Shaped by generations of Arctic dwellers, Nunavut is a land of tundra, mountain, wildlife and river, rich with art and ancient culture
Stories by Team Outpost
Photos by Colin O'Connor, Sergio David Spadavecchia, Simon Vaughan and Will Allen
We are not the first adventurers to cross Hudson Strait, not by a long shot.
As brilliant blue as any tropical sea but arguably a smidge cooler, this stretch of Arctic water was navigated by ancient mariners and the great polar explorers as far back as the 16th century. Many of those latter souls had their quest for the Northwest Passage blocked by ice—luckily for Team Outpost, we are aboard a First Air flight, well above the fearless sea. From our winged crow’s nest, though, we can survey the source of their famed consternation: some of the ice is wide and flat; some are bergs, tall and white and monolithic. But all are providing a spectacular contrast to the expansive azure water that so defines the Canadian Arctic.
We are Team Outpost, and we’re up here to see all that, and more. A hand-picked crew of thrillseekers and expeditioners, assembled in three teams, will spend the next few weeks criss-crossing Nunavut, Canada’s most northerly territory, in search of adventure and culture and history—from Auyuittuq National Park in the east, to the Coppermine River in the west, and north over the Arctic Circle to Pond Inlet. And—to everything in between and beyond!
"The entire airport vibrates with the promise of adventure"
By kayak and ATV, dog sled and boat, foot and air, Team Outpost will trek, camp, ride, cruise and paddle. We came mostly for its spectacular scenery and wildlife, its world-famous art, its limitless outdoor opportunity—but plan to keep a sharp eye open for its most elusive of creatures, most indomitable of species: the great Canadian polar bear.
Now, as we peer down, the coastline of Baffin Island comes into view. The world’s fifth and Canada’s largest island, Baffin is synonymous with earnest exploration, rugged adventure and wilderness. We descend over a rocky land peppered with lakes and marked by glacial claws, patches of snow and occasional ice-clogged rivers. Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital, suddenly appears off the plane’s wing—there is no warning, no suburbs—clinging to the hillsides around Frobisher Bay in a riot of colourful disorder, like some abstract interpretation of an East Coast fishing community.
Emerging from the aircraft, we pause at the top of the stairs and scrutinize the tarmac for polar bears disguised as baggage handlers before sprinting to the bright yellow terminal building. The entire airport vibrates with the promise of adventure. Here, there are no shiny-shoed business travellers buried in smartphones; instead we are amid a throng of locals heading home, scientists and engineers heading North, and international travellers sporting fishing rods, backpacks and hiking poles. Through the terminal window, the tarmac teems with every rugged Canadian bush plane and cargo aircraft imaginable, from Buffalo to Hercules, Twin Otter to Turbo Beaver.
Iqaluit isn’t just the capital, it’s also Baffin Island’s central hub. On a piece of land the size of Spain but free of any railway line or highway, the best way around—and in many cases only—is by air, and that means transiting through Iqaluit.
DISCOVER MORE STORIES FROM OUR NUNAVUT ADVENTURE:
OUTPOST'S DIRECTORY IN NUNAVUT
FOLLOW OUR FOOTSTEPS: WHO WENT WHERE IN NUNAVUT
IN THE MESMERIZING
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MORE OPXPEDITIONS TO DISCOVER