Sunday, July 14, 2019

Arctic Vacation, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada: July 2019

Houseboats on Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife
The charter plane to Arctic Watch Lodge flew all of us from/to Yellowknife. Yellowknife is a little quirky as a town that began was a mining settlement of tents and cabins in the 1930s and grew to a territorial capitol in 1967. It sits on the northern shore of the Great Slave Lake the deepest lake in North America which is frozen or mostly frozen during eight months of the year.

This wasn't our first visit to Yellowknife. We were in Yellowknife one February probably 25 or so years ago. Yellowknife is a great place to see Northern Lights because the weather is mostly clear. It does snow, but it is so cold that the snow stays around until the spring thaw. It was so cold that February that one day without drying my hair I walked from the B&B to the taxi and my hair froze solid in seconds. It is so cold that we had to rent blue one piece snowsuits to survive. We looked like Smurfs.

We did see the Northern Lights several nights. One night we stood on the frozen solid Great Slave Lake and to the disconcerting sound of the ice groaning beneath our feet, we watched the lights dance overhead.

The houseboats that dot Great Slave Lake are here all year. In warm weather, residents use boats or canoes to get to the mainland, and in the winter they walk across the ice.

Houseboats and Jolliffe Island, Yellowknife
Yellowknife got its name because local aboriginal people, the Dene, used copper to make their knives. In the 1930s gold seekers and other immigrants to area referred to them as "Yellowknives." The name of the lake, Great Slave Lake, is derived from Dene people called Slavey.


Much of Yellowknife and Canada resides on rock known as the Canadian Shield. This rock is what is left of the world's oldest mountains. If you are lucky or unlucky enough to have a home on the Canadian Shield, then you do not have either a septic tank or sewer system and you also don't have water. You have a "honey bucket" to collect waste and you must have water delivered to another tank. The "honey bucket" must be periodically pumped by trucks that euphamisitically state "Nectar of the Gods" on the back of the tank.



A muskox sculpture stands near Yellowknife's City Hall. In the winter it is covered with mosses and grasses instead of flowers.

A muskox with a clean coat at the Heritage Museum
Muskoxen were alive during the time of the Wooly Mammoth. Muskoxen are descendants from herds that lived in Siberia about 2.5 million years ago. They crossed the Bering Land Bridge to North America over 90,000 years ago (Prince of Wales Heritage Center).

Old Town Bikeworks
With plenty of time to explore Yellowknife on either side of our Arctic vacation, we visited most of Old Town. We talked to the owner of Old Town Bikeworks. His business rescues unwanted bicycles and fixes them up so that they are useful again. He then sells, trades, or rents those bikes. Every part gets recycled in some way. Spare bike wheels provide additional support to the interior of the shop's geodesic dome.

Derrald Taylor, Inuvialuit carver, from Tuktoyaktuk, NWT
We talked to some of the carvers in a building just behind the glass shop. They were getting ready for a big show/sale in Inuvik (extreme north of NWT) on the July 13 weekend and didn't have much on display. Most of the carvers were from Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. The piece that Derrald Taylor is working on is a carving of two swimming walruses.

We did have a close encounter with a polar bear; this bear was stuffed and resides in the lobby of the Explorer Hotel where we were staying.


Yellowknife is a good place to hang out in the summer, but bring your mosquito spray.

Flying home very early on July 14.


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