Welcome to Eureka, Nunavut: the coldest settlement in Canada
Published Monday, December 19, 2016 9:10PM EST
Imagine living in a place that receives no sunlight for four months of the year; a place where temperatures regularly approach -40 degrees Celsius -- and that’s before wind-chill; a place where the only human company comes in the form of a small handful of researchers. Welcome to the coldest settlement in Canada: Eureka, Nunavut.
On Monday, CTV News Channel caught up with Jane Fonger, the acting station program manager for Environment Canada’s weather station in Eureka. While much of Canada remains -- and complains -- in the grips of a cold spell, Fonger described what it’s like when she steps outside in Eureka: a place that experienced temperatures of -39.7 degrees Celsius, or -45 degrees with wind-chill, on Monday.
“Well, it’s a shock!” Fonger said via her computer. “You get outside and you instantly feel the cold. Luckily we have very good equipment... But it’s your face and your extremities -- you’ll feel it instantly.”
Fonger and her team have to head outside for hourly weather observations that last about five minutes. Twice a day, they also launch weather balloons, which can keep them outdoors for as long as half an hour. To stay warm, Fonger dons a heavy parka, fur hat, face mask and a pair of massive boots.
“It’s a lot,” she said of her gear. “But you need it and I wouldn’t go outsider without it.”
Located on Ellesmere Island near the 80th parallel, Eureka sits well above the Arctic Circle. Founded in 1947, the tiny research base hosts a rotating population of about eight and receives supplies by air roughly once every three weeks. Diesel generators power the complex.
Eureka is the third northernmost permanent research community on the planet, and the second northernmost in Canada after Alert, Nunavut, which is also on Ellesmere Island. Despite sitting south of Alert, Eureka experiences the lowest annual temperature of any Canadian weather station or settlement: a frigid -18.8 degrees Celsius. Between mid-October and late February, the station is also plunged into total darkness.
“Currently, right now, it is 24 hours of darkness, 7 days a week,” Fonger said. “The sun won’t technically start rising until the 20th of February; however, we do have a few weeks prior to that with twilight.”
Complete darkness and close quarters could drive one more than a little stir-crazy, but Fonger says that she and her team do their best to keep fit and sane.
“You have to stay healthy,” she said. “We have a gym, so I try to work out… Usually once a week, we always get together for a card game or movies. We bring up hobbies. I’m a knitter, so I like to knit. I like to read.”
Keeping busy is essential, Fonger added.
“You really have to try and keep yourself occupied,” she said. “We try as a group of people (to) make sure that we’re all having a good time.”