Inuvik Journal

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Caribou, The Jamboree, and Fire

In February, Lorie and I drove to Whitehorse for supplies. Some might call that an inconvenience, having to drive 2500 kilometers round trip for groceries - but for us, it's a chance to get away and see something different for a change. Here a couple of picutes of caribou that we spotted just on the Yukon side of the border:

It was pretty cold that day and the batteries in the digital camera lasted only a few minutes before they were dead (batteries do that in the cold). Because the batteries were short lived, I couldn't use the zoom lens much - another reason why the pictures aren't great. Here's another:

So, in this picture you can see the faraway image of about two dozen caribou. What you can't see (and what we didn't realize at the time I took this picture) is the 300+ caribou on the hill just to the left. They blend in so well that you they are difficult to see. Unfortunately, by the time we realized the hills were alive with caribou, the batteries in the camera were dead.

The survival instincts of the caribou are impressive. The routinely ignore cars speeding along the highway - they are of no danger. However, if one stops, it gets their attention. For the first minute or so after we stopped, we were pretty much ignored. But after a short "grace period", we were apparently worthy of attention. We could even see some of the calves playing in the distance. As the herd started to move off to the west (slowly at first, then more quickly), the adults ran off leaving some of the calves behind (these would be almost yearlings at this point). It was poignant watching these calves struggle to catch up to the safety of the herd. They eventually did catch up, and the herd moved off as a unified group.

Every year Inuvik hosts the Muskrat Jamboree. It's a variation on any of the thousands of community festivals held across Canada each year. Most of the rest are held in the summer, but Inuvik being in the Arctic, must hold theirs in the winter. It's a pretty unique event consisting of such events as the snowshoe races, snowmobile races, muktuk slap, muskrat skinning, and the harpoon throw. The real draw though is the dogsled races. Here are a couple of pictures of that:

This finish was one of the closer ones we saw.

Another of the events at the jamboree is the tea and bannock making contest. Contestants have to build a fire, chop ice, put it in a kettle, melt the ice, boil the water, make tea, and make and cook bannock. First person to get all that done wins.

Lorie having herd of this back in the summer, decided that it was time that she knew how to make a fire. This was back in August or September, I think. And when Lorie gets something in her mind - it happens!

So off we roll, down the highway to a quiet area in the bush...on a Sunday morning. My task - to teach her how to build and light a fire, and boil water. She did a pretty good job, if I do say so - here are a few pictures of that:

I chopped the wood, since I didn't feel like rushing her to the hospital that early in the morning!

So she's got the thing going and she decides to guard it with a rifle! Just kidding, we were actually doing some shooting as well. A girl's got to have skills after all! To her credit, there was a light dusting of snow and the temperature was about ten degrees below zero (both factors which make it harder to light a fire), but she did just fine.

Here's a shot of Lorie tending to her "creation" and boiling the water in the can. The cup of tea she made me was good. Also as you can see, animals aren't necessarily afraid of fire. Well, I guess most are but, in Ripley's case the need for heat is stronger than the fear of fire. I think he would have crawled into the fire if we'd have let him!

Finally, here's a picture of the jeep after the short run down the Demspter highway on a wet day. It's a muddy highway, to say the least.

Well, that's about it for this edition of Inuvik Journal. I am starting to run out of pictures to post, so that means I will have to get out and take some more. That shouldn't be hard since the daylight lasts till midnight now, and the temperatures are getting quite comfortable. Before we know it, it's going to be getting above zero again. Sigh! I guess I will just have to hang on until the snow flies again in September.



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