Lights out for Arctic town's Christmas iceberg

People in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, had made it a tradition to decorate a nearby iceberg with Christmas lights. This year, elders put a stop to it, concerned the breaking bulbs might contaminate their favourite drinking water.
In Nunavut, iceberg water is considered the best drinking water, and elders say it makes the best tea. That's why people in Pond Inlet didn't decorate an iceberg with Christmas lights this year. (The Associated Press)
Pond Inlet, Nunavut
A holiday tradition on the northern tip of Baffin Island is no more.

In recent years, people in the tiny community of Pond Inlet, Nunavut (pop. 1,500) had started a new holiday tradition by stringing Christmas lights around a nearby iceberg.

It’s a festive relief from the 10 weeks of darkness that falls on the community each winter.

But iceberg water is renowned for being as pure as the driven snow, and any iceberg that freezes into the ice near the community is also a coveted source of drinking water. Locals snowmobile out on the ice, carve off chunks of iceberg, and ferry them home in their kamotiks or sleighs. Elders says it makes the best tea.

Last Christmas, the hamlet council heard concerns from elders about the bulbs breaking, and possibly contaminating their drinking water with glass and mercury — even though modern Christmas lights don’t contain mercury.

Joshua Arreak coordinated the last Christmas iceberg in 2011.

“A few bulbs break and that's our drinking water,” he says. “It's pure iceberg drinking water and could be contaminated by fumes. So that was the concern, so we're not doing it this year.”

Arreak says there are no future plans to light up an iceberg, even if safer light bulbs are used.