Hudson Bay Helicopters:
Blood on Stone
left the bears to traverse Hubbard Point. As we approached the site, Virginia
rang out over the intercom, "look at those tents rings, look how big
they are, they are gigantic!"
is no doubt that the stone tent rings were
big, and, that she was excited. Not only were they big, however, they
were plentiful. This had been an active hunting site for the Eskimos a
thousand years ago and more.
Steve circled the point as we squeezed off some shots. He had not landed
here before, but that was not a problem. Steve merely looked over the site and then placed her down as
gently as a breeze sweeping across the grass covered hillside. The plan
was to drop Dan, Virginia, and myself off to start our exploration of the
point. Steve would take Quentin straight up to 3-5 thousand feet over the
island. From that advantage, Quentin was to take slightly off-perspective
aerials from which Dan, who was also the acknowledged computer wizard,
would build a 3-D model of the point's contours for the Seal River web
Quentin handed me the sawed off
shotgun with some quick instructions for warding off the polar bears if
they decided to check us out. The first two rounds were
"cracker" shells that would burst with a crackling explosion to
scare off any wayward bear, but the remaining rounds were for real. Slugs
and BB's to knock them on their ass. I am not one to worry unduly over low
probabilities so I tucked the gun into my belt and backed off slightly to
get some photographs of Steve getting airborne. After Steve's helicopter
had shrunk to the size of a green hornet, I headed up the hill to view the
stone tent rings.
Virginia had already flown
like a spring bee from flower to flower in her excitement to hover over
the multitude of culturally rich sites. "Here is a kayak rest,"
she pointed out. I looked blankly at a jumble of stones.
"Where? I asked. I don't
Virginia pointed out two
parallel lines of stones and the image sprung to my mind. I could envision
how an Eskimo could pull a kayak up along the center of those stones and
leave the kayak high and dry. The only problem was that we were 30 meters
away from the shoreline and 10 meters above the high water mark. The
archeologist explained that as the glaciers melted and retracted they
relieved a great weight off the land. After a predictable amount of time
the land would rebound and the shoreline would recede. Thus the stone tent
rings and kayak rests are now to be found at least 10 meters above the
high tide mark.
In fact, Virginia had worked
out the details of such a "rebound" theory and predicted that
you could find evidence of camping and hunting sites at certain levels of
terrain and from the elevation you could date the period the camps were
From here we went on to closely
examine the tent circles. We were mostly concerned with finding some
archeological evidence, other than the most obvious stone circles, of
inhabitation. Stone tools are the best find, but percussion flakes or bone
fragments are acceptable. Within minutes I found a percussion flake
knocked off from a piece of chert.
Chert is a flint like stone
that flakes easily with the right strike pressure, and combined with a
percussion point it is direct evidence of human habitation. A percussion
point can only be made by deliberation. Percussion points cannot be made
by an accident in nature. Thus, even if an archeologist cannot find an
arrow head or a skin scraper tool, they can still find out a lot about the
civilization who lived in the tents by the type and amount of man-made
chert flakes found littered around the old camp sites.
At first Virginia doesn't
believe me as I hold up my precious find, but after examination she
concurs. Shortly after she finds herself some stone flakes and begins to
fill a small zip-lock plastic bag with a series of treasures. After an
hour of this she is visibly disappointed at not finding anything more.
This site, however, has most likely been picked over by passing hunters
and the occasional amateur archeologist to where only a proper dig could
uncover more. We knew that anyway. But the stone circles were enough. They
were huge, they were numerous, and they were impressive.
These sites must have been a
slaughter of activity during the hunting season. The tents would have been
erected near the water where they could quickly launch their kayaks from
their door-stones. The question we pondered as we sat upon the stones
looking over the bay was what brought them here in the first place? What
did they come to hunt? Seals, caribou, whales? Our question was answered
as about then a large pod of beluga whales entered the bay heading to what
looked like a dead end corner.
The beluga swam slowly and
peacefully into the depth of the bay and then proceeded to turn slightly
to swim through a breach in the reefs jutting off from the shore. I never
thought they could get through, but they managed nicely. As we watched a
second larger pod of about 50 individuals entered the bay and headed
through the same breach. Virginia surmised that this path must have been
the same one follow for the past thousand years, except then the land
would have been much lower in elevation and consequently the reefs easier
The hunters gathered here to
hunt the whales as they still do in parts of the arctic. The uploading of
the land and the rising of the terrain would not have been noticed by
either the hunters or the hunted as they passed through the generations.
Only the geologists and the archeologists of the world notice.
In the meantime, Steve has come
back announcing his presence with a fly-by. Like a green winged teal
checking out a landing site, Steve sweeps the area at full speed and then
comes back in for a landing. Hover landing. There is nothing sweeter.
After finishing their photo
assignment, Quentin had a second chance to photograph the polar bears and
he managed to get some great shots. So did I.
Reluctantly, as we do not
want to leave Hubbard Point, we all climb back into the Helicopter. Virginia
has been pouring over the maps and has some high ground picked out for
Steve to have a look at as we fly home. Her theory is that, although these
areas are now land locked, they would have been right on water's edge back
a few thousand years ago. The likelihood was that they would have been
good camp sites and thus good areas to look for habitation. Tent rings and
As we approach the area, I can
see Virginia is getting excited. The high ground looks promising. She can
see evidence of more rings. It doesn't take much coaxing from her to convince
Steve to land so we can take a look around. Besides, considering the lack
of anything enticing around to attract anyone else here, there is a good
chance no one has ever landed here before. A real bush pilot could not
resist such temptation. So land Steve does.
Here on this barren hummock,
was a good 6 to7 healthy bushes growing in perfect circle clumps. A
mystery to me, but not to Virginia. These were tent circles. Even after
the hundreds of years that have passed since these hunting sites were
abandoned, the sites were still fertile from bio-nutrients. The smeared
seal fat, the bits of bone and marrow, the urine from the guys stepping
out and having a pee in the snow. The proteins and fats and minerals left
from human habitant still clung to the barren soil and fed the nutrient
requirements of these hardy bushes.
Since the bushes
because of the tent circle nutrients, they also grew in a tight circle
right inside where the tent used to stand. Around these circles we began
our search for evidence of stone tools. Although no one said it, we knew
this site was virgin and with the constant wind erosion on the sandy soil
there must be some exposed tools laying on the surface somewhere. The
probabilities were high on finding a tool in it's entirety.
Time was short, however, and
besides, the inland black flies were ferocious. (Another good reason for
pitching camp near the ocean. Less bugs. The polar bears and the caribou
know that.) Finding the site was the most important event of the day, as
it proved Virginia's theory that you could locate important archeological
sites by the lay of the land. By reading contours according to the time
frame laid out by the unloading of the land and with the proximity to
water during the most likely periods you could make a best guess estimate
of where to find habitation. Within minutes Virginia had found percussion
Now if we could only find a
tool. Personally I felt challenged, because I had always prided myself on
having a knowledgeable eye for spotting man made artifacts at
archeological sites. I had been good at finding arrow heads and scraper
tools since I was 10 years old. As the blackflies ate my ankles into
hamburger I scoured the ground. I started near the tent circles, but as
time ran short I concentrated on the visibly eroded sandy spots. I
consciously thought of Richard Leaky along the shores of Kenya's Lake
Time was now up and we headed
back to the helicopter. Steve needed to be back in Churchill before dark
and he needed to drop us at the Seal River Heritage Lodge before
continuing. As every one else climbed back into the chopper, I dragged out
my last moments like a smoker having the last pull before boarding the
plane. I walked slowly across the last sandy patch, knowing I had flown
10,000 miles to get to this place. Knowing that I would never get back
And then it appeared like every
10 year old kid's shiny "nickel." A true sign from heaven is if
god places the price of an ice-cream cone right on your pathway like the
shining star of Bethlehem itself. A chert scraper tool. A small
insignificant little thumb tool. I bent over to pick up my treasure and it
fairly leapt to it's cradle. Twice again as big as my thumb, with a valley
flaked out to fit the fat of the thumb and a ridge to push on, the split
chert was as sharp as any knife. The Eskimo would scrape the fat off the
freshly slaughtered caribou or seal by holding the tool between the thumb
and the forefinger and pushing forward and upward with gentle rhythmic
I felt the smoothness of the obsidian like stone and with my other thumb
the sharpness of the blade. It was still sharp and for the most part clean
after all these years. Along the edge of the blade and on a spot along the
top were tiny growths of red and light green lichen. Like the weather worn
bushes surviving inside the ancient tent circles, the lichen clung to the
last of the blood nutrients left on the blade by its maker. Here was,
written in blood and stone and as read by animal and vegetable, the circle
of life. I held the tryst in my hand. As fashioned by man, I had the sword
in the stone. And I would not give it up.
As I walked to the helicopter,
I slipped the stone tool from between my finger and thumb into the palm of
my hand. Here I clutched the cold until it grew warm. I kept it to myself,
because to me it meant the connectivity between the past and my present.
In a museum the cold stone tool would get a tag and number and be filed in
some dark room. In my palm it gave life meaning. I walked off that barren
knoll with the ghost of the hunter/tool maker clutched in the palm of my
hand. I felt his presence. Like the artisan who passed the tool making
skills to his son, I wanted to pass that spirit to my son,.
can make a percussion point. Only man can fashion such a tool. Only man can make the connectivity between
past and present. And only with deliberate effort whether it is blood on
stone or blood on steel. That is the history of us
Imagesİ by John S Goulet
Article and Images by John S
Churchill and the Seal River Heritage Lodge. The Fly-in Pancake Breakfast, and where we meet our hosts
Mike and Jeanne Reimer. Ringed seals and Inuit tent rings. Polar bears and
beluga whales. We have it all! Including the
Steve Miller is
The attitude indicator will take you to Aviation
Top of this story.
Part one of this story.
modified on April 21st, 2013.
(c) Virtual Horizons, 1996.