Friday, October 20, 2006

Two years ago....

All of these photo's are not mine but since I was too poor to afford a digital camera a good friend of mine lent me his collection. Basically if I had a camera these would have been the same shots I experienced. A big thank you goes out to this know who you are :)

The focus of this post takes place two years ago and in the above area provided by Google Earth.

2 years ago I would have been leaving this airport (CYBK, Baker Lake, NU) heading south southwest on an 88 nm journey (101 statue:) which took about 36 minutes on average in the Cessna 208B Caravan. I was hauling drums of fuel into an exploration camp and there winter supply had been barged in before the freeze up. Baker Lake is connected to Hudson Bay so therefore is connected to the ocean. It was an unbelieveably efficient operation here in Baker Lake. When I was returning from dropping off the fuel I would climb high enough to get the CARS (Community Aerodrome Radio Dude) to call the fueller and 2 guys that run the loader that pick up the drums for me. Everyone would arrive at the same time and 15 minutes later I would be airborne again. On the other end I would radio ahead and they would send a helper out to throw in the pogo on the Caravan so it did not fall on its butt when the weight shifted back to offload. They would set up the tire and I would kick the drums onto the big rimless tire and be off again all taking 6 minutes. Could never seem to break 5 for some reason. In September with still quite a bit of daylight I could do 7 trips a day maximum. It took about 2 hours round trip so its about as much duty day as I had in me. When you do 20 minute turns per leg and don't stop all day you don't want to do more then 7 flights. By December 21st the shortest day the sunrise was 1030 and sunset was 1430 local so I would leave at 0930 and land at legal light in the camp and usually get back to Baker Lake in the dark which was legal and good cause they have lights. As odd as it may seem I enjoyed seeing how many trips I could do and always tried to beat my times. What else is there to do when you are in the middle of nowhere and have nothing else to do.

This is the summer time and it was like this but frozen by this time. No snow though. They worked hard to try and keep the strip in good condition but it was still pretty rough. Every landing had to be setup well as you are landing at "max" landing weight and its about 1200 feet of useable dirt.

The yellow things are drums to be used in the camp. On the return legs we would haul back around 12-16 empty drums to be refilled with heating oil. Basically next to jet fuel it stinks and if you get it on you the smell never goes away.

At the beginning this was my home away from home. A modest dwelling not at the end of the earth but you can see it from there :) It is an old fishing camp which is leased by the exploration company. This picture was from the summer before and the place I stayed was yet to be constructed. It was made of plywood and some insulation and heated with buddy heaters. I got the worst sinus infection of my life sleeping here when it went down to the -25's as the circuit would blow in the middle of the night and you would wake up with snotsickles and a crazy case of the shivers. We found out the reason of the circuit being blown....well aparently the camps janitor a girl had some male friends in the camp (I will not call her names :) and they would give her extra heaters which overloaded the circuits and freeze us all out. Ahh the good times. The best part of this sleeping arangment is that your beer was always cold (shhhh it was a dry camp)

Breakfast and Supper was eaten here. This has to be the biggest table I have ever seen. Usually about 8-10 of us would have breakfast at the same time. The food here never stopped and the cook baked goodies all day long. If it wasn't for all the 6 minute turns and moving non stop I would have gained a few pounds. I don't eat red meat and try to eat a low fat diet and here at first it was near impossible to eat anything that fit the bill. Well the cook being a true proffesional and taking pride in her service would make me chicken without skin, mashed potatoes without all the butter, and any healthy dish she could muster with her groceries. Since I was the transportation for them to get in and out of the place and after their 6-8 weeks I would always give it a good try if the weather was poo poo to help her get out of camp and on to civilization.

Here is what the camp looks like when its freekin freezing out. I dunno I used to think of how cold and lonely it was when I would fly in at dusk. But there is also a serenity also that equals it out. The arctic has a beauty of its own that must be appreciated I guess.

This is happy season for flying into the camp. Its usually by Jan 1 there is about 4 feet of ice and they get out the cat and plow about 4500 feet of ice strip for us to land on. Compared to the summer of getting your head smashed off the ceiling landing on the land strip the ice was so smooth and you could also not have to worry about your outbound loads and could use max take off weight. When you would have near blizzard conditions you can imagine this would be a bit of a bitch to find. Thank God for GPS. I do not know how the old guys used to do it. Mind you alot of em probably died too.

Dropping the drums on the ice strip, they take them away one at a time by sled and snow machine. I used to take the snow machine sometimes up to the camp for lunch and would open it right up. But since I had no goggles or any face proctection I would be full of tears by the time I would stop from the super cold air and doing 50 miles an hour.

Now if I was done my 14 days on this would be the most welcome sight...Final rwy 23 in Thompson, MB which was home at the time. The big circle before the runway is the VOR and is a navagational aid.

Here is one of the first off strip experiences I had. When I was approaching it from the south I instantly said no way I can land there. Well I was looking at a sand dune that was a 1000 feet long or so. When I got closer I could see the little marked out strip. This is tundraish and was really soft and a good strip. Limited to about 4-5 guys though because its short and couldn't take off with any more. Well you could but then it might be the last time for you or the airplane.

This is short final for the strip. Its pretty soft so the first time in I touched the brakes turning around and then spent the next 20 minutes digging a trench for the tire to follow so I could get out. Oh the lesson's you learn...and continue learning... These were some really good times.


Bindar Dundat said...

It's deja vu all over again. Nice narrative, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Flyin Dutchman said...

Hey Bindar,

I am gonna try and make some more personal stories soon to add to the series. What a great guy who let me use the pictures :)

Anonymous said...

Hey there Albino Boy, nice pictures!!! Hope everything is going well for you. Mugwamp and I say hi.

Whiskey Yankee said...

My Canadian geography is coming on leaps and bounds! I have the utmost respect for your skill as a pilot AND a photographer. Many thanks.

Flyin Dutchman said...

WY thanks as usual :) Glad you can enjoy it. There might be somemore posted tommorow, just gotta see if I will have time. I was in dial up country the past 3 days....