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Table of Contents "On the road to Kabul and other short stories of treks"

The French-Canadian cook of the Eureka Weather Station

 

Eureka is a weather station on Ellesmere Island at 80o latitude. It is manned by around 30 persons in the summer and only up to 10 persons during the long dark winters. The summers are warm with constant daylight, from 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, occasionally even 8 degrees. However, the winters are cold, from 45 to 55 degrees Celsius and with total darkness from end of December to early March.

 

Eureka is also the main airport in the region and the location of the helicopter serving various fly camps with scientists and students in a circle of 200 km, mostly on Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Island. It was a welcome resting point to serve as a break and a recuperation in the 8 week field work period.

 

The weather station is well equipped. It had e.g. showers and washing machines but more importantly, when hanging around in the dining area we would often be invited by the cook to join a big dinner as he generally had too much food prepared. This is how I got to know cooky in the early eighties. He was an outspoken French-Canadian from Quebec with a load voice but very sympathetic in his conversations.

In the late eighties, I again met him at the Eureka weather station. Now I had to listen to his sad story. While drinking whisky heavily, he told us that he could not understand why his wife of 18 years suddenly divorced him. He worked year round at the station for the past 10 or 15 years, had a good salary, would spent the yearly 4 weeks of holidays with his wife the Montreal and would call her once a week.

 

Some sort of boat captain's marriage. Bon, n'est pas? He was in a sorry state, missing the exuberance and sharp remarks with his heavy French Canadian accent as I knew him from previous years. He also put on some weight and now had an even bigger belly.