The weather has improved considerably and we were able to fly out today to collect more samples. Yesterday, some of us went to explore Crystal Mountain, a 900-foot peak about five miles from Alert that offers an excellent view of the surrounding landscape.
Alert is a Canadian military station located in the far north region of Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut, Canada–the self-proclaimed “northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world.” There is no doubt that Alert is unique, with its 10-months of snow cover, extremely harsh winters with temperatures as low as -40 degrees C (-40 F) and average summer temperatures hardly above freezing. Alert is named after the HMS Alert, a British ship that spent the winter of 1875-1876 about 10 kilometers east of present-day Alert while exploring the arctic. The HMS Alert was the first ship to get that far north. Alert was settled as a weather station in the early 1950s and at the height of the Cold War became a military base due to its proximity to what was then the Soviet Union.
Alert is a fascinating place that has seen more than its share of downed airplanes and where the hardships that earlier inhabitants endured are still apparent. Nowadays, life is easier and does not evoke the romantic images of arctic exploration of the past. Sure, the Internet moves at a snail’s pace and telephone-use is restricted to 30 minutes per day, but the food is excellent, and we are warm and dry.