the Winter 2004 Photolife Magazine Article

Journey into the Thelon

By Courtney Milne

page 1 


"We are on the fringe of the great North and its living whiteness, its loneliness and replenishment, its resignation, and release, its call and answers its cleansing rhythms. It seems that the top of the continent is a source of spiritual flow that will ever shed clarity into the growing race of America, and we Canadians, being closest to this source, seem destined to produce an art somewhat different from our Southern fellows an art more spacious, of a greater living quiet, perhaps of a more certain conviction of eternal values."


  Lawren Harris, 1926, Canadian painter

and member of the Group of Seven

Though my journey to the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary of the Northwest Territories ended several weeks ago (in early September 2003), the experience is as fresh and vivid as the Arctic light we encountered. In a very real sense, a large part of me has not yet returned. I look up and see Tom Faess (Tundra Tom), owner of Great Canadian Wildlife Adventures, arc his Cessna 185 into a tight bank, then dip a wing as he flies low over our base camp on Whitefish Lake. Hes spotted a herd of caribou and is signaling to us to head for the beach and be ready for the trip by boat to a landing within walking distance of the herd. A two-kilometre hike equals a ten thousand-year journey into the ancient past.


I have converged here with a dozen friends for the rendezvous of a lifetime. We hail from across Canada and the United States, to get a taste of the real North. We will experience its autumn finery by day and the mystery of its skies by night.


Our camp consists of five weather-ports, each accommodating two people in each end, extra tents for a staff of five, a kitchen and dining room, a wash house complete with a gravity-fed hot water shower, and two outhouses known affectionately as the twin towers. The camp fronts onto Whitefish Lake, about 120 km southwest of the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected piece of real estate in North America. Whitefish Lake is huge and offers an infinite number of moods to enjoy or for the camera to record. The lake forms the headwaters of the Thelon River that flows eastward for a thousand kilometres, eventually emptying into Hudson Bay.





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