It’s late when I leave the warmth and the glowing lights of the community center and step out into the night. It’s so cold the snow makes squeaky sounds beneath my mukluks as I walk, but I stay warm in my polar down parka, pants, and mittens. Overhead the aurora borealis unfurls from horizon to horizon, waving like a magical yellow and green banner across the sky.
It takes a few moments for the sound to penetrate the thick layers of my fleece hat and down parka hood, but when it does I feel as if a giant wave is washing over me. Nearly 200 huskies are raising their muzzles to the sky in unison in a long, haunting, drawn-out howl that stops me in my tracks. It’s the perfect soundtrack to this nocturnal Arctic scene, truly something out of a Jack London story.
The dogs are members of the 15 teams participating in the Ivakkak, the annual sled dog race that celebrates the return of the husky to Inuit culture in Nunavik, the Inuit homeland of northern Quebec. The route of the challenging week-long race will trace the northern Hudson Bay coast from Puvirnituq to Akulivik. From there the teams will cut across Nunavik’s northwestern tip to the race’s finish line in the village of Salluit on Hudson Strait.
From the howls of the teams staked out in the snow, sounds like they can’t wait to get going.