You speak of love, you turn are gone
Moments worth, the price of myths
Step by step we take on weight
no need for answers
can someone tell me how this mountain got so high?
how'd this mountain get so high?
It was close to 7:30 pm when we taxied into position for takeoff. The large generator was chained to the floor in the main cabin. Barb occupied the small crew compartment right behind the cockpit. We had over six hours of flying ahead of us that night, but with a big Artic high over Labrador we would have no weather problems. We crossed the St. Lawrence and climbed to our cruising altitude of 7000 feet. The visibility was unlimited, not a cloud in the sky. Barb showed an interest in everything around her and never stopped asking questions. About two and a half hours later, she stood between the co-pilot and myself as we started our descent towards the lights of Burnt Creek. I gave her a set of earphones and she listened to the KL operator as he gave us our altimeter setting and told us the wind was calm and the temperature was -40 F.
I warned Barb to keep her face covered before we opened the cargo door and climbed down. Sub-zero temperatures can be deceiving and frostbite is very unpleasant. A large Bombardier snow vehicle, its engine idling, was standing by for us. Its exhaust in the frigid air formed a white vertical column against the dark sky. After a noisy and bumpy ride we came to rest at the airport kitchen. If one expected it to be aglow in the spirit of Christmas with carolers singing and good cheer being passed around, one would have been very disappointed. With the exception of a few rather sad decorations on the wall, there was no sign of the spirit of Christmas. This was a working mine and the silent men who sat in front of us with their heavy arctic gear set aside would soon be returning to their frost-covered machines to work through the night. It was not until Barb had removed a few layers of her outer clothing did they recognize that a pretty young women was in their midst. And while conversation did not flow easily, when Barb started to question and show an interest in the miners, they were all only too happy to tell her about their homes, families and work.
We had a good meal and, while Barb talked to her new friends, I quietly recalled the first flight I had made with Scotty to Knob Lake five years earlier and how things had changed. Over 1,000 people were now living and working at Burnt Creek, the open pits were producing and storing ore, and the railroad that would soon carry the ore to the seaway was almost completed. Sadly, I thought, the "great adventure" was nearly over.
Word was sent to the kitchen that our aircraft was unloaded and ready to return. We paid a visit to the radio station and filed our flight plan home. Returning to the airstrip we found it, not unexpectedly, cloaked in ice fog as the ground crew had kept our engines and cabin warm by ducting hot air to them from gasoline engine-driven ground heaters the exhaust of which had all but closed the airport. We wished our handlers a merry Christmas and taxied out of the dispersal area to the end of the runway. I glanced at my watch and seeing it was coming up on midnight I asked the radio operator whether there was any sign of a sled and reindeer coming in from the North. He replied that we were the only sled in sight. We lined up with oil flare pots burning on either side of us and, having left our heavy generator behind, leapt into the cold artic air with the energy and spirit of Dasher and Dancer.
We did not see the Jolly Old Elf with the white beard, reindeer and sled, but the night itself would cast a spell on us. We leveled at 8,000 feet and my partner gladly gave up his seat to Barb in exchange for the crew compartment bunk. Words fail to describe the beauty of that night, the Northern Lights were absolutely spectacular and danced in unbelievable color and frenzy across the entire sky. There was a full moon brighter, I thought, than any I had ever seen before, and so many stars and shooting stars that one wondered if the heavens could hold anymore. The artic air was absolutely still. We experienced a feeling that we were suspended, almost motionless and the drone of our engines became quiet, detached and remote from us.
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Last update: February 23, 2008
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