Alongside our guests, many of whom have been anticipating this journey for more than two years, travel journalist and Crystal Insider blogger Katie Jackson has experienced moments of awe, feats of adventure and the voyage of a lifetime. Some are larger than life in nature, while the profoundness of others lies in their quietness. One gracious ceremony in Pond Inlet was the latter. Here, Katie shares an experience that was two years in the making for John Stoll, Crystal vice president of land programs.
By Katie Jackson
Twenty years from now, someone will stand where I’m standing. Or perhaps he’ll take a seat on a bench, across from another bench where a couple sits, admiring the view: Sirmilik National Park and Bylot Island rising out of the deep blue mystery that is Baffin Bay. He’ll marvel at the same snow-covered mountain peaks whose majesty I am futilely attempting to capture with my camera. He’ll scan the inlet looking for boats and signs of life along the rocky beach.
Realizing he may never again come here, he stops a nearby couple holding hands.
“Pardon, would you mind taking a photo of me?” He hands them his camera and leans up against the pinnacle of the painting, a red and white sign towering above him. The sign’s arrows point in all directions, but the camera lens is focused straight ahead. Using his foot, he kicks off a light dusting of snow covering a plaque at the foot of the sign. “September 4, 2016. This sign is dedicated to the community of Pond Inlet and commemorates the inaugural visit of Crystal Serenity.”
Rewind to nearly two years before I am standing here, John Stoll is having an “aha moment” at this exact spot. The same breathtaking beauty engulfs him but there are no benches or signs, and the footpath he took to get here is not yet a marked trail. He’s overcome with emotion, thinking about the enormity of what he’s about to do – help launch the first cruise ship sailing of the Northwest Passage. In this setting of frontier land, stretching to all 360 degrees of the horizon and most likely beyond, he realizes how small he is.
Although he is a foreigner, this place speaks to him, not in audible words but more of an intuitive whisper carried along by the Arctic breeze. He decides this hilltop should have a name, Contemplation Hill. He also decides the privilege of standing here, and contemplating, should be shared.
A few votes later, the community elders in Pond Inlet agree.
Now, a few hours before I am standing here, the deed is done. The mayor and deputy mayor of Pond Inlet are present. A member of Nunavut’s parliament stands beside them, proudly representing the territory’s legislative body. Across from them Stoll and Captain Birger J. Vorland, Master of Crystal Serenity lead the dedication ceremony.
They present the community of Pond Inlet with two benches, strategically positioned to capture a panoramic vista of the mountains, glaciers, inlet, beaches and town. They also present them with a tall red and white sign featuring 14 arrows pointing in different directions. Each arrow is labeled with a destination and its mileage, in kilometers, from Pond Inlet. The North and South Poles are represented as are Tokyo, London, Los Angeles and not coincidentally, ports along the Northwest Passage. The sign is symbolic of what makes the region so unique, its remoteness. But it also alludes to a metaphor. We are all part of a much bigger picture.
The Pond Inlet representatives graciously accept this gift, acknowledging it will be treasured by generations to come and theirs is the privilege to be stewards of this extraordinary overlook. Before Captain Vorland can walk away empty-handed, they bestow their own gifts. One is a model sealskin kayak, handmade by a Nunavut artist. The other gift, an Inuit hunting scene, is the work of another local artist. It’s a painting.
After all, the next best thing to living in one is looking at one.
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