Arctic Map

Huskies Don’t Lose Their Voices

We are staying in the Grise Fiord Lodge, a co-operative hotel, a small two-storey building with nine bedrooms, each containing two or three bunks, accommodating 24 guests altogether. There are very few people at the end of the season so I am allocated a room to myself and gratefully choose the top bunk. As we were delayed, dinner has been kept for us and just requires reheating. First we finish off the caviar, pate and foie gras that Fabian has brought with him, washed down with lashings of champagne.

The North-West Territories are meant to be primarily an alcohol-free zone; the Government of Canada has forbidden the sale of any kind of alcoholic drinks, including beer, to help protect the Inuit populations in this vast and mostly inhospitable region. Otherwise, it is believed that with little to occupy them, they would succumb even more to drink problems and the whole Inuit infrastructure out here, delicately balanced as it is, would crumble.

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So no alcohol is sold but it seems that it can still be smuggled in without too many problems, although officially, during December and the first week of January you cannot drink, let alone sell, alcohol. Fortunately, no one raises any objections to our drinking and I know that Fabian was well aware of the ban, which is why he brought so much with him. I am surprised he had room for any kit at all.

It’s been a long day so I turn in fairly early but as usual Fabian and Erik decide to have a few more celebratory drinks. The setting and their committed imbibing reminds me of the fabulous short film starring W. C. Fields titled The Fatal Glass Of Beer. It’s also set in the snowy wastes and every time Fields tries to leave his trapper’s hut he opens the door and an unseen hand throws a bucketful of snow in his face. In the film Fields has a son whose downfall has been brought about by drinking that first ‘fatal glass of beer’. Of course, the film is just a scenario to allow Fields to show off his uniquely famous comic skills and parodies. Fields himself was no stranger to the alcoholic beverage and he undoubtedly would have been welcomed with open arms by Fabian and Erik. Fields was also famous for declaring that he would rather be living in Philadelphia than dead, but only just. I wonder what he would have said about living in Resolute. It is very blowy outside so I decide not to go for a midnight stroll, even though it is incredibly bright as the Arctic is enjoying 24 hours daylight at this time of year.

I return to my room, undress and try to sleep. The rooms are heated, overheated, and I have stripped down as far as possible and only use a single sheet covering. It still proves impossible to sleep, as all night the husky dogs continually howl. There’s the apposite joke about why the prairie dogs howl all night long there are no trees in the prairie, just cacti! Here there are no trees, nor cacti, nor anything, so there must be another reason.

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