Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I flew into the northern Québec Inuit village of Kangirsuk in the summer of 1971 to be one of the town's two teachers. It was my first teaching job and I was anxious to make a good impression. The plane that brought me was an Otter, much like the one in the above. I arrived during the summer so the 'ski-wheels' you see the plane equipped with here had been replaced with floats enabling it to land in the water. The terrain around Kangirsuk was pretty rugged and no landing strip had been built. Planes were forced to land on the lake above the town or on the river in front. Houses had only been built in the few years previous to my arrival and the school was relatively new as well.
The Otter aircraft was one of the 'work-horses' of the north. As most communities had no road access to southern Canada, these aircraft, along with the smaller Beaver and the Norseman were the sole means of travel, especially in the winter when ice blocked most sea routes. The Otter here has just dumped off the week's mail and other supplies and is about to take off again from the small lake above the village we called Post Lake. Today, a modern airport is located nearby with regularly scheduled flights. There's a huge picture of men in traditional kayaks just off the village on the wall in the airport, a tribute to traveling in the old days.
I was to travel in these small planes a lot during those years, including a forced landing when the pilot feared the engine was misbehaving. We ditched on a small lake and then found it was going to be a problem taking off. Fortunately we did manage it, but the pilot and I nervously watched the rocks in the shallows along the shore, expecting them to rip off the floats...