One summer I used my Aeroplan points and a tour company to get to Devon Island and to Alexandra Fiord on Ellesmere Island. It was high summer and under the midnight sun the small tourist group not only enjoyed the incredible scenery and wildlife but came across Thule and Dorset qarmaqs (sodhouses), including one being researched by two University of Alberta anthropologists who had discovered Viking artifacts on Skraeling Island, including chain mail, metal items and carpenter’s tools.
All around us was found a host of wildlife, from walrus and muskoxen, to tern, ptarmigan, and weasels. The walruses, some weighing well over 1,000 kg, seemed to like playing a game of trying to see how many could fit onto one small piece of ice before rolling off and diving for clams. By contrast, the muskoxen (a small group of young ones who hung around one of our campsites) seemed decidedly shy and, on one occasion as we approached them to take pictures, they retreated into a small lake, making them look wet and embarrassed until we felt sorry for them and moved away.
At our Alexandra Fiord campsite on the east coast of Ellesmere Island we adopted a mother ptarmigan who proudly displayed her brood of six chicks. Unfortunately for her, the family was also noticed by a local weasel who eliminated one chick daily until the mother had to fly away for her own safety.
Nick Newbery taught in several communities in Nunavut from 1976-2005. The photos in this article are from Nick’s Arctic photo collection which can be found at www.newberyphotoarchives.ca and should be viewed from a historical perspective.
Nick passed away February 2020. We will continue to publish articles we have on file from Nick, with his permission.