Fortune cookie irony, opened at lunch on the third delay day.

Fortune cookie irony, opened at lunch on the third delay day.

This has been a historic year for weather in many areas.  My home, Washington state, has been hot and drought-stricken, resulting in failed crops and historic wildfires.  This post is a week late after a historic windstorm swept through, leaving me and 174,999 other people without power.  My power finally returned after 5 days when I finally got a live person on the line at the utility so I could explain that all I needed was a fuse replaced on the power pole.  She got a crew out promptly and the repair took all of 10 minutes.

Baffin Island was not spared the swing in weather, but it went the opposite way:  cold, with very late breakup of pack ice.  Cumberland Sound was coated with ice, here seen from the air. CumberlandSoundIcebergPlane Pack ice brings arctic fog.  Qikiqtarjuak was plagued with fog, Pagnirtung with wind.  Neither was conducive to plane travel.


I learned a lot on this trip about the level of adaptability and flexibility Arctic travel requires.  People writing brochures to attract folks to the Arctic try to balance attractiveness with alarm by letting you know that traveling in the Arctic may involve some delays.  What they need to tell you is that you need to research every air stop in case you get stuck in the town and need a place to stay and something to do.  You need to leave days of buffer on either end.  Parks Canada points this out on their Ivvavik Fly-in Trip informational package:

Due to variable weather, flights in and out of the park can be delayed. Parks Canada recommends that travellers allow for two or more days between the end of your Arctic Base Camp trip and your flight out of Inuvik. If your trip returns as planned, you’ll be glad to have some extra time to explore Inuvik.

This is a great way to frame expectations.

My recommendation after this experience- and my plan for next year’s arctic trip- are:

  • Get all your flights booked together!  That way, if one leg is delayed, they will shuffle all the downstream sections for you. I booked my Air Canada flight separate from the First Air flight that the outfitter booked.  When First Air was delayed, I lost my ticket on Air Canada (I cancelled, but ended up with only $100 toward a future flight due to fees). Make sure your airline ticket has a standby option (mine did not, probably noted in the multitude of small print)
  • Buy travel insurance, and make sure the limit is at least $1000; hotels in remote areas are expensive.  The outfitter’s policy allowed only $600, which I easily burned before the delays at the back end. 
  • Check before you go if your credit card has  travel insurance- mine does not.
  • Leave time at the back end to accommodate the range of delays you may experience coming in and going out.  Research the airport locations for things you’d like to see!

On this trip, we were a fairly adaptable bunch, but here’s the gap between the plan and reality that we faced (descriptions on the left are from the outfitter):Presentation1