Summers are glorious, but for the bloodsuckers—it’s practically a Northern mantra. Things might get even worse: with climate change, biting flies are moving farther North, partly because it’s getting warmer, and partly because it’s raining more often in the summer, creating more soggy breeding grounds. So what are we up against? Let’s round up the usual suspects—and hero. By Samia Madwar, Illustrations by Tonia Cowan
The mad scientist: Blackfly
Secret weapon: After they slice into your skin, blackflies inject you with an anesthetic so you don’t feel the bite right away, then lap up the blood. They’ll also pump in an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing.
Whitehorse’s Headless Owl produces sounds you can see and touch. By Matthew Mallon
Growing up semi-alienated listening to punk (and his parents’ singer-songwriter albums) in Whitehorse taught Andrew Stratis three things: 1) music is a powerful, positive force; 2) record labels put out music; 3) vinyl is the best way to consume said music. “Punk rock was where I discovered record labels,” says Stratis now. “When I was younger and read about them and what they were up to, I’d be like, man, that would be really cool.”
How to dive into an iceberg, swim with canaries of the sea, avoid seamonsters in the Arctic—and much more. Take a plunge into our 15 top watery Northern getaways. By the Editors and Katie Weaver
Photo by Ottilie Short. (A previous version of this story incorrectly credited this photo to Fernando Garcia).
Every summer, Anna Tupakka and her partner roam in the Yukon wilderness. Bugs, broken gear and inquisitive wolves can’t wear them out—but the human condition might.
Photo of North Fork Pass in Tombstone Territorial Park by Fritz Mueller
The marmots are screaming again. It begins with one adult’s repeated, high-pitched whistle. Then a neighbour joins in, and then another, until the entire colony is shrieking while scrambling for shelter in the jumbled rock piles.
From previous forays into Yukon backcountry I’ve learned this almost certainly signals something big, usually a grizzly, is afoot. I’ve been resting against my pack, taking in the surrounding mountain vista. The craggy peak of Mount Monolith looks pretty grand against the shifting grey sky, its likeness mirrored on the calm waters of the unnamed lakes nestled in the cottongrass meadows of Tombstone Pass.
A tiny community beside a huge body of water makes a historic decision. Its prophet would approve. By Tim Edwards
Photo by Angela Gzowski
On the Sunday before Délıne, NWT, voted to establish its own aboriginal self-government last March, I went for a walk on Great Bear Lake, the ninth-largest lake in the world. I’d been in town for two days and had only seen slices of it between houses and behind crisscrossing power lines as I wandered around, so I plunged into its snowdrifts, away from the ice road.
How a buck naked seagull attack sparked a High Arctic hobby. By Ashleigh Gaul
Inuit don’t swim.That’s what I’m thinking as I wade deeper into an Arctic pond at a northern tip of the Canadian mainland. From the waist up, I am wearing a number of t-shirts, a turtleneck, one cardigan and two sweaters, two scarves, one hat and a pair of mitts. Waist down, I’m naked.
“Inuit don’t swim” is what Kunuk, my Iglulingmiut host, said before we set out over the ice towards Hall Beach for the Canada Day long weekend. I’m aware that ignoring the advice of an Inuit hunter on matters of the land is pretty much a guarantee you’re going to get into trouble, but I’m an expat southerner who hasn’t seen open water in almost a year. I need a swim like Inuit need seal meat.
Margo Pfeiff takes a peek behind the scenes of the business of running a Northern lodge: from blizzards, bear invasions and caretakers gone crazy, to the ever-changing face of tourism.
Illustration by Michael Byers
As he does every March, Mike Reimer hops onto his vintage 1964 Caterpillar D6B ’dozer and sets off north from Churchill, travelling along Hudson Bay’s frozen coast at a blistering four kilometres an hour. He’s towing a sled loaded with more than 36,000 kilograms of supplies—everything from diesel, propane and batteries for a new solar energy system to furniture, lumber and food—bound for his family’s four fly-in lodges, as far as 300 km away.
Meanwhile, buzzing around the ponderous Cat like worker bees, snowmobiles check ice conditions ahead, venture inland in search of logs that will be jammed into the slush holes the Cat will inevitably slip into, and harvest the lodges’ seasonal stash of firewood. Then they hook back onto their qamutiqs, each piled with 907 kg of freight, and re-join this slow-moving springtime convoy.
Rankin Inlet’s Kivalliq Arctic Food blends tradition with innovation. By Matthew Mallon. Photo by Angela Gzowski.
Clockwise: traditional pipsi, caught, brined dried and voila—the essence of char; candied char belly, brined with brown sugar, it melts in your mouth; mesquite and regular flavoured char sticks, for fish-lovers on the go.
My stepmother, Alexina Kublu, comes from Igloolik, where she recalls feasting on fresh-caught Arctic char as a child. “Most char fishing was done in the spring and summer and early fall,” she says. “In the spring before the run, holes were made in the lake to jig from. In the summer nets were set. We’d eat it raw right from the net, or boiled.”
Housesitting is usually a fun escape. But as one veteran discovers, it’s the tiny, but crucial, details that get you. By Angela Gzowski
Illustration by Monika Melnychuk
My friend’s coworker needed a housesitter for a week last spring, and I volunteered. I’ve been housesitting in Yellowknife on and off for years, and when you live with your parents, it’s a welcome break.
I met up with the family. Some people just ask you to housesit, leave you a list, and take off. Others—like this family—are meticulous. They’ll give you specific instructions: “Don’t put this pan in the dishwasher. Don’t put that dish in the oven. Actually, don’t even clean the oven—we’ll do it ourselves.” They had a rabbit, which I’d take out of its cage every once in a while so it could run through a tube for exercise. And they had a nice kitchen.