Gjoa Haven is in present day a hamlet of a little over 1,000 people. Inhabited almost entirely by Inuit, it is located about 100 miles to the southeast from where the Franklin men began their death march in the late 1840's. It was established in formality after the acclaimed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen passed through sometime between 1903 and 1906. After staying there for 2 years, Amundsen famously then went on, in his ship the Gjøa, to become the first to sail through the fabled Northwest Passage. Amundsen learned from the local Netsilik people about arctic survival skills like how to use sled dogs and to wear animal skins in lieu of heavy, woolen clothing, like Franklin and his men wore.
Some of today's direct descendants of the people of Gjoa Haven are the ones who bore witness to the slow death of the men of the Franklin Expedition. Although at times they did try to help them, there was fear and caution. In addition, the crew had a substantial lack of knowledge of the best ways to hunt and survive in these harsh arctic climates, combined with their practice of the traditional Victorian ways of challenging winter.
Here are some of my images from Gjoa Haven on the 2003 trip. It was early September and the wind never seemed to be less than 30 knots, and many times much more. One landing in particular had the wind 80 degrees perpendicular to the runway from the left at 55 knots and gusting. I landed on the far left runway side, with no flaps, on the left wheel - and danced down the runway in a slip that had the left wingtip almost on the ground to prevent from being blown off the prescribed path. Having a gravel runway helped as the plane skidded the last 50 feet sideways to a stop.
|Typical high arctic late summer day|
Most days also had low ceilings, low visibilities and fog, not to mention the gales. One must always have at least one out, in this region maybe two.
|Gjoa Haven beach area 2003|
|"Clear day" at Gjoa Haven Airport 2003|
|Drilling into the permafrost for tie downs|