Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Journey to the Edge: Boats, Belugas, and Bylines

On Friday, Parker took 7 of us into the river on his outboard; Nan stayed behind because she is just not that much into boats, which is ironic for a Newfie.
Parker wasn't able to get 'on step' with the craft as laden as it was, but we were still able to get a good look at the beluga whales which stream into the Churchill river over the summer as they raise their calves and take shelter from the killer whales of Hudson's Bay.
Like a lot of maritime creatures in the wild, belugas are brutally uncooperative photographic subjects, especially with a digital camera. You see the shadow of one approaching the surface, you ready your finger in anticipation, and then they ever dive back below, or briefly surface and then submerge just before the 'click' of a successful image capture. You are left with cryptic images of the water itself, interspersed with what could be either the backs of whales or simply the crests of waves. It doesn't much help that the young belugas are born a relatively dark grey, only lightening as they get older.

No, video appears to be the preferred medium for depicting belugas in their environment, and since the camcorder packed it in, we are left with a handful of shakycam footage shot with the ol' point n shoot.

Thankfully, our enjoyment of the experience was only indirectly related to our inability to document it, and everyone was thrilled to see the playful cetaceans in Parker and Belinda's backyard.

Parker also took us across the river to Sloop Cove, a small inlet on the west bank of the river where the men of the Hudson's Bay Company would dry dock their ships over the winter. They also left their names carved into the rocks so you can still see their names today, two-and-a-half centuries later.

Samuel Hearns was the first Governor for the HBC in the region, oversaw much of the construction of the Prince of Wales fort, and also surrendered it to the French in 1782, losing a fort but saving a lot of lives.

There are lots of other names, but the thing that strikes me the most is the care that went into the letters; the weighting of the lines, the attention paid to the serifs, the careful kerning. It's strange to think that even when it comes to graffiti, they don't make it like they used to.

It's both encouraging and daunting to know that there is a way to let your voice carry on a quarter-millennia later, if you have the stone, tools and patience.

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