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Old August 23rd, 2007, 12:28 PM   #1
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Canada's Last Igloo to Disappear Amid Arctic Boom

Canada's last igloo to be flattened amid Arctic boom

IQALUIT, Canada, Aug 16, 2007 (AFP) - The last igloo in Canada's far north, which housed a family restaurant for 27 years, is set to be demolished to make room for offices, amid a flurry of economic activity in the remote Arctic.

Purchased in May by an Edmonton-based hotel operator, the Kamotiq Inn restaurant is to be replaced in the coming months by a 4,645 square-meter (50,000 square-foot) office building.

The eatery at the main "Four Corners" intersection of Iqaluit, just 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, is the only extant example of modern igloo architecture, inspired by the igloo shape and popularized in the 1950s and 1960s, in the North.

It was actually built in 1980 by two schoolteachers with the help of local townsfolk out of normal building materials. The couple was fascinated by the "igloo shape," said Suzie Michael, a former student who pitched in, hammering nails and painting the exterior.

"When I was growing up, I lived in (snow) igloos and it reminds me of that life," said her father, Inuit elder Simonie Michael, savoring Arctic char for lunch.

He has eaten here almost every day since it opened, enjoying "the warm hospitality, the food and the beer," and would like it to remain, he said.

But restaurant manager Brian Czar, who will soon be out of a job, told AFP: "Times are changing. The North is opening up, the city is growing and there's a growing demand for real estate in Iqaluit."

Indeed, an international rivalry has heated up as global warming opens up the vast Arctic to economic activity.

Scientists predict the famed Northwest Passage could be ice-free for shipping year-round by mid-century, cutting sea travel from London to Tokyo by 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).

Canada is at odds, however, with the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway over it and parts of the Arctic seabed believed to hold 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

To bolster its claim, Canada has beefed up its military presence here, announcing last week its first Arctic deep sea port in Nanisivik and military base in Resolute, as well as six to eight new Navy ice-breakers.

Oil and mining companies, meanwhile, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Arctic exploration.

Soon, forestry companies are expected to follow the Boreal Forest creeping north.

Cruise ships are multiplying, allowing tourists to see polar bears and the spectacular break-up of Arctic ice each spring.

As well, the establishment of Canada's Nunavut territory in April 1999, splitting lands from the Northwest Territories to settle an aboriginal land claim, created thousands of government jobs in its new capital, Iqaluit, doubling its population to 7,000.

For the first time, the North's population has topped 100,000, according to the latest census in 2006.

Outside the Kamotiq Inn, newer Suzuki Vitaras, Ford F150s and Honda Civics zip along pot-hole peppered roads.

Cars are relatively new to Iqaluit. A decade ago, there were only a handful of taxi cabs here, ferrying visitors.

But the influx of people has driven new vehicle sales, to replace dog sleds and snowmobiles.

Now, for five minutes every morning and evening, gridlock slows traffic on the only two paved roads in town, and dozens of gravel lanes, as workers drive from home to work and back.

The town council is considering erecting the first traffic lights in Nunvavut, at the "Four Corners" intersection to ease drivers' rage.

On the outskirts, meanwhile, tents have been erected to house newcomers in summer, amid a housing shortage.

New home construction has been unable to keep up with demand because there are too few sealifts to bring in building materials in warmer months, when Frobisher Bay is clear of ice.
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Old September 18th, 2008, 10:01 AM   #2
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Huge New Brunswick igloo may set world record
2,000 blocks of ice used for huge structure

Canwest News Service
15 February 2008

It echoes inside Eric Ouellette's giant igloo. The New Brunswick engineer would know.

He says he's spent far too much time in recent days inside the ice dome he hopes will be declared the world's largest self-supporting igloo.

"It's pretty cool, like, literally," he said Thursday from Grand Falls, some 300 kilometres northwest of Moncton, where he and a team of volunteers have built the showpiece of this weekend's igloo building competition. "Igloos are Canadian."

The structure stands more than 31/2 metres high and stretches more than 71/2 metres in diameter.

The structure will be officially measured Sunday. Paperwork will then be sent to Guinness World Record officials in England.

The dome is believed to be several centimetres wider than the current record holder, an igloo erected by employees of a Hydro-Quebec power station three years ago.

It took Ouellette and his team eight days to put their masterpiece together, using 2,000 blocks of ice.

They started making ice blocks during a cold snap in November, freezing water in 18-litre square pails.

"It's not as easy as it sounds to build an igloo," he said. "Slush is the mortar and the brick is the ice block."

Tuques and keychains will be sold inside the giant igloo during a competition starting today that will see teams build their own igloos on the baseball field around the giant dome.

The event is organized by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick.

Money raised will go toward engineering scholarships for New Brunswick students. Money left over will go toward Habitat for Humanity.
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Old May 5th, 2009, 04:38 AM   #3
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Love in a cold climate
The mushing mixes with the mushiness when you spend a weekend at the Ice Hotel

14 February 2009
National Post

This winter hasn't been exactly ideal for romancing in an igloo. Temperatures in Quebec plunged, and the prospect of driving three hours northeast of Montreal for a getaway at the Ice Hotel was somewhat daunting.

The morning of our trip, it was a cool -10C. Dave and I climbed into the car decked in wool and synthetic blends, the under-layers advised on the hotel's website. We also packed ski jackets and pants, hats, gloves, scarves and bathing suits as per instructions.

Hot love on ice seemed like such a great idea on paper: The website told of cocktails on the rocks, a fourcourse dinner and breakfast buffet, access to hot tubs and saunas, and a private candle-lit igloo for the night. Yet on our way there, we realized our plans might be overly ambitious. We'd chosen the Adventure Package, complete with ice fishing and dogsledding. How many hours had we signed up to spend in minus-God-knows-what temperature anyway? Then there was that worrisome itinerary note mentioning an available room at a nearby inn, in case we turned into popsicles during the night. And, of course, the plumbing question: Were the toilets made of ice, too? Were there toilets?

Our worries dissipated as we pulled into the Duchesnay tourist area, where signs pointed us to such activities as snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skating and tubing. An onsite spa offered exquisite pampering.

The Ice Hotel's parking lot was jammed with cars and tourists, many piling off the 40-minute shuttle from Quebec City. With some spare time before our overnight information session, we joined a circulating queue -- including a number of high school students from New Jersey -- heading through the grand frozen archway entrance, down long snowy corridors with ice walls that swept up 18 feet.

We learned that 20 builders had blown 15,000 tons of snow between stainless steel moldings and wooden frames, which were then frozen to create 36 rooms and suites, along with an ice cafe, an ice bar, an ice art gallery and an ice wedding chapel (20 vows are scheduled for exchange between January and March). Fifteen sculptors carved out castle-like ice thrones, looming snow-gargoyles and a whimsical ice slide during the massive three-phase building project. In all, 500 tons of ice were used. The bedroom suites were where they showcase their skills. This year, there is a serpent-themed deluxe suite, a cozy love nest with fire-pit and even hockey suites for the visiting peewee league.

We followed the tour, stopping in an adventure-themed room the size of a modest bedroom, with a double-bed dropped in the centre and two ice tables on either end. Carved murals of hockey players adorned the walls. A strand of lights and a navy-blue bedspread ideal for a 10-year-old boy were the only non-ice objects.

The tour moved along as we stood in the cold, tiny room. We noticed the matching Room 34 on our key, and realized that this pre-pubescent experience would soon be ours.

At the information session, we were told that any items we weren't wearing should be tucked into our sleeping bags. Nothing was to be left on the floors or nightstands (a. k. a. icestands) since things get stuck easily. Before going to bed, we should use the hot tubs and sauna, dry off in the heated communal bathrooms and put on our layers. Then make a mad dash back to the bedroom, dive into our sleeping bag, zip ourselves in and pass out as fast as possible. The bar was open till midnight just in case.

Dinner was delicious, a fourcourse French meal at the adjacent Duschesnay Station Touristic inn, where the backup rooms were available. Then it was back to the Ice Hotel, straight to the bar, where Euro-style dance mixes accompanied changing pink, purple, and blue neon lights. Iced cider martinis were served and we chatted with tourists from Florida, England and Vermont.

After sufficient cocktails, Dave and I gathered our clothes and headed for the communal bathrooms, donned our swimsuits, then splashed into the hot tub for some alone time, marvelling at the snow falling over our heads. I put on my furry Russian-style hat so my hair wouldn't get wet before bed, and Dave wrapped a towel around his head.

By the time we'd dried off in the sauna and put on our gear, it was 1 a. m. Bedtime. Dave pulled the drawstring hood around my face, tucked the nylon pillow under my head, kissed me and wished me sweet dreams.

Next thing we knew, it was morning. We'd made it? We found our new friends at the breakfast buffet and patted one another on the back. Everyone said they'd slept comfortably, given that they were smushed inside an Arctic sleeping bag.

Dave and I took our hot chocolates over to the ice fishing lot. Temperature was an ambient -5C. There, locals had already rolled out their lawn chairs, casually manning an assortment of reels. We sat for an hour. When one fellow caught a trout, a small crowd gathered around him and hooted with congratulations. We learned that before Jacques Debois, inspired by a trip to Sweden, opened the Ice Hotel nine years ago, the area was mostly known for cross-country skiing. Now, the Ice Hotel contributes $10-million to the local economy.

Even the dogs are benefiting from the Ice Hotel's success. Inukshuk Adventures, a local dogsledding tour company, has grown to 20 employees and 285 dogs. Worker pups include Huskie mixes and Northern Inuit Dogs, all with furry coats and charming dispositions.

Once used for mail runs, dogsledding is now for sport and leisure. Popular in Alaska and northern Canada, sledding gives animal lovers the raw experience of hunting and exploration, without the killing.

I climbed into the sled chariot and Dave took the reins, swooshing us over hills and around trees, dodging branches at 20 kilometres an hour. The puppies jumped through the snow and yelped with glee, clearly the happiest little workers in the north. The scenery was spectacular; a black and white landscape against a dazzling blue sky. The noontime sun was high.

It takes much planning and effort to unleash nature's magical potential. As Canadians sit around navel-gazing for the next few months, complaining about the cold, maybe they can muster up the energy to head outdoors again. Love will keep you warm. - Overnight packages at the Ice Hotel, or Hotel de Glace, start at $325 a person. Visit icehotel-canada.com for more information.
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