Auyuiittuq means “The Land that Never Melts.” But if the Arctic is the heart of climate change, Auyuittuq is its soul. There are few landscapes on the planet like this – a long, U-shaped glacial valley scraped out by successive glaciations, the last one being about 8000 years ago. The steep, bare walls of the fjord rise about 800 metres and at one time tongues of ice hung into the valley. Few of these remain and the ones that do are but remnants of their former selves.
As the sun rises in the summer sky, bringing a warmth that is becoming increasingly “normal” in this place, the water that is flowing down the cliffs becomes a torrent. In this grand silent place the only sound you hear is the water’s roar as it gathers speed and strength before reaching the valley below. By afternoon, streams have turned to rivers and hikers heading for the Arctic Circle, about 10 kilometres into the park, have to work their way across rushing water that is deep and treacherous in places. Over the years there have been a number of deaths as hikers were swept away.
This reality was on our minds as 60 students and staff headed off early in the morning along the trail that follows a river back into the park to the Arctic Circle. All arrived safely and got out with no problem other than a few dunkings. And wet feet. You can’t do this hike without getting wet. It’s part of the experience. So is the swim at the Circle. Not many people can say they have gone swimming at 66 degrees, 33 minutes North.
For some of the students, this is the most intense and intimate contact they have ever had with the natural world. It definitely isn’t Hong Kong or New York City.
See todays's footage of students in Auyuittuq National Park here:
Credit: Students on Ice