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10-Apr-2016 12:21

Even in late June, the ice remained five feet thick in some spots.Photo courtesy Rio Tinto Canada’s far north is a vast silent land of stark beauty, molded by mile-high glaciers that carved many thousands of deep ruts and pits, then, as they melted, filled them to create one of the world’s largest networks of lakes.In the 10 weeks of summer at the 64th parallel there are literally endless days, with several weeks of 24-hour light.There is just enough time for the vegetation − dwarf birch, northern Labrador tea, blueberry, mountain cranberry and sphagnum moss − to survive as feed for the herds of caribou that migrate over the rocky terrain in the fall and spring.By December, the temperatures are down to -40°C (-40°F) and there’s but a glimmer of twilight at noontime.

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The diamonds remained hidden until 20 years ago because the unforgiving climate deterred all but the hardiest of human beings – the northern First Nations tribes who have lived there for thousands of years, fishing and trapping for sustenance – from exploring the area.The Great Slave (named after the Slavey tribe that inhabits the area) is the world’s 10th largest lake, covering well over 10,000 square miles, and the deepest in North America, plunging more than 2,000 feet in some spots.By the 1930s, gold prospectors moved farther east to the Northwest Territories and developed the provincial capital of Yellowknife.At 100 miles south of the tree line, the town sits on the north bank of the Great Slave Lake, near two gold mines.

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The first freeze returns with a vengeance in late September and brings with it the spectacular lights of the Aurora Borealis.The guidebooks say this part of the world is the best place to see nature’s show, and 50,000 tourists journey to the northernmost cities, Whitehorse and Yellowknife, each fall for a view.