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.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Little About Alert

Alert, Nunavut, is the northernmost permanently inhabited location in the world, located above 82 degrees north. This puts Alert well within the Arctic Circle, giving it a very harsh climate. Alert experiences about 5 months of light, 5 months of darkness, and 2 months of twilight (no, not the movie twilight, thank god). Sometimes the 24 Hrs of daylight can be annoying, others times it is nice. For me, it is sometimes convenient because I am never worried about hiking too far and not getting back to station before nightfall. I can’t imagine what it would be like in total darkness, I would definitely not enjoy it as much because I wouldn’t be able to go hiking anywhere leaving me with a lot more spare time. People here are really friendly though and are quite easy to get to know and hang out with.

(The red arrow points to Alert, where I am!)
The beautiful and rugged landscape is home to few animals and flora. There are some areas where all you that can be seen for miles are rocks and mud. The sporadic valleys between mountains serve as oases for Peary caribou, arctic hare, and the occasional muskox. The flora is largely limited to flowers, patches of grass, moss, and the odd looking willow (poor excuse for a “tree”, has almost no vertical growth as it mostly sprawls across the rocks)

These are some pictures of a muskox that I saw while hiking south of the station.

There are lots of wolves and birds and a few foxes too. The wolves are hardly afraid of people, they are definitely not afraid to see how close they can get. Wolves can always be seen around the station, best practise is to carry a weapon of some sort if you go walking/hiking any far distance (no joke). I've never hear of them attacking anyone unprovoked, but a long stick is nice to have to keep them at a comfortable distance. It’s also never a good idea to leave doors open, the wolves around here are very curious and occasionally venture inside the buildings, once one snuck into the kitchen and had to be chased out. Usually they get the idea to back off if you wave a large enough stick at them. They're not as mean as they look though, just hungry, sometimes they try to scamper off with a shoe or glove.

Onto details about actually living on station! Well, first off, you will have lots of free time. On the bright side, there are many organized activities and things to keep everyone busy. The bar is open every night and it always hosts an activity, which, if you come in first, second or third, you win prize money (usually between 25$ and 5$). The more "low key" nights at the bar are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. On these days you can join in on a euchre, crib, darts, or bingo tournaments, respectively. Wednesdays, and Saturdays usually have a few more people. Wednesdays feature a pool tournament and ‘Mess night’ where they give out door prizes. Saturdays are ok because there is usually a movie on at the theatre and a poker tournament going on. Fridays are, in my opinion, the best nights of the week because the bar gives out a limited number of free drinks (you can usually get 2 to 3, some nights you don’t have to pay for any). The bars are pretty nice, they have pool tables, dart boards, poker tables, etc.

There are also lots of sports going on, usually one every night of the week. I don’t remember which sport is on which specific night, other than hockey, which is played on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Badmington, volleyball, soccer, and basketball are often organized in the gym. I have to add that there are fairly good weight rooms and treadmills on station, and they are hardly ever busy.

Oh yea, another thing, the food here is fantastic and to top that off all the food is free! It can be hard to stop eating sometimes haha. There is a cafeteria that serves food from 7:00 to 8:00Hrs, 12:00 to 13:00Hrs and 17:00 to 18:00Hrs. Each hallway also has its own common kitchen stocked with basic stuff like breakfast foods, microwavable foods, canned foods, nutella, etc. Mostly everyone up here has lots of spare time, I usually spend the majority of my time hiking, working out, playing pool, reading, or watching movies.


  1. Hi Kevin, I was looking online for information about the GAW lab and found your blog and Sarah's. I'm working for Parks Canada now in Churchill and have wanted to get to the northern most park on Ellesmere for a while. My coworker this summer, Eva Lee, released weather balloons for a couple of summers in Alert and she told me all about her experience. I'm in sustainable and renewable energy engineering at Carleton (basically mechanical engineering) and I'm especially interested in remote northern systems. Being a GAW lab operator sounds super neat and perfect for me. Eva has already given me a couple of names but do you have any contacts or advice?

    Please email me back if you have time! Thanks! jeffersonmelina at gmail.com

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for posting. I’m a professor in the United States (Psychology and Philosophy). I came to your blog somewhat randomly but I wanted to let you know that someone was reading. I was looking at a map and noticed land to the west of Greenland and wasn’t sure who owned it or what it was called. I zoomed into Google Maps and noticed Alert and clicked on the city. I was happy to see pictures posted and one led to your blog. Now I’m curious to visit Alert. Thanks for posting the interesting information about this unique place at the top of the world.