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making progress

b y d av e s h i v e ly

/ / p h o t o s b y r o b e rt z a l e s k i

A lone cairn marks apex Beach near the weathered ruins of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s original South Baffin Island headquarters.

No roads lead to Iqaluit.

The broad spat of plane-landing tundra has kept this “New York City of the North” the gateway for any air travel deeper into Nunavut—a vast uninhabited territory almost three times the size of Texas.

Yes, just like New York City, only with 7,000 people and polar bear-shaped license plates.















The community cemetery’s whitewashed wooden crosses reinforce every Wild West parallel.

Every board and nail, every vegetable and piece of fruit, must be shipped from the south—every kilowatt of energy generated from a massive store of diesel fuel that arrives on a barge before freeze-up and must last through the winter.

Climate change is magnified. We get one reply: “It is what is.�

We pack for the bush flight to the pristine Soper River, rolling 16-foot inflatable canoes into tight bundles and loading food five days’ food into bear-proof barrels.

The days blur in two-hour increments of waking, waiting

and watching for a weather window that never opens.


Louis’ dashboard hula dancer doubles over as we bounce and scrape through the road’s puddles of unknown depth. Air-travel be damned, we rally as far we can up the sporadically maintained road north out of town along the Sylvia Grinnell River.

Louis-Philip, the “Inukpak� (big giant), and I gear up head-to-toe. Louis is wearing shorts, with some neoprene underneath and size 14 Chacos. He bends to fill his water bottle directly from the river. I follow suit. Nowhere to go but out, to the Arctic waters of the Labrador Sea

We unload and start the hike out, the beach quickly covered in the risen tide.

The human-shaped stone Inukshuks are the emblematic guides, signaling that you are not alone out on the land.

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