It’s been a long and grueling 450-mile drive up Canada’s Dempster Highway, battling rain, potholes and our RV sliding in the mud. But, we finally drove into the remote town of Inuvik, North West Territory this afternoon. The final segment of our drive found us on two ferries, one on the Peel River and the other over the McKenzie River, as we descended from the Yukon tundra to the ocean, a descent of about 3,300 feet.
Once we crossed the McKenzie, we made a beeline to Inuvik, as interesting a town as anyone has ever seen. There is only one major shopping street, with a mix of hotels, gift shops, cafes and bars. Lots of bars, an unfortunate by-product of the difficult plight of the indigenous people worldwide.
Inuvik sits on the edge of a huge estuarine delta, and historically its people have survived with fishing and hunting. The climate is unforgiving. Today, on August 16, it might reach as high as 45F, not counting the wind chill factor.
To cope with the low end of weather extreme, all houses are built on cement posts, so as not to melt the permafrost and cause the house to sink.
Water and waste must travel above ground for the same reasons, so the community has built what is known as the Utilidor, a network of above-ground corrugated metal conduits that are heavily insulated. All homes in the community are connected to this grid.
Tomorrow we fly to Tuktoyaktuk to take a dip in the Beaufort Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. The weather report calls for a temp of 23F, including the wind chill. The water temp is 29.4F (salt water freezes at a lower temp). Brrr!