locomotion

Nunavut number plate

Nunavut number plate

In Cambridge Bay – as in many of the small Arctic communities – there are relatively few automobiles. First of all it is difficult to get one – there are no car dealerships and you have to buy a vehicle “down South” and have it shipped in on the barge during the summer. Secondly there isn’t really anywhere to go most of the time since the towns are so small ! In CB you can get away from it all by going to the airport – 4km away ! In the summer you could venture a bit further afield on the land but even then not too far as there are not many roads going anywhere.

For those reasons the majority of the vehicles in town are related to work/business but even then they don’t do much besides go from home to workplace to the store and home again. Because of the climate – deep snow and ice during the winter – and roads – all gravel no tarmac – a vehicle up here cannot be anything less than a small SUV or minivan. The vast majority are of course pick-up trucks and I have yet to see a single sedan in town – maybe one or two will break out during the summer ! It is hard to put a number on how many vehicles there are in town but probably only a few hundred.

Many people still walk to get where they need to and they have creative means to carry out their related tasks. I’ve seen a few bicycles out already although not a very practical mode of transport during the winter months. There’s also a couple of taxi outfits in town so if you are really desperate for a ride there is that option; albeit quite expensive for such short distances.

Other popular forms of mechanical locomotion are the snowmobile (in winter) and the ATV/quad (in spring, summer and fall/autumn). Popular brands of the snowmobile are Ski-Doo, Polaris, Arctic Cat, and Yamaha. Like a lot of other products, one brand – ski-doo – has become the generic term for these machines, although in the Arctic they are also known by the short name “sno-mo”. Sadly the snowmobile has completely replaced the sled-dog team as the iconic workhorse of the Arctic. Perhaps not helped by a Government scheme to provide subsidized snowmobiles to the local people as a way to help them with fishing, hunting and trapping activities. Having started out as very simple machines snowmobiles now come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes and almost every yard in CB has one or two sno mos parked outside. No wonder that snowmobile races are the main-stay of the week-long Omingmak Frolics which I have written about too.

The ATV (all terrain vehicle) – aka four wheeler is out in full force now that the weather is getting warmer and snow melting away. In the local lingo they are also known as a quad or – again taking the name from a popular brand – as a Honda. They too come in all shapes and sizes and have also graduated into a two-seater machine styled like a dune-buggy of which I have seen a few around CB.

Oh and there is only one gas (filling) station in town. The price never goes up or down because all the fuel comes into the community once a year on the ship and the price is whatever it is !

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