(What is a Bushman’s Thong? That, my friends you will find at the very end)


                     TO DO SO  AS  SECRETLY AS POSSIBLE

alan skeoch
March 22, 2019

Three men I will never forget…Floyd, Bob and  Walter.  We  were  thrown together by accident in that summer of 1958.
Floyd Faulkner was our crew chief.  Bob Hilkar was our instrument man.  Walter Helstein, was our soul.  I think of his sad ending often.  
 Me?  AIan Skeoch, a 19 year old blank slate, just a few days out of high school.
 “So you are a Boy Scout, let’s see how you handle a  real  wilderness.  No badge
for this job, Alan.” jeu said/  “No, you are wrong, there is a  badge.”  And we all laughed.

Floyd Faulkner

Bob Hilkar

Walter Helstein

Alan Skeoch

July 2 – 5, 1958

And so the adventure begins.  I reported  to company HQ at 1950 O’Coinnor Drive with my bag packed  for the summer.  Never knew how long…did  not know
where I was going…had no idea who I was going with…had no idea how we were to get there.  Did not really know why I was hired in that summer of 1958.
“We needed a Boy Scout to baptize into the real  world,” commented Floyd or Bob. One of them. They intended to make a man of me.  And I think they did
that.  The events of that summer are still crystal clear in meh mind now…61 years later in my 80th year.  

 Mom and dad were a  little concerned as  the whole plan seemed
sort of loosey goosey  Who were these men that called  themselves  ‘geophysicists’?   
Right from the get go there were problems.  Our Land Rover had not arrived nor had the canoe which was to be strapped to the Rover’s roof.   And the two way radio was
still being overhauled.  If we needed a two way radio that meant we were heading into the wild unknown.  No telephone booths.  

“Go back home, Alan, gear not ready quite yet.”  Fine, I thought, for  I was already on the payroll.

  Floyd Faulkner and Bob Hilker  Both seemed  nice but a little distant .
They were veteran  bushmen.  I  was just a  high school kid.   First day we drove to Oshawa where the company  had a fleet of Canso double engined aircraft.
Vintage World  War II submarine hunters.
One of the Canso’s had  already overflown our target dragging an  airborne magnetometer.  The mag readings  indicated several anomalies worth detailed  ground
mapping.  We were that three man mapping team.  “Keep your mouth shut about the job, others are interested.” said our big boss, Dr. Norman Paterson.  He
made me feel like a military hit man  being sent on a mission.   

Dr. Paterson gave us a  final briefing on July  3. “This is  a  rough job, you will be  dropped  by  aircraft as  close as  we can  get to the anomalies.  Virgin forest.
No people, no trails, no transport except the canoe and your feet.”  Dr. Paterson was a  bit intimidating…long and lean…a serious  scientist who had  been
a student under Dr. Tuzo Wilson…the man who put the expression Plate Tectonics  in the dictionary.  I felt we were doing something important…something
that would change the world.  I was part of the  team… on the bottom rung of the geophysical ladder.  “What is my role?”, was  a question that I was afraid to ask.  As thing turned  out I should have
known when Dr. Paterson mentioned a blazing axe.  A blazing axe differs  from a  regular axe. It is smaller, lighter and is used to blaze trails  through virgin forest.
the idea is simple…lop a chunk  out of both sides  of trees ensuring that the line of blazes makes sense…i.e. going somewhere.  Why both sides of the trees
are hacked  should be obvious…one way into the wilderness  and to get back out follow the alternate blazes.  That was to be my job.  It was  never fully explained.
As things turned out all the jobs  were shared.  This  was to be a real learning experience.  Could I handle the job?  I thought and  was comforted  by a line
from Mr. Fred Burford, our football coach at Humberside  Collegiate Institute…”When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  That line was called  upon
many times  in the following two and a half months.

July 6, 1958

“Al, meet us  at the corner of Bloor and Jane…bring what you need for three months…but all in one bag.”   Mom and dad  got a little worried.  Who were these
strangers?  They were not even coming to our house but asking Alan to meet them on a street corner.  So dad  came along.  My dad is a tough customer so he
planned to check ‘these assholes out’ before allowing me to crawl into the Land Rover.  Dad knew the difference between normal  assholes and  dangerous assholes.
Floyd, my crew chief, was gruff but solid.  So  dad  helped  stow my rucksack in the back of the Rover and waved me off for the summer.  This was  a  rite of passage.

We headed  north to Gravenhurst where we ate a huge dinner on the expense account.  The Food was heartburn hell but cost was on the company tab.  Then we carried
on northward to South Porcupine.  Floyd  and Bob knew  each other so they gabbed  away.   At some point Floyd gave me a nickname that stuck like a turd on a boot.
“Fucking Al will do the blazing…ever blazed a  trail Al?”   Conversation ebbed and I got a little tired of straddling the gear shift.  “Floyd, could you stop and let me crawl
in the back on top of the gear…that would be more comfortable.” “Fucking good idea.”  I learned  that Floyd  used fucking as  an adjective for just about everything including
me…as in Fucking Al with a grin.  It was not a term of derision…sort of a term of endearment.  Sort of.   So I spent the rest of the long  long journey folded like a jackknife on our tents and rucksacks.
I even slept a bit.  I was a little scared.  Wondering just what the hell I had gotten myself into.  At North Bay we got a  canoe and  strapped  it to our roof. Lots of rattling.
I was determined to make the best of it…something to remember.

July 7

In Schumacker we visited our contractor, McIntyre Mines, where the geologist handed over a large sheaf of aerial photographs that pinpointed the anomalies  we were
to find and map.  “You guys will be the first mining persons ever to explore the wilderness northwest of the Groundhog River.”.  Was that true?  Wow…real wilderness.  We rented 
a  Beaver float plane from Austin Airways in South Porcupine for a flight on July 9 at 8 a.m.  McIntyre Mines  did not want us to use their plane lest other mining people
got wind  of our project.  Mining is super competitive.   The cloak of secrecy made the job  seem all that more important.

Floyd drove us to Timmins  where he handed  Blahey’s Food  Market a grub list that was to last three weeks. After that our food  supplies wold  be replenished b Blakey’s and
Austin Airways..  The word  “grub” or to use a more familiar ‘maggot’.   We would se lots of them on this trip, maybe even eat a few by mistake.
July 8

Today  we hired Walter Helstein to help with the line cutting.  Walter seems  a little too fat and a  little too old for what we are about to face.  I know that seems unkind.  Sorry
to say that but he has  a fatherly…even grandfatherly manner.  He speaks of the Great Depression and the Dirty Thirties as events  he has experienced only yesterday.
  Hard to say why he was hired.  Then again I have no idea why I was hired. For the rest of the day
we lounged  around South Porcupine…in the bright summer sunshine.  Then in the evening we went to a  small circus in Timmins.   

July 9

In the morning We  loaded  the Beaver float plane with all our gear and our instruments.  We had  so much gear that we needed two trips as the Beaver could only
carry 1100 pounds.   Walter Helstein and Bob Hilkar went with the first load. “Fucking Al and I will come later.”  My seat for our flight was  a crate of oranges some 
of which got crushed since we had  a rough landing an hour or so later on the Groundhog River.  The river is tough for a float plane because it is so muddy that
obstructions cannot be seen.  We bounced hard a  couple of times throwing huge chevrons of water as we powered  down.  “Water’s high this time of
year, but water level will drop fast.  Future landings will be difficult.”, said the pilot.

We  parked our Land  Rover beside the South Porcupine hotel for the summer.   Entered the bush  in early July, returned
on September 10.   Naurally, The spare tire was gone as was any loose  item after all this was Timmins, a tough mining
town.  I guess we should  have expected that.

Strapping our big four man canoe to the Beaver pontoon seemed  a  trifle dangerous  to me but normal to Floyd and Bob…and the Austin 
Airways  pilot.  Bob,  Walter and the canoe would  go first . A lopsided takeoff.

Floyd  and  I were wedged in among our gear and food supplies.  Not much spare room.  I wondered  how the pilot would know
we had reached the 1100 pound limit.  He had  no  scale. Just guessed.

 we began Erecting two tents even before the Beaver took off on its  return flight…. first our sleeping tent and next our cook tent and then Floyd looped a  long rope over a high tree branch on which would hang our meat supply “because otherwise the fucking bears  will get it.”   We did not know that a  bear was watching us.   He gave  us the  once over and planned a visit.
The little ‘bite ums no see  ups…sand  flies…are  really ferocious.  I get the feeling that we will be fly bate this summer.   Later in the evening Floyd and Bob showed  me
how to use stereo scope  on the aerial photographs.   Suddenly a flat surface become  three dimensional.  And our trip took on a cloak and dagger character.  We were
commandoes on a mission.

July 10

We  cut trees today and lashed a dock together.  Banks are very steep and  we expect water level to drop significantly.  Currently the river is
about 300 yards wide.  Seems immense.  We also erected  our radio antennae.  If anything goes wrong this will be the only way get help…if the radio actually works.  Floyd and Bob took the canoe down river and were caught in a terrible storm…drenched.  Then we had  our first big camp supper using our most perishable food.   As  dusk settled I wrote a  letter home.  Do not know why… the letter 
won’t get out for at least three weeks.

July 11

Rained all  morning so survey start delayed until afternoon when we piled in the canoe…four men in a single canoe is a challenge.  River current is  super fast. Drove us  at speed into a rock which 
ripped the canoe open but not fatally so.  Two of us bailed  while the other two frantically paddled us back to camp.  Patched the canoe with a piece of  canvas.  Then Floyd gave me a lesson
on setting a  survey line.  That was going to be my job. 
And this, Al, is blazing axe…smaller, lighter than a regular axe…Don’t cut your hand off with it…that float plane costs money, you know.”

 Flies are voracious.  Hard to say which  is worst.  The little black flies  that crawl in our ears  or slip behind our belt bands and munch.  Or the Moose flies  land  gently and tear a piece of skin if they have time.  These moose flies  are big yet able to make silent landings on exposed skin then chew holes.

July  12

Another day of heavy rain so we did  what we could to improve our campsite.  We  have chosen a Rough spot really quite high above the river.  Stupidly decided to test our Mae West life jackets  in the river.  That was like swimming 
among ice cubes…noted that the Groundhog River flows north to James Bay.   In other words this river was not like the Humber or Don  or Etobicoke creek…sweet and warn, We then took the canoe, hooked on the outboard 
engine, and  motored down  river for a  spin.  No sign of  human habitation.   Slight concern that our two way  radio was not working.  Who gives a damn?  Good to be alive and young and healthy … watching a beautiful sunset.

Some of our camps and anomalies we tried to locate…last camp was Kapik Lake

July 13

Nice sunny day…motored  five miles down the Groundhog River to check out our first anomaly.   Walter Helstein and  i set and cut line while  Floyd and Bob followed with the EM…principally two great hoops  of
tightly worn copper wire…looked like a hoop skirt without the underwear. Heavy.  And  a console with earphones to pick up the signals  sent from one to the other.  Coils had  100 foot separation each attached
to a heavy cable.  Walt and I had
to mark these separations  with pickets.   As mentioned earlier, this job was for the young.  Walter was about 59 years old and by five o’clock he was exhausted.   Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Walter but
did not expect him to keep up.

When  we got back to camp and made preparations for supper we found that others had  been in camp.  Blow flies had laid  their eggs in the meat a few days earlier and the maggots were hatching.  We cooked 
the meat anyway…and  ate what we could.  Boiled  maggots tasted  okay if they were eaten unseen.    Our radio is still not operating so any crisis will not be known to the outside world.

We  cut 3,000 feet of  trail for the E.M. unit today.

Bob and Walter with loaded canoe on Groundhog River

July 14

Hot and windy day.We motored back to the River anomaly.  Walter and  I blazed another trail for the E.M. unit…North East compass reading.   Walter having a very tough time.  Blazing sounds easy but that is
not the case.  There is  always  dense brush that has to be cleared so the compass shot will be straight.   Best to blaze trees that are on the compass  line but that is not always  possible.  The line must be straight.
Big obstructions  must be climbed over, waded through, or slashed and thrown to the side.  Today  we cut and marked 8,000 feet of line.

July 15

Today we checked out another anomaly whose  location was  confirmed  by aerial photographs.  Our base  camp is  located at the junction of a smaller creek or river where it joins the mighty Groundhog River.
We travelled  by canoe westward along this tributary to get as  close to the anomaly as possible.  Not easy.  The canoe bottomed out regularly as the creek was quite shallow.   A giant bull moose startled  us
as we came around a bend.  Or did we startle him?   We were more surprised I think because he just stood there for a few moments looking at us and then wandered  leisurely out of the water and into
the forest.  His antlers were so large that they spanned the creek.

Really tough day blazing trail into the anomaly and then cutting formal lines for the EM (Electro Magnetic) unit.  Nothing worse than a cedar swamp with tag alder shrubs. So much slashing that the blisters on my hands are getting
blisters beneath blisters.   To make matters worse we we’re unable to find the anomaly.

Our crew…living together for the duration of the job.  Lunch  break in the bush with pot of tea…see if  you can find the billy can.

When we stop for lunch there  is a danger that few new people in the bush  know.   The danger is piles…”your ass gets pulled out…the  sphincter muscle bulges…bloody painful”  “So, Al, do
not sit on those lovely soft spongy piles of moss.  Wet.  Wet underwear can cause piles.  Sit on a dry log or anything other that wet moss.” “You can get piles from constipation so keep the greasy 
food coming.”  What about heartburn?  “We have some  tummy pills.  Lots  of things  can go wrong on these jobs, Al”  Nice to be on a 2.5 month camping trip with know-alls that tell me  after the fact.

July 16

Tough day.  We went back up the tributary then followed  our previous  trail and extended it in a  vain search  for the airborne anomaly.  Half of  my time was  spent working with the E.M. transmitter
which was nice.  Creek is getting more shallow each day.   Canoe struck  bottom often today whereas yesterday we hit bottom only a few times.  We  startled a  family of  hell diver  ducks who submerged as 
we got close then popped  up some  distance away.   we blazed and traversed 18,000 feet of line criss  crossing what should be the anomaly.  The bush is  incredibly dense with cedars  and tag alders…and
swamps.  Cutting through cedar swamps is like trying to cut rubber bands…the branches  seem to be elastic and cause the axes to bounce back…must be careful.  Much of  the time we are standing in 
shallow  water.  Boots tend to leak.

Radio is full of dire news suggesting chance of another world war since the United  States marines have landed  in Lebanon.

Gum  Rubbers tend to leak which means wet socks which means  boiled feet which  mean white pock marked feet.  Not nice
I could peel skin from my feet as they  were pomogranates. (sp?)

July 17

Wildlife is sure abundant.  Just  today  we startled moose, mink, ducks, hawk, partridge and lots of little red  ground  squirrels.  These creatures  were the only nice thing about our day.  Hard cutting but
no luck finding the anomaly.  The creek is so low now that we decided to give up the search for the anomaly.  We did our best.  And there were many more blips picked up by the airborne magnetometer
and only so much time to confirm wether the blips were real or just a mistake.- Finding these anomalies will be no easy task.

I am bothered  by Heartburn often these days likely due to too much fried food.  Sickness has to just be accepted  as getting  to a doctor or even a drug store is impossible.  I dread  having a  toothache.
 The black flies  seem to love crawling through my hair just to get a little blood with a bite of my flesh.  Maybe I should shave…easier to crush the little devils with a  clean face.
Of course  escape from the flies is impossible.  Seems  they  love tight places such as under my belt.  That’s where most of my welts seem to be.  Keep clothing as loose as possible.

We spent an hour or so burning maggots in our garbage pit…thousands of them infested  our rotten rolls of bologna.

We changed the position of our radio antennae in an attempt to establish  contact with Austin Airways.  Radio silence.

Even though we blazed and surveyed 20,000 feet of line we still had no luck finding the anomaly.

July 18

We followed an old  blazed trail westward from our camp re-blazing as  we went.   Mystery who blazed original trail, perhaps some mining sleuth or maybe a trapper.   When the trail petered out we blazed a new trail
in North West direction for 6,000 feet.  A heavy rainstorm struck around three catching us several miles from our Base Camp. Arrived back about 6 p.m. soaked  to the skin. Depressing.  Later I skinned  a mink that
had been trapped  and killed recently.   For some strange reason the trapper who spent his  winters here left all his traps set.  Killed animals for no reason.  Floyd  suggested He may have died here last winter. “His
trappers  shack must be somewhere nearby.”  The forest west of us seems loaded with partridge…they show little fear as we approach.

Today we travelled 32,500 west from base camp to a beaver  dam we spotted on the aerial photos.  Right on target proving we can pin point the anomalies.

Trappers  Cabin found  on river bank.  Very rough place with heads of small animals  nailed  to logs.  Some skinning method I guess.

July 19

Ferocious Storm all night and morning prevented trail blazing so we stayed in base camp.  It was my meal shift so I had a chance to make breakfast rather extravagant.   French toast with thick slices  of sowbelly bacon
and lots of maple syrup and coffee.  Each of us has meal duty days in rotation.  In the afternoon the sun came out…an  opportunity to wash clothes and sun dry them on the tent ropes.   We cut a lot more scrub brush 
from around camp so we now have  clear view up and down the river.  Water level is dropping rapidly…down a foot since we arrived and going down each  day in spite of the rain.

Walter Helstein sunbathing in the nude.  He has the ability to ignore the blood seeking flies.

Any notion that our campsite was built with military precision should be wiped away by this shot.   Clean dry socks are the most important
item of clothing but the task to keep them so is impossible.   Wet socks help to boil our feet in wet boots.  As  mentioned earlier,Boiled feet are pock marked
and peeling.   Anybody believing this job was a luxury rich man’s camp has to be daft.  Many days were just constant agony.

July 20

Today we trekked one hell of a long way to reach Anomaly site Number 3 and the days ahead will be even longer.  Walt and I cut lines
for the E.M. unit to traverse using 100 foot stations  (see map for Sites 2 and 3).  To reach the site we had to cross a big active beaver dam
about 200 feet wide and 8 feet high in places. Six feet thick.These beaver have been here for a long time.

At lunch we found the bones of a young moose killed by a bear or hunter…or perhaps a cougar if stories of their presence can be true.  Maybe
it just died for the bones  have been here for some time.  Collected the teeth for what reason I do not know.

We returned to base camp very tired and went directly to bed.

Eureka!  A successful day even if tough.  We found the anomaly…high readings on the magnetometer and the E. M. unit just north of
the beaver dam.   

Anomaly site #3:  Eureka, we confirmed the airborne anomaly.  Set up a grid pattern
as indicated above.   Site #2 was less successful.

July 21

We retraced yesterdays’  trails then used compass to cut new trail North.  Very slow progress due to the damn
cedar and alder swamps and their thick vegetation.  I was point man using the compass and made a terrible mistake
having my heavy belt buckle too close to the compass.  We had  spent a couple of hours going in the wrong
direction…deflected.   When we realized our error, Floyd and Bob made fun of my stupidity.  Laughed at me.
So I threw a temper tantrum and began slashing the brush and heading nowhere really.  Which made them
laugh all the more.   Made me  laugh too.  Not my best day but i
guess I provided  some entertainment.   The compass error may not have been my fault for there were 
strong indications of a body of magnetite below us.  Floyd decided we should strike directly east through unblazed 
bush towards  the Groundhog River … far to the east.   “Walter, you go back retracing our blazed trail to Base Camp
then get the canoe to meet us somewhere up river.”  Well, things did not go well when sun got clouded  over
and  we got lost…strange how when lost in the bush we travel in circles.  Eventually we reached the
Groundhog River around 8 p.m. as darkness was descending.  Walter had been on patrol and found us thankfully.
Arrived  at camp dead tired.   Floyd and Bob told Walter about my temper tantrum.

As things turned out the errors  may not have been my fault.  The anomaly upon which we stood was likely
a whopping big magnetite find, confirmed by the aerial photo. Magnetite is strong enough to deflect
a compase…even  confuse a compass giving one false reading in one spot and another a few feet away.
Were we standing on a future copper mine?   If we were it was going to be one hell of  a place for mine
families to  live. Swamp…swamp…swamp.  I read somewhere that certain plants like magnetite.  Couldn’t
be  true.

Today we traversed  39,500 feet finishing the beaver dam anomaly.  Distance is  a guess though due to being
lost for hours.  Tomorrow Floyd decided to reconnoitre the territory east of the Groundhog River.

July 22

Today Floyd decreed  we would all have a day of rest.  Wonderful.  To top things off a moose appeared
close to our camp at the rivers edge.  I stalked  him with the canoe in order to get within camera range.
Then towards evening another moose appeared.  Floyd  and I chased him by canoe along the river bank
until he found a gap to scramble up and get away.  Moose around here seem interested in us as they move
away slowly if we approach.   One moose even seemed  to like music for he stuck his head out of the
brush behind our camp when we had cranked up the music as loud as possible.  The moose seem almost
tame.  A shame really for they are easy game for hunters.

Walter has become valuable in a totally unpredictable way.  He is our berry tester.  Lots of wild plants
are bearing berries but we have been cautious about eating them lest they are poison.  Walter has no
such caution.  He eats any berry he can find…well not any berry but most berries.  He even has
names for them.   Walter is  colour blind so all berries  look the same to him.  We even named one
berry a ‘Walterry’ as  we had no idea the true name.  If Walt could eat it, then it cannot be poison.

We always carried  a cup or some other thing that would rattle.  Bears do not like humans.  the rattling sound wold alert the bear and he or
she would move away.   Bears were present but I only saw one bear on the river bank.   In the picture above my cup has been filled with berries.  Rather than
a tight hat which black flies loved to slip under and chew my flesh.  I found a bandana with knots at the corners would 
work better since the black flies had no place hide in secret.

July 23

Today we again retraced our trail to the beaver dam and then corrected our compass error and cut a more accurate northerly trail for 2800 feet heading towards what
we called our Arctic  anomaly since it was the farthest north we would be going.  Hardly the Arctic.  Worst kind of trail yet as alder and cedar seem to be interlocked to keep
us from making much headway.  Not sure about he anomaly.   Hot sweaty day…terrible really for the flies zero in on our sweat drenched bodies  to suck our blood.

The Groundhog River is falling fast…getting dangerously low.  Maybe even too low for the float plane to land.

Two more moose near camp tonight.

Walter Helstein if in very poor shape and a source of concern to the rest of us.   We all love him and his stories about the Depression years but a man 59 years  old  should
not be doing this type of work.   Walter won’t knock off though.  He insists on keeping up with the rest of us even if far behind.

Distance covered  today was 57,800 feet

We landed on the Groundhog River early in July.  By late July the water level had dropped more than four feet making any landing
by float aircraft a problem.  Look at our dock … what a difference.

July 24

Floyd postponed the scheduled arrival of our food supplies over concern about river level.  We will do a test of water level
to ensure no dead head logs are lurking where the Austin Airways Beaver must land.   On our way down river we came across a cow moose
with its calf.  Both feeding in the shallows unaware of our presence.  Bob and  I let Floyd off on shore where he would try to scare them into
an attempt at a river crossing.  Both began to swim across the channel.  Bob and I paddled madly putting our canoe between cow and calf 
forcing the calf to turn back.  This was not a nice thing to  do for the mother bawled and bawled and the calf was very frightened.  We took a 
couple of pictures and got out of the way so the calf could make a safe crossing.

After the separation of cow and calf we were able to get quite close to the terrified calf.   None of us felt good  about our little game so we
never pressed the issue by getting close  enough to touch the calf.   Momma moose was  bawling throughout.

July 25

Today was  a great day.  The Austin Airways Beaver circled  a  couple of times  and  then set down perfectly. Jeff the pilot announced
however “that he could  not get down again if the river drops  much  more.”  Fresh food at last.  Three days of  fresh  meat before the
blow flies lay their eggs.  Big time trouble though since we will not be in Base Camp for next few days.  The meat will be a gift to
the blow flies.  The cooked  ham  might last longer.  We  stuffed ourselves.

Then spent the afternoon packing all we would need  for the next two weeks in pack sacks  with tump lines.  No luxuries as Floyd had
decided  to set up a fly camp two miles  west of our Base Camp.   Those anomalies north of the Beaver Dam could not be surveyed
properly if we had to spend  most of the day hiking.   What ‘luxuries’ had to be  rejected?  Lots.  Take our beds for instance. “We will be
sleeping on spruce boughs  boys.”  Even  then the loads on our backs  were really heavy.   To make matters  worse the skies  turned grey 
and rain began to fall as we lumbered along carefully stepping over windfalls  while keeping our eyes  on the tree blazes which had faded

Our new camp is in the centre of a swamp.  Nothing better nearby.  For fresh water we dug a  deep hole and let the swamp water percolate 
down.   The flies are as  thick as ticks on a  cow’s  nose.  Fly nets protect our ears  and eyes but the rest of our  bodies are fair game for
the little and large sons  of bitches.

As dusk  began to fall we built a large bed  frame out of spruce logs and then filled it with a huge pile of spruce boughs.  Room for all
four os us … if the lashed bed  frame held our weight…which it did not.  Try sleeping on a corduroy road…same as this bed.  No, we  do
not snuggle together.  Who farted?

Distance travelled   10,500 feet

Floyd  and Bob constructed this pine bough bed before erecting our tent.   All four of us were expected to sleep on it.  They lashed
spruce boles together and used the stumps  to keep  the bed two feet above the watery ground.  It worked for one night then collapsed.

July 26

We made our way two miles  on the new trail to the anomaly north of the beaver dam.  Damn transmitter failed.   Likely moisture in the coil.
Floyd and Bob took it back to Base Camp while Walt and I cut 6,000 feet of new line.   I wonder if anyone understands  just how difficult living
in the bush can be.  Just the simple act of walking is  a chore because the surface is littered with obstructions.   Moss covered windfalls are particularly 
dangerous as  they are tempting to step on yet super slippery.  Falling with a sharp axe is never worth the risk.  Even more lethal are the sharpened 
alder shrubs after they have been slashed.  So the trail is one continuous sequence of sharp spikes capable of going with through a boot, or foot, or hand or
face.   No help available.

I managed to bring my copy of ‘Rovering to Success’ which  makes amusing reading. Linked to my plan to get a Bushman’s thong.

Distance covered  30,600 feet  (six miles)

This  is our fly camp Number 1.  Very rough.  In the middle of a moss covered swamp.  We dug a pit for our water source.

July 27

Floyd and Bob got back with new coil and we all took off for the north anomaly arriving in mid afternoon.   Damned  if the E.M. transmitter didn’t
fail again.  Since I was designated to use the transmitter today the boys reasoned I would have to be the person to get it repaired.  Sounds
easy?  Not so.  That meant I had to walk all the way back to our base camp…through our fly camp…about six miles from start to finish.  A long
distance over broken ground.  Of course no reader would ever believe just how hard walking here had become.  Wet socks  and  wet boots made
the walk even less enjoyable.   Then there is the matter of Fear.  Hiking alone in a dense forest can raise the hackles on a person’s neck.  I imagined
something was tracking me.  I would walk then stop abruptly and listen.  Whatever was tracking me did the same thing.  Was it a bear or even
a cougar?  Or was it just my imagination.   Silly.   But try that kind of hiking yourself before you make a fast judgment.

Reached base camp in late afternoon.  Took a swim in the river then cooked a good sized meal.   Meat was already becoming questionable.
We had a package of weiners that looked OK except for the gloss of white stuff that had oozed out.  Sticky stuff.  It was possible to pick up
a weiner with one finger and drop it in the pot.  One finger?  Yes, the white glue like stuff was very sticky.  The weiners  did not kill me so I
must assume the white glossy stuff was  some kind of preservative.

Packed up the new coil plus some extra food for the boys and  headed back to our fly camp arriving just as the sun was setting.  Scared?
You bet I was scared on that lonely hike.

Distance covered  45,800 feet (about 9 miles)

The E. M. (Electro Magnetic) instrument consisted of two heavy coils of copper wire as above.  The signal passed from one coil to the
other was an indicator of magnetism below the ground.  Where there was nothing magnetic the signal was  steady.  When over a
magnetic anomaly the signals increased.  That was fine when the instrument worked…not so fine when it did not work.

July 28

We were all  glad when a full day rainstorm hit us.  What a wonderful feeling to be wrapped up in a sleeping bag for the full day alternately
reading sand dozing.  Floyd slid  a Mickey of scotch from a brown paper bag in his pack.  “Enough here for all of us  to have a sip, boys…that
includes you Al if your Boy Scout training will allow.”   I did not drink up until that point.  The small cup of Scotch  made our lazy day
even better.

July 29

We used our old trails as much as possible then cut an extension to our northernmost anomaly…the so  called  Arctic anomaly. Once again
a nasty bit of swamp and twisted cedars.   Blazing and slashing brush can be dangerous at best of  times but when the branches  have elasticity then
care is paramount.  Hit where a branch can be cut…solid  contact. Hit the notches.   Hitting free swinging branches is pointless because the axe cannot do a thing except
possible fall in a full arc and cut the axeman.  Gnarled wood is also problematic for it resists the axe more than expected.   

Another afternoon rainstorm caught us and soaked us.   Back at camp we lit a  big fire in a vain  attempt to dry our  clothes  for tomorrow’s labour   We only
had one set of  clothing since anything considered  extra  weight was discarded when we packed.  Whatever we carried had to be on our backs and that
included the heavy Ronka Electro magnetic coils,  our food, our tent, our sleeping bags and Floyd’s secret brown bagged bottle of scotch.

These pictures  are not terrific but they clearly show just what burdens  we carried to our fly camps.  This job was no bed of roses and that 
is for sure.  Remember these loads  were carried on blazed trails  criss crossed  with windfalls and bedded with sharp alder spikes from
our slashing.  Another pain in the ass were the swamps whose surfaces were disguised by a thick bed of spongy moss and muskeg.
The job was so exhausting that we vented our discontent with four letter words until even swearing was just too much wasted effort.  

Distance today   38,200 feet  (about 7 miles)

July 30

We were too wet to work  so we sat around the fire in our miserable wet clothing.  I feel dirty but probably not so bad since
the wet clothes gave me a kind of sponge bath. Floyd volunteered to trek out to our 
Groundhog River base camp for some more food.   He made sure we all carried similar weight on the job…and equal responsibilities
including poor Walter who was overweight and seems to have spent a lot of time in Timmins socializing with unemployed cronies.
I give Walter full marks.  He turned out to be a very tough customer…hope he was paid more than the rest of us but expect that
was not the case since he was the least experienced.

Our water supply, believe  it or not, is a problem in spite of the rain.   All water we  use is  in our little pit and  the rain did  not
act as a filter so the drinking and cooking water is  cloudy.

July 31

We had  a real tough grind today lasting a cool 12 hours from seven to seven.   We did,  however, manage to finish work on the Arctic
anomaly…laid  out 6,000 feet of line in three two thousand feet length parallel to each other with four hundred feet between…a grid.  The
area is lively … some magnetite … as my compass was thrown off by 12 or more degrees.   So this  is a really important anomaly
I think.

We got a nice fire going and lounged around listening to Walter reminisce about his life as a hobo in the Great Depression years.
Sad at times…comical at others.  “The trains were loaded with men going nowhere…anywhere…hopped into cattle cars.  Police
in towns  and cities wold not let us  out.  They did not want any more welfare problems than they already had…so we had to jump
and run if we could.  Back and forth across Canada.  In  winter we yarded up in freight yards…hobo jungles…with the starving,
the degenerate, the desperate, the dying.  These were not good years…Begging for garbage”.
Floyd had different stories. He had  been a cageman in a Kirkland Lake mine.  Took miners and machines up and down the shaft.
Quit that job when a friend’s cage broke and hurtled down the shaft killing him. “Scraped him of the bottom of the cage’, as Floyd
put it. He decided to stay in mining but work on the surface.
Bob talked about the beauty of the foothills of the Rockies and the girls he had  met.  Then he was offered a job as  a geophysical
technician complete with room and board.  Sounded good until he discovered what that meant really.  Wilderness life. Room is
a tent…board can be blow fly corrupted meat. After
this job he is heading back to a mining college in Michigan.  My life experience was quite uneventful compared to theirs.

 The flickering fire made the whole evening very dramatic.

Distance covered   38,200 feet plus 6,000 lines…44,200 feet (about 8.5 miles)

AUGUST 1, 1958

Walt and I cut 6,000 feet of line south 20 degrees west from swamp camp.  I think  we hit our destination within 100 feet of spot 
located on our aerial photo. We struck a creek at the precise place on the photo.

In the evening I  patched my clothes with medical  tape and canvas patches (plus some glue).  It’s  getting difficult to distinguish 
pants from patches.

Distance   12,200 feet (around 2 miles)

August 2, 1958

Although the  northern anomaly is not quite as detailed as desirable we cannot spend  another day working there.

I caught a baby rabbit this morning and  we placed him in a bag and hung it on a tree intending to keep him as a pet
but while we were away he escaped.

As we returned  to camp a hurricane-like storm hit suddenly.  The sun was completely blackened out and then came high
velocity winds strong enough to tear trees  out by their roots throwing them around  as if they were match sticks.  Some
of these new windfalls  blocks our trail.   I have never in my life seen such a storm.  Ferocious.  Nature weeding out the
sick and the dead I suppose.

Distance covered    30,000 feet  (6 miles)

August 3, 1958

The storm railed  all night…including lightning and torrential rain.  Frightening but wonderful at same time.  Good thing too for now
our water supply has been replenished and, more important, the supply plane will be able to land  back at our base camp
on the Groundhog River maybe although not expected  until August 8.

In the afternoon Walt and I hiked  out of the swamp camp to our base camp for more food.  So many trees across our trail that
we had to cut new  bypasses.

Distance travelled   21,000 feet (4 miles)

August 4, 1958

Completed Ronka survey of anomaly 18 south of swamp camp #1.  Sure must be something beneath us since the compass seemed
very slow and  contradicted  itself on the backsights.  Probable magnetite ore body as  airborne mag suggested.  We cut 5,000 feet of 
new line.

Tired at night but relaxed as we traded stories around the campfire.  There is  a feeling of exhilaration when living this close to nature.

Our plotted data profiles showed clear presence of something since both instruments reacted…the X ray magnetometer and the 
horizontal loop Ronka EM unit.  “How did the Ronka get its name?” “Inventor guy…physicist…works for Huntec…his machine.”

The Ronka Electro Magnetic Instrument was the most important part of our survey work.  And it was heavy consisting of two large
hoops of closely wound copper wire (see below) . Both hoops were attached together by a 100 foot electric cable and signals 
were received by a console carried by one of the men.  On ordinary surveys this instrument was heavy.  Our survey work meant 
we had to carry a  hell of lot more than the Ronka…tents, sleeping bags, food, clothes, first aid  kits,  axes, a buck saw, pots and  pans…etc.

August 5, 1958

Walt and I began blazing trail west 248 degrees but rain began after we had gone 600 feet forcing us back to camp.

“Your turn to hike back to base camps for food, Al.” I wonder if the other guys  get scared when they are alone
in this  dense forest?  Do they imagine wild things are watching them?  Do they hear strange noises?  Do they run?
Do they stop and slowly rotate around  360 just in case there is something?  They never say, so I best keep my mouth
shut as well.   Back at base camp I tested  the  radio transmitter  which receives fine  but just will not transmit.  If we
ever have a  serious injury, how the hell are we going to get help?  Since Walt and I are swinging blazing axes almost
every day, the odds of an accident are falling from long to short.

Arrived  at base camp about five and  cooked myself a  big supper…2 cans of stew,  1 can of peaches, 1 box cookies and  3 cans
of orange juice.   Then packed  up a lot of dry goods to carry back to Swamp Camp #1.  No  canned goods allowed  as they
are too heavy so the guys will have to make do with a  lot of rolled  oats and  pancakes and my favourite French toast.  One 
heavy item is allowed.  Peanut butter…we eat lots of that.

Slung the pack on my back and headed  west again hoping it would not get dark before I reached Swamp Camp #1.
Arrived at 9 p.m.

Distance travelled:  22,200 feet (4  miles)

August 6, 1958

Walt and I continued blazing our trail to Anomaly #16…west 248 degrees from Swamp Camp #1.  This  section of the bush is
woven with windfalls  like a broken box of pick up sticks.  At western edge we struck two creeks needing bridges. Construction
took a long enjoyable time.  Enjoyable?  Yes,  weather was perfect so  we took our time.  Waded in our bare feet.  Then we 
continued to point of the anomaly.

That night I collected some very strange luminous wood that we had been noticing all around  Swamp Camp #1.  Eerie effect looking
out of our tent at the pin pricks of light.  It seems to be some kind of fungus  acting upon rotting wood.  Dark nights give our camp
a ghost-like appearance.  My luminous collection was a failure though.

Distance covered:  13,000 feet (2.5 miles or thereabouts)

Walt and  I built two of these bridges.  The construction project was enjoyable … especially for our feet.

August 7, 1958

Tiring day as usual.

Finished blazing grid for Anomaly #16, then did survey with the Ronka which gave us some high readings
that checked out with the magnetometer.

Distance covered: 20,500 feet (about 4 miles)

August 8, 1958

Big day today.  Austin Airways Beaver arrived.  Floyd and Bob packed out to Base Camp to meet the plane while
Walt and I were left behind to break up Swamp Camp #1 and follow them later.  We had to sort things into two piles…those 
worth taking and those to be abandoned and burned.  

We arrived in afternoon and were shocked to find  Floyd  gone.  He was being sent to a new project
in Michigan.  That changes things.  We will be leaderless it seems.  But Bob will take over.  I have been elevated a notch to second  in command  which means darn little.

During our absence from Base Camp a black bear paid a visit and managed to get our twenty point ham which we had strung
up high in a tree.  Then for some reason the bear decided to get into the cook tent and rummage around.  He did  not use
the front door of the tent but ripped  a big hole in the side.

This was a really eventful day for not only did we get a new supply of food  but also a big pile of mail.

Why did  I get so many letters?…huge pile of them.  Most had American stamps and I do not know that many Americans.
Some smelled  of perfume.  At first I thought they had been sent to the wrong person but opening the first one read 
“Dear Alan”.  These were some kind  of love letters…maybe 30 or 40 from all over the United States.   One girl, writing in
pencil, wanted to live  with me if I could send  her the fare to get here.  That was a laugh.  Imagine the shock she would
find.  Perhaps I would have the greater shock though.   A lot were from nurses and  some of them were damn interesting…well written…lonely hearts stuff.
Some of the girls  told horrifying stories about their living conditions   Abuse, poverty, desire to escape no matter what.
How  come?   Why send these letters  to me?  Mystery was solved.  In the mail pack were two letters from Russ Vanstone and Jim Romaniuk…they had  sent my
name and address  to a lonely hearts club in the U.S.   Bob, Walt and  I enjoyed all the letters…read them over and over
again for the rest of the summer.  Most of them made me feel sad…there were strong overtones of desperation.

Distance Covered:  10,500 feet

Pilot delivering mail and  taking Floyd out of the bush to a new job in Michigan. 

A black bear managed to get our 20 pound cooked ham even though we had  strung it high up in this  tree.  How did the bear do  it?

The bear also  ripped this hole in our cook tent and then rummaged around for food.   He did not pop open the canned goods thankfully.

August 9, 1958

 Bob Hilkar spent the day reorganizing our targets while waiting for a new 
man to be flown in from South Porcupine.   This gave us a chance to do our washing…clothes and bodies.  We were all covered with
layer after layer of fly repellent along with smoke from our cook fires.  The dirt is  not all bad since it seems to make us less appealing to
the flies…moose flies, deer flies, mosquitoes, black flies, sand  flies, ground wasps, blow flies.

What a great day.  We gorged ourselves on the fresh  food knowing it would not last once the bear and the blow flies  got wind of it.
So we had  steaks, fresh vegetables, some bananas and  one whole watermelon.

The bear must have been watching close by on the opposite river bank.  There he stood for a moment like a big black rock. 
 I got a shot of him with my camera but he was too far away and
too quick to clear out.

August 10, 1958

We packed the canoe and headed  downstream…i.e. north for the Groundhog River flows north to James Bay which is part of 
the huge Hudson’s  Bay watershed.  “Another swamp camp, boys, pack lightly.” We cut line eastward  from the river for half a mile
where we struck a  trap line and decided to follow it in the desperate hope we would reach the new anomaly without the work of
blazing.  But we were disappointed for the trappers trail began to angle north rather than east.

This must be the trapper who left his traps open for some reason when he took his first out in the spring.  Or he had died.  We were
constantly finding open traps on the creeks and beaver dams.  Some had the skeletons of dead  animals and a couple had
been recently snapped shut on the legs of a  mink and  a muskrat.   Why do this unnecessary killing?  Leg hold traps are really
inhumane for they hold the animal in great distress.   Some animals chew their own legs off to make an escape.

We  retraced  out steps and  went back to base camp #1 resolved to try to reach the eastern anomaly again tomorrow…this time
blazing a trail as  we packed in.  No easy task to blaze while  carrying everything needed in huge packs.

As we returned up river we noticed  something large and  white on the river shore.  It was  a large moose head complete with
a perfect set of antlers.  “You want it, Al?”  “Sure do.”  So  we wedged the thing in the canoe and I planned to get it back to Toronto
one way or another.

Distance covered:   16,000 feet (mostly wasted)

My trophy from the Groundhog River job…a moose head found on the banks of the Groundhog River.

Photo was taken earlier in summer because my hair is short and no beard.  But picture makes point that Walter and Bob and me are now
a three man crew after Floyd was taken from us.  We needed a fourth man and got Hopkins on a return flight.

By midsummer, I was  a darn sight thinner.

August 11, 1958

Walt and I were sent upstream (southwards in other words) about a  mile  and  half with orders to extend 
the trail we had cut back on July 24.  Almost immediately this became extremely difficult a we hit an alder swamp about 800 feet wide
with water at various depths.  Alder shrubs  are very difficult to slash on dry land  as they are thin and
elastic like.  A swipe with a blazing axe does nothing unless the cut is aimed close to the ground.  And  when severed the decapitated
alder remain as  a giant spike capable of penetrating our gum rubber boots.  In this swamp cutting was super difficult as
the alder roots were under the water.   Swinging an axe for an underwater cut is just about impossible.   To make matters worse
in the centre of the swamp  was open water…a large stream.  So we had to bridge another bridge.

As if these problems were not big enough, we came across a number of water snakes of various  length.

While  returning to camp we startled up another bull moose.  More moose in here than  people.,

Distance travelled:  16,000 feet

August 12, 1958

Stormy weather until late afternoon when sky cleared and Austin Airways sent in the Beaver with our new man, Robert Hopkins.
First bush  job for him…he is about my age…hope he can handle a  blazing axe.

August 13, 1958

We packed food supplies and  placed them in a cache using trail cut on August 10.  Then we extended the trail for a  mile and  a half.
Robert Hopkins is  nice enough but has never handled an axe before and keeps swinging at thin branches.  Axe bounces  back…very 
dangerous.  “Hit where the branch joins the tree.”  Wish he would do this as  his actions are dangerous.

The swamp apples are ripe…big orange berries  on a small ground  plant in the swamps.  Sweet taste…too sweet really.

Water on the river is low  again so many areas have rapids.  We got caught in a cross eddy which turned us  broadside to 
the river flow and then jammed us  on the rocks.   The canoe did  not overturn as we pushed and pulled  it back from the
rocks and shot down a  kind of chute.  Only damage was a punctured bow.

Distance Covered”  21,000 feet

August 14,  1958

Rain again…all day long until 8 p.m. at night.  Spent day reading and talking.

August 15, 1958

Today we moved our cache of food two miles deeper towards future Swamp Camp #2 then blazed new trail another mile to our objective which is
a branch of Hicks Creek.   The temperature hovered around  35 degrees all day.  Damn cold, especially so since leaves and  trees are still wet from
the rain yesterday.  Absolutely miserable.  Shivered from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.  End result was  a trail to our new fly camp.   We trekked out to the Groundhog
River and back to Base Camp.  Tomorrow we will pack in our instruments, tent, sleeping bags and cooking gear to Swamp Camp #2.

Distance covered     31,500 feet

August 16, 1958

Packed canoe with essentials and motored north on river to strike point of departure eastward  on new trail to Swamp Camp #2.  Three miles.
We passed by our earlier food Cache in order to set up tents as fast as possible then Robert and  I went back for the food.  Bob Hilkar and
Walter built large elevated spruce bough bed for the four of us  to try to sleep upon.  “Try to sleep” that is.

Weather has become much colder. Frost in the morning.

Distance covered:  22,000 feet (about 4 miles  plus)

Swamp Camp #2 is miserable

August 17

Rain and extreme cold  weather kept us in our sleeping bags  all day.  This search  for an anomaly is going badly and will take longer
than expected  so  we decided to ration our food  supply.

August 18, 1958

This terrible forest collected its pound  of flesh  today as we succeeded in cutting two miles deeper to the east.  Our clothes were soaked
by showers twice.  And we had to wade across a creek once.  Sun came out later thankfully.

Compass problems  again as the Brunton and  Silva compasses give slightly different directions.  Our error or compass defect?

Distance covered:  24,000 feet (nearly five miles)

August 19, 1958

Hard  day.  Seems  all the work days  are hard days and  this one is no exception.  We  cut line in a generally southern direction.
Then all work stopped when Robert Hopkins cut his  hand  with a  blazing axe.   Bad cut.  I wrapped  it with a rough tourniquet and stopped
the bleeding.  Will it heal?  Or will we have to get him out by bush plane?

Distance travelled   29,000 feet

August 20, 1958

Twelve hour trips on our blazed trails are not easy.  No one, and I mean no one, will ever understand how hard this job has become.
We thought Robert’s injury yesterday would heal but today he sliced himself again…right to the bone.   He had  never handled  an axe before
and chose to ignore  instructions  and kept swinging at twigs and light branches.  His  axe bounced back of course and this second  time
cut himself damn close to an  artery.  Looks like some tendons may be severed.  We washed  the blood from the wound and then applied  another
tourniquet made from strips of my shirt…picked  the cleanest parts we could  rip.   

By evening his hand  had swollen up and he was in severe pain. Gave him some sulpha hoping that would help him sleep.  Nothing we could
do until dawn and then we must make fast tracks back to the river and motor down to our Base camp where we could radio for an emergency
flight to get Robert out to hospital.  Getting out of this  camp will take all day.   No hope for an emergency flight until tomorrow.
Infection is a big worry.

Distance covered   29,500 feet…very difficult terrain peppered  with tag alder and windfalls.

Robert Hopkins was hired to replace Floyd but just did not work out.  He cut himself badly twice when his blazing axe bounced of some light branches
of tag alder.  He was warned not to hit light branches but to aim his cuts at places where branches  joined the main trunk.   Getting him out was a
real exercise for us…Took 2.5 days and by then infection had set in.  Looked like tendons were cut as well.   Our tourniquet stopped the bleeding but
we could do  little to arrest infection.

August 21, 1958

Robert’s hand is now discoloured which  is  a sure sign of infection.   First Aid  kit is little use at this point.  We must get him out.
So began the long hike to our canoe at the river and then motoring five miles upstream to our base camp where we sent an SOS
call.   Plane arrived  and  Robert Hopkins was no longer part of our crew.

Walt and I spent day cutting line south 1,000 feet and  east 3,000 feet to a new anomaly.   With only three of us progress  is going to be slow.

We were startled to discover an old trappers shack deep in the bush.   About as primitive a building as can be imagined….Pyramid  shape.
The trapper must have used this  as a very temporary home because it was  really only a pile of logs leaning into each other.

Distance Travelled   7,400 feet

We came across tis trappers shack in the middle of nowhere.   It must have been used  for overnight habitation.  Hardly liveable.

August 22, 1958

Bob Hilkar returned by float plane bringing good  news.  I passed  my Grade 13 departmental exams …enough to gain
entrance to University of Toronto.   All the money earned  on this job will just pay for my entrance fees.   

Walt, Bob and  I retraced our trail south to the farthest anomaly. Bad news!   Our cable joining the two Ronka coils broke which  meant
that all the walking to get to the site was wasted effort.  We returned to camp and  soldered he broken section back together.

Came across an abandoned beaver dam.   Looked like it have been abandoned for a long time but it still managed
to dam up a large basin of water.  Amazing little creatures.

Distance travelled   25,000 feet

August 23,  1958

Another attempt to run the Ronka over the southern anomaly failed when the big cable got severed  where it joins  the console.
This  was not easy to repair.   The break in the cable meant we had to retrace out steps once more.  Hours and hours
of wasted time.  

Walt and I did manage to cut a little more of survey line to the east.

Distance covered:  25,000 feet walking and 7,500 feet of new line cut

August 24, 1958

Rain!  Wonderful rainstorm.  No work on the anomalies.   Our survey situation is getting serious though for we are running out of time.
We plan a big push tomorrow and  will try to finish the entire area in next couple of days.  Must do  so because a relief plane is
due on August 27 when our Base Camp on the Groundhog River will be abandoned and  a  new base camp built on Kapik  Lake
far to the west.  We will get there by air with all our gear.

We had a bit of a laugh in the evening when Walt salted all our tea thinking he was  adding sugar.

August 25,  1958

Somehow between 7 a.. and  7 p.m. we managed to finish the remaining two anomalies.  Not easy to do but then again nothing on
this  job has turned out to be easy to do.   In spite of it all we felt nostalgic  as we sat around the campfire knowing that this camp
would exist no longer.  No one said very much really.  We just sat there feeling we were leaving a home in spite of all the adversities.

Distance covered:  44,700 feet  (almost 9 miles)

August 26, 1958

If I had  to pinpoint the worst day  on the job it would be today, August 26, 1958, when we abandoned the eastern fly camp.  There were only 
three of  us now…Bob Hilkar, Walter Helstein and me.   When this  camp was  set up there were four of us and we made three trips
into the camp with gear and food from caches along the way.  To get out was going to be difficult so we began to pile absolutely essential
gear in three piles…one for each  of us.  “Discard  everything you can, boys.” said Bob.  So we did…the discard pile contained  rope, food,
Robert’s backboard, books, some cooking gear, even spare clothing.  In spite of that the piles we had to carry were back breaking.
The tent in particular was a load in itself because it was still wet from the rains.

I  am not proud of my behaviour this day.  My load  was  so big that each step was a problem.  Would  I make to the river?  I became 
convinced that my load was  much heavier than Bob Hilkar’s and I said so.  “My load  is unbearable while yours  is  light.”
“Why don’t we switch  loads then?”, said Bob.  We switched.   I was wrong…terribly wrong.  His load included the wet tent…heavier
than my load.  He was our point man so I could  not see his face but I felt he was grinning.  He knew how heavy the tent had become and
was glad to switch.  I  could hardly start to whine again so had to grin and bear the situation.  Forget about the word  grin.  The pain
was  excruciating.   The end result was  hard to believe.  My load had been tied  to a sturdy metal pack frame.  By the time we reached  the river
that pack frame had bent into a circle and had to be discarded.  The other pack  frames were also ruined.   Somehow we all lived through
the trek.   Bob Hilkar did not say much but the look in his eye was an ‘I told  you so’ look.   

Our bad day was  not over.   When  we finally reached Base Camp  #1, we found it to be a shambles.  The black bear had returned
only this time he ripped  his way into our sleeping tent.   Nothing to eat in there so his or her decision was  a  mystery.   Any food
left in the camp was gone except for the canned goods some of which had been crushed but not opened.

Distance covered     15,000 feet   (nearly three miles)

This was  only part of the load.  On top of the rectangular pack was placed one of the Ronka hoops made of wound copper wire…a super heavy load.  what we left
behind will never be found  for no one will return to the eastern anomalies since the readings were low compared with the western
anomalies.  Then again maybe the trapper is not dead and will return to his trap line late in the fall and  find what remains of or  cache.
No, the bears will get there first.

August 27, 1958

I woke late tonight with a funny feeling.   Did not know why for a few moments.  Admired how the moon lit up the inside of our tent.  Then a cloud passed  by
blotting out the moon.  Only it was not a cloud.  it was the bear…he was on the other side of the tent wall…maybe three feet from my body encased
in my sleeping bag.  His  shadow blotted  out the moonlight.   I held my breath.  Then his  shadow just moved  down the tent wall and out of our
lives.   He stole no food  that night.  Probably he could smell us and I am told bears  do not like the smell of human beings.  Our smell was particularly
strong that night.

In the morning we tore apart Base Camp #1 and  packed everything on the dock and  shoreline.  Late in the afternoon the Beaver float plane arrived and was  
loaded for the short hop to Kapik Lake a  few miles to the west where we set up our new  Base Camp.  What a difference.  The new camp is  nestled in climax forest 
of birch  and poplar trees high on a hill where fresh  wind blows.  We were out of the swamps.  

A strange thing happened the day we left Base Camp #1..   Something not really  relevant but strange all the same.  Our makeshift dock began  to attract great clouds of
deer flies.  Deer flies are nasty creatures that like human  flesh and human blood.  Chevrons on their wings. They had  been torturing us every day since our arrival.  Yet this
day, August 27, 1958, they were  not biting.  Instead they were clustering in pods under the dock.  Wedging themselves into a great pack of their brethren
and dying all pressed together.  Hundreds of them, maybe a thousand.  Made no sense but it is a clear unusual  memory.  We did not try to dissuade them  from this  mass suicide.

We had a new employee arrive to replace Robert Hopkins.   Mack Deisert is  a tough man who is familiar with heavy tools.  For a time he worked  underground
in the gold  mines of Timmins.  Why he no longer was a full time miner became evident as we talked around the camp fires.  “There were all kinds of  ways to
high grade gold from the  Timmins mines.  Lunch pails worked  for a  while but stealing gold that way was a little too obvious…small amounts  under fingernails or in false  teeth specially
made by local dentists.  Some gold was smuggled out in shoe  heels…sounds stupid  I know but remember just an ounce of gold  was worth money…high graders  got 50% of the face value of gold.  Lots of buyers in Timmins.  A miner or a shift boss sees a streak of raw gold
in a hunk of rock…not common but occasionally  appears…he  slips a chunk in his pocket then  gets to a place where he hammers the chunk and get smaller piece with more gold…then has to figure how to
get it out.  A wink to a foreman might do  it.    Most of the high grade gold is ground down right in the mine.  A miner comes upon a vein with raw gold…  he just chips  out a chunk
knocks of the crap and keeps a bit of gold for himself. Small pieces are easy to hide.  Some say millions worth of high grade gold hidden and  sold in Timmins.  Miners today  are checked by security guys
every shift.  Big signs in the mine condemn high graders.   Those  signs would  not be up if there was not a problem.  Illegal  gold…common knowledge  about 
who to contact.”  Mack seemed to know a lot about high grading gold…maybe he got caught and that was why he took a job with us.  Or he was bull shitting a good
story around  a campfire.  Whether his stories were true or not , Mac was certainly an  entertaining character.  

 To Mack a blazing Axe was  child’s play.   He was unlikely to hurt himself for he knew
the consequences  of a wilderness injury.

Our new fourth man  was  Mack Deisert standing on  the pontoon while the pilot clears up  a few details, perhaps  related to money.
Mac was quite an entrepreneur.  No fucking around with him.
Mac  arrived  just as we were moving to Kapik Lake with all our gear…August 27, 1958

Supper was special.  Fresh food.  We dined on veal cutlets, string beans, potatoes, tea and ‘fresh bread’.   Our bread was soon stale…dru  
or mouldy…god bread got very 
crusty as time wore on in camp.  Mouldy  bread  was garbage.  The only way to soften dry bread up was a French Toast concoction we made regularly…water, powdered milk, a couple of
eggs while they lasted, some butter and a hot frying pan.  French  toast could be stretched out and become a bush lunch when lathered with
peanut butter.   It Got to taste really good.  We could do the same thing with porridge.  Hot in the morning.  Then a slab of cold oats as a jelly like lunch
If firm enough the cold  porridge could also be lathered with peanut butter.   All this was  washed down with tea boiled in a
fruit can tin with a wire looped over so the billy tin could hang on a stick over an open fire.  When we  ran  out of real tea  we used Labrador tea, a
local plant whose leaves were fuzzy on the bottom. Easy to  find. Questionable alternative. No alcohol on the job.   Beer would weigh 
far too much anyway.

August 28, 1958

Rain…wonderful  rain.  So  we got a day of rest…well not quite that for we had to get our new campsite ship shape.  Kapik Lake is not
big, just enough room for the Beaver to take off and land.  “What’s that over on the other side?” “Looks like a canoe.”  Sure enough, some
person  had abandoned  a canoe on the lake.  No sign of a cabin so it might have been a fisherman or trapper.  We rescued it. complete with
paddles and had  transportation for leisure evenings to tour the little lake.  Maybe this was here for fly in fishermen.   Maybe Kapik Lake 
was full of fish.  Little good that would do us for we had no fishing gear.

Kapik Lake was inhabited by some strange mole like creatures on one of the little islands and a family of Loons
who serenaded us regularly.

Maybe Kapik Lake was one of those fly in fishing lakes that rich  people use which came complete with a cook to fry up
whatever they catch.  Our use of the lake was far less fancy.   Rich fishermen, if hey arrived while we  were, would have
been flabbergasted at our basic diet of porridge.  I cut these carrots our of a local paper after the job  was over.  Made
me laugh.

Our Kapik Lake Campsite

Kapik Lake aerial photo taken by  Huntec Canso aircraft

Walt put the tea bags in with our pork and beans tonight which gave us all  a good laugh.   Then Walt asked “Do you want to
to know how to speak Eskimo?” and proceeded to teach us the language which I think he made up as he went along.  Then again
he did work as a diamond driller at Rankin Inlet. 

August 29, 1958

Walt and I cut line south 221 degrees. Easy work this time because the big trees shaded out the brush.  What a luxury…we could slap our
axes on one side of a big poplar then the other and move by easy  line of sight.  Summer was over suddenly and the trees were changing colour
The bush forest was becoming a land of red and gold.  The down side of this season change was  the arrival of cold  weather.  All summer
we had been complaining about the hot  sweaty days.  Now we complained about the cold.

Distance covered   12,000 feet (easy day)

August 30, 1958

Rain again.  Spent most of the day in our  sleeping bags.  I planned  my short term future.  University bound.  Thoughts of the University of Toronto made 
me very nervous.  Dad was  a tire builder and mom was a seamstress.  Most my other relatives were farmers.  So the prospect of  a university education
was novel and made me nervous not that I told anyone.   My good friends Russ and Jim would be doing the same thing and  were probably nervous as  well.
Money made on this job would pay my first year fees of $400.

Our radio weather report warned of heavy frost tonight so we started to assemble our new air-tite wood stove.  The hole in the tent left by the bear was the exit 
point for the stovepipe.   The big birch trees in this  climax forests means we have lots of excellent firewood that splits with ease.   Comfort!  And the smell
of the wood  stove is like the best perfume imaginable.

The only bad  news today was that our fresh  meat had already gone bad.  It would not pass the nose test.

September 1, 1958

Cold  … really cold all day.  Just above freezing which meant the raindrops on the forest leaves were like little ice daggers penetrating our clothes.We 
spent the day extending Bob And Mack’s trail to the northern anomaly.

Distance covered   33,000 feet

September 2, 1958

Another long hard  12 hour day.  We finished blazing our trail to where we figured  the anomaly was  located then did the survey with the Ronka and magnetometer.

My gum rubber boots have holes big enough for my socks to poke through which means I am working every day in wet feet.   Each night we pull off our boots
and  peel down the wet socks then massage our feet.   Bad feet would mean no work.   

Distance covered”   37,000 feet  (about 7 miles)

September 3, 1958

Another brute of a storm night and day.  The tent is  billowing in the wind like a great hot air balloon.

September 4, 1958

Bob and I finished  the north anomaly with both the Ronka EM unit and the magnetometer.

In the evening Walt and  I stalked  a crane in the shallows of Kapik Lake then stayed  out on the lake to watch  the sun set.  Magnificent.

Distance covered    33,000 feet

September 5, 1958

We finished cutting trail to south anomaly ten did reconnaissance survey with the Ronka EM unit and the magnetometer.   No conductor
was discovered or confirmed.

Well, we  are in food trouble.  All our staple foods have  been  consumed…bread, meat, potatoes,  fruit and butter.  So we have to make do with
what we can concoct which tonight constituted a can of peas and  carrots, big pile of  rice topped with bacon fat gravy and followed by cookies
for dessert.

Mack and Walt really entertained us  with fascinating stories of the ‘high graders’ operating in the Timmins gold mines…Dome Ming Company and  MacIntyre Mines, etc.

Distance covered   32,000 feet

September 6, 1958

Stayed awake all night as lightning flashes and  thunder made  sleep difficult.  Very dramatic.  We kept the wood fire burning most of the night and as a result
felt really cosy in our tent.   In the morning I began packing my rucksack for the job is nearly over.   Trans Canada Airline has Viscount air service to Toronto which
sounds exciting.   This was my last day as  cook so  I made a large stew of whatever odds and ends  I could find including the bacon rind on our slab of pork
sowbelly.    Not such a bad  dinner.   To give it a little more body I slipped in a  cupful of rolled oats.  Inventive.

September 7, 1958

Tragedy struck today when  we came upon Walter Helstein unconscious  on the trail with an alder spike driven through his hand.   We think he was
lying there for an hour or two with this very serious wound.   We revived him and helped him get back to our campsite where the wound was
washed and bandaged.  Walter took some  sulpha pills to numb the pain.  Not sure if that works.  Pain is severe.  We were afraid this  would happen
for Walter had  a habit of stepping on moss covered windfalls rather than stepping over them.  Slippery rotten windfalls are dangerous. 

Walter has  been with us for the whole summer which surprised us all for he seemed  too old and too out of shape for the kind of work we were
doing.  But Walt persisted and turned out to be a joy to work with.   He is 40 years older than me yet we worked as a team blazing trails that
criss crossed some very nasty parts  of this wilderness.  We radioed  for an SOS service but failed  to make contact.  Weather is bad with
heavy cloud cover.

A terrible picture but maybe that makes it more authentic. Walter was badly  hurt.

We  left Walter in the tent for the day  and set out  to find our last underground conductor.  We failed to find it.

Distance covered   34,000 feet

September 8, 1958

Walt was in severe pain all night. Moaning. By morning his hand was swollen and red fingers of  infection were apparent.  When the Beaver arrived Walt and
I boarded.  Walt was stretched out in the back.   Both of us were finished.  As soon as we landed at South Porcupine Walter was taxied to the Timmins hospital.
Sad.  I doubted we would ever see each other again and  wanted to say how much I had enjoyed working with him.  There was not time for farewell though.
The taxi was waiting as soon as  we got tied  to the dock.  I  could see the pain in  Walter’s face as he waved good bye.

There are some people that are unforgettable.  Walter Helstein is one such person.   We worked together in one of the toughest jobs I have ever had and this picture of Walter will give you some idea of what
that job was like.  Look Closely  Walter is standing in water…over his boot tops.  His blazing axe in his hand and  his tea cup  tied to his braces with the stub of  a cigarette in his mouth.   Much of our summer was
spent in such conditions.   After his tragic accident I never saw him again but heard  that he spent 8 months in the hospital. 

Although this picture  does  not look like I was enjoying myself.  And  much of the time i was not.  But actually I was quite proud  of myself.
I had survived and done my job faithfully with just two temper tantrums when the job got unbearable.  Walter never threw a tantrum but
instead  laughed  at me along with Floyd  and Bob.  Actually I came to love the job…to love the battle with nature…too find I could  survive
in the worst of conditions.   My success in this job led to another six years working for Hunting Technical and Exploration Services.
In  retrospect the jobs were a great privilege…something that few human beings will ever experience.  

Our Kapik Lake camp…by this  time I had fallen in love with the job complete with the trials, loneliness, failures, successes and
even the Spartan food.   There is a term for that condition…”Bushed”   I remember as if it was yesterday as the plane circled the
lake coming to get us out.  That circling meant the end of the adventure.  But I did not want it to end.  Such an experience  could
never be replicated.    Maybe we should just send Walter out.  He needed help urgently.  Maybe the rest of  us could continue
searching for  anomalies  until freeze up.  Thoughts only.  I knew it was over.   No more carving trails to places where human feet ha
never trod before.  No more comradery around a night campfire with stories, obscenities, laugher.  No more contact with any of
the crew ever again except for Floyd Faulkner who next summer insisted on calling me by the affectionate term , Fucking Al.

By the end of the summer Walter and I had  walked and blazed 206.3 miles on our own
trails through the bush.   That is almost the distance  from Toronto to North Bay.  Hard  to
believe?  Even today, March 27, 2019, I find  it hard to believe myself.

The clerk in the Airport Hotel hesitated  when I  asked for a room for the day only.  Little wonder…two months growth of hair and beard, pants 
patched with Canvas, Gum rubbers with my socks poking through holes and a  packsack that looked like  I had been living rough for a long time (which’
is true come to think of it.)   Had my first real bath of he summer and then called  Timmins airport to reserve a flight this evening.  Next was a little 
tricky.  I asked CN Express  to ship my baggage back  to Toronto.  Why Tricky?  Because a big part of the baggage was the skull and antlers
of that bull moose  we found on the bank of the Groundhog River.  Phoned  home…mom and dad surprised.  “Be home tonight.”
Then got a shave, haircut and  a big ice cream sundae.

Bob and  Mack arrived shortly after 12 and we loaded our equipment in the Land  Rover. which had  been stripped of all easily detached
equipment…hub caps and spare tire.   Bob  drove me to Timmins Airport where I got my first restaurant meal since July.  Huntec had 
promised to cover room and board for the duration of my employment with them.   No luxury involved, that’s for sure.

I boarded the Viscount just as the sun was  beginning to set on the western horizon. “Would you like a Peak  Freen biscuit and glass
of lemonade, sir?”  Wow!  This was  going to be a great flight.  I nursed the lemonade for a long time and just nibbled  at the shortbread…loving
them both.   Now,  decades later, I can still place myself  on that Viscount rolling and lifting into the sunset.

We landed at Sudbury, then North Bay and  finally Toronto about mid night.  What a greeting.  Russ Vanstone, Red Stevenson, Jim Romaniuk and
my brother Eric  along with mom and  dad.  Eric  had a huge hand printed  sign saying “Go back, Al.”  Jim Romaniuk asked about the
lonely hearts letters.  “Let me have them Al, Might find a girl friend  there.”  “Try the girl from Florida with the pencilled note…she’s ready to
move up here if you send her the fare.”   Russ drove us all home to our place where mom and  dad 
had prepared  all  kinds  of food.  After that I fell asleep in a real bed.

September 9, 2019

Dr Paterson phoned early in the morning.  “Can you come to the office, Alan, maybe help with the results…there are things we need to know urgently.”
So everyone was gathered around the aerial photos hoping I could remember where the top anomalies were located.  I am not sure how much
help I could provide.  “McIntyre Mines  want to know right away.”  That comment reminded me that our summer living rough was really a big secret.
I really could not spot all the anomalies where we got high readings but did the best I could.   Dr. Paterson was very serious and professional…a bit
intimidating.  I am not sure that he knew my job had been swinging a blazing axe most of the summer.  I certainly did not say that.  I did put a word
in for Walter Helstein hoping that the company would help  out or totally pay his medical bills.  Not sure what happened to Walter but heard by
the grapevine that he never fully recovered. 

 There was one
nice outcome of that last meeting.  Dr. Paterson looked  me in the eye and said, “How would you like a job next summers an operator-Technician on
a job we have lined up in Alaska?”  

Now after reading this account, would  how  would  you have answered Dr. Paterson?

my answer was short and simple.  “Count me in.”

What about the BUSHMAN’S THONG?  Good question, keep reading.  You may think it is some  kind of underwear but that thought
is about as far from the truth as possible.   Who is proud of underwear? I am  very proud of my Bushman’s thong.

MARCH 2019


P.P.  “From 1950 to 1960,…127 mines were discovered, of which 40 were credited to geophysics.” (P.6, Paterson)

 In March 2019, just as I was transcribing my journal memories from the Groundhog River job, a book arrived in our mailbox.  Dr. Norman Paterson, my boss way back in
the 1950’s and1960’s had just written a book titled “MINING GEOPHYSICS: A CANADIAN STORY…The people and events that made Canada a global leader in mining exploration
in the 20th century.”  ($20 plus $12 postage, published by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, 2019)   It is a wonderful record of those heady days
between 1957 and 1975 when big changes were happening in the search for orebodies within the rock mantle of our earth.  Personally…I  was flattered  to be included here
and there in the book for I had no idea at the time that we were on the cusp of scientific  breakthroughs. I was  a very small part of the story. Was Dr. Paterson even aware
of the difficulties we faced translating theory into practice?  Of course he was.  He did lots of field work.


Walter Helstein spent eight months  in the Timmins Hospital…from September 1958 to March  1959. At one point amputation was considered but Walt, true to form, was just
too tough to lose an arm.
Floyd Faulkner became the chief field man  for Hunting Technical and Exploration Service. He retained  his gruff manner behind which was a great sense of humour
Bob Hilkar returned to Calgary
Robert Hopkins returned to Elliot Lake
Mack Deisert stayed  and  married in South Porcupine
Alan Skeoch returned to Toronto as a first year student at Victoria  College, University of Toronto.  For the next six summers
alan worked for Dr. Paterson and  his assemblage of top geophysicists.  Alan became an historian with a specialty in 
Economic History eventually doing an  M.A. in machine  design.


Nothing happened.  All those anomalies were ignored even though some of them were very promising.  The client, McIntyre Mines. concluded the area was  too
rough for a diamond drill crew to operate so  the project was  abandoned in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  I am unsure of its  status today in 2019.


DR. Paterson tells  some of the humorous things that happened in those days.  My journals  hopefully reveal even more of the human face of mining exploration
.  Some details may make you laugh, others will make you cry. Still others will make you say ‘he must be kidding’.  Truth?..it all happened.
 It was a very personal Odyssey for me.  A privilege really.   Alaska, Ireland, New Brunswick , Timagami,
Niagara Falls, Chibougamau, Marathon, Paradise Lodge,  Merritt BC, Yukon Territory…not as a  tourist but as a person probing the surface of the earth and  marvelling
at the characters I met.


I was  a Rover Scout, the senior part of the Boy Scout movement.   Some Boy Scouts were and are badge collectors. There was only one badge of honour
that excited me.  It is called the BUSHMAN’S THONG.   My journal detailing the Groundhog river job was submitted  and I got my thong.  I am not sure
the official readers of my application really believed everything written in my journal.  There was some scepticism.  But what I have written did actually happen
and my Bushman’s Thong still hangs on my old scout shirt.

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