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Date: 19 Aug 2010 04:09:00
Title: Shooting with the Mounties

We've been onshore exploring Clyde River most of the day today which has been great fun and I've learned a lot although there's still much about this community that I don't understand.

Magnus had already dropped Kali ashore by the time he took Andrea and I in but he fell into the water as we docked so had to go back to Saxon Blue to get changed. Andrea and I were confident that we'd find both Kali and some chips for lunch so set off down the road to find the supermarket. That wasn't too hard as it's the only shop in town. It's very well stocked with food, hunting gear, electronic goods, clothes - everything you need, really. The prices, though, are eye-watering. 12 cans of Coke costs £25. Apparently, prices vary with how long ago the resupply ship docked and it's now due to arrive in the next few days so they're at their highest.

Anyway, we didn't find any chips or Kali there so went off to find the library (which was shut) and the hotel which seemed comfortable but she wasn't there either. We headed back towards the dock to hook up with Magnus (now dried out again) and discovered that Kali had been visiting Craig's wife, Moira and having a lovely time with her and their two young sons, Logan and Liam. I still needed to get my gun licence sorted so Craig got going on the phone and we soon had that organised. Craig then invited Magnus and I to go out in the afternoon and shoot some of his collection of guns to which the only possible reply is "yes please".

By this time, Andrea and I were fainting with hunger and we'd discovered that, despite this being America, there were no chips in town so we went back to Saxon Blue to get some lunch. Suitably replete, we headed back to town and dropped Andrea to spend the afternoon with Kali, Moira and the lads while Magnus, Craig, Martin (who is from New Brunswick, not Quebec as previously stated) and I went shooting. As we arrived at the office, Craig was wheeling a quad-bike out next to their massive Chevy pickup truck. He wanted somebody to bring that along so I volunteered, got a very quick introduction to the gears and brakes and then we set off through town with the other three in the truck and me bringing up the rear on the quad. It was freezing cold but a right laugh to drive, especially when the track got rougher as we left town and headed out towards the airport.

We pulled over near a river and set up some wooden boards with printed targets on them. Craig set one up at about 30 yards and the other at about 120 yards. With that, he produced the first gun, an Israeli-made Tavar TAR21 5.56 which is the gun their armed forced use now but in a semi-automatic "sporter" model. It's a strange looking weapon with the magazine mounted into the thick stock and a snub barrel sticking out the front. Through the 3x mag scope, the targets on the far board stood out well and I think I hit the board, if not the target, with the first magazine of 9 shots.

We then had a go with Craig's hunting rifle, a Robinson Arm XCR 6.8mm which looks much more like a conventional rifle and had a bipod so we could shoot from the bonnet of the truck. I found the higher mag scope harder to use but it was a great tool. Then we had a go with my favourite, a reproduction of the old Colt Peacemaker that you see in the cowboy films. It's a 6-shot revolver and you have to cock the hammer before each shot. There's no safety or anything. I tried the first shot two-handed and then reverted to proper gunslinger mode. The last two rounds were .357 Magnum and they gave a truly satisfying kick so I had to aim the gun again between each shot as it jumped up into the air. After that, we had a go with a reproduction of a 1911 Colt 45 which looked pretty modern, despite the old design. Apparently, it was an incredibly popular design and was used through both World Wars. As if that wasn't enough, we then had some fun with a pump-action 5-shot shotgun that's designed to be used at close-quarters so it doesn't have a proper stock.

Craig is a firearms instructor and both he and Martin carry a gun all the time so it felt as though we were in safe hands. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, just hanging out and chatting to these two guys in the middle of the desolate Arctic landscape and making a series of very loud bangs. Once we'd finished - and just before we froze solid - Magnus rode the quad back to town and I rode in the back of the truck, where the felons normally sit. We found Andrea and Kali still sitting in Moira's lovely house and using her internet. While I was warming my hands up on a cup of tea, I took the opportunity to ask her about life up here.

They get their lovely modern house as part of the posting to the North and it's a good way to get promotion and an amount of overtime. The downside seems to be the isolation of living and working in such a remote place so they get good benefits to encourage people to take the RCMP jobs up here. They order nearly all their year's food and groceries to arrive in a single drop by sea - the ship which the whole settlement is waiting for. Most other stuff, they get delivered by air from the South. They hardly ever buy anything from the overpriced supermarket which is almost exclusively used by the Inuit population. It seems quite stark to me how the poorest section of the community pays the highest price for basic commodities. The cost of feeding a family at these prices is shocking so I don't know if they get extra benefits or something to make it possible. With the high cost of travel, it must be easy to feel trapped into a spiral of high living costs and no chance of saving any money. There seem to be precious few local jobs, too, and not much of a wage economy.

I think the job of policing a community like this must be a very isolated position. The guys have to maintain some distance in order to function and, if they're anything like me, they must feel that they stick out like a sore thumb amongst the local people. Craig and Moira's kids are getting home-schooled as the schools up here are Inuktitut speaking until about aged 10 so they don't even get to interact with other parents. No wonder the RCMP have to give them good benefits to come up here - I don't think many people could hack it. I think they've enjoyed having us around as some new people to talk to.

We left Moira's house to go to the hotel for dinner. I didn't know what to expect but it was really good. The place was simple but warm and comfortable. We had a mound of spare ribs, a baked potato, sweet corn, salad and a help-yourself dessert buffet, all of which was tasty and well cooked. We were the only people eating and were just left to get on with it by the hotel staff. One other guest is working on the construction of an Arctic Cultural Institute in Clyde. It will take youngsters from all over Nunavut and teach them traditional practical skills. Whether it will work or not, I don't know but I think it's a good sign that they're trying to integrate the old ways with the new ones and elevate traditional skills into something that can be formally taught. We ended up having a relaxed evening before heading back onto Saxon Blue at about 9pm, just as a Canadian Coast Guard ship called Desgroseilliers came into the fjord to anchor. They've been involved in the search and rescue of the crashed helicopter and have the recovered parts of it onboard. I think everyone has given up hope for the pilot although they haven't found a body.

I'm hoping that we get a chance to meet some more local people before we leave here. I had a brief chat to a guy tonight who'd been involved in the search and rescue operation and he was really friendly, as were the people Magnus and Kali have met. I think I have to get over being shy about being so obviously a foreigner and try to talk to some locals. They're probably just as shy as I am. We'll see tomorrow.

Harvey

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