Eighteen years ago this July, a group of 14 adventurers unloaded tents, gear, food, canoes, and two guitars from the back of a big old bus and loaded them into 7 canoes in a nondescript boat launch outside of Yellowknife, NWT. For the next 47 days, they would paddle against the current, slog through bogs, traverse hummocks and skree as they made their way to and then down the fabled Coppermine River. They would paddle through smoke so thick they couldn't see the person sitting in their bow, would backtrack a full day's paddle to retrieve a set of lost tent poles, and would scout rapids from atop a cliff that held a memorial to the unlucky souls who had drowned in the waters below. They watched the trees thin out as they approached the tree line and then disappear altogether as they ventured into the wild open tundra. They caught fish in lakes that have never heard the purr of motors and marveled at the feeling that they might be the only person to have ever stepped on that particular stone. At night, they would sit in the dusky half-dark and talk and sing, letting the foreign human noise wash over the tundra as far as the wind would carry it. How strange it must have sounded to the moss and the willows hugging tight to the ground.
Back then, there was no expectation that these moments would be captured or shared through anything other than static photographs. Instead, the sounds and smells of that adventure were woven deep into the fibers of each of their beings. The memories for the most part lie dormant, but occasionally they percolate to the surface in surprising and refreshing ways.
I felt those memories rush back when I listened to the pair of albums just released by a science-art duo called Predator/Prey. The scientist is a fisheries biologist who dragged his guitar faithfully into the Canadian wilderness every summer leading up to our grand adventure to the Arctic Ocean. The artist is a musician who captures the beauty of Canada's ecosystem on film. They are Dak de Kerckhove and Adam Phipps, respectively. Their collaboration was itself conceived of on a camping trip in Alberta and is heavily influenced by their love of the natural world. Have a listen and see what it stirs in you:
When we ended that trip at the mouth of a bay that opened up into the Arctic Ocean, I knew we had great things in store for us. How spectacular to reconnect with a fellow adventurer over this album.
You can download the pair of albums for free through their website: http://thepredatorprey.com
If you like what you hear, vote for them in the CBC's Searchlight Contest for the Best New Canadian Talent. You can vote here once a day until Monday, April 28, 2014.
You may also be interested in their eco-inspired game: The Fox Hunts
If you're wondering where you can go on the kind of adventure described above, check out Camp Wanapitei and their adult tripping counterpart & outfitter, Wanapitei CANOE.