I was in between expeditions staying at the staff house in Iqaluit awaiting in limbo my next departure. I knew where I thought I was going, but things change quickly. It was the morning of my initial flight, an hour before I was to head to the airport and a message came for me. Don’t get on the plane! You’re leaving via helicopter to BAF-3 on Brevoort Island in the morning, be ready for check in around 8:00am.
I had mixed feelings as I was looking forward to Igloolik, but this was a temporary position of only five days until another chef could arrive and I would then be shipped off to my initial destination a couple days later than planned. I was already here to help and well, I’ve always wanted to go in a helicopter. Here’s my chance not only for free, but to be paid for it and observe this glacial landscape in all its hues of blue from a whole new perspective.
Food and equipment loaded up, the roar of the engines take over as the blades begin to rotate. The noise is tremendous as their speed picks up. Waves of dust begin forming like we’re in the eye of the hurricane as it whirlwinds around us. The feeling of vertically lifting into the air is nothing I’ve felt before. Countless planes, but nothing like this. Rising above Iqaluit we took off slightly southeast. The rugged hills became distant, mere rolling mounds of rough earth split by canyons of deep blue water speckled with lace patterned ice. My eyes stuck to the freezing window the hour passed quickly. Before I knew it we were overtop Brevoort and lowering beside BAF-3.
Uninhabited except for this location where workers are flown in for a period of six weeks give or take only seeing helicopters when food orders are brought or ordered equipment. BAF-3 was part of the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line) and now is a North Warning System site. Manned primarily by tradesmen maintaining the site and then myself for these handful of days, assuming the weather cooperated for the helicopter to come get me.
My job the same as always, to feed people. On a quite constant schedule of breakfast between 7-8, lunch at noon and dinner at 5, the job itself was simple with just a little bit of meal planning and prep. Unfortunately for me, it was a bit soul crushing when it came to the cooking. I was working off previous stock which consisted of meat, potatoes, frozen/canned veg, and deep fryer products. I don’t enjoy opening cans and bags while cooking to feed people, but definitely don’t enjoy having to feed myself on it. Enough about that though…
The island itself was stunning. Vistas of this odd granite landscape where seemingly no one had walked much in decades, possible centuries spread out before your eyes. Baffin Island to the west and the Davis Strait to the east. My final evening approached quickly, but other than the views from the property I hadn’t really seen anything. The bear guard signed on to go with me after dinner, we hiked the ridged and craggy landscape over to what seemed like the edge of the world. A sheer drop to the icy abyss, overlooking Davis Strait, ice bergs were grounded near the shore, while the golden hour of the sun perfectly hit the sharp jagged isles just off the coast. I could have stared at this for hours, maybe days, the eye capturing beauty was different from the rest I had seen up here.
Since I needed to pack and make breakfast in the morning I had to peel my eyes away and work my way back. These were views I would never forget, but before long, the helicopter lifted off again heading back to Iqaluit and quickly they were memories. This was just another example for me how unbelievable Canada can be and I knew one day I would see the rest. Just a matter of time…