I‘m here – I’ve bitten off 300-nautical miles of the Arctic Circle in a town called ‘Dead-horse’ ! A place my instructors had said had a fixed population of four people. I’d immediately asked – “Is it two guys and two girls…?!” The classroom erupted in laughter with comments like – “It would be a good place to start an internet dating site!”
These days, Wikipedia lists the population of Dead-horse as twenty-five – but I suspect its allot more than that during the brief summer months when there’s a big influx of environmental and oil workers.
Arriving on the flight yesterday, I could see the Arctic ice cap which recedes from the coast-line only ten miles during summer. Male polar bears prefer to stay out there to hunt the ice, while their female counter-parts come over to the tundra – ‘our’ side. In mid-August, it will start snowing again. Meanwhile, its currently sunshine, highs to over sixty-degrees F, short-sleeves and happy days – no joke.
Female polar bears are often more aggressive than their male counter-parts (just like humans) so you can’t assume a female bear will try to be-friend you during your stay! During my lunch break, one of the employees said a brown bear had gone thru the middle of our camp a few hours before I arrived!
Meanwhile, another employee had been here a few years back when he had a ‘small’ incident during his first week on the job. He’d seen a white shape fast approaching in the distance, yelled to his mate and they’d jumped in their vehicle leaving the area at high speed. The polar bear caught up with them and was running along-side the truck at 60-kph until it finally gave up the chase a few minutes later!
It seems they’re ‘Great White’ sharks of the land but you wouldn’t know by watching the Coca-Cola TV advertisement or drinking Bundaberg Rum (it’s their branding logo). Someone must have been pretty lit-up in Bundaberg when they decided to use a polar bear as the identity for an Aussi brew made below the equator!
…Speaking of which, while at my first dinner yesterday – I’m eyeing off the back of a girl’s shirt that wanders into the mess hall. I ask her where she got it as she finishes her meal. It turns out both her and her partner were from Australia visiting the north slope and not only that – he was born in Bundaberg, Australia !
“…Did he work for the Bundy distillery and had come to get a photo-op with a polar bear sipping Bundy’s finest for a new marketing campaign down-under…?!” ; )
Infact, they’d been traveling the US and had reached their ‘northern-most zenith’ by road before they drive back to Canada. Low and behold, we got to talking allot after dinner about all topics including sailing – something they’ve ALWAYS dreamed about.
They were class acts so I said number#1: they’d be welcome to join me for any upcoming yacht deliveries to get experience and number #2: why ‘fly’ back to Australia ‘par-avion’, when you could sail back there visiting all the beautiful ‘pit-stops’ you’d otherwise miss along the way!
They laughed when I told them for example – “…Fiji has 367-islands, one for each day of the year and two days of rest…!” They thought I worked for the Fijian tourism bureau on the north slope ; )
So I gave them a wad of cash to fetch both me and Linda shirts from the one if not the only great pub in the Arctic Circle – the ‘Hot Spot Cafe’ on the road to Deadhorse. Meanwhile, they grabbed a tape measure out of their combee truck to measure my back to be sure of my size as I mentioned I didn’t want her size, other-wise I might make the wrong impression amongst my new work mates and oil workers!
As I just wrote in a recent blog – its these ‘diamonds’ you find traveling the road to the north slope and elsewhere in the world that are the pre-dominate lasting memories…(not the pubs – but the people you meet!)
So here’s to meeting new friends in the most unlikely places! Another wicked duo from the opposite side of the world – my adopted home down-under – Australia!
I went to France to race and I get a job for a French company in Alaska and two Australians go to the Alaska to explore the mountains and meet someone they can sail back to Australia with – ‘there’s nothing in life that surprises me anymore’ !
(Below: my first new friends in the Arctic Circle – Australians 😉