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Human geographies of sea ice: freeze/thaw processes around Igloolik, Nunavut, Canada

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2008

Gita J. Laidler
Department of Geography, University of Toronto, 100 St. George Street, Sidney Smith Hall Rm. 5047, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3G3, Canada
Theo Ikummaq
P.O. Box 53, Igloolik, Nunavut, X0A 0L0, Canada


Sea ice has been, and continues to be, an integral component of life in the Inuit community of Igloolik, Nunavut. Located on an island of the same name off the northeastern coast of Melville Peninsula, extensive ice formation occurs in Fury and Hecla Strait. This creates an important travel and hunting platform, and enables access to Baffin Island, the mainland, moving ice, hunting and fishing grounds, and nearby communities. With the combined importance, dynamism, and continuous use of this frozen ocean environment, local Inuit elders and hunters have developed a detailed and nuanced understanding of sea ice conditions, freeze/thaw processes, and the influences of winds and currents on ice conditions. Working collaboratively with the community of Igloolik since February 2004, we present the results of 24 semi-directed interviews and 4 sea ice trips to provide a baseline understanding of local freezing processes (near-shore, open water, sea ice thickening, landfast ice, tidal cracks, floe edge, and moving ice), melting processes (snow melt, water accumulation and drainage, and break-up), wind influences on sea ice (wind direction and strength affecting sea ice formation and movement), and, current influences on sea ice (tidal variations and current strength affecting sea ice formation, movement, and polynya size/location). Strong emphasis is placed on Inuktitut terminology and spatial delineations of localised ice conditions and features. Therefore, this paper provides insights into local scale ice conditions and dynamics around Igloolik that are not captured in regional scale studies of Foxe Basin and/or Fury and Hecla Strait. Results have the potential to inform future research efforts on local/regional sea ice monitoring, the relationship between Inuit knowledge, language, and the environment, and addressing community interests through targeted studies.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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