Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Part III, Day 7: 080714

This morning we drove into town, along with visiting a few lakes and ponds near the road. Christy needed to talk to Mike about our upcoming trips with him out onto Hudson Bay and it was a nice change of pace to stop in at Gypsy’s, the local coffee shop. Their baked goods are excellent, and the coffee is very, very good and comes with free refills if you stay in the store (caffeine overdose ahoy!).

We had arranged to meet up with Sally in town, as she had to return her rented truck to the very laid-back rental agency. Unlike every other vehicle (or even video) rental agency I’ve ever met, this one was quite happy to a) leave her vehicle, keys in the ignition, in the airport parking lot for her to pick up, sans even note and b) wait a few days before even trying to get a signature, photo ID, etc. from her. Returning the truck wasn’t quite so interesting, but then I guess apathy can only take one so far.

While we were in town, we decided we needed a few things for our planned boating trips later this week. In particular, we were short of rope. In the hardware store, my inquiries eventually led to the purchase of 600 feet of good yellow rope, suitable for nearly everything we like to do with our boat, and with our dredges. One gets a significant discount when one buys the entire roll of rope.

I also bought an example of that most excellent piece of high technology: The Wheel. Dragging our very frickin’ heavy Zodiac around at low tide is not something I enjoy. When we pulled our boat out of the water yesterday, Mike loaned us a few rollers, which made the task about a thousand times easier. Much like how the ancient Egyptians are thought to have moved large blocks of stone for their pyramids, we rolled our Zodiac across Mike’s big dumb pieces of foam. I bought 3 6-foot lengths of 4-inch ABS pipe, of the type normally used for household drains and sewers. I used to sell this stuff, back when I worked at a hardware store in Victoria during my undergraduate studies, so I know it’s very tough. It’s the same plastic that Lego is made out of, to give you and idea of its resilience. I am ridiculously pleased with my purchase of very rudimentary wheels.

While we were in town, we briefly visited Cape Merry, and we noticed the large, pink float we had placed in the river was missing. Speculation settled on curious belugas moving our float, trap, and anchor assembly out to deeper waters, where the currents moved it out to sea. We were a bit upset by this loss, not least because of the expected replacement cost of the items.

After dinner, we all crammed into the 1982 GMC Suburban we’d been using, and headed out to Twin Lakes and its adjacent Fen habitats. Have I mentioned the mosquitoes, or the horrid state of the road? I guess I have.

The 1982 GMC Suburban we’ve been using, owned by the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. I actually took this picture two days ago, but it fits here nicely, too. This truck is fun to drive – anything that could break has already done so, and fallen off. The suspension feels almost like the axels have been bolted directly to the frame, the doors don’t really close properly and rattle alarmingly, especially at higher speeds, there’s probably several kilograms of road dust permanently resident in the back, and the rear-view mirror is in the glove compartment. Like I said, this thing is FUN. If it wasn’t totally illegal, I’d love to own one myself.

The same lake as we visited two days ago, one half of the Twin Lakes. I walked about 100m along the shoreline, looking for different substrate (lake-bottom) and maybe different critters.

The fen between Twin Lakes and the CNSC is a wide area of water-saturated ground, small and medium-sized ponds with soft bottoms, and occasional patches of trees. This is essentially paradise for mosquitoes, and they really seem to like flying at sunset. So of course that’s when we visited and tried to sample.

One of the larger ponds in the fen, viewed from the road driving back to the CNSC. Not pictured: fifty gajillion hungry mosquitoes.

The mosquito population of the fen is truly, literally stunning. I do mean literally stunning – stepping out of the truck, I needed a few seconds to get my bearings as the swarm descended. Any person exposed in this terrain at dusk in summer without at minimum full body coverage and DEET would probably receive more than 100 bites per minute. There are old stories floating around about early explorers and fur-trappers literally driven insane by the biting insects of the tundra. I fully believe these stories. Mosquitoes take a trivial volume of blood with each bite, so I think a person would succumb to an allergic reaction to the anti-clotting component of their saliva before they were at risk of exsanguination.

Tomorrow, I think not so many mosquitoes. Actually, we’re scheduled to go out dredging on Hudson Bay with Mike and Sea North Tours in the morning, which should be relatively bug-free.

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