21 April 2007
SnowSTAR accomplished a major goal today by reaching the Thelon River, which they will follow all the way to their finish in Baker Lake. They arrived at Hornby Point about 6:30 this evening and found the eight drums of fuel that had been flown in for them by a Twin Otter airplane several months ago. Much of tomorrow will be spent pumping this gas out of the drums and into their gas cans. Their Arrival here today puts them 4 days ahead of their published schedule. With good weather and no mechanical problems they expect to reach Baker Lake in 6 or 7 days (April 27 or 28). They are now back in dense spruce trees--the famous Thelon Oasis. These trees will be with them for about the next two or three days and then they will be returned to the rocky and windswept barrenlands. Arvids gave me a Soundclip over the phone tonight but we had some technical difficulties and it did not record properly. Sorry About That. We'll try for Audio again tomorrow.
These two pictures were from yesterday (April 20) but did not arrive until today (Caribou and Jon fixing stuff)
Helen Falls and the Thelon Oasis
Hornby Point, Thelon River, NWT
Camp 37 Location: 64º 02'N, 103º 51'W
Snow squalls and occasional white-out, -6C
114 km covered today
Helen Falls and the Thelon Oasis
My, how this country can change! Yesterday we camped at Hoare Lake, still
on the Hanbury River. It was all tundra, with a few scattered trees, small
and stunted, never more than 10 trees together. Today we motored for 40 km
across flat, white, almost featureless tundra. And then.in the distance we
saw a dark river valley. Were those trees? They were! The only way to
really appreciate trees is to spend a long time on the wind-swept tundra.
Trees block the wind, they provide firewood, and they make a white-out
tolerable because there is something to see and to provide perspective and
definition. They also trap snow. The snow in the trees was totally
different from the snow on the tundra. It was soft and fluffy, about 70 cm
deep (up to a person's thighs). We had to drop our sleds and break trail.
But oh my, even the hard work of doing that was nice after hundreds of
kilometers of wind-blown tundra.
First Trees Approaching the Oasis
We had a rare treat after entering the trees. We were able to come down the
lower Hanbury River and drive to Helen Falls. This falls is about 10 m (30
feet) high. Of course, it was partially frozen in masses of lue ice. Icicles
hung down the cliffs that surround the falls. Very few people ever get to
see the falls, and even fewer in winter because it is so remote. It really
is in the heart of the Barrenlands.
Then we arrived at the Thelon River. This is the last river we will travel
on during our trip. It is a large river, in places 200-m wide, almost as
big as the Porcupine where we joined it, and it is lined with forests
(remember taiga?). We will follow the river all the way to Baker Lake,
though the forest will peter out before then.
The Thelon is called an oasis because both south and north of the river
there is tundra. A narrow strip of forest lines the Thelon. Where the trees
grow, there are more animals. The oasis is now a game reserve. we saw
signs of why in the increased number of animal tracks we saw. In past times,
it was rumored that a band of Inuit lived on the river because of the game.
It is also popular with canoe paddlers. We stopped at one point to check
out a big cairn, perhaps built by paddlers. A nice picture of the gang is
attached. Can you tell who took the picture?
One thing we don't expect to see on the Thelon is caribou. Can you guess
why? It has to do with the snow.
In order to make this trip, we had to put in a gas cache. Eight drums of gas
were flown into the Hornby Point on the Thelon River. We are camped at the
cache. Tomorrow, we will pump out the drums into the red gas cans we carry
our gas in on the sleds.