Mark and Nadine's Arctic Expedition travel blog

At the Arctic Circle

Danger along the highway

The resting place of the Lost Patrol

The ferry across the Mackenzie River

The Igloo Church in Inuvik

Still not fully adjusted to this midnight sun business, we awoke early and were on the road by 5:30 A.M. Around 6:00, we reached the Arctic Circle, and we used our tripod to snap a photo of us by the sign.

Not long after, we came upon a wrecked tractor trailer, with its lights still on (but no driver to be found). The road here is very narrow, and built up on a high berm of gravel because of the permafrost. In a moment of inattention, you could find yourself dropping right off the road, as this fellow apparently did.

We stopped at the first territorial campground inside the Northwest Territories and accepted a cup of Labrador tea from Robert, the native (Gwitch’in) staff member there. He helped us with the pronunciation of some of the native names, and made us feel welcome in the Northwest Territories again.

This section of the Dempster Highway involves two ferry crossings, one just before the little town of Fort McPherson. Here we visited the grounds of the Anglican church, where the members of the Lost Patrol are buried. These four Mounties died early in the 1900s after becoming lost on winter patrol between Dawson City and Fort McPherson. Their bodies lie near a monument, surrounded by the more recent graves of native people (whose burial plots are typically fenced in with white picket fences).

Around 3:00 P.M. we arrived in Inuvik, at the end of the Dempster Highway, a weary-looking town of about 3,300. After stopping at the Welcome Centre, we went to the territorial campground at the far end of town (near the Sewage Lagoon!), found a site and took a well-earned nap. After supper at the Northern market (KFC and Pizza Hut Express!), we took a tour of Inuvik’s principal landmark, the “Igloo Church” (Notre Dame of the North). It was designed and built (without blueprints) in the mid-1950s by a lay brother of the Oblate order with a fifth grade education; it rests on a pad of concrete, set on 8 feet of gravel, and the system has defeated the effects of permafrost for over half a century.

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