Why? Another day lost…
Day 40. 31/July/2014 Why? Another day lost… Day score 10.
Still a top scoring day, but why? Well read on… I got out the cockpit with a splitting headache and walked around for a bit. I thought the airfield opened at 7am, but the little Inuit guy didn’t roar up to the gate on his quad bike till 8am. This meant an hour of moving from place to place trying to stay dry and avoid the mosquitoes until I could escape them inside the terminal. Where had this come from. Heavy heavy rain. The worst thing was that it was clear 50 miles south. It was so tempting to just head off, knowing I would fly through about an hour of bad weather and then it would clear up and I’d be on my way to Oshkosh. But Itzy doesn’t like flying in the rain, it is really abrasive to the prop and its just dam right unpleasant. Also there was an indication of low cloud or fog on route. Its not for me…
I spoke to the controller again, he confirmed the bad weather. There was a clearance heading this way on the satellite imagery, so I might escape south. But
Not today. But let’s not loose a day. Let’s sit on the laptop and load photo and video from cameras, and catch up with the diary. I did this till about midday when the clearance arrived, the sun even came out and I returned to Itzy. I spoke to a few passing pilots confirming that it was clear 40 miles south and at low level you could see for miles.
Now sooner had a decided to get ready then heavy rain came back from the north and back to the terminal I went. This is another day lost in Oshkosh, if I ever get there.
The 737 arrived again. The levelling truck went out and more vegetable oil was sprayed around. Maybe the 737 puts grooves in the runway and after every landing the leveler goes out and removes the grooves?
There were a few things to clear up. In the middle of the terminal building was a sledge and on the back a rock carved angry looking polar bear and on the front, an old Inuit lady with a glove in her hand, also carved of stone. Now the story goes that one winter a family had got caught out in a bad storm. They were starving and a long way from home. Their gran was holding them up and being a pain, so they left her behind. Nice! She was stalked by a polar bear and when the polar bear attacked, she killed the polar bear by stuffing her glove down its throat. She then caught the family up with the polar bear and they all had food to eat and made it home safely. Now as stories go, there are a few things there that I wouldn’t really want to tell children. 1: Today it’s not really ok to leave your gran behind to die. 2: Your gran or no one should go around killing polar bears. Then after she killed the polar bear, how if she couldn’t keep up, did she then catch up with her family? And why if she had been left behind would she catch up with her family and finally, how bad was the frost bite on her hand without the glove, or did she pull it back from the bears throat?
Dan came to find me and we had another little chat. I thought everyone would speak French here, and he said he was a native French speaker, well he hid it well from me. He then spoke about the turmoil in the area. Ok, the French and English did invade the Inuit land. Up north was purely Inuit and English, but here the French speakers had been fighting feverishly and to a point of annoyance to all to try and retain their roots and status, or they would have disappeared and so would their language. But basically the Brits and French had taken the Inuit land for their own. Now as Canadians, they realised what they had done to the Inuit, but it was too late. In the last 60 years the Inuit way of life, of fishing and hunting had gone, as in gone gone. They did not need to hunt or fish, they could go to the Canadian store. The government was paying the Inuit for there land and all the Inuit did not have to work anymore. They just drank and ate. But the alcohol was causing obvious problems and the amount of sugar in all the modern food and drink the Inuit’s could not control. Their children after a bottle of coke was a sight to see apparently. So most if not all Inuit person had a home, money, food, quad bike, skidoo, paid for by the Canadian Government. So most days, not all but some of the Inuit would get drunk and go and crash their quad bike and then need to be air medic evacuated to Montreal. Indeed there was a Challenger jet here last night for a Medivac flight and actually it was outside again today for another. All this was costing the Canadian Government a fortune and everything was a big mess, but what else could they do? The Canadians were not going to back out of Northern Canada and give back the Inuit there way of life that they had for thousands of years, because of all the mineral wealth in the area. It sort of reminded me of the situation with the Aborigine’s in Australia. All the Canadians could do is try and secure the Inuit history, language and culture, before it disappeared, respect the French speaking society and keep digging for gold.
But no ethnic society or culture can change in a generation. It must be impossible for the Inuit. But Dan said, they have two choices, they realise it is going to happen, it has happened. Once choice is not good, the other is much worse. Wow. Oh and he reminded me, you can’t call the Inuit ‘Indian’s’, like in Cowboys and Indians. It was seen as highly disrespectful. They were either, First Generation Canadian’s or Inuit, but definitely not Indian’s. This brought up confusion as I had heard someone complaining that all the good companies up here were Indian. I wasn’t sure if he meant Indian as in Asia, with Delhi and a capital of Calcutta, or Indian being Northern Native Inuit? Air Inuit was run and managed by Inuit people and government sponsored and employed a lot of French and English speaking Canadians… Wow, that’s as clear as the water swirling around the floor.
There were floods outside now. I spoke to a few other visitors and locals. Some blokes who had come up here for the day to go fishing? And they had big smiles saying they had caught lots of Arctic Shark in the rivers. I asked how they did that and they said they wade in thigh deep and fly fish for them. Wow! That sort of sounded more dangerous than what I had been doing. They could not believe I had arrived from the UK in such a small plane. I couldn’t believe they had gone wading into rivers to catch shark. But it hasn’t sunk in yet myself. As far as I’m concerned, that was another day lost and I haven’t arrived yet. Tomorrow looks better though…
Ok, 7pm. The airfield was closing down as the last planes left. Dan arrived in his big works truck and invited me to dinner. He almost was insisting and said, bring your shower gear as well. I bet you could do with one. He told me one of the pilots had also being fishing and dinner tonight for all the Inuit staff was Arctic shark. I’m not a shark eater really, but I couldn’t refuse such a generous offer.
We arrived at what was originally the first wooden building in Puvirnituq. It had been converted from the town hall to offices and now served as the pilot, engineers and office staff’s home from home when they are on their two on three off or three on and two off, or what ever schedule they worked away from their home bases much further south. Dan, a colleague and I arrived and I was made very welcome, just as people were sitting down to eat. I was quickly shown around. Just outside the back door was the one and only pipe supplying JetA1 And heating oil to the town. All through the same pipe. They just cleaned it a bit before changing tanks. At the bottom of the patio was a guy in a tent watching to make sure it was coming on shore ok, as the supply ship was out there pumping it in now. So a Barbeque was out of the question. Out there in the middle of the river was ‘Dog Island’ an island where the Inuit put all their Husky dogs
on during the summer so that they were not wandering around town, and some one went out their each day to through them some fish. Poor dogs. A summer on an Island…
Another place was laid for me at the table. It was explained that each night the ten or so people staying here took turns in cooking dinner. Tonight’s meal was a specialty, ‘Artic Char’, it’s a fish resembling a salmon and it’s apparently delicious. I explained that I had heard wrongly and thought that people were brave trying to wade into rivers to catch ‘Arctic shark’. That basically set off the evening. We have with us a Dumb English guy!!!
I can’t as ever remember everyone’s names, but to my left sat a well educated and interesting French speaking pilot who I believe was called Felix, next to him a very enthusiastic Inuit lad called Nathanial, who was learning to be an engineer, the next young lad never spoke really, then Dan, then a young English speaking Canadian lady who worked behind the check in desk, then seemingly the most senior pilot not in age, but any question asked by me seemed to be answered by him who I think was Greg. Next I believe I wrote John, he had flown to America and promised to sit with me and go online tonight to get all the permits that I knew I didn’t have yet to fly into America. Then a young pilot who had caught the fish and cooked it and who’s birthday it was tomorrow and finally an elder Inuit guy sitting to my right, names name names. This guy was really interesting though. He was an Inuit who had taken one of the Canadian Government initiatives and learnt to fly and obtain his commercial licence and all paid for. Where some of his boyhood friends had gone the other way, he indeed had realised that what was happening to his family and way of life was happening and there would be no stopping it. Better to embrace the changes than fight a loosing battle. Now all they had to do was protect what was left of their language and culture for further generations to remember and respect. I questioned that it was not possible to change a whole way of life in one generation. His reply was “Look around?” Wow…
The shark as it was now called was delicious. They questioned how I liked it. I said it was saltier than I thought and quite fatty, but juicy and delicious. I was congratulated, nods all round because indeed, the Shark had been out to sea and took on the salty taste and was well fatted before swimming up river because it would have eaten well before starting the journey. Top marks, maybe I wasn’t so dumb after all and the whisky and Rum were brought out.
Later after many more jokes, Dan had to go to his home. The pilots insisted I stayed, got a shower and tidied up here and had a comfortable bed, as soon as Dan let out I was sleeping in the plane. I did explain the 100 day rule. Dan smiled at me and whispered, “I knew they would offer.” I thanked him sincerely as he left…
Now it was time to sit down with John and work out the final route toOshkosh. He suggested indeed Le Grande Riviere, or just La Grand to all pilots. He said, “Be careful! They will speak only French down there!” Then he suggested Kapuskasing. There I could file a ‘Trans Borders Flight Plan’ and fly to ‘Chippewa County International’ an easy airport to land at and clear American Customs there, before flying on then to Oshkosh.
Ok, for America, first thing I would need to do on the day was to file an ‘EAPIS’ (Electronic Advanced Passenger Information Service). This I could do on line at Kapuskasing in the morning with two hours notice of arrival. But first I would have to register for the service, which John did for me on his laptop there and then. He then added that when you file the flight plan and tell the Americans when you are going to be there, make SURE to be on time when you arrive and “DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR PLANE” until you are told it is ok to do so by the Customs and Border agents. OK.
Next Itzy needed a Decal (Sticker) or Decal Number, I’d never get it sent to me on time, but all I needed was the reference number. We registered Itzy at ‘DTOPS’ (Decal Transponder Online Procurement System) and I got an email back with the reference number: ID/APGA74VS. Blumin Americans!
On the day of arrival in America, I should call the port of entry. It would be Sault SE Marie and the number was a free call number: 1 906 632 2631
Then once they are happy, call the Canadian flight planning guys like I did to close my flight plan at Puvirnituq, same number but press 2 to file a Trans Border Flight Plan.
Land in the States. Clear Customs and Immigration. Then call and close my Canadian flight plan and I should be free to go to Oshkosh.
I was so greatful. I knew I had to do all this and soon, but having it explained and some of it done instead of having to research it on my own saved hours of invaluable time.
It was late, I was shown my room, and shower facilities and left in peace. I said I might be out early and told no worries and to just close the door behind you.
A shower and shave, last one was blimey, in Iceland…
Thought for the day: I’m clean, resting in a comfy bed and not fighting mosquitoes or snorting fuel vapour! I had a little too much whisky and rum and coke, but it was nice.