Tour to Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital

June 7-9, 2014

Are you looking for information on Iqaluit? Here you will find photos and information about Iqaluit, a town of nearly 7000 inhabitants situated along the southern end of Baffin Island, about 200 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle, and the capital of Nunavut in Canada. In spite of the relatively southern latitude, Iqaluit has a severe polar climate that poses several problems and that sees the fjord in front of the city permanently frozen for most of the year.

737-400C safety card 737-400C cabin
How to get to Iqaluit? Iqaluit is connected by daily flights to Ottawa (Canada) and by some weekly flights to Montreal via Kuujjuaq or to Yellowknife via Rankin Inlet (seasonally, flights to Iqaluit are also available from St. John's, Halifax and Nuuk in Greenland). In these photos, the Boeing 737-400 Combi (cargo + passengers) operated by First Air, with the safety card written also in Inuktitut alphabet, the official language of Nunavut.

 

Flying over northern Canada Pack ice
Landing in Iqaluit I chose to get to Iqaluit from Ottawa by First Air (an alternative to First Air is Canadian North offering the same route), flying over the sea covered by thick ice sheets, although it is June. On the left picture, the fjord in front of the of Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay) seen just before landing and showing melting snow on the surface.

 

Iqaluit runway Iqaluit airport
Photos of Iqaluit airport. The airport in Iqaluit has a runway suitable for world's largest aeroplanes, since this airport is located in a strategic position along the sub-polar routes linking Europe to the west coast of the American continent. In case of emergency, any aircraft flying such routes, will find in Iqaluit a safe place where to land.

 

First Air 737-400C C-FFNE
The First Air Boeing 737-400 Combi parked at Iqaluit airport.

 

Apex (near Iqaluit) Arctic beach
I get a guided Iqaluit city tour. Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut and is home to approximately 7000 inhabitants. The city is located in the southern part of Baffin Island and in these photos you can see the more peripheral district of Iqaluit, which takes the name of Apex. You can notice the sea still completely frozen even in June, despite the snow is almost completely dissolved on the mainland.

 

Historical Hudson Bay Company building
An historic building dating back to 1670 and belonging to Hudson's Bay Company, the oldest trading company in Canada, currently at 2014 still in business.

 

Frozen fjord Sea ice
Frobisher Bay Spring in the Arctic
Although Iqaluit is located at a latitude equal to that of Nuuk in Greenland, or Reykjavik in Iceland, or Trondheim in Norway (therefore about 200 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle), the climate is dramatically more severe than that found in those locations, so the sea is completely frozen until the beginning of July. The average temperature during the winter months is around 25°C degrees below zero, with extremes that can go down to -40°C/F degrees or even less.

 

Tundra Arctic vegetation
Arctic birch Lichen
Because of the winds that often sweep across Baffin Island and the presence of permafrost (permanently frozen subsoil) that does not allow the roots to penetrate deeply, no plant in Iqaluit is higher than 20 centimetres. The plants typically showing an arboreal habit in other parts of the world, will grow here like a Japanese bonsai (bottom-left picture) that, in spite of the small diameter of the stems, they can be extremely old. In the picture on the bottom right, colored and black lichens covering the rocks.

 

Road to nowhere Baffin island
Road to somewhere
Landscape around Iqaluit There are no roads connecting Iqaluit to other cities of Baffin island, and outside the city there are just a couple of unpaved roads of few kilometers, called respectively "the road to nowhere" and "the road to somewhere". Actually, both roads are interrupted suddenly on the tundra and do not lead to any particular destination.

 

Nunavut
Iqaluit
Iqaluit photos. The city of Iqaluit is based on buildings of different sizes, including larger condominiums. The main roads are paved and although from Iqaluit is not possible to drive to other places, most inhabitants own a car to move just throughout the city.

 

How to distribute water in cold climate
What in temperate or mild climate can be considered normal, in other parts of the world is not so obvious. How you would build an aqueduct where the subsoil is permanently frozen (permafrost) and where the outside temperature in winter can drop to -45°C? The solution is to actually eliminate any water pipe and to equip each home with a large external tank, well insulated and heated. Near the tank there is a red light that comes on when the water level gets too low. Every day in Iqaluit there is a truck that will fill-up the tanks if the red light is on.

 

Arctic souvenir shop Soap stone sculpture
The tour in Iqaluit continues visiting a souvenir shop that sells hundreds of beautiful sculptures made in soapstone. Many sculptures are true works of art and are relatively expensive. For example, the work shown in the photo on the right (the hunter who carries the seal on the sled) costs CA$175, which is justified by the long time required to make this artwork by hands.

 

Weather station
Around Iqaluit there are numerous weather stations and more complex installations for the study of the atmosphere.

 

Iqaluit courthouse Iqaluit college
Iqaluit murals Other buildings of Iqaluit. In the upper-left picture, the courthouse. In the top photo, the university. In the bottom-left picture, some murals inspired by scenes of everyday life in the Arctic.

 

Iqaluit
A photo of Frobisher Bay, the bay in June is still completely covered by sea ice.

 

Pack ice
Iqaluit
In the place where the sea meets the land, the ice breaks and becomes quite chaotic. This is mainly due to the tides, which in these parts of the world can exceed several meters. The pressure that occurs between two tides breaks the ice, which is then piled in small or large blocks. This creates a messy maze of ice sheets, and the sign written in both English and Inuktitut, advises that this place is not good to hike or play.

 

A stop signal written in Inuktitut alphabet.

 

Beach in Iqaluit Iqaluit beach
Pictures of Iqaluit beach (but today the water is a little bit cold...)

 

Foundations in the permafrost
The foundations of a building under construction, formed by poles that can compensate the movement of permafrost during the seasons.

 

Iqaluit museum
In Iqaluit I visit also the small local museum, where there are artifacts of ancient natives.

 

Iqaluit Anglican church
Photos of the Anglican Cathedral of St. Jude in Iqaluit, consecrated in 2012.

 

Iqaluit
More photos of Iqaluit showing the frozen fjord behind the modern colored buildings.

 

Hotel Arctic Hotel Arctic Iqaluit
Where to stay in Iqaluit? In Iqaluit there are a number of hotels, all quite expensive and perhaps with too many useless amenities, considered the place where they are. In these photos, the Hotel Arctic.

 

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