Why did I go? For work – Leaving Vancouver in summer is never easy, but bills have to be paid, and this job in particular was ideal in several ways… turned out better than I thought!
Where did I go and stay?
I spent 6 weeks in an exploration camp approximately 200 km west of Repulse Bay, Nunavut, Canada.
When was all this? July to August of 2016
What was it like…
Getting to a Camp in middle of Nunavut is usually not a 1-day trip. To get anywhere in Nunavut you need to get to Rankin Inlet. I got to Rankin Inlet through Winnipeg from Vancouver. I had to stay there for a night. Nunavut is a strange land. There is very few similarities to everywhere else in Canada or to rest of the world for that matter. The airports are like bus stations, no security checks, no line ups. People drive their quads (or skidoos) as much as they drive their trucks/cars. Land is fairly flat with no trees. First thing I notice is Hudson Bay in a nice sunny day with tiny islands poking out of the water. There are some hills here and there, all roads are dirt roads, surrounded by northern houses with diesel containers outside. I was happy that there are some sport facilities now in town of 3,000 people. They have volleyball court, small soccer turf! And of course a hockey rink.
How I get to camp is usually via a small plane…We casually cross the runway as fork lifts load our gear or groceries etc for the camp then we are off. What you can see from the window of the plane is lakes, and lots of them.
The camp I stayed at was the biggest I’ve been to yet. Capable of having 80 people – this is big for exploration stage (not mining of course). I was glad to see the setting. We were literally situated on a sandy beach by nice lakes all around.
Without boring you too much about technical stuff, basically we look for gold along a 200 km long belt. Everyday different crews are sent out via helicopter to different areas to do different things such as Drone surveying, drilling, collecting till samples, rocks samples, or mapping the geology. Helicopters are essentially taxis, very expensive taxis – $40 per min taxis (all up with cost of fuel or getting the fuel up there!)
I was mostly in the camp logging all the drilled rocks and sending them for analysis. Once I finished all that, I did get a chance to go out hiking and smashing some rocks.
Days go fast, and they are the same thing over and over. What was special for me was the scenery and people I met in this trip. There were times I found myself alone in middle tundra, climbing a hill overviewing a nice lake. Couldn’t help but to just sit and stare at my surrounding for a bit… of course getting up after and working x2 hard.
I met some nice and fascinating people during this trip. Usually in a camp like this people are divided into different groups:
The kitchen staff: Most popular for obvious reasons. They can really boast moral with some of their work.
Camp guys: These guys make the camp run smoothly, maintenance, power, water, laundry, shower, and etc depend on these guys. Most of these guys were locals from Nunavut’s various communities. Awesome guys with great attitude. Some of their work is can be strenuous under tough weather conditions, but they always had a smile on their face.
Helicopter guys: there are days they spent more time in their tiny box up in the air than they do on the ground. Requires great focus what they do really …Most of the time though, they are in the kitchen!
Geologists (Geos): I am a bit biased being a geologist, but I do think we work the longest hours. We are the guys that stay up latest and get up last in the mornings. I like to think most of us are down to earth and can get along with everyone, but I’ve seen the ugly side too. Sometimes egos and sense of entitlement is a bit too much.
Surveyors: Most of them students, recent grads, former tree planters supervised by more experienced people.
Drillers: These guys are big boys playing with big toys, you can usually tell who they are by listening to their conversations. Most of the time it’s lots of profanity.
Naturally just like high school, each group hangs out with their own kind. I tried to switch it up. I would sit with different people during dinner etc. I got a chance to get to know some of the locals well, and learn about their life and families. What they like to do in summer, winter, and learned about how young they are when they go on ships and hunt seals or whales. I found I could talk to younger Pilots about travelling, and living abroad. Most of the time I would end up chatting about life, philosophy, and events around the world with the medic and logistic personnel… that was my group I guess…It was a good team.
Last but not least the geography and weather characteristics of Nunavut is also something I found interesting and bizarre. From 11pm daylight that felt like 2pm, to losing 15 min of daylight per day towards end of my trip, and how fast the weather can change: 9 am it can be sunny 20deg C, not a could in the sky, 12pm can be windy with clouds rolling in, by 3pm it could be snowing with winds of 50-70 km/hour. It all adds to experience… for good or bad!
PLACES I've BEEN
Here is a map of places I have visited, lived or worked for at least 2 days or more. Let me know which city you like to see on the next blog post!