Well Paul and I made it out of Ottawa. We even have almost all of our bags. Right now, according to GPS we are at 9252.5m altitude at 57h 24mN by 71h 45mW on First Air 680. I’m kinda cheating a bit to get this info, I have my GPS on and Google Earth with EarthBridge fired up. I was attempting to track the flight with the real time display, but will have to settle for updating the track by kml when we get to Res. I forgot to update the Google Earth cache before we left Ottawa. Glad we are on a non-modern 737, and later a Hawker Sydney 748 turboprop or I might worry about the Bluetooth. ;)
Now I have to apologize to Mr. Story, my high school geography teacher at Huffman-Hargrave. I can still point out Cuba and Afghanistan on a globe without looking for even a second thanks to him, but at this moment I cannot remember the latitude of the Arctic Circle. Neither can Paul, or the flight attendants, or even the pilot. I guess I shouldn’t feel so dumb. As Paul said, maybe we can blame it on sleep deprivation courtesy of Air Canada’s lost baggage staff. (Hawker driver knew it though…66h33mN, should have known that from Calc too…)
On that note let me say that Paul is pissed off, not at our bags getting lost, that [stuff] happens. We both know how humans operate. This is at AC not doing anything about it until we started talking about how much money it was costing us not to have our Arctic gear. They literally sat on the data we gave them until it was too late to get Paul’s bag by any possible method before we HAD to leave Ottawa. More on those reasons later. We both knew where our bags were. United gave us that data yesterday. Mine were in Chicago as predicted and Paul’s still in Denver.
Until we started talking torts (Canadian for lawsuit), and $$$, Air Canada wouldn’t even make a call to make sure they were on the next plane to us. Once we said “MONEY!” we had my bags in two hours. Coincidentally, this is about the exact length of a flight from Chicago by an Embraier, plus just a bit for some phone calls. Paul’s lost bag containing his sleeping bag, pad, blanket, the MDRS camera, the LP leak detectors and regulators, and a bunch of other stuff is still MIA. We decided that as long as I had my gun, which is the only mission critical piece of survival gear we have that cannot be legally acquired by us in Canada at any price, we would catch the flight this morning.
Why we had to make that consolation was that if we missed this plane today, First Air could not get us out of Iqualuit (pronounced like e-cal-a-wit for us Texans), even on standby, until next Thursday. They could get us to the Nunavut capital, but no further north. That means we were looking at more than a week gone from the schedule and quite an expense to stay in Ottawa or arrange another flight. We had more than half the FMARS crew (well, by mass anyway), our Canadian support team of Lealem and Grant, with Randy’s number ready on speed-dial too in case Edmonton was in the equation; everyone involved in the effort to find us any other way north later than today but before we broke the bank. It wasn’t happening. This made necessary a serious discussion about what gear we had to have to fly today. We decided my gun was it. If it got to Ottawa, and Customs approved my firearms declaration; we would go north without the rest. Luckily, about 8 last night I got a call. This happened as I was discussing the possibility of jump seats on a Saturday cargo flight with Matt. A guy from Air Canada called saying, “Your bags are here in Ottawa Mr. Harris. Customs would like to speak with you before we can release them.” Sounds ominous, eh?
Paul has a different story to tell about that trip to the airport, but for me it wasn’t ominous at all. Canadian Customs was just as professional and courteous as the night before, mostly same folks in fact. They remembered me, checked my gun as required, issued me my temporary weapons license, I paid the $25cdn fee, and they waved me through. My other bags were x-rayed but never touched. I walked out with my gear, legal and in Canada, whistling, “don’t touch my bags if you please Mr. Customs Man…”
I thought I wanted to leave off there with that line from Comin' into Los Angeles by Arlo Guthrie, but it is a little later and I changed my mind. We are on the second leg of the flight north, after a plane change in Iqualuit. One more thing on my big list is about to be done. We are about to cross the Arctic Circle - and just did.