big bend

Day 11, Thursday, August 15, 1996

Last night I slept in a park shelter near a section of a river known as "Big Bend". This portion of the river is larger and more meandering than the upper sections of the Soper. There is less drop in the land, so rapids are fewer and shorter in length (to my disapointment). The mountains are smaller in size, but also there are outcroppings of different rock formations, which provides the background for todays adventure. Today is the day for the "Quest for the Lapis". Lapis is a semi precious stone used in jewelry, because of its attractive blueish white appearance. Lapis and Mica have been mined in very small quantities back in the early 1900's by Scottish settlers in the Soper River valley. Based on Max's memory from a previous trip we set out to to find these mines.

meet Meeting up with Robert (GNWT) and Peter (Katannalik Park Ranger)

As I stepped out of the shelter I noticed Wade standing on the plateau near the river.He looked like a man in deep contemplation of the beauty of the surroundings, but then I realized today was the day for the interview with Sheila Rogers of the CBC radio program "Morningside". He was anxiously waiting for a phone call via a satellite from Toronto. Shortly after the interview began a large male caribou came trotting up the beach on the opposite side of the river. The 4 of us immediately put our arms up into the air (pretend antlers) and started to make our interpretation of what caribou sound like. Max had told us that is how biologist approach these animals. It has yet to work for us, maybe Baffin Island caribou are smarter than other caribou located in other regions of the country?

lapis Lapis Lazuli pit

After we broke camp and started on our way we came to a region similar in memory to a region Max had visited 3 years previous to look for the mines. The region appeared to have a much different outcropping which was some type of calcite rock. We decided to stop paddling have lunch and head into the hills.

claim Max and Dan with found land claim

After about 25 minutes of walking we came across the first sign that we were in the right area; a miners staked claim. Obviously we got excited and decided to split up. After a further 20 minutes of looking, Wade spotted a small pit that was litterly glowing in the sun.

mica Mica pit

The 4 of us sprinted off like Donavan Bailey and came across one of the original Mica pits. The pieces of Mica were strewn around the hole giving it that glowing appearance. As soon as we had got our fill we went on the search for the Lapis. As it turned out the Lapis pit was about 300 m from the Mica pits, but we walked the perimeter of the claim the opposite way and spent another hour until we found the Lapis. I find it really amazing that this far north and that number of years ago people were actually trying to mine minerals and make a living so far from the markets of the US and Europe. It must have been a really exciting time for geologists and people with the desire to explore.

We ended up camping up on a plateau of very soft moss on the foot of Mt. Flemming which we will hike in the morning. Until tommorrow........

donmax Don and Max

Today's installment of the travelogue is provided by Dan Mallett.

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