PHOTO ARCHIVES                         Kugluktuk, (Coppermine)  -  Nunavut

Route Map to Kugluktuk (Coppermine), Nunavut

This geophysical survey trip took place in July 2005.  I departed Winnipeg flying directly to Yorkton, Sask. then north to La Ronge for a re-fuelling stop.   Departing La Ronge, I was flight planned via Buffalo Narrows, Fort McMurray and then on to Fort Smith, NWT for fuel.  From Fort Smith, the routing took me around the east side of Great Slave Lake to Yellowknife.  This flight was completed in about 11 hours and took one day.  After preparing our survey equipment in Yellowknife, I flew to Kugluktuk (about 3 hours) in the coming days.  Yellowknife is a great city so if you have the chance to visit there, do it.

Max Ward's Original Float Base     Yellowknife, NWT

This is where Max Ward (of WARDAIR fame) operated his floatplane service in Old Yellowknife.  This is next door to the dock where the Midnight Sun Float Fly-In meets every two years. 

This is across the street from the Wildcat Cafe, an old drinking hole where pilots where known to have 'crashed and burned'.

Wildcat Cafe

Old Yellowknife

I am told that the likes of Max Ward 'threw back a few' after a long day at work.

You get a great meal here at this small restaurant.

Bush Pilot's Memorial

Old Yellowknife

If there was ever a place in Canada to be named as the Bush Pilot capital then Yellowknife is the spot.  It is rugged bush country and is ideally suited for ski or float planes.  The country is not favourable to single-engine wheeled aircraft.  Numerous lakes dot the landscape and an engine failure up there means that you will be looking for bog or swamp at the end of lake, where hopefully, there is not a rock formation.  These early pilots had  tough job given their aircraft, weather information and lack of navigation aids. Those were tough lads indeed and I tip my hat to all of them.

Northbound and crossing the Arctic Circle (N66 33' 38")

The complexion of the land changes dramatically close to the Arctic Circle.  Most noticeably is the lack of trees for it is at the point, the Tree Line, that the odd tree may be found but only close to hillsides facing south.  Any trees that do grow are very small owing to the harsh climate.  This part of the Arctic is referred to as the 'barrens' or 'barrenland'.

I used a VNC chart (actually, multiple ones) for the trip using the lakes and eskers as navigational features and a 'good old fashion'  track line.  Eskers are remnants of the glacial period.  They were rivers of water running internally through the glaciers carrying till and sediment and when the glaciers melted, this till settled on to the landscape.  Eskers can be quite large reaching as high as 40 feet above surrounding elevation and are predominately sand and gravel.  Eskers are used a landing strips in the bush as some of them have been eroded at the top of the formation providing an excellent landing surface for aircraft equipped with Tundra tires.

Approaching Kugluktuk airport

Coppermine River (foreground)

Kugluktuk (middle right area)

Arctic Ocean (background)

Arctic Ocean is shown with sea ice which moved in and out with the prevailing winds.  This is the Coronation Gulf, the western entrance to the famous NORTHWEST PASSAGE.  An Innu whale hunter sighted a surfaced Russian submarine here in recent years and while there have been other sightings of other foreign submarines by the local hunters, this information has largely been unreported to the general public.  You just have to ask some questions and you will get some very interesting stories.

The polar bears move with the sea ice as their primary food source are the seals.  During  the summer most of the polar bears are hunt on the ice flows in more northerly areas such as Holman.  The greatest bear danger is presented by the Barren Grizzly in the summer so it's a good ideal to have a gun if you are away from town.  You have to be careful around rivers as it is a source of food-but so are you.

Bloody Falls on the Coppermine River

This is the site of the Chipewyan  Indian massacre of the Copper Inuit during an expedition led by Samuel Hearne in July 1771.  Hearne acted on the behalf of  the Hudson Bay Company interest to locate the source of copper after an earlier explorer returned with news of the metal being used for tools and implements by the Inuit.  This is how the Inuit become known as the 'Copper Inuit' in this area of the western Arctic.

Bloody Falls is a national park and is located about 7 miles up-river from the hamlet of Kugluktuk.

Cessna 206 Geophysical Survey Aircraft

This picture is taken in front of the Kugluktuk terminal building.

Note the tail stinger.  It is a magnetometer.  There is a magnetometer on each wing tip also.

The aircraft is flown over predetermined grids at altitudes of 100 feet to 300 feet.  Track guidance is provided with differential GPS (global positioning system).  A radar altimeter provides vertical height information above ground level.  In order to create accurate survey data, the flight must be flown at a consistent height above the differing elevation.  This is called "draping".

Geophysical Survey Flight at survey altitude of 300 feet above ground

This is typical Arctic tundra or 'barrens', the range of the Barren grizzly bear, caribou and musk ox.  This is truly beautiful country but if you are not prepared, it will cost you something.  To the southwest of where this picture was taken, a herd of 125,000 caribou were heading north.

Flight plans are mandatory  within the boundary of the ADIZ  (Air Defence Identification Zone)  which is monitored by Arctic Radio on 126.70 Mhz.  You want to make sure you have a hand-held GPS and VHF radio and a satellite telephone if you are working up this way.  Our aircraft was equipped with a panel-mount GPS but you don't want to rely on a alternator all the time.  Spatial orientation is key up here as the magnetic compass is somewhat erratic.


Innukshuk  (on the right)

Hamlet of Kugluktuk

The Copper Inuit people were extremely friendly.  Their culture is an historic one and is still well preserved as I could tell.  The country is absolutely beautiful.

Over to the right is a sandbar where there is a 9 hole golf course.  So, grab your clubs and boat!  The RCMP police the town and while I was there, the town had just installed high speed internet service through the ISP called Polar Net.

By the way, I am standing on the left.  My height is six feet to give some perspective.

On a beautiful Arctic Ocean beach in July

George Costanza has got 'nothing on me'.

The rock formations here have been scraped by the fantastic pressure and friction of the last glacial period retreat leaving long and straight elongations gouged out of the rock.  I was continually amazed at the sheer power of glaciers.

The Arctic Char fishing is great.  The char are so hungry that you have to bait your hook in town before departing in the boat.

 Coppermine River south of Bloody Falls

This picture may be described as a pilot's worst nightmare-CUMULUS GRANITE.

To give you some perspective as to how high the river walls are, expand this picture and look to the right side on top of the river wall.  The darker shades are black spruce trees (about 5-8 of them).  These trees are about 7 feet in height.

The windscreen is covered in bug impacts which causes this picture to be somewhat obscured.  July is the high bug season in the western Arctic.  Mosquitos are large, hardy and can weather the 0 to -2 Celsius night temperatures in July.  It is not uncommon to hear of an average sized dog being carried away by a mosquito up here ... just kidding!

The picture was taken on the return to Coppermine after a four hour survey flight.  We followed the river back to town.  Again, the landscape is impressive-you have to experience it.

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Updated:  Mon 18 Jun 2007