Inuvik, Dempster Hwy, North West Territories – Land of the midnight sun

Weather is still cruel – dark and rainy. A second complimentary ferry is taking us over Mackenzie River. After another 130 km we are finishing Dempster Highway and are reaching Inuvik. At Western Arctic Regional Visitor Center we are getting to know that the road was closed behind us again and that we are stuck here. No matters, we want to visit town first and tomorrow is another day. At the gas station we are for the first time getting in contact with Inuvik prices. We skip fuelling for 1,45 $/litre. At the grocery, one litre milk is four, five Dollars, a 1-l-glass pickles is nine Dollars and a whole wheat toast 6.50 $. Fresh food is rare and expensive, meat and bread is available mainly frozen. Food is stored in huge refrigerator and freezer houses. Supply is brought by ship as long as Beaufort Sea doesn’t freeze, by plane, and by truck when Dempster Highway is open. In summer you cross the two rivers on a ferry, in winter you drive over the ice. But two times a year traffic stops when the ice isn’t thick enough, but the ferry can’t go – in autumn for around two, in spring for one month. Then prices rocket in hours.

Inuvik is a neat, proper town with colourful wood houses and 3,500 inhabitants, mostly Inuit, Indians, and Whites. Building on permafrost is very difficult. Soil in Inuvik is constantly frozen between 90 and 300 cm, and only the upper layer thaws and freezes during seasons and lifts the soil. To prevent buildings from destruction they have to rest on piles, deeply anchored in the permafrost. There has to be a distance between ground surface and house floor to allow heat from the building to disappear. But of course, there is the other Inuvik as well with seedy cabins and an above-average number of people under the influence of alcohol – concededly of all skin colours.

At night we are going a couple of kilometres outside Inuvik to a pick-nick area where even complimentary firewood is available. Many locals harvest blueberries and cloudberries here. Men protect their harvesting wives with rifles or axes. Two women walk at least with a bear bell. They tell me they never saw a grizzly while collecting berries, but you never know…

At 1:42 a.m. sun is finally setting in Inuvik – and we can see it! It will be for few hours only, sunrise will be at 4:17 a.m. some degrees further east, but daylight stays with us all the time.

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