Bringing electricity to the 'place that never melts'
For the 130 people who live in Grise Fiord, Nunavut — Canada's most northern community — power outages were an almost-daily occurrence. A 57-year-old generator was the hamlet's only energy source, and it desperately needed to be replaced. Temperatures in Grise Fiord can drop to -50°C, and its residents spend almost four months a year in complete darkness.
Power is a big deal around here. The house can freeze up within three hours.- Manasie Noah, Grise Fiord resident
"Power is a big deal around here," says Manasie Noah, a Grise Fiord resident. "The house can freeze up within three hours. [Power] also provides light for our children who are walking on the street. Streetlights will give them a warning if there is a polar bear on the beach. We need power."
A community with a dark past
The generator was almost as old as the community itself. Back in early 1950s, the government forcibly relocated eight Inuit families from northern Quebec to the shores of Ellesmere Island, about 1,000 kilometres above the Arctic Circle. Cold War tensions had the Canadian government wanting to assert its territorial sovereignty over the Arctic, and that meant having a permanent settlement just 1,500 km south of the North Pole.
The original families were told that they would be provided for, that they could hunt and live off the land as they had in Quebec, and, if they didn't like it, they could come home. Instead, they were virtually abandoned in one of the coldest places on Earth.
"Grise Fiord, in Inuktitut it's 'Ausuittuq,' meaning 'It never melts,'" says the hamlet's mayor, Meeka Kiguktak.
'Reliable energy for the next 50 years'
The arrival of a new power plant on the sealift — an annual delivery of everything the community needs, from food to classrooms to remote Arctic hamlets — meant a huge improvement to the quality of life in Grise Fiord.
This community had more power outages than any other community in Nunavut. They fought to get a new plant for a long time, so to have it arrive on the ship with the rest of the cargo marked a new start in some ways. "It feels good, we finally get something here. Reliable energy for the next 50 years." said James Flaherty, who works for the territory's energy corporation.
It feels good, we finally get something here. Reliable energy for the next 50 years.- James Flaherty, Grise Fiord original resident
A new plant brings new hope
Flaherty was born in Grise Fiord and he fully understands just how important the new power plant is to the community.
"I just wish that our parents were alive to see that," says Flaherty. "They went through so much. But they survived. This community is very, very strong."
The arrival of the long-awaited power plant is documented in Episode 7 of High Arctic Haulers.