Sunday, April 29, 2007

Making Up Excuses...

This wet, soggy, massive, nearly on the ground monster of a cloud has been sitting on my lake - and most of eastern North America - now for several days. Do I want to go paddling under it? Not really. I should be out there having fun, revelling in the waters now that the ice has left, but instead I sit here blogging. Drier, quieter, comfortable, but a bit boring. Thank heavens other bloggers are out there doing some fun things to keep me amused!

Guitar Recital Anguish

Last night I went on stage to play guitar. I almost never perform publically and last night's show was an example of why this is so. I got talked into it by friends who were raising money for the group that acts as a watch-guard for my lake. A good cause, so I agreed to perform.

I was the fourth act out. I carefully tuned the guitar during the third act and waited patiently to go on. The announcer introduced me, then mentioned that I'd been having trouble maintaining decently long finger nails all last week, but he hoped I'd be okay. I didn't need to hear that suggestion of my up-coming failure! I walked on stage, sat down and checked the tuning. It was suddenly way off! What the .....? How could that be? So, my nerves now shot, the audience wondering why I'd be tuning at this late stage, I retuned. Of course, I couldn't get it right, so forged ahead anyway with my pieces. My broken nails slid all over the strings, only vaguely hitting the intended notes. It was a less than fluid performance.

Needless to say, I left the stage a broken man. I'd never play publically again. Friends were kind. They said I was great, all that stuff, but I know, it wasn't me playing up there. Still, maybe I should try again. I've only go one direction to go at this point. Up!

On the way home, my wife began talking about an incident in the audience that went on during my performance. The couple who'd been the second act shared a kiss together while listening to me whereupon another women - his wife - suddenly erupted from across the room, stormed over, swatted the guy across the head and then left the building. Flamenco is powerful music, full of emotion and other soul-stirring stuff. Maybe I got away with more than the second act did last night. And maybe my music was better than I realised!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Campground Egret in Cedar Key

This short clip was taken with a regular video camera and edited (prepared for YouTube) much the same way as the one using the Viosport lens. Here the colours are a bit better. Certainly the original film is much sharper and full of bright colours.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Less Than Perfection

I've spent a fair number of hours since returning from my trip to Florida this past winter editing the video footage I took both with a regular video camera as well as my Viosport lens. The short segment shown above in the YouTube video, taken with the latter lens, is on Salt Creek in the Chassahowitzka area north of Tampa. To be honest, I am not very happy with the results. The pictures seem washed-out, over- and under-exposed, and not well focused. I have a few ideas why the results are not very satisfactory, but not enough to make me happy. This is such a new and complex world, I've much to learn!

Of course, the compression factors required for posting to YouTube result in less than perfect videos even for the pros. My pre-upload images are much clearer and of higher quality, still I have a long way to go.

Perhaps that's okay. I can see many days ahead perfecting my budding skills as a kayaking videographer. And the good news is that summer is just beginning, so I've got lots of time to learn!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Murky Future?

The world-view of a fish in a murky Florida steam bed.

On April 13th, 2007 a letter published in the Nunatsiaq News suggested a murky future for the Inuktitut language and this in spite of recent government moves in Nunavut to promote more use of the language. There has definitely been a change in the language of the Inuit over the years. Even back in the 1970's, older people complained that young people no longer spoke the language "properly", especially the dropping of many of the old expressions and the rich variety of infixes and suffixes which characterize the language. The language was naturally responding to changing times and the rapid influx of new ideas and materials as well as the opening of the rest of the world into Inuit homes. English and French words were increasingly being used within Inuktitut to express ideas. It was both 'cool' and easier to borrow words.
Here's Louis-Jacques' letter:

Without having been schooled in the Inuit language until the end of high school, nobody possesses enough Inuktitut vocabulary and speaking habits to express him- or herself with ease in all fields of conversation in this language
Such vocabulary does exist in specialized lexicons, but it is not taught in school. For the time being, then, mastering a level of Inuktitut sophisticated enough for expressing oneself easily when speaking about administration, technical topics, or even everyday life in a modern community constitutes a professional skill which only interpreters and translators possess (and which most of them do not use outside their work.)

The situation varies from place to place, but given Inuktitut is a window into the world-view of the Inuit, I hope Louis-Jacques is wrong. If I had my way, every child in Canada would be given at least introductory lessons in one of the 'First Languages' of Canada. What an insight we would all have into the place we call home if we could 'see' it from the collective experience people who have been here for thousands of years! Clearing away some of our 'mucky' ideas wouldn't hurt a bit!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My First Time!

The summer spent on the lake was full of things I'd never seen or done before. It was my first trip north of the Arctic Circle, the first time seeing fish jumping up falls, first musk-ox sighting, first caribou chase and so on. Below are some pictures of some of these firsts:

Inuk tending to his kimupsi (dog team) in Cambridge Bay.

(Left) Char jumping falls in the river below the lake and (right) my boss holding up an arctic char prior to having dinner.

Oxygenating water to keep fish alive for transport south.

This final picture has a longer story. One of the objectives was to transport some fish back to the lab outside of Montreal. For this we trapped the fish and kept them alive in plastic bags (see picture above). The bags were placed in wooden crates and surrounded with ice, also in bags. As the voyage south proceeded, at each stop, we would open the bags and bubble more oxygen into the water so the fish had something to breathe. In Edmonton, we fell asleep during the all night layover in the terminal and were rudely awakened at dawn by the scream of an outraged mother whose young child had rushed over to run, splash and finally fall in a puddle of melt water which spread out after leaking out of one of our fish boxes while we slept!

Most of the fish made it to Montreal safely and lived quite happily for some time afterwards at the lab. I worked there during the winter counting rings on the oolilith bones to determine ages of the fish we'd caught, but that's another story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Da Wind She Blow, Da Ice She Go!

Just after breakfast I heard the wind starting to pick up outside the house. I grabbed my camera and headed for the lake. The ice was on it's way out, I was sure of it!

I first stopped at the lake's upper end to see what was going on. I was hoping the ice was solid enough to start rafting up and building ridges, but it was too far gone for that. At this stage, ice has some cohesive strength horizontally, but as soon as it lifts, it collapses into cylindrical crystals, which easily break apart. This ice is commonly called 'candle ice' due to its shape. It wasn't going to put on a spectacular show this year. Too bad.

Lower down the lake, I could see the wind had moved much of the ice over to the eastern shore although several large dark grey rafts remained attacked to the western shore. The middle was mostly open with just a few large pans of ice floating about. The waves were beginning to break these rafts up along their windward edges and piles of broken candle ice grew bigger where they butted into one another. The ice seemed weak enough to paddle right into it. You'd be able to force it apart quite easily, I'm sure.

Looking south from the old bridge pier.

Pilings holding the ice pans until they break up.

At the outlet, ice rafts were slowly being split apart to get through the pilings under the old railway bridge now converted to a public pier. More ice was jamming up-stream, splintering and shattering apart thanks again to the steady winds. There were ice candles piled up everywhere as the waves continued to churn the ice rafts into bits. By evening, it should all be gone under the bridge and away! I'll be paddling tomorrow, methinks!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sleeping with Sir John

During the summer, we arranged to have supplies flown to us from time to time by bush plane. The communication was done via a SSB radio we set up on top of one of the hills close to the camp. The picture above is not of a solo adventurer up to no good, but rather my boss attempting to reach the bush pilot dispatcher in Cambridge Bay with our food order. We had pre-arranged a code for things the government wasn't willing to pay for, so it was important that a 'case of beans' on the order sheet didn't actually arrive, but got switched for what we really needed. All very tricky, but northerners have long learned to survive in adverse conditions and we always got the beer we ordered.

From the same hill-top we could get a view downstream and see the lake's outlet at the sea. We hiked down there for a week in August to see what barriers existed in the river, if any, as well as to do some sampling. It was a thrill to be there, made doubly so later, as I discovered that Sir John Franklin had camped in the exact same spot on July 24, 1821 as he made his way along the coast in two canoes. This is what his comments were while there:

At seven, a thunder-storm coming on, we encamped at the mouth of a river about eighty yards wide and set four nets... The nets furnished only three salmon-trout (char). We attributed the want of greater success to the entrance of some seals into the mouth of the river. This stream...discharges a considerable body of water. Its banks are sandy and clothed with herbage... The rocks here consisted of a beautiful mixture and red and grey granite, traversed from north to south by veins of red felspar, which were crossed in various directions by smaller veins filled with the same substance.

The idea that I'd camped in the exact same spot as Franklin and that it still looked much the same 146 years later, did much to instill in me an interest in his subsequent voyage to search for the elusive Northwest Passage. If you've visited my sister-blog at Canadian Ctories then you may already be reading my semi-fictional account of that expedition.

I almost paddled past another artifact from these long ago days when I went to Igloolik in 1997. Parry had erected a mast on Melville Peninsula opposite Igloolik island in 1821. The idea was that it would be seen by Franklin as he crossed the arctic mainland and direct him south to Resolute Bay where he would return to England. As it happened, Franklin was forced back south long before reaching this pole and so never saw it. I understand it was still there in 1997 and had I paddled just a few more miles along the coast, I would have seen it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Melt, Baby, Melt!

It seems that everyone is paddling this weekend, but me! I know my precious lake is getting there, the ice cover melting calorie by calorie and I'll be out there soon, but... I want to paddle on my lake! NOW!

I'll continue the arctic series on Monday... unless I go paddling on my lake!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Our Arctic Animal Friends

The lake's watershed, just west of Bathurst Inlet in the central Canadian arctic, was a place full of land animals. As the summer passed, we had the chance to become familiar with many of them. Soon after our arrival, birds began arriving to have their young. As they all nested on the ground - there being no trees - nests were frequently encountered and we got to know the babies and watch them grow up and finally fly away.

A herd of musk oxen frequented the river valley below the lake and they too became our companions. In this picture, they had made one of their few treks past our camp and up to the top end of the lake. I came home with a bag full of their winter under-fur picked up off the ground, which I later had knit into a soft, warm scarf for my Mother. She still has it!

Caribou began arriving in early August looking for relief from the bugs which plague them constantly. This one tried crossing the lake one day as we were checking nets in water too shallow and rocky to risk the outboard. We tried catching it for dinner, but alas, it was an excellent swimmer and got away, although it did stop and turn on the beach, giving us, I swear, the caribou equivalent of 'the finger'. Macaroni steaks were served once again...

We often saw ducks and geese as well and they did provide us with a meal now and then, although we certainly never came close to 'living off the land' as the expression goes.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Just Add Some Honey, Honey

There isn't a soul on the planet who hasn't experienced a shitty day. We all get them and we all do our best to deal with the causes. That's the way it is.

Here in Canada, farmers, especially those with cattle know all about shit or to use a more polite term, 'manure'. Hence the photo above. When the dung is flung at you on a daily basis, why not come up on the bright side of life and fight back with humour. Hence the 'Honey Wagon'. In the far north, it was the 'honey bucket' you sat on, and 'honey bags' you lugged out on the sea ice. In the spring time, when the bags refused to head out to sea on the tide, people organized a 'honey shoot'. We used old WW II ammo for that one, gratefully donated by the tax payers of Canada.

So, the Canadian way to deal with a very bad day, is keep your chin up, deal with it as best you can and do something to put a smile back on your face.

Career Choices

Once the lake was ice free - that would take us into July - we began to fish from the Zodiac boat we'd brought along. We could set our gill nets anywhere on the lake and at any depth we desired. Once the nets were set, our daily duties included pulling each one and cleaning out its catch.

The remainder of the day was spent 'working up' the fish. That is, we weighed them, checked their stomachs, looked for parasites and took various other samples, including an ootilith ear bone used to determine the age of the fish. We soon discovered the lake contained at least four fish species: lake trout, arctic char, whitefish and stickleback minnows in the lake.

We feasted on the char most of the summer, it being the best tasting. The sticklebacks we caught and kept as pets. Each evening we would take out the Zodiac along with a plankton net and got for a troll. Some of the catch was stored for later analysis, but some was used to feed our pets. Eventually we trained our sticklebacks to jump right out of their containers and take the plankton from our fingertips. The thought occurred to me that I might become a stickleback circus impresario and give up my wild ideas of being an arctic adventurer. Alas, I became neither!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Life Goes Flashing By

Once all our equipment arrived by aircraft, we set about making a campsite. We had two large tents, one for sleeping and the other for eating and working. Our goal was to study the fish productivity of the lake and to do this we needed to catch fish. While the ice covered the lake, we cut holes and strung gill nets from hole to hole which we checked every day.

As the ice thinned, we were able to use SCUBA gear to set and tend the nets under the ice. This was lots of fun, as you can imagine. We'd work in pairs, swimming along the net with one person releasing the fish from the net then his partner would recatch the fish in a sack. Usually. The odd one did manage to get away! Once on the surface, we either kept the fish for aging and stomach sampling or we weighed, measured and tagged them for release. The hope was to catch them again later in the summer or during a subsequent year and measure any changes.

Once there was open water at the shoreline, we'd set nets out from the shore and under the ice. This allowed us to increase the number of nets, but it was tricky work as the nets were very hard to see underwater. On one occasion, my partner - the guy on the right, above - lost sight of the net while diving and he began swimming about, starting to panic as it was the sole means we had to get to shore and out. I immediately saw his predicament and, having now lost the net as well, I headed for the bottom to get away from him. I didn't know what he'd do in his panicky state if he caught me and didn't wait around to find out. I figured he would follow me thinking I knew where we were. Once at the bottom of the lake, I followed the slope upwards and eventually we came to the shore which, thankfully, was ice free! We never said much about the incident, but, for me, it was one of those 'life flashing by' episodes people tell you about when they think their time has come.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

That Thick Enough For Ya?

While at university, I actively sought out summer jobs which would get me a free ride north to Canada's arctic territories. In 1967, I worked as a fish scientist's assistant on this small lake in the central arctic. If you look closely, you can just make out our tiny tent on the spit of land that jutted out into the frozen lake.

It was early June when the picture was taken. We had flown in by light aircraft the previous day. The pilot was concerned the ice might not be thick enough for us to land and he made several passes a few meters over the ice to check it carefully. Still worried, he tried a few 'touch and goes', bouncing the skis on the snow. He then circled around and checked the ski tracks for signs of water. Finally satisfied it was safe to land we touched down and taxied to the point to offload.

One of our pieces of equipment was a powered ice auger. For fun, we drilled a hole down through the ice to check how deep it was. Nine feet thick! The pilot gave a huge grin. "Guess that's good enough to bring in the second load..." he quipped, then revved up the motor and took off. We began to wonder how we'd ever catch fish through that amount of ice...

I'll post a little series of stories from this lake over the next few days.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

You're So Bad...

Derrick Mayoleth has recently decided to disallow 'anonymous' comments. Like many other bloggers, his reasoning is to stop people from posting nasty comments on his blog. Having been similarly attacked in the past, I can sympathize with him. It isn't much fun being 'flamed'. The behaviour seems so pointless.

Back in the days when I taught in elementary schools, there was a similar move by the administration to lock doors to prevent theft. While I'm sure that the number of thefts were reduced, what usually happened was the frustrated thieves turned into graffiti artists or moved on to some other anti-social activity. I disagreed with the locked door policy and usually 'forgot' to lock my classroom door. I rarely missed anything and when it did happen, I worked on the problem as a class, as a community of people who worked together. I felt my job was to help children recognize their mistakes and learn to make proper amends when it happened. In doing so, we could all function in an more orderly, secure environment in which we supported each other and solved our problems together. To me that worked better than simply locking doors. It helped the thieves take up more positive activities, gain new friends and take pride in themselves.

Back in January when this blog got attacked by an 'anonymous' person, I locked them out. That worked for a few days until the person reappeared as 'Joe King', a fake Blogger account, where the attack continued. The behaviour was identical to what the thieves at school had done. I should have known. Blocking them didn't change anything, so I returned to allowing 'anonymous' comments.

Not having these 'anonymous' people in a classroom has meant not being able to do much to change their ways, but the fact that this community of kayak bloggers and readers is relatively small is a help. It isn't long before everyone learns who the bad apples are. They either change their ways or find they're no longer welcome. And of course, an apology is always welcome. We all make mistakes now and then, so it helps to know how to make amends and benefit from keeping one's friends, especially good folks like Derrick, who gives our kayaking community so much!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Waterproof Surf VideoCam

In my never-ending search for waterproof video recording equipment, I recently came across this item from the Oregon Scientific Company. This little camera claims to film at 30 frames per second to an SD flash card. The maximum memory allowed is 2 gigs which is adequate for about 10 minutes or so. You can strap it to your surf helmet, your arm, anywhere a hook and loop strap will work.

While this limitation means the mini-cam is not useful for making long videos, the fact that it's small, handy and easy to operate makes it ideal for taking short shots when setting up the other equipment I've mentioned here is simply too complicated. For example, if I'd had the unit during the story I told yesterday, you too could have seen the trouble I was in and enjoyed laughing at my misfortune as well!

Anyway, it's one more, reasonably priced way to get your YouTube videos filmed and online for the rest of us to enjoy. Oregon lists the camera for 129 US, but I've seen it elsewhere for as little as $99 US. The SD cards are extra.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

First the Test, Then the Lesson

Spring time in the arctic means the return of the migratory birds. For them it's time to begin nesting, but also it's time to renew flight feathers in preparation of the trip south at summer's end.

In this picture, it wasn't just the photographer who's having a shakey day! This king eider had shed many of its primaries and was unable to take off. At best it would lift a meter or so on the water only to plunk back down again and flap madly along the surface.

The lower picture is of an arctic loon out in the ice fields, enjoying a calm day, out hunting like we were. I had a few interesting experiences 'hunting' ducks during this period of semi-flightless birds. One day, while following along the sena - the sea ice edge - in the canoe, we came across a large flock of eiders on the ice. Realising they would have trouble taking off, we quietly landed behind a nearby ice ridge. Sneaking over to them, we then burst into view and began chasing them down and catching them by hand.

What I didn't know was the particular patch of ice they were on was partly rotten and covered with a thin layer of fresh snow. Running full out after a duck, I suddenly went through the ice and plunged into the freezing water! I thought I was a goner! I dropped into the icy water up to my thighs, but then stopped. There was another ice layer below the one I'd broken through, which had stopped my death plunge! I climbed out and looked around. Rather than rush to my aid, I saw I was providing the moment's entertainment. Everyone was laughing. Had I disappeared totally, they would have rushed to save me, but given that hadn't happened, laughter was deemed the best response. My antics were retold to every visitor back at camp, complete with the shocked face and pathetic look.

It was also expected that I catch the bird I had been chasing as well. A soaking wet hunter is one thing, but an empty handed one is much, much worse. I learned several valuable lessons that day. Hopefully I won't need the test again in order to relearn them!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Secret Mission

We departed Canada on the morning of April 11, 2007 on a mission to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. For logistical reasons, best known to only a few erudite cartographers, we look a southernly route through the White Mountains of new Hampshire and then into Maine. After several hours of woodland travel off the American inter-state road system, my traveling companion and I arrived at the St John river and quietly slipped back into Canada, noticed only by a single, female border security guard who realising the nature of our visit quickly had us on our way. Within an hour of our being back in Canada, we were quietly enscounced in a hotel in St Andrews By the Sea. We donned dark jackets and walked down to the waterfront. Dinner was a caual affair as we mixed with the locals in a small pub. Hockey was on their minds, but not on ours. I'm certain we had not been followed. We began to relax as the mirco-brew seeped into our veins...

The following morning we departed St Andrews in the rising mist, taking an alternate route our of town to avoid any suspicion. Stopping for lunch at Petit Codiac, we drove past the fast food chains on the main highway and found an out of the way café. We were soon hidden among the natives in the place. I used my natural linguistic skills and spoke in the local English accent and dialect when ordering. I could tell my the sudden rise in her eyebrows that our presence escaped her detection. Back on the road, we drove directly to Halifax, only stopping at the Nova Scotian tourist bureau, again to complete the deception of being ordinary tourists with no fixed destination.

Safely booked into a mini-hotel on a side street just above the water front in Halifax, we went for a casual stroll along the harbour front docks. And there was the object of our mission: Theodore the Tug. She was everything we'd been led to believe: cute, brightly painted and, best of all, ready for the summer season. I quickly took the above photo and walked on so as not to attract any attention. Dinner at a quiet restaurant, followed by live music in a crowded, noisy Irish style pub. So far, so good. A perfect getaway!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Recycling Crashed Aircraft

Way back in the days of the 'Cold War', the Americans and Canadians built a series of radar sites which stretched across the Canadian north. The idea was to provide an early warning for missles coming over the North Pole from the old Soviet Union. The sites together made up the 'Distant Early Warning' system or DEW line, for short. The huge radar towers had another use: providing people like me with a clue to where I was when out on the water!

Everything required for these sites had to be flown in as no roads went to these remote areas. However, not every aircraft landed on the runway as the above photo suggests. This particular one crash landed quite close to the village of Hall Beach where it entered a new supply chain.

Once the military had stripped the aircraft of what they wanted, the local Inuit began using the plane for a variety of items they required. For example, the soft aluminium could easily be worked into harpoon heads. The sheeting from the aircraft's skin made a perfect material for making kudlik, the seal-oil lamp used to heat traditional snow houses and tents in the old days. When we found this old one lying on the beach at Iglujjuaq, we used it to keep the chill and damp out of our tent. Less heavy than the old soapstone versions, it was the perfect portable heating implement!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Caribou Race

On July 16th, 1969, three of us headed off hunting as soon as the ice left Iglujjuaq. I kept notes every time we went out, so here are some excerpts from them. We headed eastwards into the newly opened water and soon found the new ice edge behind the tiny islet of Kigutararayuk. This place is well known for its large numbers of inuksuit, pillars and man-like structures, all built from the flat shale scattered around. The largest one was built in August 1946 by the father of the hunter I was with. He still remembered it being built when he was 15. Some others were very old indeed with lichen spreading across from stone to stone.

The fog would come and go during the day making it difficult to see any seals in the water so we decided to stop on another small island called Angmarjjuaq for the night. As soon as we landed on the south end we noticed some caribou tracks and we immediately set off to hunt it. The thought of eating something different after months of seal and fish drove us on!

Before long we began to notice imprints of a lone wolf that was also following the caribou. Every so often their tracks became mixed together and we wondered which of us would find the caribou first. Clearly, we were suddenly in a race for food! We decided to split apart and each walk along a separate shore of the long narrow island. This made me nervous as I'd never shot a caribou before and didn't know if I could. I had no idea what I'd do if faced with a hungry wolf!

Coming over a slight ridge almost at the northern end of the island, I spotted the caribou by itself. I knew I couldn't shoot, but I could also see my companion off to the left. I signaled to him the caribou was in sight. Meanwhile I worked around the animal to keep it from escaping onto the ice attached to the island's tip. We soon had a carcass to carry back to the boat. We never did see the wolf, only its tracks.

The caribou was butchered and made up into two packsack-like bundles into which we then put the legs and so on. Slinging the packs over our backs, we then began the long walk back to the boat, several kilometers away. It took us 4 hours to reach the boat. Included along the way were numerous rest halts, including one where I just walked into a shallow pond and fell flat on my face, relieved to cool down! My notes speak of sore feet from walking all day in hip-waders...

The hunt lasted two more days largely because of the heavy amounts of floating ice. We were constantly having to jump out of the canoe and pull it up on ice pans to prevent it from being crushed as the ice floes spun around in the currents. Often we'd then have to wait for the tide to turn and release the packed ice and provide us with leads back into the open water. When we finally got back to camp, no one could have been more proud than we were to have something new and tasty to share with those waiting for our arrival.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Feeling Coy, Spring?

Days like this, waiting for old man Winter to make up his mind and leave and with Spring being a coy, shy young thing hiding in the wings, remind me of being stranded on the beach in arctic Canada. The photo, taken in the hunting camp at Iglujjuaq on north-western Baffin Island, shows the kilometer or so span of sea ice attached to the shore over which we would cross to our freighter canoe whenever we headed out hunting. It was stored at the sena, or ice-edge. However as the season progressed, pieces of the ice began to slowly break away and it was foolish to leave the canoe too close to the edge. Each night we'd bring it closer to the beach, until, the ice being totally rotten like in the picture, we'd had to park it on the beach itself.

Now we could no longer hunt by canoe. We'd take long walks along the shore on the off chance a seal lay on the ice near the shore where it could be retrieved. We lived through this frustrating period for a couple of weeks (in July) until finally the tides and the winds cleared the ice and freed our boats for hunting once again.

It was a happy time in camp. Everyone had become tired of eating cached food, some of it stored underground several years previously. Now we could hunt and enjoy fresh meat once again, not to mention the char we caught as they swam along the shore into the nets we set in the evening. Those were happy days, indeed!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Video Fun

Video recording with the Viosport waterproof lens proved to be a bit more complex than I had assumed when I first purchased the unit. To begin with, the whole unit is not fully waterproof, only the lens, the cable and the microphone have this feature. The connections to the recording device - in my case a mini DV recorder - are not and that's a problem. Here's how I got around that reality while in Florida:

In the picture on the left you can see the silver lens cylinder mounted on the Sticky Pod" extension post. A cable leads away from the rear of the lens first through a waterproof connector, then to a microphone (the bulge just in front of the blue bag). At this point, one must connect to the recording device. How this is done depends on the camera or device being used. However in each case, the connections and the recording device need to be protected from the water. I used an AquaPac bag large enough to contain my camera and the battery pack required by the lens.

In order to shoot video, I'd mount the lens on the kayak deck, place the battery in the AquaPac and set the camera up to begin shooting. Then I'd seal them both in the Pac. The flexibility of the Pac allowed me to turn the camera and battery pack on and off easily. The camera also needed to be set up to record from the remote lens, a procedure similar to recording from a VCR or TV. Again the flexible Pac made this relatively easy and didn't require me to get anything wet in the process.

With everything turned on, I was ready to film. I would use the camera's remote - sealed in the separate, smaller AquaPac at the bottom of the picture - to turn the camera's record button on, off or pause with everything staying dry. The straps on the AquaPacs allowed me to stow the larger one under bungies on the foredeck and the smaller one I could attach to a ring on my pfd where it was easy to grab.

Needless to say, this arrangement was somewhat clumsy to use at first, but I soon became adept at manipulating things and was able to record with it. Ideally, the whole unit would be totally waterproof with an instant on/off feature to capture action without the involved procedure I had to go through. However, for the relatively modest cost involved, the results are satisfactory. Since returning home, however, I have discovered another, and even cheaper, device which may be worth looking into. I'll save that for another post!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Cruelest Month...

The picture above was taken a few days ago. The ice edge in Lake Massawippi, my home paddling spot, is slowly retreating up the lake as it should. In past years the ice cover has departed between the 12th - the earliest in my records - and the 28th - the latest record I have. Given the winter we've had, my guess is the breakup will again be around the 20th, normal for the lake.

Of course, I will be able to get out before that date. Already the put-in is ice free and the river flowing out of the lake is as well. There is a small ice-free 'pond' growing just above the bridge up to the ice edge seen in the picture. It's a great place to paddle on a weekend when you can show-off your fancy Greenland style rolls for the folks walking the pier and the lake-side walkways. That's not for me, however. I'm too shy for that kind of stuff!

Today, as fate would have it, there's a brand new 20 cms of snow sitting in the yard, an over-night gift of the Great White North. Great for snow men, not so much fun for driving anywhere. I'm a patient man, especially when it's also 5°C outside and warming.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

How's Your Carbon Footprint?

Before leaving on my paddling trip to Florida this year, I posted that I wanted to do something positive to offset the increase to my 'Carbon Footprint' that this trip would produce. As well, I wanted to know more about the effect this single trip would make on my contribution to the global warming underway on the planet.

While waiting for people to arrive at the Tampa airport one evening, I bought Tim Flannery's book The Weather Makers, probably THE book to read currently on the topic. Frankly, the book scares me: ALL the paddling locations I visited during the trip will be under water in 50 years unless we begin acting immediately! Not a pleasant thought, not a very satisfactory planet to be handing over to our children in the years to come. We can do better!

On the bright side, he makes some suggestions on what we can be doing. Interestingly, small changes made today can have enormous benefits down the road. One thing that's easily done is to offset the carbon dioxide my car put into the atmosphere during the 6653 km (4754 mile) trip, about 1.2 tons of the stuff! There are a number of places that will invest your money - in my case US$ 24 - in carbon sequestering projects which can help to offset the damage I did during the trip. I've listed a few places below which you can visit to learn more and also find your own 'footprint'. It's incredible how rapidly the carbon tonnage mounts up, yet the costs of the offset are so reasonable. I intend to begin paying for the real costs of my travel from now on. We all have to start, each time we head out, and especially on non-essential travel trips.

I haven't completely made up my mind how I will offset the carbon dioxide I produced during this trip. I'd like to see the money used to promote not just carbon reduction, but also to support human powered transport at the same time. I'll let you know what I come up with.

Here are a few places to click on for additional information:
1 - Tim Flannery
2 - Climate Friendly Information
3 - Calculate your carbon footprint

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Locked out at Cedar Key

One of my last stops on the Gulf coast of Florida was Cedar Key. I had picked up copy of Doug Alderson's book, Waters Less Traveled earlier in the winter and was curious about the area he describes. Cedar Key is actually at the southeast end of the coast he writes about and would be a good jumping off point. Doug may be better known to paddlers for his books on Vancouver Island as well as his Savvy Paddler and Rescue and Safety the latter written together with Michael Pardy.

Unfortunately for me, I was beginning to feel the effects of being on the road too long and I didn't give Cedar Key a fair chance to show itself off. The town itself is artistic, quirky and fun - like some very cool electric mini-cars for getting about - as these photos suggest. There are numerous offshore islands to explore and as I mentioned, one can easily head north and west along the shallow coastline and discover the seagrass shallows and marshes that stretch 'round the bend' of Florida. There is a paddling trail in this area, all set up with camping spots and so on. Permission to camp is required, which can discourage the spontaneous paddler like me. Check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife site for details if this interests you. I think had I not been a solo paddler, I might have gone to the trouble of getting a permit in advance of leaving. The area has lots of paddling appeal for many reasons.

While I was there the tides were extremely low during the day and the winds were high. The results were extensive mud-flats nearly everywhere and beside the town dock, short, steep waves dumping on the only available launching beach. Both these factors discouraged me from getting out on the water for any serious paddling. The $10 launch fee at the town dock didn't help either, although I found a free site nearby just as I was leaving. I'll know more next time! On the positive side, camping was cheap and friendly. One night we were all entertained by a very professional bluegrass group in the camp clubhouse by a huge fire-place. Nice!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Birding on the Suwannee

Here's a little 'teaser' video I shot with my Pentax Optio while paddling on the Suwannee River a few weeks ago. The banks varied from what looked like sand banks to mud flats flanked by cypress trees. Now and then you'd come across small flocks of feeding wading birds like the egrets and ibises in the video. Again the image quality is very mediocre, something that will hopefully change with my new camera setup. As I mentioned previously, that editing jobs is in the works, but will take me a while to complete.

I find it interesting that one would find such mixed flocks of birds together, often several species working a shoreline together. I'd seen sea gulls and cormorants nesting in very close proximity while paddling around Manitoulin Island a few years ago and thought it was an unusual pattern, but perhaps it's more common than I realised.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Hey, Where'd Ya Get That Hat?

Certainly one of the greatest pleasures of paddling is the opportunity it offers of meeting new and interesting people. The hat in the picture above belonged to one such person. He's a man born in Argentia, a community on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. He works as an archeologist and has spent most of his adult life in various parts of the United States. When I found him, he was sifting through data obtained from an old shell midden left behind by pre-Columbian native people in the Crystal River area. He remembered his home back on 'The Rock' fondly, but admitted it had been a long time since he's actually set foot there.

As we chatted about the Indians, their harvesting techniques and their garbage disposal habits, he was drawn to ask about my ball-cap sporting a 'The Rock' name and logo, which I had bought while in Newfoundland last summer. This led him to tell me his story and where he was born. By the time we finished talking and I began to move along, we had exchanged hats! He also threw in a CD detailing what has been learned by the Gulf Archeology Research Institute he works for. Small world, so interesting, so full of storied people!