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A Toe in the Arctic Ocean: Canada's Northwest Territories on the Looney Front, Part 2

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 25/10/2015 Mike Arkus

Yes, and you get an Arctic Toe Dipping Certificate to attest to your courageous crowning achievement, with four boxes to be ticked as appropriate - toe dipping, wading, swimming, skinny dipping.
We're in the Inuvialuit hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk at the very top of Canada's Northwest Territories, where the vast Mackenzie River Delta meets the Arctic Ocean in the form of the Beaufort Sea.
2015-07-29-1438198202-9611439-IMG_3893.JPG © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-07-29-1438198202-9611439-IMG_3893.JPG The Arctic beckons
The name means 'looks like caribou,' and is generally shortened to Tuk so that you don't break your teeth and dislocate your tongue in pronouncing it. It's even more daunting in its properly transliterated spelling - Tuktuyaaqtuuqt.
In fact it was the first place in Canada to revert to its indigenous name in 1950 after being called Fort Brabant by the colonists. Legend has it that aeons ago some caribou waded into the sea and turned to stone - the reefs visible at low tide are said to resemble the petrified beasts.
2015-07-29-1438184775-4733932-IMG_3898.JPG © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-07-29-1438184775-4733932-IMG_3898.JPG Getting ready for the plunge
It's beyond the tree line up here, pure permafrost tundra, lacking Inuvik's rich tapestry of low taiga forest, and you can only get here by boat or plane in summer - that is until they complete the all-weather road from Inuvik, some 75 miles to the south.
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But you can drive here in winter along the Mackenzie's frozen ice channels, which has turned Tuk into a perfect victim for that acne of our age - reality TV.
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It has featured in two such shows, Ice Road Truckers and Jesse James Is A Dead Man. In the latter the motorbike-mounted American TV personality who glories in the name of the famous or infamous outlaw performs yet more death-defying stunts to bring medicine to Tuk.
The flight from Inuvik in a tiny six-seater Cessna 130 provides a superb panorama of the Mackenzie Delta mosaic - zillions of pools, streams, sinuous rivulets, lakes, some still with ice floes (it's late June), and the broad muddy channels of the great river itself. The mosaic continues into the tundra after the forests have disappeared.
Flight from Inuvik to Tuk

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As you've all been asking why the Mackenzie is called Mackenzie - OK, you haven't, but here we go - it's named for Scottish Explorer Alexander Mackenzie, who sailed down it in 1789, hoping it would turn out to be the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. But on the very same day those naughty French were storming the Bastille (July 14), he reached the Arctic Ocean instead. Oops!
The Dené First Nation, who live further upstream, have no truck for Scotland or Mackenzie and still call it Dehcho, or big river.
Views beyond the tree line

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Tuk is a not-particularly attractive town of about 1,000 Inuvialuit with some Gwich'in, but there are still some photogenic spots around town.
Tuktoyaktuk

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The area is known for its 'pingos,' small volcanic-cone looking hills caused by the gradually expanding permafrost.
Pingos

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The locals build ice-houses some 15 feet down into the permafrost to keep their provisions in the summer. You can see the permafrost starting a foot and a half below the surface.
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Another interesting feature is the vast amount of driftwood that piles up in the numerous bays, providing material for treeless Inuit to build boats.
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You can also snap wonderful shots of the little Inuvialuit children. On this occasion a group of them are playing with five husky puppies no more than a couple of weeks old while the proud mother, the huskies' mother that is, looks happily on.
Husky pups

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But what would a trip so far north be without snapping that most photogenic of all objects on the planet in this age of camera-phones and digitals - YOURSELF! Yes, we're back to the toe-in-the-Arctic bit, since this seems to be the main reason many people come here - the great royal hunt of the SELFIES!
Get your photo snapped with your camera by somebody as you pose in crouching mode, thumbs up, with an idiotic grin on your mug and a toe in the Arctic. Well, Yours Truly tries the waters with a finger - it's not all that cold - and remains shod, and unsnapped.
Some of the others actually wade out and plunge antically under the Arctic - and under their camera's lens of course.
Who's for a dip

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Meanwhile back in town Tuk's local Mounty unit - five people - reports it had quite a busy night last night, what with all the 'partying,' - read boozing.
Tuk also seems to suffer from another problem of some aboriginal communities - child sex abuse. 'Child pornography is child abuse,' says a poster in the Mounty office.
[Upcoming blog on Wednesday: Aboriginal Day and Arctic sports in Canada's far north] 2015-07-29-1438199742-2334355-IMG_3911.JPG © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-07-29-1438199742-2334355-IMG_3911.JPG Bye bye Tuk______________By the same author: Bussing The Amazon: On The Road With The Accidental Journalist, available with free excerpts on Kindle and in print version on Amazon. Swimming With Fidel: The Toils Of An Accidental Journalist, available on Kindle, with free excerpts here, and in print version on Amazon in the U.S here.

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