From "Up Here" magazine, December 2014

by Ashleigh Gaul


former Associate Editor of Up Here magazine




Shit happens. Especially in the North; otherwise there wouldn’t be an Inuktitut word for it: Ajurnarmat. It encompasses everything from a broken pencil to mass starvation. It means “nothing to be done”.


Despite our best planning, getting to Goja Haven in early October to profile Inuit Franklin scholar and guide, Louie Kamookak, was a disaster. Photographer Riley Veldhuizen and I boarded the Yellowknife to Kugluktuk to Cambridge Bay to Taloyoak to Kugaaruk to Goja Haven milk run (flight 0478) on time, at 10 a.m. But with delays in Kugluktuk (airport ran out of de-icing fluid), Cambridge Bay (no explanation), and Taloyoak (freezing rain), an eight-hour journey turned into a 14-hour odyssey, and when the pilots maxed out their flight time, we returned to Yellowknife. The GN (Government of Nunavut) worker beside me had been trying to get to Gjoa Haven—from Cambridge Bay—for three days. People were upset. I was excited.


Complications like this are why I write in the North. Northerners are always getting their plans foiled, being forced to change course mid-route. We’re always getting stuck in dingy hotel rooms with each other, swapping stories. Our hardships draw us closer. En route to Yellowknife, we discovered there were only half as many meals as there were passengers—the caterers hadn’t planned to fly so many people south. We could feed only the people who’d paid for those meals, or share. My seatmate turned to me, no discussion: we’d share.


When things go wrong, room opens up for unexpected things to happen, and that’s precisely why I think the story of the list Franklin expedition (If any living Inuk knew –link) is so enduringly popular – things went terribly wrong, and we can only imagine what happened next.


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