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kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

Wherever it is that we are heading, we aren't going to make it all in one go. These Dash-7 aeroplanes aren't made for long-haul flights and the range is not what you might expect from a modern aeroplane.

We are going to put down for refuelling and there's a suitable airstrip at the foot of the Boothia Peninsula, or the Simpson Peninsula to be precise, at a place called Pelly Bay

And I'm glad that I'll be going to put my feet down on the ground at Pelly Bay (assuming that we can struggle in to land here), because it is one of the most famous, if not controversial places in Arctic history.

kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

It was here in 1854 that the first definite news of the lost Franklin Expedition of 1845 came to light.

When the British Government finally stirred its stumps to send relief expeditions to look for Franklin, they were all sent spectacularly in the wrong direction, not thinking for a moment that a British naval officer would do his very utmost to follow his orders.

It was Doctor John Rae, with no connection to any of the expeditions or to the Government but leading a surveying party on behalf of the Hudsons Bay Company, who on 21st April 1854 encountered a wandering band of Inuit carrying relics of Franklin's expedition

The Inuit gave Rae a detailed account of the final days of the sad remnants of Franklin's expedition including graphic descriptions of cannibalism amongst the party.

kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

Rae made his report accordingly, which was picked up and published by The Times on 23rd October 1854. And for daring to having the affrontery to suggest that White Men had deliberately stooped so low as to eat their fellow human beings, he was abused and shunned by Society.

However, subsequent expeditions that followed up the report of Rae found that the observations of the Inuit to be perfectly correct.

Modern re-examination of several skeletal remains has only served to substantiate the the report of John Rae.

kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

We did eventually reach Pelly Bay, and here we put down for fuel. After almost four hours in the air too, and it felt like every minute of it.

These days it's no longer known as Pelly Bay but as Kugaaruk, which is Inuit for The Little Stream.

And while I have no particular objection whatever to the renaming of these places to reflect currrent attitudes, there is a considerable amount of historical literature from the days of Arctic exploration that refers to these places by their European names.

Anyone reading any of the reports of the explorers or any of the literature from those days needs to have some kind of reference to where these places are today, and I reckon that even native communities should be interested in the fame of the past.

It's what brings the tourists - and the money - into these communities. I knew immediately all about Pelly Bay and was keen to come here, but I wouldn't have a clue about any historical importance of a place called Kugaaruk.

kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

Kugaaruk was one of the potential sites for us to have been rescued, but it's out of the question at the moment.

It's situated at the head of a bay and the north wind has blown a huge pile of pack ice down to jam up the entrance. As a result, we're having to go on elsewhere.

I'm reminded of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who had clearly been in command of a similar voyage back in 1878 when he famously said
"I cannot meet them here, for my ships are out of gear
And half my men are sick. I must fly, but follow quick"

We could have waited here for the weather to clear but as you can see, there's nowhere here to wait. There used to be a school and community centre but any regular reader of any rubbish that I have ever written about Canada will know immediately without any prompting just what happened to that.

As I have said before ... "and on many occasions too" - ed ... there's far too much arson around in Canada.

C-FCRZ ATR 72-202 Calm Air International kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

And despite the isolation of Kugaaruk we weren't alone here at the airport. There was a cargo aeroplane parked next to us.

It's an ATR 72-202(F) aeroplane, owned by a company called Calm Air International, which is a company that operates out of Thompson in Manitoba deilvering freight and passengers around the far north of Canada.

Her registration number C-FCRZ and a little research tells me that she first took to the air on 25th of March 1993. She came into the possession of her current owners on 22nd September 2010.

air tindi De Havilland DHC-7-103 Dash 7 C-GUAT C-FCRZ ATR 72-202 Calm Air International kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

Her current configuration is that of an air-freighter and is equipped for the carriage and delivery of fuel supplies. And here she is, bringing in a rather banal pile of supplies.

These are being loaded up onto the back of a small lorry, which then took them off unto the settlement.

When you see how much freight the aeroplane was able to bring in, you'll understand you the immediate supply difficulties of communities out here in the wilds of Arctic Canada

And when you consider how much it must have cost in fuel and expenses to fly it here, you'll understand some of the high prices that you see in the Arctic.

Because, believe it or not, we are now well beyond the Arctic Circle. Probably 250 kilometres at least, I reckon.

In celebration of having made it to the Arctic I bent down and rubbed my hand through the gravel. This kind of thing is important to me.

kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

While the aeroplane was refuelling we had a wander around the airport terminal, such as it is.

A huge disappointment is that there is nothing in the way of food or coffee here. There were however all of two small washrooms, but the queue for them was enormously long.

And a visit to the bathroom was absolutely necessary because we have now been informed that the Elsan on the plane is full and the toilet has been placed out of bounds.

What is mystifying me about all of this is why they didn't make any effort to empty it while we were here at Pelly Bay. There must surely be some kind of facility for dealing with chemical toilet waste around here.

air tindi De Havilland DHC-7-103 Dash 7 C-GUAT kugaaruk pelly bay adventure canada north west passage 2018

The queue for the toilet was to such an extent that it took much longer for everyone to visit the bathroom than it did to fuel up the plane, and it was the plane that ended up having to wait for the passengers.

I was one of the last back on board, and found that I had to move Charles Lindbergh's sandwiches off my seat.

And when flight attendant Amelia Earhart took her seat on board, Orville and Wilbur Wright taxied our aeroplane down the runway to the take-off point.

You see, you might be thinking that this aeroplane here is a De Havilland DHC-7-103 Dash 7 registration number C-GUAT, and built as recently as 1978 but that's actually far from being the case.

It's actually the Vickers Vimy of Alcock and Brown recovered from Derrygilmlagh Bog in Ireland specifically for the purpose of moving us on.

But we have to make the best of it. We were told (and I don't doubt this for a moment) that we were lucky to find this plane for hire.

I do have to say that the plane on which we are travelling is probably the oldest on in which I have ever flown. Don't forget that the Avro Lancaster in Ontario never left the ground while I was in it.

All of this reminds me of the age-old question "who was first to fly the Atlantic non-stop?"
"Mike Tyson"
"No, it was Allcock and Brown"
"That's what I said, wasn't it?".

To see more details of today's voyage, please refer to this page

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page last modified 22:27 - 16th November 2018
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