Friday, November 04, 2011

My Adventures in Labrador (2)

As promised, serialized into bite-sized chunks, my summer adventure in Labrador, 1997...this is just as I remember it,but  I don’t have any notes so it’s possible other people have other stories. This is mine and I’m sticking to it.

For the first week or so my boss and I did most of the hard graft. We had to tag over 100 fish and at first we couldn’t catch any (just like in the book :)). Our main problem was we were just premature. The fish hadn’t started running yet. Arctic char are anadromous. Like salmon, they breed in freshwater rivers, then they stay in the river over winter and swim out in the spring when the ice breaks up. They feed for a few weeks in the sea and then they return to the river to spawn (OK, that’s the simplified version, I’ll leave it there). I remember one very beautiful day when me and my boss were in the high reaches of the Ikadlivik Brook—totally out of radio contact—setting gill nets, using hook and lines and even doing a few seines. 
After a few hours we watched this chopper fly over, carrying what looked like an oil drum. 
“They’re removing a problem bear,” said my boss.
Cool—until the helicopter flew back over, minus the bear, five minutes later.
This happened several times but 45 km (the distance back to the camp) simply wasn’t far enough. Black bears can have a home range of 45 km that they patrol every day. Anyway, thankfully the bears didn’t bother us on that particular occasion. 
Wolf Track
Fresh Bear Track
Side note: At a certain time each summer, above the waterfalls at the head of this river, one of the world’s greatest natural migrations occurs. The George River caribou herd which once numbered almost a million animals, is now struggling at less than 100,000 individuals. They range from between 3,000-6,000 km on their annual search for food (I’m not a caribou scientist, this is just web info). 
In EDGE OF SURVIVAL Daniel Fox, the hero, picks up the heroine (Cameran Young) and takes her to see this amazing phenomenon. In my adventures, no one picked me up, but everyone took great pleasure in describing the spectacle when we were all eating dinner. Thanks guys. Appreciate that once in a lifetime experience.
Can you see the bear?
As I’m talking about animals and dinner, I should tell you this little story. There were a group of biologists sent to survey a puffin colony on one of the small islands off the coast. The puffin numbers were way down and people wanted to know why. Matt, the pilot (he was 23 back then), dropped off two guys, intending to leave them there and pick them up at the end of the day. Thankfully Matt did a quick circle of the island and immediately picked the guys back up. There were three polar bears munching on puffins and if Matt hadn’t picked up the team, they’d probably have been eaten. It was an easy answer to a population crisis.

One of the things I think about looking back, is my absolute naivety. I mean I had people with me, but we could have encountered a polar bear. It wasn’t totally out of the realms. I guess I got lucky :)

My heroine has diabetes and I'm donating 15% of my royalties to diabetes research.

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Read an excerpt here

1 comment:

  1. I had to giggle at your polar bear/puffin story :-) bet that was the shortest research study every huh? LOL

    Glad the pilot saw the bears and got the guys!