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  • August 16, 1997

    Geoffrey Peake, Chief Guide of the Hide Away Canoe Club (HACC) writes:

    GEOFF PEAKE  This evening we officially reached the tidewater of Ungava Bay. Our hunt for it began a few miles after leaving the Helen's Falls fish camp. They told us there that the maximum tidal effect reaches about 10 km. below their camp, or about 60 km. from the town of George River. As we paddled along we looked for the telltale signs of tidal influence--dropping water line, salty water, or change of current direction. We were not as impatient as either Mina Hubbard's or Dillon Wallace's parties, who found the last stretch to the village excruciatingly long paddling, and were constantly tasting the water for any taste of saltwater. At high tide, the substantial Ungava tides actually drown out the last few rapids. We had sort of hoped that this would be the case with us, and that we would be spared the ordeal of those last few rapids, which on our previous trips had been the cause of considerable stress. The rapids are very rocky and large.

     Alas, our much watched for tidal current did not appear, and by 6:30 PM, we heard the familiar roar of a rapid ahead. After careful scouting we all ran through the final splash of whitewater, dodging the last of many rocks we had passed in the last few weeks, and crossed the bay to a large sandy beach which looked rather inviting. We pitched our tents well up from the edge, and placed various markers in the sand to try and determine which way the tide was going. After a couple of minutes of observation it became quite clear that the tide was rising. The next important question was how much higher it was going to rise. We all chose tent sites that seemed to allow for a generous allowance of rise, but after about an hour it became clear that Michael and Peter's waterfront property was about to become sub-tidal. By this time we noticed the roar of the last rapid had entirely disappeared. The waters had risen about 5 feet. As the line of advancing tide neared my tent, Peter Scott became a little anxious.
     "I don't want a repeat of the last time" he said. He was referring to the final night of a trip we did on the Queen Charlotte Islands, which also has substantial tides. I chose what I believed to be a suitable location, and assured him so, but about midnight salt water started seeping through the front door of the tent; a flurry of activity followed. Had a bypasser been walking by that night he might have seen several scantily-clad individuals apparently dragging in a tent from the sea.
     I assured him that THIS time, it would be different. Gradually our waterfront property became atlantean. Water started lapping up on the support lines, then the edge of the poles. Peter started taking gear out of the tent.
     "And what our you doing" I asked imperiously.

     "We're going to have to move this tent" Peter responded. His assertion was supported with a general chorus of agreement from the small crowd of bystanders who had clustered around our tent, taking bets on how much longer we would last. David provided his own version of scientific data. Drawing evenly spaced lines up the beach, he charted the rate of rise and assured me that our tent had to be moved immediately. He walked next to our tent and made motions like he was going to start moving it.
     "Don't touch our tent, Dave. Just because you gave in doesn't mean we have to" Dave and Tom had bravely retreated well up onto the edge of the beach. We almost needed binoculars to see their tent now. Finally, I made my move. Standing on the waters edge I raised my arms and shouted for the tide to stop. There was general chorus of laughter at the futility of my efforts. Peter rolled his eyes heavenward, dreading the prospect of a wet tent. Slowly, though, it became apparent that the tide's rise had halted. Even Dave's crude scientific data told him this was so. After about 5 minutes, a thin sliver of shoreline reappeared in front of our tent. For once, it appears, I was right.
     This was a grand night for finishing a trip. The sky cleared out, the moon came up, and northern lights danced overhead. Tomorrow we will have to time our departure well; we need to ride the tide out to take advantage of the current, then enter George River Harbour at high tide...just another 32 kilometers to the end.

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