This is a tale that happened years ago, at an exploration camp far out on the barrens. Summer was over and winter was fast approaching. It was decided to close the camp down until they could start up the program the next spring. To put a big camp to bed for the winter can take several days. They tried to weather proof and animal proof what they would leave over winter. This included all the food they still had in the kitchen tent and supply tent.

Perishables would go back to town. Dry goods were put into weather and animal proof wooden boxes. Not that a wooden box would stop some animals, but you did the best you could. It turned out that they had a lot of canned goods; much more than the camp boss had expected. The cook who had already left had obviously been over-ordering. That many canned goods presented a problem.

It would be uneconomical to ship them all back to town. If they left them in the camp, they would freeze and probably thaw freeze several times in the spring. Anyone who has used canned goods that have been left over winter, knows that the contents turn mushy. They are still edible but very unappealing or appetizing.

Someone suggested that they could put them in the lake, below the ice line. Since the water below the ice stays above freezing, so would the canned goods. This was hailed as a brilliant idea. They had a couple helicopters nets in camp and a boat. So, they loaded all the canned goods into the boat and took them out to where the lake was about six or seven metres deep. They loaded up the nets, tied the tops closed, tied on a rope and lowered them to the bottom of the lake. Then they played out the rope until they reached shore and tied it around a large rock, so they could retrieve the nets the next spring when they returned.

The next day, the Twin Otters arrived to take out the crew and everything that was going back to town. The camp was put to bed for a long Arctic winter. The camp boss wrote up his notes and an inventory of everything that had been left in camp, so that next year’s crew would know what was out there.

That next spring, the new crew assembled in Yellowknife and they got ready to head out. The new camp boss looked over the list of what had been left from the year before and ordered accordingly. They headed out to camp and landed on the ice to reopen the camp. Oops, that was the first miscalculation. The lake was still frozen, so all the canned goods lay under the ice. They did contemplate chopping a hole through the ice to retrieve them but that also meant digging the rope out, because that was the key to locating them.

Instead, they waited a couple weeks until the melt had lifted the ice from shore. They thought they would pull the nets ashore through the gap of open water between the shore and the floating pan of ice. This proved to be a whole lot harder then anticipated. Luckily, they had a winch that they could use. Eventually the nets full of canned goods appeared on shore. This is when they discovered another big oops. All the labels had come off, so they had no idea what an individual can might contain. This led to some interesting meals, but at least the contents weren’t mushy.

So, the experiment had worked, the cans hadn’t been frozen, but it had also partially failed because of the missing labels.

Here is another little tip. If you are heading out and someone says, “Don’t worry, there is lots of toilet paper in the outhouse,” take some out with you, just in case.

Some of the left-behind toilet paper was soggy, which was less then pleasant. The rest of it had been shredded and turned into some critter’s nest. Just saying.

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