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Notebook of an Arctic Explorer Dan Gerber I woke this morning to the clattering call of sandhfll cranes and lay for a moment trying to make sense of the beamed ceiling of my bedroom. A week earlier I had awakened to this same unmusical song in a tent on a nameless lake scarcely 200 mues from the Magnetic North Pole. Why, I wondered , are these cranes here now in this abundance, on a hot summer morningjust west ofthe Teton range in eastern Idaho, whüe those other cranes are standing on the thin tundra sou, a few inches above the permanent ice shelf, where, aheady now in late August, winter is earnesdy presenting its card. The movements of animals and the reasons behind them are matters of conjecture , even for scientists. These cranes are here and those cranes were there. ? Just before I left, somewhat reluctantly, for my ten day trip to the Arctic, I told my wife that I reaUy envied her the time she would spend there at home without me. Though maybe what I was reaUy up to in going was trying to take a vacation from me. We see the world by the light of our own moon, someone said. The shadow it casts is no one else's. Though the Arctic moon was too pale for shadows, above a land that, inAugust, never gets dark. And in the low sun along the horizon, my shadow was the longest I've ever seen, aU legs with no head at aU. I was watching the shadow of our 737 as it dropped down to meet us on the runway at Kaluktutiak, more commonly known as Cambridge Bay. And suddenly our shadow, die runway, and then the entire Arctic coasdine disappeared in a cloud ofsmoke, which turned out to be a cloud ofdust. I'd never before landed on a gravel runway in a commercialjet, and it alerted me to die fact that, with the possible exception ofthe Kaisut Desert, I'd never been quite this far off the beaten path. Just below the gravel is the permafrost, so you 26 Dan Gerber27 could, I suppose, say we were landing on ice. I'd also never flown in a commercial jet with moveable bulkheads sectioning off most of the fuselage for cargo, ahead of the six or eight rows of seats provided for passengers. Cambridge Bay (Pop. 1,400, mostly Inuit) is the demographic center of an Arctic island the size ofTexas. I had hoped to see what Polaris might look Uke this close to the pole and to see The Great Bear directly overhead revolving around it, but between prevaiUng cloud cover and the absence this time ofyear of anything resembling what I think of as night, apart from the sun I saw no stars at aU. ? Ostensibly, I came here at the invitation of my son Frank to fly-fish for Arctic char. This expedition is my sixtieth birthday present, and since I wfll have my birthday above theArctic Circle on a day on which night wfll never reaUy fall, I'm wondering if, technicaUy I remain 59. The Arctic char is most closely related to the DoUyVarden trout, though greater in size; due to the lower Ught conditions and the greater density of colder water, as Barry Lopez points out,1 Arctic fish species tend to have larger eyes and to be stronger swimmers than their more southerly counterparts. Except in desert country, fishing is always a good excuse for travel and a Ugature around which to bufld an adventure. We have no concrete information about fly-fishing for char, no guides to teU us what sorts ofarrangements offeathers and fur might appeal to a char, so our fishing wfll be largely experimental . But then everything about this trip, into country so urflike anything we've experienced, wfll be largely experimental. We've brought just about every imaginable kind of streamer and dry fly but find, oddly that flies designed to attract tropical bonefish are the most effective. And I discover that the closest analogy I can make to fishing for char is fishing for the bonefish. You present the fly in clear water over...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1544-1733
Print ISSN
1522-3868
Pages
pp. 26-34
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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