Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Pervasive Aroma
"Russ, Russ, hurry up on deck! Look behind you!" Eric called from the dingy. I turned to see a polar bear swimming into the bay. Eric had gone to shore to fetch David's gear but cut his errand a bit short.
The bear, meanwhile, swam to shore and headed to town. A local resident, however, "buzzed" it with a four-wheeler (called a "quad" here) chasing the polar bear in a flurry of flying feet, legs and a cloud of moisture escaping from the animal's fur, back into the water.
Back in the bay, the bear tested the atmosphere with its nose, held high like a snorkel, deciding from the interesting aroma, I suppose, that Fiona held little appeal. I tend to agree with the bear. At this point in the journey the old 'gal is getting a little stale. I imagine the bear wondered whether he ought to come over and eat or bury the boat's contents. Deciding to give the vessel a pass, perhaps not wanting to risk damage from any toxic fumes, it swam about 100 yards past both Fiona and the German Perithia (where Kathrin snapped many photos). The bear pulled itself onto an ice floe and napped until noon.
This afternoon we hiked to the top of Signal Hill north of the village. Passing through town, I finally identified the pervasive aroma. It's the smell of a mouse dying under the house. The whole village smells this way. There are dead things everywhere. Yesterday, riding to the airport in the back of a pickup, I sat next to a polar bear skull in an advanced state of rot. Bits and pieces of animals are all over town; hanging up drying, piled around all the chained huskies, dropped at random in the roads ... it's different from the land of dirt. There no soil with its associated enzymes, 'critters and molds to hasten decomposition. Here, because there's no soil to grow anything, and no season to grow it if there were, it's an animal-only food chain. With meat the only produce, dead mouse is the aroma du'jour.
There is not a whole lot to look at in the Canadian high arctic. But the trip is turning into something of an olfactory odyssey.
Fiona may leave Resolute tommorow. The ice to the south is thinning, our time is getting short (I have to fly back to the states no later than the 1st week of September) and we want to be in position to sail the Peel Sound and Franklin Straits at the first safe opportunity.
My sister, Deb Harper, identified as "DH" here on the blog, will continue to post messages based upon our datalink radio contacts and information she gleans from other sources.