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Arctic Dispatches: Camp Mary River

Arctic Dispatches: Camp Mary River

A mine worker talks steak, doughnuts, and the good life.
By Samia Madwar
Jul 29
2014
From the July/August 2014 Issue

I’ve heard intriguing stories about camp life in Baffinland’s Mary River mine site. So I called up Salmo Inutiq, a 43-year-old surveyor and father of two from Arctic Bay, who’s been working there on a two-week on, two-week off schedule since last November. At first, living in a dorm, being stuck indoors, and working 12 hours a day sounded to me like a white-collar prison. Now I wonder if it isn’t a comfortable retreat—and the North’s best-kept secret. Here’s the low-down:

I wake up around 4:30 a.m. Breakfast is pretty much Southerners’ food: scrambled eggs, fried eggs, over-easy, if you want; potatoes, sausages, bacon. Every now and then people from other communities bring country food. We gather together from each community [Arctic Bay, Igloolik, Clyde River, Pond Inlet], people talking together. It’s always good.

After that, we go to work for 12 hours. We’re not allowed to go outside. It’s a safety thing. Wildlife and heavy equipment driving around and all that. There’s a trailer for smokers.

I like the two-week rotation better than  when I used to go out fishing on a shrimp boat near Greenland. That used to take longer. This Mary River schedule is just right, I think. 

There’s a pastry chef. He makes doughnuts, like the ones you get from Tim Horton’s. They’re usually gone pretty quick. When I have a chance I grab one or two. I like the ones with jelly and the ones with chocolate. I’d say they’re gone in under an hour. 

After work we go play pool. Or we’ll do a little exercise in the fitness room, do a little bit of weights, which is good. 

Especially after all those doughnuts.

Yeah. 

I’ve heard there are theme nights for dinner—like Ukrainian night, or prime rib night.

I noticed that too. I like steak nights better. 

After dinner we get together in the common room. You can play pool, play cards, watch a movie, go on the Internet. I have cousins from other communities who work there, and old friends, and the guys I used to play hockey against. We usually play pool together.

There’s this HR lady who organizes movie nights. We’ve watched Unstoppable with Denzel Washington. And Thor. Last time we were watching a movie, there was this hockey game going on, so I watched the game instead. It was Montreal against Boston. There’s this guy on the crew who’s really into Boston. We were going at each other—in a funny way. 

Everyone has their own bedroom, with a washroom, TV. It’s comfortable. We have our own phones. Every time we have a chance, we call home. Nobody’s warned me of a limit so far; I’ve been calling everyday. Talk all you want, I think. 

Do you miss it when you leave?

I would say the coffee, yes. And breakfast that you don’t have to make yourself, that sort of thing.