Jerry Kobalenko’s Beautifully Rendered Arctic Eden

Arctic Eden

In light of the major blizzard that struck the northeastern U.S. yesterday and the deep freeze that settled over much of eastern Canada a couple of weeks ago,  I thought I’d continue with the winter theme of some of my recent posts (see Retro Winter Travel and Recreation Ads and “Ice Break” by Astrid Blodgett) by sharing my praise for Jerry Kobalenko’s Arctic Eden:  Journeys Through the Changing High Arctic.  Although it first caught my eye over a year ago and has been sitting on one of my shelves awaiting my attention since then, perhaps because this wintry season’s colder than usual weather had set the right mood,  I finally got around to reading it this past week.

Arctic Eden is part travelogue (or better put, adventurelogue), part historical overview of explorations of the High Arctic region of Canada, but mostly it is a beautiful  showcase of Kobalenko’s exquisite photography of the stark and at times haunting landscapes of the rugged northernmost latitudes of Canada.  Through the book Kobalenko, who is based in Alberta, narrates for his readers several sled-pulling treks through the extremities of Nunavut, including Devon Island, Axel Heiberg Island and Ellesmere Island, and he does it in such a way that one can readily visualize the experience of which he writes.

The text is nicely complemented by asides about early Arctic adventurers and local flora and fauna and the author’s stunning images that demonstrate his keen eye for the beauty of this harsh environment.   While shades of white and blue dominate the landscape, I was struck by the much wider range of vivid colors than I expected in these images of the Arctic.  What comes across most clearly is Kobalenko’s good-natured passion for outdoor adventure and his joyful appreciation for each visit to the High Arctic that he’s been privileged to make (apparently through much resourcefulness on his part).  I should also note that in several places he acknowledges his wife, Alexandra, as his steadfast companion in adventure and in preparing key parts of the book.  Undoubtedly, this thankful sensibility contributed to Arctic Eden’s receipt of the 2012 William Mills Prize for Non-Fiction with a polar theme.

I’ve posted above a handful of Kobalenko’s photos from the book, more of which can be viewed on his website (  His website, by the way, is quite nicely laid out and has information on ordering this and his other books as well as his photos.

Photo Credits:  Jerry Kobalenko

Quotable Canada: Women in Combat, Skiing the Gaspe Peninsula, Arctic Exploration, and Common Law Relationships

Some notable quotes from U.S. and Canadian media I’ve come across in the past week or so:

“I can assure you that a mother misses a son as much as a father grieves for a daughter.  Grief has no gender”  — Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island resident Tim Goddard, commenting on combat roles for men and women, in Ian Austen, “Debate on Combat Roles Is Familiar in Canada,” NY Times, Jan. 25, 2013 

“The lucky ones got to sleep under a table.  You were so exhausted you didn’t care.”   — Montrealer Sharon Braverman, commenting on the initial Traversee de la Gaspesie, the weeklong 100-mile plus cross-country skiing trek across Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula in Tim Neville, “Quebec on Skis,” NY Times, Jan. 27, 2013

“I think it’s crazy.  Aren’t we far enough north already?”   — Deborah Iqualik, of Resolute, Nunavut, on the efforts each year (called the “silly season” by locals) by adventurers far and wide to reach the North Pole, in Margo Pfeiff, “‘If It’s Explorer Season, Why Can’t We Shoot Them?'”,  Up Here, Jan./Feb. 2013

“You’re in love, and all you think about is love and having kids, and you come last.  So a lot of women don’t see it coming.”Johanne Lapointe, of Montreal, commenting on Quebec’s  approach to common law relationships in light of a recent Canadian Supreme Court decision, in Ingrid Peritz & Sean Gordon, “Quebec is a Laboratory When It Comes to Domestic Life'”, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 25, 2013

Peculiar Consensus Way Up North


Interior of NWT Legislative Assembly Building

Election Season Installment 2:  One of the more peculiar features of Canada’s provincial political culture has to be the consensus-type government in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  Unlike the party-driven systems that are most typical of representative governments, in a consensus system — at least in those two provinces — all candidates are elected as independents to a legislature and those representatives then select among themselves a premier and cabinet ministers.  The remaining members, who comprise a majority, then act as a de facto loyal opposition by holding the executive leaders accountable.

The consensus system first developed in the Northwest Territories, partly due to the community-based traditions of cooperativeness and consensus decisionmaking  among the Inuit  and other northern peoples.  Consensus governing was naturally adopted by Nunavut shortly after that most-northern province  was split off from NWT.  Continue reading



Inuksuit - Silent Messengers of the Arctic

Perhaps because we in the South have been having one of the more intensely cold and icy winters in recent memory, my thoughts have turned of late to the Canadian Arctic.   Of course, my fascination with that region pre-dates the latest cold spell but the current chilliness causes me to contemplate in a more direct way the far north regions and what  difficult living that must be.   So, about a month ago I read through Inuksuit:  Silent Messengers of the North by Norman Hallendy, which clued me into the mysterious man-made rock structures called inuksuk (the plural being inuksuit) and the special role they play in keeping people connected with one another and spiritual forces across the vast and barren — and hauntingly beautiful — landscape.  Hallendy came to understand the intricate language and significations of inuksuit among the Inuit people over the course of his more than 40 years visiting the Canadian Arctic.    His book does a wonderful job allowing us to peek into the lives of the Inuit and their reverence for the natural world.

inukshuk in igloolik by arctic-wl

(Bottom photo credit: arctic-wl’s photostream on flickr:

Regional Reads: Up Here & Yukon, North of Ordinary


I’m a glutton for magazines and, undoubtedly, have way more subscriptions than warranted for any normal person.   Although online media continue to nip at the heels of print media, magazines continue to hold their own, especially where the publication is able to use online multi-media features to enhance its offline offerings.   Just as with the U.S., Canada has a wealth of solid mainstream publications, but the ones that most attract my attention are the regional and niche publications.  With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a look periodically at some of the country’s noteworthy smaller magazines, and to do that by starting way up north.

Amazingly, the far north is graced with at least two truly terrific general circulation regional magazines, Up Here and Yukon, North of  of Ordinary.   The more broad ranging in scope and literary of the two appears to be the monthly Up Here, which principally focuses on life in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, although it occasionally touches upon the far northern regions of Canada’s other mainland provinces.   The magazine’s layout conveys a playful, slightly hip aesthetic and its editorial content provides enough variety to satisfy even picky readers.  The latest issue I have (September 2010) features stories on Inuit who have moved south to Ottawa and Toronto, the failed effort in the 1960s and 1970s to develop a modern-day Shangri-La in the far north, a desperate Nunavut survival tale from almost a century ago, and, on a lighter note, the winners of the annual “Write Like Robert Service Poetry Contest.”  From an online perspective, Up Here‘s website makes available selected content from past issues, including entertaining multi-media features.  Not surprisingly, others have also taken note of this nifty little publication with lots of personality — so much so that Up Here received the prestigious 2010 Magazine of the Year Award from the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

Link to website of Up Here


Yukon, North of Ordinary stakes out a narrower geographic niche, emphasizing happenings in the Yukon.  The magazine devotes more attention to business matters in its editorial voice.  However, the quality of its feature writing is quite good.   The Fall 2010 issue profiles spooky haunts in Dawson City, reports on a cultural festival of the local Tr’ondek Hwech’in people, and explores how far flung Yukon families use technology to stay connected across wide distances.  The publication also serves as the official inflight magazine of Whitehorse-based Air North, so several pages cover matters of interest with that airline.  While Yukon‘s website is not as robust as that of Up HereYukon‘s site  archive provides better overall access to past issues.  Both these magazines  have a great deal that is useful and entertaining to offer their respective readerships and they each demonstrate why print media continues to retain our interest notwithstanding the pull of the web.

Link to Yukon, North of Ordinary

Nunavut: Doorway to the Arctic

Gull Glacier at Tanquary Fiord in Ukkusiksalik National Park

A few weeks ago Adventure Canada, the operators of an adventure tour in Nunavut, was forced to evacuate, with the assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard, over 100 passengers and dozens of crew members from its Clipper Adventurer because the ship struck a then-uncharted rock in Coronation Bay off the Arctic Ocean.  My heart went out to those whose amazing adventure into this vast wonderland had to be cut short.

The news reports of the incident focused my attention on Nunavut, which I have not visited (yet!).  From what I can tell, Nunavut is among the least visited Canadian provinces because of its remoteness.

Northeast Coast of Baffin Island

Although most of Nunavut is situated north of the Arctic Circle, because the province is so vast within its borders lies the geographic center of Canada.  The province is comprised of a massive expanse of mainland Canada and a sprawling archipelago, each with terrain as rugged as any to be found within the country.  Originally part of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut became a separate province in 1999 as part of a federal commitment to establish a territory for the indigenous Inuit people.

Pangnirtung Fiord at Auyuittiuq National Park

Link to Map of Nunavut: Map%20of%20Nunavut

(Photo credits:  Ansgar Walk, under Creative Commons License)


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