I’d only arrived back in Iqaluit a mere 12 hours prior and I was back at the airport on my way to my initial expedition. With a quick stop in Halls Beach, it was just a short jump between islands and there I was… Igloolik. I was looking forward to this for a few different reasons. To begin with the expedition is called Kings of the Arctic: Polar Bears, Bowhead Whales and Walrus. Well I’d seen two of these, but was missing the walrus and apparently this was the prime location to observe them. Secondly, it was a new place in the Arctic, a place I’d come to love and a chance to see a little more of my own beautiful country that unfortunately many Canadians miss out on. Last but not least, this was my first expedition where I was lead chef, so personally it was a big step.
As always, camp must be set up and this one was a land based camp opposed to on the ice. A reasonably flat spot on a rocky beach and go. Tents went up, shoveling rocks onto the sides to keep them in place just in case those Arctic winds picked up (luckily I missed some of this due to being flown in late). For me, the kitchen was next and a little different than the previous camps. Usually we had a four burner gas oven, whereas here it was a little camp oven I had shipped over from the last location and two Coleman camp stoves. Bare bones but it was enough and made things interesting to say the least. Before we knew it guests had arrived and the fun and real work was underway.
My routine was the same as always, early morning getting coffee ready, followed by breakfast and having a lunch kit ready to be prepared out in the field. Whoever remained in camp for the day would prepare dinner to be served shortly after returning back from the day out searching for wildlife. The only difference here was that food safe temperatures were much harder to maintain here which provided me with a few difficulties. In previous camps further north and with colder temperatures our storage tent was constantly at a fridge temperature or sometimes lower. Here, that was not the case. With minimal cooler room between the raw product and ice chunks, there was little space to safely prep food a day ahead, I had to wake between 3:30am and 4:30am to prepare lunches each day. It was definitely draining as the lack of sleep caught with me quick, but I felt better about the product I was serving. The last thing I was going to do was get someone sick and at the end of the day it all paid off as everyone was ecstatic with the food received in the precarious environment.
On the other side of things, the true purpose for these excursions to the far north, was the observation of wildlife that few lay eyes on. I couldn’t believe the success of all the sightings we had. Our first day out was a bit slow going at first. Always a checklist of making sure we are well prepared for the day and anything that may happen. Loading up the boats with extra fuel as back up, first aid in case of injury, lunch, snacks and a means of cooking, the list goes on. Boats hauled into the water, everyone aboard and once we had left the ice edge into the open expanse of numbing waters the wind whipping at our exposed faces, it wasn’t long before they came into view.
To be continued…