“Ahoy!” they shouted as they clanked the chipped mugs together. Somewhat removed from the “och aye!” that we started the evening with – but with the sentiment, if not the words still intact – we tucked into our caribou, neeps & tatties, and the 2015 Qikiqtaruk Scottish Feast was fully underway.
The speeches came thick and fast, starting with some of the classics, including Grannie’s favourite: the Selkirk Grace. The haggis was piped (hummed) in, and treated to Isla’s rendition of Burns’ “To a Haggis”. Finally, George from the AWI crew, our Prince George of Qikiqtaruk, toasted to the Queen and her heir Prince George of the Commonwealth in the Robbie Burns Day tradition.
After the food, Hugues made excellent use of the Scots dictionary we provided in his speech to the Immortal Memory of Burns, even if he didn’t understand the meanings of all the words. Especially timely after such a feast was the toast of appreciation to cooks and dishwashers, and followed by an expression of gratitude for the logisticians and planners who made our field expeditions happen.
The toast to the lassies was made and responded to, followed by some traditional Inuvialuit dances from one of the rangers (and even some of the AWI crew at points). Inspired by this, we ran outside for a short and impromptu intro to ceilidh, which fortunately didn’t lead to any twisted ankles and a med-evac. We returned to the warmth of the Community Building for a speech in honour of the fantastic Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk Park rangers, after which was the ode to the bear (though we hoped there weren’t any close enough to hear it).
The most inspirational monologue of all was that of the manifestation of cryoturbation processes (and a note to permafrost); there was laughter, there were tears, but we got through it as a group, and are now all the stronger – and more knowledgeable on the topics of the manifestation of cryoturbation processes and permafrost – for the experience.
In an attempt to diffuse the excitement after the manifestation of cryoturbation processes (and a note to permafrost), we had a beautifully poetic ode to the glorious flora, featuring some well-chosen Scots, and even some Finnish. The only appropriate response to this was an ode to the noble nation of Finland, which led on to an ode to the superior nation of Sweden from Team Shrub’s own resident Finn, Santeri. A bescarfed Jakob overrode any nationalist tensions by celebrating continentality: that refined boldness that separates us awkward Brits from the rest of Europe.
The evening was rounded off with a toast to the magic and mystery of the glorious Yukon Territory by Meagan, Team Shrub’s official Yukon representative:
There are strange things done in the midnight sun,
by the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
Excerpt from the Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service’s (1874–1958)
Once all the talking had finished, those of us fortunate enough not to be washing up descended into playing music on our guitar, ukulele, fiddle, bells, spaghetti noodles and cardboard box. Then as the sky started to brighten again and the sun to rise above the island, one by one we drifted off to greet the following afternoon with a fresh face.