Upon arriving in Inuvik on a beautiful, bright afternoon this Christmas, my father cut through the myth immediately, declaring the “sunless winter” claim a scam.
The idea of a perpetually dark winter sounds so mysterious and challenging to southerners, but anyone who has spent time in the North knows it’s more hype than reality.
Thirty days without the sun sounds like we’re crossing into the event horizon and being lost in space.
Lesa Semmler caught the photo of the sun to the right on Christmas Eve just by driving towards Tsiigehtchic. It’s not very far away.
Plus, it’s not that cold in Inuvik, even disregarding this unusually warm winter. We’ve got trees to protect from the wind. We’re not stuck on a treeless rock in Iqaluit here.
Since I came to the North, I had my sights on Inuvik because it looked so remote and I craved adventure. Once I arrived, I realized it may as well be a friendly town in the middle of Ontario. As a friend put it, Inuvik is the most non-remote remote place in Canada.
With the sunless winter myth behind us, and knowing that Inuvik needs jobs, perhaps we can kill a few birds with one stone in this new year.
The proposal: Inuvik should build a giant watchtower up on Bypass Road, high enough so viewers can see the sun from the top in the heart of December.
The infrastructure project would also serve as a tourism spectacle, as the only place for miles around where one can view the sun in winter, and it would no doubt offer spectacular views of the delta all year round.
We have a few drone enthusiasts in town and can employ them to fly their machines as high as they can into the sky to find out how tall we need to build the watchtower. If the drones can’t go high enough, we can hire a weather balloon from Aurora Research Institute.
If higher levels of government are tight on money for funding it, we can simplify the structure, which may come with its own benefits.
Instead of a pleasant winding staircase – the most tourist-friendly option – we can build a straight vertical ladder with no other frills. All it would be is a giant ladder with a small platform at the top, with no railings.
If you follow happenings on the Internet, you would know that urban climbers – daredevils who scale tall, unstable buildings usually in Eastern Europe – have become all the rage and frequently go viral.
Inuvik could become a destination for these people, who seem to be drawn to cold, desolate environments anyway.
For a few extra dollars we could put some rickety beams and poles coming out of the top for them to do pull-ups from, a favourite death-defying activity of theirs.
Depending on the tower’s height, we would need to buy at least one flag so planes and helicopters don’t hit it in cloudy conditions.
With a pair of binoculars, we should also be able to keep a watchful eye on Aklavik from this tower.
The more you think about it, the better the idea gets. There are so many local uses too – imagine the mayor throwing out the first pitch in one of the summer slo-pitch tournaments from the top of this tower.
In this slumping economy, there’s not much to lose from such a pursuit. The press coverage alone would stimulate significant tourism and interest.
For 2018, let’s think bigger than roads, turn our view to the sky and make the Eye of Inuvik a reality.