In 1955, five men in their early twenties set off with 36-year-old Art Moffat on a canoe trip through Canada's arctic. The group was unprepared for the cold. They ran out of food and winter closed in. Then the group inadvertently went over a waterfall and the leader. Art Moffat died of hypothermia. One of the young men on the trip, George Grinnell, has worked on his account of the journey for fifty years. It is a powerful book of survival and awakening - a physical and spiritual odyssey. A Death on the Barrens, ...
In 1955, five men in their early twenties set off with 36-year-old Art Moffat on a canoe trip through Canada's arctic. The group was unprepared for the cold. They ran out of food and winter closed in. Then the group inadvertently went over a waterfall and the leader. Art Moffat died of hypothermia. One of the young men on the trip, George Grinnell, has worked on his account of the journey for fifty years. It is a powerful book of survival and awakening - a physical and spiritual odyssey. A Death on the Barrens, was originally published in 1996. This revised Heron Dance Press edition contains Roderick MacIver watercolors.
In 1955, author George James Grinnell was one of five young men who set off with 36-year-old Art Moffatt on a canoe trip through Canada's Arctic. The group was unprepared for the cold. They ran out of food, and winter closed in. Then the group inadvertently went over a waterfall and the leader, Art Moffatt, died of hypothermia.
Fifty years in the writing, this book recounts the voyage of six souls in search of the Garden of Eden. After paddling over the lip of the abyss, the surviving five seek their own salvation.
Artist Roderick MacIver (illustrator) founded Heron Dance in 1995 to celebrate the seeker's journey and the spirit and beauty of all that is wild. His words and his watercolors are inspired by a love of wild places and the peace and rhythm he finds there.
All morning the symphony of color played; and in the afternoon, the fires of dawn were fanned into yet more spectacular array by the setting sun. The calm lake mirrored the sky; and, as we paddled towards the horizon, our canoes carried us into that heaven where water and sky are one. Behind us the black clouds of an approaching arctic blizzard shrouded the flaming sky.
When we turned into the narrows, where the current quickened and the colorful lake transformed itself into a tumultuous river, we were surprised to see small furry animals walking about on their hind legs.
"I think they are people," Joe said in disbelief. As we drew closer, we saw that they were Inuit children, dressed in caribou fur and playing on the tundra. When we landed, a woman emerged from the tent, also dressed in furs. Skip Pessl walked slowly towards her while the rest of us remained by the canoes. She spoke no English and seemed very frightened. Her children began to gather around her protectively. Skip rejoined us. We crossed the narrows and set up camp on the far side.
During dinner we heard the sound of an outboard motor. Suddenly, a boat came around the bend. When he saw us, the Inuit hunter turned sharply towards shore and landed. Three of his sons and a dead caribou were in the boat with him. They were smiling broadly. We invited them to share some dehydrated carrots we had found at the abandoned survey camp a couple of weeks earlier. The carrots had been packed in a large tin can. Bruce was using the bottom of the can as a pot and the top as a spoon.
The Inuit shared with us this makeshift meal with smiles. They rubbed their bellies as if it were the best food in the world.The hunter, his cheeks bulging with unswallowed allowed carrots, disappeared behind a rock. When he returned, he was still smiling broadly and still rubbing his belly, but his cheeks were no longer bulging with carrots. He sat down again. Dehydrated carrots had not been the first choice of the Inuit hunter, nor of the survey crew, apparently: that is why they had abandoned them. They were not our choice either, but it was all we had to offer.
Before we had finished eating, the Inuit hunter pointed to the sky. Black storm clouds had been gathering in the northwest since dawn. His sons jumped up and ran to their boat. In a moment they were gone. The Arctic seemed empty without them, and soon the blizzard was upon us.
We lay low the next day while the storm swirled snow across the tundra. In the evening, the wind calmed a little as the cold Arctic air settled over our camp.
"Is that you, George?" Skip asked.
"I thought it was you."
I poked my head out and saw the Inuit hunter.
"Tea? Canoe?" he said.
Skip and the others shortly emerged from the tents, and we greeted him with smiles, but shook our heads: we had lost all our tea the day Art Moffatt died.
"Thank you, thank you," he repeated. "Tea? Canoe?"
After a while, the five of us came to the realization that he was inviting us to tea over at his place. We picked up one of the canoes, but he placed his hand gently on the bow and pressed down. He motioned for us to follow him.
Behind some rocks on the beach, there was a wooden box with a curtain in front of it. We could hear the roar of a kerosene Primus stove. The other Inuit boys and men were standing around smiling. They had prepared for us tea and a large pot of caribou steaks. I do not know if they had been planning to join us, but when they saw how hungrily we ate, they gave all the steaks to us. Everyone was smiling and laughing. We were laughing and smiling too, because we were so happy to get the food in our bellies; and they were laughing and smiling to see us so happy.