National Geographic : 1976 Oct
teaching their children. Now others are taking responsibility from parents. Some parents come to me almost crying." For me, such sadnesses fell mercifully away at the edge of town, where civilization ended. Beyond lay the void, which I wel comed: the bleak land of shrieking gales and driven snow and distances stretching away to infinity. You penetrate this polar desert by air, cocooned in a helicopter or plane, even in a Hovercraft, and you strain to see signs of life, knowing life is out there. Life Is Basic for Reindeer Herders By helicopter one afternoon I went looking for the only reindeer in Canada, a semi domesticated herd of 7,000 browsing not far from Inuvik (pages 496-7). The rolling coun try hid them for more than an hour. When we found them, we landed beside their herd ers, five Eskimos who were making a new camp. In minutes they raised their tent, "Crops'll be good, if..:' anchored it to the ground with snow, and installed a stove and pipe. They were men of few words. They told me that reindeer skins were their beds, reindeer meat their food, melted snow and ice their water. I noticed some rifles. "Many wolves," a herder said. I waved and lifted off in my whirl igig, in seconds part of a different world. Next day I rode a Twin Otter of Imperial Oil Ltd. to watch an artificial island take shape seven miles from land in the frozen Beaufort Sea (pages 508-9). We landed near a barge that served as the construction crew's living quarters. A couple of large dogs romped in the snow beside the plane. "Why the huskies?" I asked a grizzled fork lift operator. "They guard against polar bears." Then he gave me the tragic rest of it. A month earlier a bear had silently climbed aboard the barge. In the darkness he mauled a lone man on the deck, took his victim off Peace River country is now a panorama of plenty, like this field of rapeseed near Manning, rimmed by grain elevators. But when the first sodbusters came, bringing their families, furniture, and optimism, it wore a full beard of trees. Nearly twice as large as England, Canada's northernmost major farming region has the usual four seasons, plus an "if" season. This begins around the first of August, when farmers say to each other, "If it doesn't freeze before September, we've got it made." Near Carstairs, just north of Calgary, where the first freeze comes later, a farmer harvests barley in late evening (right).