Updated: 4 days ago
A strong breeze from the southeast kept us on land all day. We would not have known about it without someone giving us the forecast through a satellite phone or listening to marine weather on the VHF radio. From our campsite on the north shore of the Brooks Peninsula the wind was blocked by the mountains, and the sea was smooth like a mirror. At midday the sun was beating down on us and the beach sand was too hot to walk barefoot. We passed the time sitting under a tarp shade trying not to get sunburned.
I spent some time talking to Justine. She has kayaked all over the world. Around New Zealand, around Tasmania, around Ireland, the coast of Labrador, the Aleutians islands in the arctic Ocean, and so many other places.
“In the arctic, one of the things you need to bring with you is an electric fence and set it around your tent camp every night. Polar bears are nothing like Black bears or even Grizzly bears. They really do look at you and see their next meal.”
“I’ve heard about that. Is it true that they hunt people the same way they hunt beluga whales? Do they wait outside your tent waiting for you to stick your head out like a whale coming to the breathing hole in the ice?”
“I’ve never heard of that but wouldn’t doubt it. In Churchill on Hudson Bay, they get landboud on the summer and walk into town almost every day. Only when the bay freezes can they go look for seals in the sea ice. Best not to walk alone.”
“Oh, it’s kind of like in Florida. If you leave your pet in the yard it can suddenly vanish into the belly of an alligator. In Canada it’s your neighbor, not your neighbor’s dog that suddenly isn’t around anymore…” I joked.
“On our kayaking trip in the arctic, we heard the alarm on the electric fence go off at night once. I opened the zipper on the tent and JF had the revolver drawn ready to fire at the first thing we’d see. Luckily there was nothing there. Must have been an arctic fox that scurried away after getting shocked.”
“Oh, I remember that day.” Said JF. “Not quite as good a story as one from our friend Jamie told us from when he was kayaking in Svalbard. A Polar bear sat on top of him and his tent.”
JF and I went to fetch water to replenish the bladders from a small stream he found in the forest just beyond the beach. The stream was barely a trickle, but it created two small pools from where I could fetch the water with a cup and slowly fill up the bladders one by one.
“No need to rush it. We don’t want to stir up any sediment.” Noted JF.
After finishing one of the bladders, I went to place it on the ground by the other bags when I saw one of the yellow slugs oozing its way over it.
“Oh god damn it. These nasty guys are everywhere! I hope none got into the bag or we are going to be drinking slug water.”
JF had a laugh and gave me a lecture on the little slimy creature, “Oh so I see you’re familiar with the Banana Slug. Yeah, they are everywhere in the forest. I’ve heard that if you count all the biomass of all the animals in the forest, there is more slug than all the deer, bears, wolves, cougars and racoons, combined. It eats everything. Like if something is dead, they will eat it. They are the main decomposers of the forest, when you see them it’s a sign of a healthy woodland.”
“And nothing eats them?”
“Well, yes there is an animal that eats the slug, kind of. In British Columbia it’s a hazing ritual for some high school sports teams that the newbies have to eat or lick a banana slug to join. I heard that it numbs the tongue like you just had anesthesia to get a wisdom tooth pulled.”
“Maybe that’s how it was done back in the old days. The dentist could judge how bad your toothache was, by seeing if the pain went away when he said you had to eat a gooey slug.”
Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation