If you see a large water bottle with a red flag attached floating or frozen along the Mackenzie River make sure to fish it out — and not just for environmental reasons.
Bob Walker has sent a message in a bottle and he’s hoping to get it all the way to Tuktoyaktuk — with a little help from his friends, of course.
“It will go into Lake Athabasca, from there to the Slave River and then the Slave River dumps into Great Slave Lake and then Mackenzie runs out of that,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll get all the way to Tuk.
“There’s a ferry there at Tsiigehtchic. They might spot it and move it along.”
Saying he thought it would be a fun experiment, the Sangudo, Alta. trapper and firefighter cast the bottle into the Athabasca River Aug. 7.
Inside is a black plastic bag containing a loonie and a toonie, a note explaining where the bottle was first cast off and a spot to add additional names of anyone who handles it, instructions to move it further down river and Walker’s contact. The 18 litre water bottle is sealed.
Walker has longstanding connections to the North. Each year he collects skating and hockey equipment for the SkateNorth program, donating gear to communities throughout the Beaufort Delta and across the Northwest Territories.
“We brought a bunch of equipment up,” he said. “That’s about the 22nd time now we’ve done it up North. I’ve been to Nunavut, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories — I started at Tsiigehtchic, A bunch of equipment went up to Inuvik this year, and Fort McPherson and Norman Wells.”
Over the years, he said he’s made a lot of friends along the Mackenzie River, so he figured he’d find a fun way to say hello.
Conceding that the chances of a plastic bottle surviving moving through several high-energy river systems crossing thousands of miles are slim and the chances of someone coming across it before freeze up is also slim, Walker said he wanted to maximize his message’s chances by getting the word out.
“I have a lot friends along there I want to touch base with,” he said. “Ferry operators and stuff like that, because they’ll pick it up. If it’s floating, they’ll see it.
“A guy from where I threw it off said he once saw something white floating down river and it turned out to be a propane bottle, so he picked it up. So if everybody picks it up and drops something off them from, a little memento, we’ll have quite a bit by the time it gets up there, God willing.”
Though water around Inuvik is already freezing, the tentative closing date for both the Mackenzie River and Peel River ferries is expected to be between Oct. 28 and Nov. 5. However, the Department of Infrastructure update issued Oct. 19 noted the ferries could close sooner if temperatures drop.