Shortcuts across the top of the world

Fighting Lady Franklin, and Canada, in the Far North

It seems that nothing in the Arctic is immutable; icebergs move and melt; the magnetic North Pole jumps about sixty kilometres every year and is currently heading toward Siberia; the Arctic Circle, too, is a shifting line. Early explorers saw fabulous mirages known as Fata morgana looming on the horizon and determined they were impassable mountain ranges.

What remains constant is that the Arctic is at once vast and intimate. More people live in Guelph, Ontario, or Kelowna, British Columbia, than live in the entire Canadian Arctic. Half of those Northerners live in four urban centres: Whitehorse (Yukon), Inuvik and Yellowknife (Northwest Territories), and Iqaluit (Nunavut); the remaining 60,000 or so are residents of small villages and communities dotted across what adds up to about 40 percent of the land mass of Canada. In the imagination of Canadians who think and care about the Canadian Arctic, it is...