Cambridge Bay welcomes an upswing in cruise ship tourists after 2 years of quiet


It was a cheerful second for Peter Avalak this summer time as guests stopping in by the boatload arrived in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

Avalak, who was born and raised within the hamlet and is a carver, has typically led group excursions there through the years.

“I sit up for this yearly,” he stated. “I am proud to indicate off my neighborhood.”

Lately, visitors into the neighborhood got here just about to a cease. Pleasure craft and ocean liners weren’t allowed to navigate Arctic coastal waters in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.

However this 12 months, between the tip of July and the start of September, 9 cruise ships, carrying some 1,800 passengers, visited Cambridge Bay, in line with Angela Gerbrandt, the hamlet’s financial growth officer. The neighborhood’s complete inhabitants is just one,760, in line with the 2021 census.

An Aurora Expeditions cruise ship anchored within the harbour of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, in September 2022. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

About 13 cruise ships have handed via the waters of the Northwest Passage and stopped in additional than half of Nunavut’s communities, in line with the territorial Division of Financial Growth and Transportation.

On Sept. 8, the Greg Mortimer cruise ship, operated by Australian firm Aurora Expeditions, got here in, carrying about 125 vacationers, 95 passengers of which may come ashore. About 30 folks couldn’t disembark as a result of they had been constructive for COVID-19, stated the deputy expedition chief, Christian Genillard.

On a windy September afternoon, Alan Smith, a vacationer from Vancouver, was among the many dozens of vacationers all wearing the identical blue and black coat crowded within the Cambridge Bay airport, ready to board his flight again to southern Canada. 

Smith had simply accomplished a crossing within the Northwest Passage, which began two weeks earlier in Kangerlussuaq, on the west coast of Greenland. 

A portrait of a man.
Alan Smith is among the many vacationer group that got here to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, through the Aurora Expedition cruise ship in September 2022. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

He had been to northern Alaska earlier than, however had been pondering for a number of years about discovering the Canadian Arctic. He stated it was, above all, the majestic cliffs of Baffin Island that marked his journey.

The cruise ship, he stated, was simply “a method to an finish to see the locations that, you recognize, you examine within the books.” 

He paid simply over $20,000 for his journey.

A map of a portion of the Arctic.
The route taken by the Greg Mortimer cruise ship. It leaves Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and makes it option to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, in Canada. (CBC)

Any such cruise attracts hundreds of vacationers yearly who’re keen on journey and strange holidays. Some guests seeking to do a 30-day journey within the Arctic pay as much as $40,000. Some hope to see polar bears whereas others dream of crusing within the wake of the Arctic expedition of John Franklin, who perished along with his crew attempting to find the Northwest Passage within the mid-Nineteenth century.

Rising visitors

Cambridge Bay is taken into account one of many gateways to the Northwest Passage. In 2019, the opening of the Canadian Excessive Arctic Analysis Station (CHARS), a challenge supported by former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, helped put the neighborhood on the forefront of the Arctic geostrategic scene.

In August, the Canadian Armed Forces army operation Nanook-Nunakput, mixed with the go to of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NATO Secretary Common Jens Stoltenberg, confirmed this enthusiasm for the North.

A rocky beach with a large ship distantly in the water and a sign on the shores written in Inuktitut.
The rocky shores of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Like Cambridge Bay, different Nunavut communities corresponding to Pond Inlet, Gjoa Haven and Resolute Bay are additionally summer time cruise ship stops. The boating season typically runs from June to November, in line with the Canadian Coast Guard.

To be allowed to go to the neighborhood, passengers have to be absolutely immunized and examined earlier than the cruise begins and through the cruise. Those that are constructive for COVID-19 are put in isolation for 10 days, Genillard stated.

A man in a small motorized boat steers toward shore while a large cruise ship sits anchored distantly behind him.
There have been a whole bunch of vacationers in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, this previous summer time through cruise ship. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Passengers whose COVID-19 screening checks are damaging are transported by inflatable boat to the banks for a go to to the neighborhood. Their guided metropolis tour contains stops at CHARS and the Could Hakongak Neighborhood Library and Cultural Centre, in addition to a neighborhood meals tasting and craft sale on the Crimson Fish Arts Studio.

This 12 months, the municipality imposed a service payment of $100 on all cruise ship passengers who enter the neighborhood. 

‘They’re curious’

Whereas tourism in Cambridge Bay is usually welcomed, there are some blended ideas amongst locals concerning the vacationers.

For a lot of, these vacationers are perceived as a window into the world, a possibility to study cultures overseas to their very own whereas introducing them to native traditions.

A portrait of a woman.
Mary Kaotalok is an elder in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Cruise ships had been by no means a part of the surroundings locally for her rising up. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Other than the 2 years of calm attributable to the pandemic, the neighborhood has turn into accustomed over the previous 10 years to frequent cruise ships stopping by through the summer time season.

Within the stitching room of the Could Hakongak Neighborhood Library and Cultural Centre, elders sit on the ground with their legs crossed, taking painstaking care with the garments they make by hand. A soothing silence envelops the cramped room, which overflows with supplies of heterogeneous textures. 

For Mary Kaotalok, an elder locally, towering cruise ships weren’t one thing she was used to seeing within the harbour of Cambridge Bay rising up. Generally, she wonders what motivates guests to return.

“Do they convey assist? Or can we deliver our assist to them? As a result of there are such a lot of completely different sorts of people who come into our communities. Are they curious?” she stated in Inuinnaqtun.

A portrait of a woman.
Annie Atighioyak, an elder in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

In the meantime Elder Annie Atighioyak stated she does not thoughts having the vacationers, and that they will deliver advantages — even inadvertently.

“These vacationers are like us. They’re curious,” she stated in Inuinnaqtun. “And … generally these large ships deliver whales in with them, so that may profit the Inuit with whale looking.

“It is a good factor that vacationers go to our communities, as a result of it permits them to study extra … about our tradition, our lifestyle and our traditions.”

Public library supervisor Pamela Langan additionally says cruise ship visitors is usually nicely acquired locally.

A portrait of a woman.
Pamela Langan is a librarian on the Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, library and cultural centre. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

“We’re typically informed by vacationers that we’re one of many nicest communities they’ve visited, in order that’s very constructive for us,” stated Langan, who has lived in Cambridge Bay since 2007.

Nonetheless, she notes that some merchandise, corresponding to fur clothes, are tougher to promote attributable to import restrictions in some nations. This is the reason sculptures produced from soapstone are typically extra profitable.

“I do discover that the cruise ships, quite a lot of them, they actually do not buy quite a lot of stuff. Perhaps it is due to the small cabin area or simply the logistics of attempting to get it again dwelling,” Langan stated. 

“However so far as the cruise ships, the folks, they’re very pleasant. We’ve not had any hassle this 12 months with something.”

Besides, Langan stated, “they are not right here lengthy sufficient.”

She stated one group of holiday makers spent a few hours on the town, whereas different ones had possibly simply half an hour to 10 minutes on the cultural centre.

In the meantime, Avalak stated he too thinks the quick time the guests spend within the hamlet shouldn’t be lengthy sufficient to essentially take locally, like visiting the grocery retailer to see the excessive worth of meals that residents recurrently pay.

A portrait of five women sitting at a table.
Elders in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. From left: Lena Emingak, Mabel Etegik, Mary Kaotalok, Annie Atighioyak and Helen Blewett. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

“A pair hours is simply not fairly sufficient to indicate our neighborhood,” he stated, including the vacationers ought to see “how we price range our cash and the way we compromise with these costly [items].”

He additionally needs elders may very well be a bit extra concerned with some points — like with the ability to cost guests for taking their pictures.

“Could be good if the cruise ships [stayed] in a single day, then they’d actually know the neighborhood and go dwelling and inform these stunning tales, and consort with elders too,” he stated. “That’d be a wonderful factor.”


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