After leaving the Gyrfalcon Aerie I headed west towards Admiralty inlet, paralleling the cliffs. I kept one eye on the cliffs, looking for that telltale flash of white against the red rock. As I neared the end of the cliffs I noticed the black stain where the water falls down the face of the cliff come summer. I remembered recently Leah telling me that she used to camp near this waterfall with her grandparents when she was a young girl.
Sure enough a broad raised beach appeared just beyond the waterfall, it would be a good place to have my coffee. I turned the machine around and walked towards the shore. A lemming, enjoying the warmth of the returning sun to emerge from his tunnels beneath the snow, somehow found itself on the wrong side of the tidal cracks. It wandered along, what to it would be a yawning crevasse, searching for its way back.
It would be a spectacular place to camp, with two waterfalls at one end to provide fresh water and the background music to sleep to, a spectacular view, and a broad flat area for tents. Tent rings abounded there, and something else. It was the final resting place of Just Jusi Qavavauq. A reminder that life has gone on here for a long time. Qavavauq passed away before I was born, some three years younger than I am now. I do not know the circumstances behind his death, but life was tough up here, forty-seven wasn't that young back then. I could, probably with a little digging, find out more. He has children living here.
I don't know about his name, but in my mind the following conversation played out "His name?" "Qavavauq" "What's his first name?" "Its just Qavavauq." "J-U-S-T- Qavavauq, got it.". Of course it may very well have been his first name, I really don't know. His grave does look out over some pretty spectacular country though.
Edit: Last night I chatted with one of Qavavauq's granddaughters, and she remarked that the inuktitut on the headstone translated to "Jusi". I don't know why I didn't bother to read the sylabbics, but what is more is that the name says "Jusi" in English as well, not "Just". I can't believe that I mis-read that so much, and over and over again.
I sat in the warmth of the sun, looking over that spectacular scene. Dressed for riding on the snowmobile I was far too warm for sitting in the equinoctial sun. I took off my fur hat and found that my balaclava underneath was soaked in sweat, I took it off and laid it beside me to dry or freeze dry. And so I sat, warm and content, trying to erase some of the paleness of my face, listening to that profound silence, inhaling deeply the aroma of my coffee. Coffee that probably in the last year was berries ripening under an Ethiopian sun. What an amazing land we live in. I turned to Qavavauq's grave and raised my cup silently, thanking him for sharing his piece of the Earth with me. And then it was time to press on, for there were other birds to search for.
I was headed to the mouth of Adam's Sound, a point called Nuvuaq. It's actually one of two points called that near here. They have longer names to distinguish them, but I can never remember then. The land is lower here and I planned on looking for ptarmigan, before heading back home. At the first opportunity I turned off the sea ice and head up the hill.
And then came my short sharp reminder about how quickly things can turn south on you up here. As I climbed the bank I turned a bit to avoid a large rock coming my way. That was all it took and the snowmobile tipped. There was nothing I could do to stop it from going over, and down I went.
I wasn't quite perpendicular to the hill, and as the result fell slightly down hill beside the machine. It wanted to keep rolling and it took all the strength I could muster in my left arm to keep it from rolling over me. Pushing against it until it came to rest I strained (slightly) something in my left hand. But that wasn't the worst of my troubles. My left foot was pinned under the machine, the edge of the running board across the wide part of foot. The weight of the machine growing. It hurt but I was pretty sure that nothing was broken. I strained to pull out my foot but couldn't. Constant pressure against the machine with my left hand kept it from pressing harder against my foot. Pushing hard I could relieve some of the pressure, but not enough that I could free myself. I settled down to think about my options.
I was probably fifteen kilometres from town, with not much prospect of anyone coming by soon. I did have my satellite phone tucked inside my jacket, keeping the battery warm, and I decided that I could retrieve it with little trouble. It was in the warm sun, and dressed warmly, albeit a little sweaty so I wasn't going to freeze in the short term anyway. My hand and foot hurt, but I was pretty sure there were no serious injuries. People knew where I was going, and roughly when I intended on coming back, the snowmobile was bright yellow and I wasn't hidden from view. All in all, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
So after a bit of a rest I again pushed the snowmobile away from me, but after a couple of tries I knew I couldn't free my foot like that. However, I could feel my foot coming out of my boot, and decided with a good effort I could free myself if I left my boot behind. So I rested, and tried again. Success, I relieved the pressure on my foot enough I could wiggle it free from the boot and the snowmobile.
When I tried to right the machine while trying to keep my bootless foot from getting wet or plunging it into the snow however I couldn't get enough purchase to push the machine past the tipping point. I took out the phone and set it on a rock, contemplating that phone call back to town. Instead I got down and was able to dig snow out from under my boot enough to pull it free. I then shifted the machine around so gravity wasn't working as hard against me and managed to right it.
Trying to continue up the slope just got me stuck so I pulled and ran the machine out of the deeper snow and down the hill behind me. From there it was a matter of turning around and heading back down to the ice. I decided to give up finding any birds other than Ravens for the day, they would be my Birds of the Equinox, magnificent birds that they are. I looked around, had one last cup of coffee and slunk back to town, perhaps more aware, but doubtfully wiser.