Rankin Inlet in the Winter

The winter weather in Rankin makes southern Canada’s weather look positively wimpy. Sometimes we have three-week periods when the temperature never gets above -40 C. We often have long storms with winds around 100 kph. Sometimes you can see the sun above, but can't see across the street due to the snow blowing on the ground, which is called "ground drift". The sea is entirely covered by sea ice (siku) which moves up and down with the tides.

Snow Facts

In the Arctic, the snow is not like the soft pretty stuff of the south. Our snow seldom falls in flakes. Instead we have tiny ice crystals, whipped about by the winds. It doesn't "fall", but is blown horizontally by strong winds, usually from the northwest.

The wind packs the snow. It's seldom "fluffy", but is laid down in thin layers by the wind, and is hard enough to walk on. You don't need snowshoes. Sometimes the drifts build up to the roofs of houses.

IgluitWhen the snow is packed, it still has lots of air in it and is a good insulator. It can also be carved into blocks. Inuit took advantage of this to make houses of snow. A snow house is called an iglu. Plural is igluit.

In winter, all water is covered by ice. On the lakes it is about 2 metres thick. The sea ice is thinner, but not much.

Sea Ice

Sea ice (siku) is not salty. The salt leaches out when it forms, and the ice is fresh. When the sea ice thaws in springtime, there is often a layer of fresh water on top of the salt water, at least until the first storm.

There are 4 meter tides in Rankin. What happens in winter?

Well, the tide still goes up and down, and the ice goes with it. Out on the inlet, the ice is flat, and moves up and down with the tide. At the shore, it sticks to the land and breaks into huge chunks as the tide goes in and out. This means that all shorelines are surrounded by tidal zones, huge chunks of ice all jumbled together, extending out about 50 m!

Not all of Hudson Bay freezes in winter. There are often open water areas that steam in the cold air. The edge between the sea ice and open water is called the "floe edge" and is a traditional hunting spot. You see hunters going out by snowmobile and sled (qamutik) with small boats loaded on the sleds. These are used to retrieve seals and whales caught at the floe edge.