An Inuit artisan goes from table to table presenting small carvings in the palm of his hand. I buy a narwhal carving made from caribou antler. It is a gift for my mother.
Muktuk is raw, frozen whale skin and blubber. I understand that the muktuk I am eating is narwhal. It comes with a small dish of soy sauce for dipping.
I am at the Storehouse Bar and Grill at the Frobisher Inn looking for a free table. The only spot I can find is next to a large group. I ask if I could sit with them. “My wife and I are leaving Iqaluit tomorrow and this is our send-off. We were saving some seats for additional friends but evidently we’re not as popular as we thought. Go ahead.” The group gets more drunk and raucous as the evening goes on. Eventually the loudest person in the group takes note of me. “Is this guy with us? I love this guy. He’s put up with our shit all night. I’m going to name my next dog after this guy. I’m going to call him Rupert.”
Catherine and I have been exploring Iqaluit. I take photos of her on the frozen shore, looking out over Frobisher Bay. Back in the hotel room I discover that the camera mechanism has frozen, preventing me from rewinding the film. In an attempt to fix it I inadvertently expose the film to light. Catherine is devastated that the one opportunity she will ever have to be photographed in the Arctic has been ruined.
The manager of the Discovery recalls the Toonoonik. She says it was where the liquor warehouse is now. She speaks with a strong Newfie accent. “Right thick.”
I volunteer to walk to Arctic Ventures to buy tampons for Catherine. It may be a form of empathic symptom transfer but by the time I get back my male parts are numb with cold. I’m like a brass monkey.
I am sharing a room with a researcher who works at the Museum of Natural History in Ottawa. He has just returned from an adventure on the land with Inuit hunters. He is visibly animated as he tells me of a seal hunt. As soon as the first seal is killed they cut it open and offer him the still warm liver to eat. He claims it was better than the finest foie gras he has tasted.
As with most buildings in the Arctic, the Research Institute is built on pilings to withstand the alternating frost heave and thaw settlement. During this blizzard I feel the building rock and sway like a ship at sea.
I listen to the milky specimens tap inside their glass jars in the lab, waiting to be set free.