NORTHWEST PASSAGE: THE ADVENTURE BEFORE THE ADVENTURE, PT. 1

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Two of Crystal’s most intrepid explorers, Captain Birger J. Vorland and Vice President of Land Programs John Stoll set out into the Arctic North – no small feat in the early spring – to finalize details for the community visits featured on the 2017 Northwest Passage voyage. Through their expertise, dedication, and virtually unquenchable desire to create the most compelling experiences possible for guests, travelers sailing on Crystal Serenity’s August 15 Arctic cruise from Anchorage to New York City can look forward to authentic glimpses into the lifestyles and customs of the local communities, and the kind of adventure that stays with you forever.

First stop on the two’s reconnaissance planning tour: Ulukhaktok (Inuvik Region in Canada’s Northwest Territories).

JOHN STOLL:

I have the pleasure and honor to team again with Captain Birger Vorland who makes such a great impression with the local communities. We are escorted by Kristyn Thoburn, Vice President of Operations, for our Canadian-based expedition company, Arctic Kingdom. We are here to renew our relationships with the communities and to review our plans for the upcoming call.

Photo and caption by Captain Birger J. Vorland: I pasted a picture of Crystal Serenity into the photo showing the exact spot she’ll anchor in August, which now lies completely frozen.

Photo and caption by Captain Birger J. Vorland: I pasted a picture of Crystal Serenity into the photo showing the exact spot she’ll anchor in August, which now lies completely frozen.

We had a great start to our trip in Ulukhaktok, a community of just 402 citizens. The weather was chilly at 16 below zero but the crisp, fresh air and the bright sun reflecting off clean white snow made it a perfect start to our only call in the Northwest Territories during this trip.

As we arrived at the airport Rosie the taxi driver met us. She has the only taxi in town. On my first trip to Ulukhaktok in January if 2015, Rosie’s taxi was broken down. She waited six months for a part which would be arriving she thought sometime in June or July on the one supply ship that stops each year. On that day, I hitched a ride from a local guy with a pickup that was dropping something off at the airport.

Photo and caption by Captain Birger J. Vorland: The King Air 200 plane that transported us on this trip arrives at the bustling airfield in Ulukhaktok.

Photo and caption by Captain Birger J. Vorland: The King Air 200 plane that transported us on this trip arrives at the bustling airfield in Ulukhaktok.

We checked into the only hotel in town and got to work. We were actually recognized by a few community members but everyone smiles and waves. We met with Janet Kanayok of the Hamlet of Ulukhaktok who helped us last year. The “Hamlets” are important to the communities and our key contacts. We sat down with Janet and reviewed the program for our call, also meeting with Mayor Laverna Klengenberg, acting SAO Susan Kaodloak, and Arts Centre Manager Robbie Inuktalik.

After the meeting at the Arts Centre, we headed to one of my favorite spots, the high school. We were warmly received by Principal Richard. He proudly walks us around his school with the children moving going to and coming from classes. He talks about improvements to the program this year and thanks us for the school supplies we donated during Crystal Serenity’s last visit. Richard serves the community in many ways and is a true inspiration to his students.

A complimentary voluntourism excursion will take guests exploring through the hamlet of Ulukhaktok, visiting the community center, historic buildings, and affording the chance to greet the local residents and learn about the town’s traditional foods and wares.

Photo and caption by Captain Birger J. Vorland: During our visit in April, spring has set in in Ulukhaktok. In about four months, this boat will again be in use, for approximately two months until the freeze returns.

Photo and caption by Captain Birger J. Vorland: During our visit in April, spring has set in in Ulukhaktok. In about four months, this boat will again be in use, for approximately two months until the freeze returns.

Meanwhile, outside the temperature dips to -15 degrees Fahrenheit but the children still play outside on the swing sets surrounded by snow. Down the hill, the older children are being taught by an elder how to build an igloo. Community members pass by foot or on their snowmobiles, bundled up to protect from the bitter cold but always with smiles on their faces.

Photo and caption by Captain Birger J. Vorland: As the sun was setting, “rush hour” set in on the main road in Ulukhaktok, just like anywhere else in the world… but not at all.

Photo and caption by Captain Birger J. Vorland: As the sun was setting, “rush hour” set in on the main road in Ulukhaktok, just like anywhere else in the world… but not at all.

Despite the frigid conditions and the frozen tundra, there is life everywhere.

Everyone we met was very welcoming and excited to see us again. They are thrilled that Crystal Serenity will be returning to Ulukhaktok in August and are looking forward to being a part of this journey once again.

 

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