Friday, March 18, 2005

 

Freeze-Up!!! (I mean "Frozen-In"!!!)

The years of my career when I lived in Little Grand Rapids, and I did a lot of flying for Native trappers and rice harvesters in the fall, were probably the most enjoyable I have experienced. I loved going to the rice fields, bringing supplies to the camp, and hauling out the rice, although maneuvering in the rice stalks on a windy day was a pain. Taking trappers to their secluded cabins on their traplines, drinking weak tea and Carnation milk, and returning home with some smoked whitefish, or a loin of moose meat, was always a treat. I enjoyed the people, as Native people can find much humour in everyday situations, and in themselves.

One thing I always found about the Native people, though, is that they never plan ahead. Ideas are acted on "spur of the moment", and this used to drive me nuts, being one who thinks and plans ahead. I would get phone calls to make trips that would have me arriving back at our Base at "twilight", with the morning and afternoon passing by, wasting all the prime flying hours. I would ask the people why they wouldn't fly earlier in the day, and they would reply that they just thought to make the trip "right now".

Another comical aspect of this situation was that if the people had to travel somewhere, if the weather was good, they wouldn't go. They would go fishing and enjoy the weather, and the phone at the Air Base wouldn't ring at all. Then, as soon as the weather crapped out, now it was time to go flying. The phone would ring off the wall, with people wanting to go flying, and asking when the weather was supposed to clear! Maddening!!!

In late October, we would usually fly a large number of families from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi out to their respective traplines in Manitoba and Ontario. Apisko Lake, Black Currant Lake, Rheaume Lake, Black Birch Lake, Sparrowhawk Lake, Red Willow Lake, White Eye Lake, Artery Lake, Noname Lake, Dogskin Lake, Frances Lake, Irwin Lake, Lewis Lake, Herod Lake, and Spoonbill Lake, to name about a dozen of the traplines we flew to. There were numerous others.

This one year in particular, we had an Indian summer in October that stretched right to the end of the month. The problem with the Indian summer was that we had already had a period of very cold weather, and the water temperature had already dropped to just above freezing. When the Indian summer hit, all the local people put their preparations for trapping and freeze-up on hold and went fishing!! I just shook my head, as I knew what was to be in store.

Sure enough, the weather started to turn cold and crap out, and now everybody was in a panic to go flying. Well, we worked our asses off, and flew in some extremely poor weather, in rain, in snow, in wind, and managed to compress all the flying into a short number of days.

Finally, we knew it was only a matter of about a day before it froze solid, and on the last day we flew trappers out, our Cessna 180 had to return from White Eye lake without landing and dropping people off, because the lake had frozen solid during the day!

We got all the flying done, and decided we would leave, and head south to change-over to wheels, the next day. It was already into November, and we had already waited too long to leave due to the "last-minute-antics" of the local people. We cooked up walleye and consumed "copious quantities" of beer that night! We were finished!

Morning came, and, you guessed it. The planes were frozen in like "The Endurance", Ernest Shackleton's ship. I knew it was going to happen, and it had cleared off overnight after snowing, and the temperature had plummeted.

We went to work chopping ice, and loosening the planes. There was open water about 150 yards away where we could take-off, but we would have to get there first. We also used our boat, an 18' Lund with a 20 HP Johnson. The ice was about an inch and a half thick, and once it piled up, and got caught in the prop, it was a real pain.

We made a trail, loaded the airplanes with our personal gear, and taxied to the open water, following the boat, and pushing ice pans. We took off and headed south, glad to be airborne, with another float season in the bag. As we flew south, just about all the lakes we crossed were frozen. I shook my head as I looked out the window, then had to chuckle, regarding the "in a hurry to go nowhere fast" attitude of the Native people. I was actually a bit jealous, as with the lifestyle that we "southern" people lead today, with deadlines, schedules, bills to pay, and seemingly insurmountable debt, the concept that "where to fish?" would be the major decision of the day, was, to me, quite appealing!


CF-LDW and C-GJJG sit forlornly at the dock, freezing their "nuts" off. Indian summer and the local population's lack of preparation had put the 2 good ships in this predicament. Posted by Hello


An early morning view from my house. Lots of work ahead!! Posted by Hello


CF-LDW, frozen in at the dock.  Posted by Hello


C-GJJG sits frozen into the ice and "chilled to the bone". The aircraft would have to be cleaned off, and the engine pre-heated, before she could "make like the geese", and head south..... Posted by Hello


I man the boat, breaking ice and breaking trail!! Posted by Hello


Having cleaned the aircraft off, and made a trail through the ice towards open water, we prepared to head south for change-over. Posted by Hello


Pushing a large pan of ice, I make it to open water in C-GJJG. Once airborne, we headed south to change over to wheels, another float-season over, and completed safely!! Posted by Hello

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