What Did Kevin Get Himself Into Now?

What Did Kevin Get Himself Into Now?

This summer I was lucky enough to get a job working with Environment Canada at the world’s most northern permanently inhabited location in the World! (no, not Santa’s Palace nor Superman’s Crib, but they live close by) This location is of course Canadian Forces Station Alert, Nunavut (aka CFS Alert). Alert started out as a joint weather station between the US and Canada, now it is a military station run by the Canadian Air Force and has approximatey 100 personnel, most of which are military. The position I have is with the GAW (Global Atmosphere Watch) lab which collects data on a variety of surface and atmospheric a variables as well as pollutants.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Found an Ice Cave! Well eventually....

So I have taken three long trips out to a gorge near Kirk lake (about 8 km from the station) looking for some ice caves. I have seen pictures of them and have been given directions their general location, but no one could tell me exactly where they were or if they even still exist. Some people said that they would be snowed over at this time of year while others said that it was too warm and that they had probably melted. Well either way I tagged along and encouraged any trips going out looking for them. I just really like hiking.

Attempt 1

The first trip I took was a while ago, around early May, and I went with a couple other Environment Canada employees (Jane and Eric, they launch weather balloons and do a lot of meteorological work up here). There was still a lot of snow at this time so we were able to take some snowmobiles out. One of the difficulties though was finding the gorge. There aren’t any real roads up here, especially going out towards the Ice Caves. There was only a trail marked by rusted barrels, but most of those were covered by snow. Once we got to Kirk lake we took a break at the “Love Shack” which is really just an old fishing hut.

The Love Shack is hardly used now, but has quite a long history and from what I can tell must be pretty old (it has asbestos walls and flooring haha). A few years ago a couple of long time Alert civilian employees got married up here and had their honeymoon in that shack, and I am pretty sure that is how it got its name. Apparently they stayed out there for around 2 weeks!

We were surprised at what we found in the Love Shack, which was a variety of things. Most notably was an old hockey goalie mask and a home-made mace. Naturally we all did our best “mace murderer” impressions, pretty sure I was able to find the sociopathic killer look in me for this picture.

There was something scrawled on the side of the mace but it was really hard to make out what it was. Something about avenging someone who had been attacked by wolves… comforting, haha. The mace was some old club with a few nasty nails sticking out.

After our stop off at the Love Shack we decided to hike through the gorge looking for these ice caves. We finally got to the corner that looked like what was described to us but unfortunately we found no caves. All we found was a huge snowdrift, Eric and I decided to slide down it, you can pick up some pretty good speed on these drifts!). Even though we didn’t find any caves the excursion was tonnes of fun.

Attempt #2

Last Thursday I decided to hike up with a few other guys from around station, I thought that maybe things had melted enough to expose the ice caves. Turns out things weren’t done melting yet, and the melt-water streams were very deep and fast flowing.

It was pretty surprising how much had melted, and how many streams their were. Wasn’t much of a surprise that none of us got back to the station dry. But, we also saw a good deal of wildlife! Lots and lots of arctic hares, a couple leverets (baby arctic hares), and even a fox! So once again even though we didn’t find any ice caves the hike was well worth the trip.

Looking back at my pictures I can actually see where the snow was about to give way for the stream to burst through, pretty neat! On the right side of the picture below you can see a huge crack in the snowdrift.

Attempt #3

I found out about a group of people that wanted to go looking for the ice caves just this past Saturday. They asked me to help them get to the area since I had been there twice in the past month. I told them that I would love to come but that I had just been there on Thursday and that the ice caves were still not thawed. This deterred most of the group from coming, unfortunately. I feel pretty bad about this because it turns out the ice caves were open (Yay!).

They were pretty neat! They had formed by the melt-water bursting through a snow drift that fell between two ridges. Earlier in the spring the melt-water had just ran along side one of the ridges and on top of the snow, but as things melted and the flow of the stream increased the melt-water undercut the snow drift and burst out through its front wall. Pretty impressive, and frightening, especially since I had been sliding down that snow drift just a month ago.


  1. Awesome photos, Kevin! I would have been so scared to go in the dark one, maybe not if you held my hand (giggity) but seriously, amazing photos! Glad to see you're still exploring! :)


  2. Beautiful pictures kev. Those baby hares are so cute! I'm going to share with my mom :)

  3. Great to see you are having fun :). I have enjoyed your pictures and info on High Alert. Environment Canada has a problem though.... there is a crazy man up in your area lol That mask scared me. I can not watch horror movies at night. On a lighter note, Kisty is right those baby hares are cute. They look like Thumper from the Disney movie Bambi :). The ice caves are awesome. Looking forward to hearing more from High Alert. Take care.

  4. I love the baby hares! So cute!