To Tuk & Back...

On July 8th, I finally got to take a boat tour to Tuktoyaktuk, a small Inuvaluit community on the edge of the Beaufort Sea. Tuk is about 180km north of Inuvik, and well above the arctic treeline. I should mention, that as you travel into the extreme north you reach a point where trees no longer grow. At the treeline the Taiga gives way to nothing but grass and scrubby bushes. Kylik's company "Up North Tours" as mentioned in my previous entry, runs tours from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk and back. Kylik's friend Peyton was our boat driver for the day, he grew up on the delta and knows the waterways inside and out.

I should mention the trees up here at this point. Stunted black spruce make up most of the tundra-forest (Taiga). They are small...really small, and apparently really, really old! Permafrost and cold temperatures mean that roots can't burrow deep enough into the earth leaving them effectively, naturally bonsai'd.

There are many things photos cannot capture, such as the incredible vastness and intense isolation out on the delta.

Due to the endless flat-appearance of the wilderness along the delta, many of the photos I had taken appear remarkably similar to one another. For this reason much of the trip does not appear in the photos below and I did not end up taking as many on this entire day-trip as I did on the previous 4 hour trip out on the delta.

Kylik's 22' Hewes Craft, With A 150 Suzuki Outboard
Up North Tours has a solid tour-boat. This trip we had a smaller 150 horsepower temporary outboard on it, but it's been recently outfitted it with a 250hp Suzuki.

A View Of The Mackenzie East Channel From The Tour-boat

Pretty Majestic For A Place With No Real Mountains

We Stopped For A Mosquito-Break Part Way Up The River

I have to say, the mosquito's out on the delta are ruthless predators. There isn't a bug spray made that will keep them all away from you out here. The day before a Kylik had dropped off a fellow named Terry on the tundra to spend a night or two. Even Terry's 100% deet repellant didn't keep them at bay for long.

We picked Terry up when we stopped spotting him on the ridge above back-lit by the sun and looking in his leather fedora like he stepped out of an Indiana Jones movie. Terry turned out to be an awesome dude, and I spent a lot of time chatting with him during the remainder of the trip.

Her is an article that Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) posted about him. You never know who your going to bump into up here.

Most Interesting Plant Life Up Here, What Is This...Moss Maybe?

Lichens? No Idea But They Look Really Cool
 I have an intense fascination with macro-photography (up close pictures or really small things) and I snapped some close ups of  a few of the tundra plants; they were fantastically alien-looking.

Kittigazuit: Ancient Structures

Kittigazuit: Hudson's Bay Company Store
This ancient whaling village has been declared a Canadian Historical Site, it was once a central community and trading post here in the north. Kittigazuit was an active community until the early 1930's until a series of lethal epidemics swept through the village. The survivors abandoned it and the site has remained so since.

Whaling Camps From Afar

Just before the east arm empties into the Beaufort Sea there are a cluster of whaling camps. Some are simple huts, others full-on cabins.

A Rack For Hanging Fish To Dry

Whaling Cabins

Whaling Cabins (Close Up)

Whaling Cabin & More Drying Racks

Another Whaling Cabin

The Docks At Tuktoyaktuk

At last we reached the docks at Tuk. We had been on the water for so long, land was a welcome sight at this point.

On a related side note. Much of the trip I had been in the front seat of the boat as we plowed across choppy waters. I had been holding on tight the whole time and although it didn't affect me that day, the next day I could when I tried to get out of bed I could barely move from the muscle soreness.

When we got back we were introduced to our tour guide to Tuk, John Steen. John and his family turned out to be a hell of a nice bunch, thanks for the snacks and refreshments! John showed us around town, stopping first at the airport and then all over the place.

This Traditional Made Hide Kayak Hangs In The Tuk Air Terminal

Me, Chillin' In Front Of The Tuk Sign
Tuk Panorama

One Of The Dew-line Sites

Build during the cold war, the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line) is a series of radio towers designed to detect Soviet Bombers and other air threats. One of the installations is just above Tuk and can be seen from town.

Me Wading In The Arctic Ocean (Beaufort Sea)
Thanks to being on the tour, I got a certificate for wading in the Arctic Ocean (technically the Beaufort Sea). There's several levels to the certificate, I opted for wading only because I didn't bring swim trunks and I wasn't about to go skinny dipping and subject people to the sun shining off my flabby white ass (yes there's a certificate for that, for skinny dipping, not for seeing my ass!)

This Boat Had Character, I Had To Take It's Picture

Traditional Sod House - Exterior

Sod House - Interior

The sod houses were very interesting. Even though they were being rebuilt at the time, they looked potentially warm and insulating against the harsh arctic conditions. Way better than an igloo in my opinion (sorry igloo fans).

Cool Log-Fence Around The Sod Houses

This Is The Entrance To The Ice House

This is it, the coolest thing I have seen up north to date (pun completely intended). In an unassuming little hut a couple of times bigger than an outhouse sits the entrance to the Tuk icehouse.

One Long Slippery Wooden Ladder

That ladder goes down a long way, around 30 feet or so. It's made of wood, and it was pretty slippery from about the half way point down. Its not used so much anymore, but they used to store muktuk and frozen meats down here. Some people still use it from time to time I guess, but it seemed empty at the time our tour visited.

Me, Getting My Freeze On

Ice House Corridor

Another Frozen Corridor, It Stays Between -12-15oC Down Here

The Walls Of The Ice House Corridor; Frozen Dirt & Sand

Ice House Ceiling, The Ice Crystals Are Huge Down Here

The Entrance & Exit Ladder

Frozen Saw Was Abandoned On A Nail Here
Lots of ATV's in Tuk is seems. The locals use them to get around. This would be a good time to mention the bugs... holy hell... I've been some places with bad mosquitoes before but never this bad in a town before. They were viscous to say the least.

Local Fisherman Setting Nets For Herring

The Start Of The Trans-Canada Trail

The Trans-Canada trail starts here, at this big marker thingy. It was disappointing to find out that the trail isn't a solid trail across Canada but a series of trails with gaps between. I say link them together, it would be a heck of brisk walk!

The fireweed here was amazingly vibrant in color. Never seen it quite as intense anywhere else.

The Tundra near Tuk
My tour ended around this point and I had some time to kill around town while we waited for another group that came in by plane to finish their tour of town. I big farewell to the other awesome people I boated up except for Terry, they didn't have room on the plane for him so he was boating back with my and the second group. During the down time, John took me and Terry out to the pingo's in his jet boat. I snapped some more up-close pictures of these fascinating hills and the various wildlife we found while bombing around out there.

Pingos are formed when ice builds up under the permafrost heaving the earth above into a strangely uniform hill.

A Pingo - Up Close

The Other Side

Vibrant Water Plants

A Young Bald Eagle In Flight

A Cabin On The Outskirts Of Tuk
There are cabins everywhere up here, scattered about on the islands and land spits surrounding Tuk. As the day wound down, I rejoined the tour boat and headed back with our driver Peyton, Terry and the adventurers that had flown up for their boat trip back to Inuvik. The day was long, and I was pretty exhausted by this time. I snapped a few more pictures, but the trip back was pretty much a blur.

Beach & Hills On the Way Back To Inuvik

The End Of A Long Day
We had a little extra adventure when we got back, we ran out of gas just downstream of Inuvik...during a thunderstorm. Nothing like being in a big chunk of metal floating on the water while lightning reigns down from black thunderheads all around you. Fortunately Peyton found a stash of emergency gas on the boat (everything has a backup in the north) and putted into Inuvik as the sun hung low in the sky (well as low as it hangs in July here).

Honestly, it was a fantastic trip. My blog post here certainly doesn't do the experience the justice it deserves. I had a blast and if you get the chance and your in Inuvik, trust me, go. Kylik tells me they will being doing guided trips to Hershel Island next year, something tells me I am going to have to go on one of those!

Throw me a comment if you found this interesting.

Jeff J.


Anonymous said…
its a good thing you dont get
Jeff D. Jones said…
Only if I get
Thank you. You blog and life are amazing. It is real specail when someone share's what other never would see. GREAT STUFf,
Jeff D. Jones said…
Thanks for the kind words. That's exactly why I share all these photos. To give others a glimpse of the places I visit that otherwise they wouldn't see, or maybe never even heard of. Also love to encourage people into stepping out of their regular life and go adventuring once in a while, it makes you feel so alive. Even if they can't travel, I think People should stop and look at the world around them every so often, we miss amazing things every day simply because we weren't looking for them.

Plus it's so my friends and family can see the crazy places I move to. :P

Popular Posts