World Map With Arctic Circle

Homeward Bound

After flying for 700 km the first stopover is Cambridge Bay at 5.15 a.m. and I get off for 15 minutes to stretch my legs. I look up and see three white tundra swans flying majestically across the sky. They are a poignant reminder of all I’ve experienced and I watch them slowly vanish into the distance. We take-off again at 5.40. Then it’s on to Yellowknife at 7.10, leaving there at 7.25.

Some new passengers have joined the flight and one sits next to me, on my right. Ralph Berg, a taxidermist, the first I’ve ever met. He works mostly on Arctic animals particularly bear, muskox and fox. He also makes miniature copies of them. Ralph is very talkative and interesting; his family was originally from Germany but he has never been there himself. He gives me his card, ‘Berg’s Taxidermy’ and invites me to make contact the next time I’m this way. I suggest a business card strap line of ‘Getting Stuffed’ and he thinks that’s quite a hoot. Sitting on my other side is Wendy Reece, a dance and acrobatics teacher, who has been funded by the Ottawa government to teach dance for a few weeks to the Inuit communities. Once Wendy finds out I’m on the dance committee of the International Theatre Institute we are able to exchange dance stories and compare the movements of animals to the best choreographic work. This was of course many years before the Lion King burst upon Broadway and the West End to exhilarate and delight their captivated audiences.

World Map With Arctic Circle Photo Gallery

We arrive five hours later at Edmonton and check in for the final leg to Toronto. It’s several hours before we will depart and we look for something to eat to pass the time. Then it’s a flight of three and a half hours before we touchdown at Toronto airport. Only one more flight to go now before we arrive back in London. So many adventures, so much has happened, there’s so much to think about. I continually look at my watch as the time seems to drift slowly. It must be the way I’m feeling. I’m both mentally and physically tired, although still so stimulated by all the extraordinary experiences. I determine to find out much more about the Inuit and their way of life within this vast frozen territory.

We still have an hour before boarding. Penny Govett and I are now sitting on our own as Fabian and Erik have already left for Norway and Julian was booked on a different flight. Andy Goldsworthy has gone on ahead to the gate as he wants to work on his etchings. At first I think I am dreaming as I hear our names called out. The gate is about to close. I hadn’t adjusted my watch on this last leg and it is wrong by one hour. We start to run and just make it by seconds as they close the gate immediately behind us. It reminds me of the race to the Athenaeum in Around The World In 80 Days, when Phineas Fogg realises he hadn’t adjusted his watch after crossing the International Date Line. Like Phineas, Penny and I breathe sighs of relief as we sink into our adjoining seats.

On board there is a Canadian tag team, enormous wrestlers who seem to fill the plane, so everyone is, or appears to be, very cramped. I would perhaps like to tell them about my sumo studies and ask if they know about the practice of shin, the use of mental force to overcome a stronger opponent, but I have too many Arctic memories to revisit and the hours pass too quickly. At the airport in London James Bustard is waiting eagerly for our return and we all emotionally embrace. Andy gives Penny and myself the etchings he has been completing on the way back, ice he had dripped earlier on to vellum paper and subsequently carved into unique designs. It’s not easy to say goodbye but we must part; each of us has an individual story to tell. All the way home I stare at my North Pole Goldsworthy drawing and it’s forever imprinted on my inner mind. Over the years in pensive or reflective mood I often turn to it.

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