Ungava Bay is famed for the myriad splendid rivers which flow into it.
They arrive, into that giant bowl-shaped bay from the south, the
east and the west. Since 1999, Fabian Nadeau and I have descended
the Larch/Koksoak and George rivers and finally in the summer of
2003, we tackled the more remote Arnaud River which is also known as
This last trip was
significant for us. It was the most northerly destination where we
had ever gone (along the 60th parallel), it was the first time that
we descended a northern river with just two paddlers and it was and
the first time that we ventured on a river about which nobody had
spoken to us directly about.
The account of the
1990 descent of the Payne River by the Hide-Away Canoe Club (Che-Mun
Outfit 621) constituted our principal source of
information. Unlike that gray and chilly trip, we had extremely
favourable weather conditions with temperatures above 75 F. clear
skies, light winds all of which lasted for many days. Of course,
that “luck” went hand-in-hand with an incredible number of
mosquitoes and unquestionable discomfort due to heat and
impossibility of undressing oneself, but why complain when we
expected the usual bad weather of the Far North?
We started July 20,
when we chartered into Payne Lake to approximately 10 miles of its
mouth. Payne is an immense lake, 60 miles long, whose water appears
sometimes turquoise, like the Caribbean Sea. After landing we soon
began what would become a regular ritual during this expedition.
Fabian left the
canoe to begin fishing and I dove into my binoculars. While he
stayed close to the boat, I climbed a small hill to observe the
landscape and to find release. After having slept for a short while,
I take scanned the mostly barren landscape with my binoculars and
was utterly shocked to see a polar bear descending a hill
approximately 200 yards from where I was standing.
To my cry of alarm,
Fabian came to join me near the boat. What could we do? All that we
have as defense is cayenne pepper in aerosol cans! But after looking
a second time after the fog of sleep had lifted, I realized that the
white mammoth was actually a caribou! It will be the only one that
we will see the whole trip.