Roberta's Hall Beach Diary 1997

Canada 1997

24.4.97 Thursday

Had a good flight via Amsterdam with KLM, arriving Montreal.

First task was to organise my air miles ticket up to Hall beach. I had the reference number that Bonnie had been given and the story of how she was my sister and we hadn't seen each other for years just in case anybody was curious.

There are two airports in Montreal, I arrived at Mirabel but would be leaving from Dorval. The lovely lady who sorted out my ticket also got me a free bus ride to Dorval where I caught a cab to the Holiday Inn and my reservation that my sister had made for me. Room serviced a club sandwich, glass of wine and pot of tea and then it was nine blissful hours of sleep.

25.4.97 Friday

Day started well with a fantastic buffet breakfast but alas went down hill from there.

I did get to Dorval in plenty of time but there was a seven and a half hour delay needless to say we were not told this immediately, it was an hour at a time but when the free food voucher were handed out, people got suspicious. As time went on I got more and more concerned about my connection from Iqualuit to Hall Beach.

The nice man (Claudio) who's job it was to keep us all calm assured me that I would make my connection and they would hold the plane. I did explain to him that I had already travelled some distance and I was not going to be thwarted by First Air,

The plane for Iqualuit eventually took off at 6pm, the scheduled departure time was 11;30am. Claudio who had reassured me that I would get to Hall Beach explained that an extra plane was being put on to take all the passengers who would be travelling on from Iqualiut to Hall Beach and Igloolik. I was late but happy to be on my way.

I arrived in Iqualuit at 9pm where a very nice lady came up to me and asked if I was Roberta, Bonnie's friend Yvonne. Bonnie had phoned her and asked her to go to the airport and look out for me as there was a question about the weather and would the extra plane take off.

Well eventually it did with all 9 passengers which included two tiny wee girls, at 10;30pm. The pilot who was a babe passed round the inflight refreshments before take off!! The flight took two and a half hours in the ten seater prop plane flying just above the clouds in the dusk or dawn. I don't know which it was as I don't think the sun really sets at that time of year so far north.

As we approached Hall Beach it was difficult to tell where the sea and land met as the sea was ice breaking up, and it was snowing.

Bonnie, Daphne and Helen ( Bonnie's job share) met me but wouldn't let me take the pilot home.

We sat up to 5am gossiping and I did receive my official " Crossed the Arctic Circle " certificate.

26.4.97 Saturday

What a wonderful day. B and I went "downtown" to the "mall". The two shops sell a rather strange mixture of thing, walrus tusks, dressing making fabric (horrid), pizza and some fresh fruit ( or not so fresh) as it must take an age to get there.

In afternoon we went dog sledging, an ambition achieved. I was mummified in the least stylish outdoor clothing I have ever seen by my chums. I waddled down main street Hall Beach, thank God I don't know anyone there.

Elijah was our tour guide and was harnessing up the dogs and giving them a last minute snack of walrus tit bits as we arrived. After about 10 minutes sitting on the sledge behind the dogs we wished he hadn't bothered with the snack. The dogs

did look so cute from behind as if they were wearing wee furry bloomers, but they fart constantly and have the amazing ability to shit as they pull.....are the two connected.?

We went out almost to the edge of the frozen sea where it had started to melt - the flow edge. All along the edge the ice is piled up where it has been broken and pushed up by the tidal action. It was difficult to believe these big lumps were just ice and would disappear come the summer. The colour was fantastic, deep turquoise green and white ice with the black cold scary sea as a back drop.

The sledge glided over the snow, no noise but the swish of the runners and the padding of the dogs' paws. The farts were silent. It was really very serene, I felt like a Russian princess.

Eliajah was a funny wee person asked us if we were homesick when we were almost at the flow edge, ie did we want to go back.

At night B and D made a wonderful shrimp dinner with home-made bread, salad and D's spectacular apple and berry bake. Not an everyday sort of dinner for these parts, salad at minus 18 degrees. We had a bottle of wine a real pushing out the boat for the girls. Hall Beach is a controlled alcohol community but as one or the other of the nurses is on call and if called out both are often needed, it's a smart move not to drink at all.The sunset was one of the loveliest I have ever seen the end to a perfect day in the Arctic.

27.4.97 Sunday

The cold in Hall Beach was unbelievable and it was spring - what must it be like in the Winter. The sun was shining so brightly that the first thing I had to do when I got up was put my shades on. The light reflected of the snow was blinding even indoors.

We went out to play on the skidoo. It only takes an hour outside and the cold really gets to you. Bits start to hurt that have never been that cold before and it is very exhausting. With the blue sky and bright sunshine looking so lovely, it's easy to be lulled into a false idea of the temperature. I could only take my gloves off for a minute before my fingers started to hurt with the cold. The skidoo was great and I did get a shot of driving, narrowly missing tipping B and I onto the snow. It was a bit like being on horse back.

Visited the early warning station ( the DEW line) which is really the reason Hall Beach exists. It was built in the 50's and looked like a prop from Dr Strangelove.

Daphne drove out in the truck to meet us and we had an amusing foray with the kite. We did eventually get it into the air, the wind was so strong that I thought we were going to loose D but no it was the kite that broke loose instead. The ravens, got very excited I think they saw the kite as a new exotic bird to mate with.

After all this activity it was back to the health centre for a traditional turkey dinner fini shed off by a Marks & Spencer Christmas Pudding. I don't think they live like that all the time but they must have dam good connections to get a pud all the way up there.

28.4.97 Monday

Another action packed day that started about 11:30am.

Off to see the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and had an interesting tour of the cells. One of the RCMP was an extra in the X Files. Had my photo taken with both the guys to make it look like a mug shot. They were both so tall I felt like a naughty 3 year old.

B took me for a walk to the cemetery next where there was a BBC crew filming. (I have since seen the programme which was called the Ice Men and the only bit left in the documentary about Hall Beach was the interview with the Mayor.) The film crew were pretty surprised when I walked up to them and asked what they were doing, even more surprised when I told them where I was from and why I was there. I think I was probably having a much better time than them.

Had a real treat for afternoon tea, traditional Inuit Aberdeen Butteries. I couldn't believe it but was told that alot of the kabloonas ( trans: bushy eyebrows ) were Scots from whaling vessels and this is most likely where the locals learnt how to make these butteries.

 29.4.97 Tuesday

Left Hall Beach which I was sad to do but realised how desperate B was to get south and to all the people and things she misses.

It was a much bigger plane leaving for Iqualuit, but I did not get a chance to check out the pilot.

The wonderful Yvonne made B and I so welcome with a stiff gin and wonderful smoked Arctic Char. Don't expect I'll ever taste that again. The view from Y's flat was stupendous. She lived it what was imaginatively called the eight storey building, because it is the only building that height in Iqualuit. It was the ugliest building I've ever seen, it looked like something from the Gulag. Inside was a whole different matter, a lovely cosy place with these wonderful views over Frobisher Bay, the very one Captain Scott became ice bound with the Discovery.

30.4.97 Wednesday

Downtown Iqualuit...... met Yvonne in the local branch of the Brick straight out of Northern Exposure for lunch, did a wee bit of shopping for lovely locally made jewellery and then it was off to the airport.

Because I had an air mile ticket back to Montreal where I then had to procure my next ticket toToronto and Bonnie had her ticket straight to Toronto we were on different flights south....... or so we thought. The 14:50 and the 15:10 became the one fight somehow, this was good as it did mean we could go south together until Montreal where I then had to get off and B had to stay on and go to Ottawa and then Toronto.

My first problem was the shortage of time I had to get my ticket but added to this was the non-appearance of my luggage. But who should be there to help but Claudio. He reassured me that he'd take care of my bag and have it sent onto St George and hurried me off to the next plane.

Our planes landed within minutes of each other at Toronto airport, we met up in baggage reclaim and, surprise surprise B's bags were not there. We waited for the next fight and all her bags arrived but not mime.

Garry, B's brother, met us and took us back to St George via Tim Hortens doughnut shop, the first of many for the holiday. We arrived after midnight and Marion was there waiting for us.

1.5.97 Thursday

Shopped till we dropped.

2.5.97 Friday

More shopping, a tour of prime property and the odd stop at a Tim Hortens

Videos and pop corn at night

3.5.97 Saturday

Weatherwise not a very nice day but this was not going to stop us.

Brantford is where B grew up and went to school so I had to see all her hangouts.

The most famous person from Brantford was Alexander Graham Bell, his parents immigrated there with the family from Scotland and it was in the Bell Homestead that he invented the telephone. The homestead is considered an old building in Canada, my flat in Edinburgh is older but maybe not so quaint. It was beautifully kept and the locals are very proud of Mr Bell.

Next port of call was the Mohawk Church. This was the loveliest wee white church with wonderful stain glass windows depicting Indians in traditional religious scenes. This was real Indian country where the natives mixed with the settlers and helped fend off the Americans.

Videos and popcorn at night.

4.5.97 Sunday

Garry drove us to the McMichael Gallery at Kleinburn just outside Toronto. This was a privately owned lodge which the owners, the McMichaels had built to accommodate their collection of work by the Group of Seven. They left the building and the contents to the people of Canada. Both the building and the art were wonderful. Is the Group of Seven a well kept secret by the Canadians?

On the way back to St George we saw the comet Halley-Bop.

5.5.97 Monday

Too close to avoid it, had to go to Niagara. We were going to see "alot alot of water" The Falls were fantastic and there was an awful lot of water and some ice left over from the winter. We went to the Miramax show, the Falls Museum, under the Falls and then drove back along the river and along Lake Ontario through wine producing country. I loved it all.

We should have planned it in advance and stayed over night in that area and then we could have done some wine tasting, probably too much excitement for the one jaunt.

6.5.97 Tuesday

I had wanted to go to Quebec to see how French it was, just for a few days. It was going to be so expensive even by train that we abandoned the idea. Instead Marion very kindly offered to lend us her car and we planned a route around South East Ontario.

7.5.97 Wednesday

We set off about noon heading for Pellee Point, the most southern tip of Canada.

This took us through what was once the thriving tobacco growing region of Ontario, it is very flat and now tobacco has almost exclusively been replaced by ginseng and peanuts.

Our fist stop off was Port Stanley where there was a lovely wee old railway still in use from the docks going inland. The town has a fishing fleet and the whole place seemed pretty prosperous. I am told it's quite a hot spot in the summer.

From there we detoured to Sparta, a Quaker town still with the original buildings. Back on the road to our destination for the night - Chatham, a fair sized but rather characterless town with what we thought would be a range of hotels for us to choose from. Oh no, there was some sort of conference in town and we were lucky to get a room at all, but there was a Tim Horten!

8.5.97 Thursday

Just when you plan to do something outdoors it rains. This was Pellee Point day, it is a bird reserve and was quite exposed to the elements blowing in off Lake Erie, but girls have to do ......... It was busy with tweeters but B achieved an ambition, to stand on that most southerly point of mainland Canada.

We headed north from there in the direction of Bayfield on the shores of Lake Huron. B had been there before in the summer and knew it to be a lovely up-market wee resort.

The weather didn't really improve but the roads were quiet so the drive wasn't too bad. Found a fab motel just outside Bayfield, cheap, clean and roomy but best of all there was a swimming pool. Did two girls ever get there clothes off so quickly and straight into the empty pool?

This allowed up to build up an appetite for the enormous meal we had in the Red Pump Restaurant........ it was fantastic. It had the lot, beautiful china, candlelit and a really cocky camp waiter. I had pasta with scallops, prawns and mussels in a delicious tomato and vegetable sauce followed by an out of this world blackberry bread and butter pudding. B had curried carrot soup and then salmon with all the bits ( it looked like half a good sized salmon) followed by passion fruit cheesecake. Cost - about 35 for both of us, result - we could hardly walk to the car.

9.5.97 Friday

B did not have a good night sleep due to the amazing thunder and lightning in conjunction with the snoring of her room-mate. The satellite dish in the hotel was hit by lightning.... no TV so we just had to move on.

Had a mooch around the very expensive but tasteful shops before heading off to our next port of call.

The weather was really awful, very heavy rain and low cloud cover, we couldn't even see Lake Huron . B did very well to drive the distance she did to Orillia. No messing about for motels with swimming pools here, straight to a Comfort Inn a quick wash and across the road to a Kelsey for supper.

A early night for the poor exhausted driver.

10.5.97 Saturday

Not too early a start after a Tim Horten breakfast.

Drove north through some lovely countryside to the Algonquin Park. This was where a few of the Group of Seven got there inspiration, not surprisingly.

It is a vast area of wilderness which is carefully controlled. There had been timber mills at one time but some smart person had decided that there was enough timber to be cut elsewhere and Algonqiun should be preserved and turned into a Provincial Park for future generation to enjoy. In the summer months it is popular with campers, canoeists, hikers and wild animals enthusiasts.

We had a pleasant walk around Peck Lake which took about an hour. There was still some snow about and even a few frozen water falls. Saw my first live loon, had seen plenty of pictures of them on dollar coins.

Had a wee bit of difficulty finding somewhere to stay but eventually found a lodge ( not quite finished) on the east side of the park. The only thing which seemed to be missing from the room was a television - oh no! We found a local "greasy spoon" to have supper, it seemed all right even though everything was fried on the menu, until the good old boys turned up. I swear I could hear duelling banjos being played somewhere. We left quite quickly.

When in Canada in the great outdoors you have to go on a moose hunt. The first one we saw was a bit shy but further down the road we came upon a bolder chap.

He came running out of the bog at the side of the road stopped infront of the car had a good look at us, and then trotted off into the wilderness. They are really big animals but do look a bit thick, but we were glad this one did not take a run at the car.

B had the most horrendous indigestion when we got back to the lodge, she couldn't get comfortable and there was no TV for her to watch. I told her a story instead, not only did it cure he stomach it sent her to sleep.

11.5 97 Sunday

We decided to head back to St George after a good look round the visitors centre and another blast of fresh air on a wee hike up a gentle hill.

It was a long drive with the odd Tim Horten stop off, but B did very well even on the Queen Eli zabeth multi-laned motorway.

12.5.97 Monday

Last minute shopping.

Went to the Swiss Chalet with B, Garry, Marion and Geordie for supper, then home for our last video and popcorn night.

13.5.97 Tuesday

Marion, B and I went to St Joseph, a lovely wee Amish town. There are a few shop where the Amish sell their delicious produce like home baking, jams, cured meats and special sausages. There were also alot of shop selling junk!

We also went to the Old Smithy where I went through agony about buying a traditional wooden chair that came in a flat pack. Sense prevailed and I did not buy.

Had a lovely day's shopping and we did mange to find the last covered bridge in Ontario.

14.5.97 Wednesday

Flight home...................... not happy to leave everyone.

Diary contributed on Sept. 8, 1998 by G. Neilson <>

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