Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fifty Years ago I Went to the Arctic (Inuvik)

    Fifty years ago this month I left for a six year stint in the Arctic. It was an adventure that changed my life forever. It fits in with my last post as I was moving to an isolated harsh area with unpredictable transportation.

    I had been teaching for four years. I was at a cross road. I knew that I was definitely leaving the position I had. After that I didn't know if I would quit teaching and go into another field , go back to university or find another teaching position. 

    One day I saw an ad in the paper entitled "Teach in Canada's North land." That caught my attention. I thought I would apply and see what happened. I got an interview and later they offered me a position. The position wasn't where I wanted to go but I accepted it anyway. 

   This was with the Federal Govt. and they gave many directions as to what we had to do to prepare ourselves. I had to get to Edmonton and from there they paid for my lodging and transportation. They sent me a ticket and told me that they would reserve a seat for me. All I had to do was phone ahead of time and confirm. 

    Now scheduled service had only begun the year before. It was almost an exaggeration to call it scheduled. It hardly ever flew on the day it was supposed to and sometimes didn't get in for two weeks.

    I went out to the airport and presented my ticket. I was told, "There are no reservations for you. There were about 40 of us in the same boat. A few got on the flight. They told the rest of us to come back tomorrow. We came back the next day and there was a long line up. They cut the line up off just in front of me and said the plane was full. What a shock! I went back to the counter and asked what would happen next. They asked me if I was alone. They said wait, "There might be one seat left." Sure enough there was one seat. They hurried me out to the airplane.

   Now I had never flown so this was a new experience for me. The aircraft was a dilapidated old DC 4 which was out of the thirties. Half way up we ran into violent thunder storms. Put on your seat belts. Then it started to leak right over my seat. I thought, "We're crashing. I'm a goner!"

   We made it to the location where all the new teachers were to be on a week orientation. That was a blast! We stayed in a dorm with one room and about twenty guys. We learned a lot.

   At the end of the week we were to be flown to Inuvik. Guess what? I didn't get on the flight. Tomorrow! 

    I left the next evening at nine PM on a freighter with five passengers. For much of the five hour flight I was in the cockpit. The four other passengers found the softest piece of freight and went to sleep. It was a beautiful clear evening. From 9:00 PM until 2 AM we  flew mostly north and I enjoyed a sunset all the way. When we landed it was dark on the ground.

    So this was my trip to the north. Nothing went as expected. I could roll with the punches and nothing bothered me. It was all an exciting adventure. 

    I was really ready to leave home and establish myself. I don't think Mom and Dad were too happy or confident about seeing me go away for a year.

    I can hardly believe this happened fifty years ago. It seems like yesterday.