Western Nunavut’s Cambridge Bay sees yet another cruise ship
Cruise line picks Cambridge Bay as Northwest Passage turn-around point
CAMBRIDGE BAY — They came, they walked around town in red parkas and rubber boots, and they left. All on Aug. 31 over a few hours.
The 150 passengers on board the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises ship, the Bremen, wore basically the same fire-hydrant colours that those from the Crystal Serenity cruise had sported two days previously, but they were different.
These passengers, nearly all from Germany, had paid $14,000 and more per person for a 19-day round trip from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland through the Northwest Passage and back on the much smaller and more modest Bremen.
They appeared more expedition-minded than the predominately Americans who had pulled themselves away from the Crystal Serenity’s spa treatments and restaurants to tour Cambridge Bay Aug. 29.
The Bremen passengers arrived with heavy cameras armed with enormous lenses, which, on their first tour stop, they used to record the home of Doug Stern.
While his house by the shore is normally adorned with caribou antlers, hanging bones, skins and a rock garden, Stern also had laid out a variety of the fur garments he uses in winter hunting to show the group.
“This loon was by-catch, caught in a fishnet,” said Stern, who was wearing his Canadian Rangers red hoodie, holding the loon in his hands. “After I stewed it, I decided to clean it and make it into a pillow for my boat.”
About 90 of the passengers went on to the May Hakongak Library and Community Centre — which opened its doors for free during the cruise’s shore visit.
The centre waived the $25 fee charged Aug. 29 for the larger Crystal Serenity cruise in exchange for a blanket amount of money earmarked for the ship’s land activities.
So instead of a handful, many more came in to see the centre’s displays on Inuinnait history — although nearly all also wanted to go online at the library and said they were willing to pay for that privilege.
However, the community access computers were put away and the code wasn’t made public.
That’s because last year, in one day, cruise visitors depleted a month’s worth of bandwidth, according to comments filed this summer with Nunavut regulators by the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, known as Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq in Inuinnaqtun.
Meanwhile, crew members shopped, mainly for shampoo, hair gel and snacks, spending hundreds of dollars on corn chips, according to local store staff — and no one asked if Cambridge Bay had green foxes (as one Crystal Serenity passenger did after spying a green-dyed fox fur).
For passengers, at 11 a.m. at the Luke Novoligak community hall, there was tea and coffee, along with Cheez-Whiz, crackers, jam, bannock, Arctic char jerky (which many deemed “hot”) and a cultural show, which included qulliq lamp-lighting with elder Mary Avalak, Inuit games with Thomas Kaohina and Ipellie Ootoova, and fiddling with Anthony and Ashlee Otokiak.
“Barry,” the polar bear trophy, was also on display, prompting many to take photos of his big, open mouth.
The polar bear, local cruise ship visit co-ordinator Vicki Aitaok told the assembled passengers, was shot by her husband — “with a gun,” she explained.
Aitaok also told the audience how Inuit try to eat, use or re-use every part of animals they hunt, “even the eyeballs.”
A German guide from the cruise ship provided the interpretation for passengers.
“It is a challenge when they don’t speak English,” Aitaok said later. “It means I can’t give the details that make the information interesting. No storytelling, just facts.”
Aitaok said she prefers not to serve as the master-of-ceremonies, either, but no one else was available to host the cultural show.
It’s been a long week for people in the community of 1,700.
Northwest Passage cruise ship traffic is nothing like you can find now in Alaska, where nearly one million come in on cruises. But this week Cambridge Bay — in addition to the Crystal Serenity — also saw a luxury yacht, the Hetairos, come into town.
A world-class sailing yacht, nearly 67 metres long, the Hetairos — which means comrade or companion in Greek mythology — arrived in Cambridge Bay after travelling the Northwest Passage with guests on board and, a crew member said, more than a dozen crew members to look after them.
Documents earlier filed with the Nunavut Impact Review Board said the yacht planned to also stop in Pond Inlet, Resolute and Beechey Island, before heading towards Cambridge Bay, Tuktoyaktuk and Alaska.
While in Cambridge Bay, the yacht’s owner, German entrepreneur and billionaire, Otto Happel, deemed the 458th richest person in the world, went on a tour of the town and then to a private cultural show at the May Hakongak centre.
Yet another cruise ship also is due into Cambridge Bay Sept. 10: Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavour.
And, Sept. 1, the Bremen was to have a scheduled stop in Gjoa Haven.
With increased traffic likely in the Northwest Passage, officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada also met with various organizations on how to improve Arctic marine safety and security during an invitation-only meeting held Aug. 31 in Cambridge Bay.