Thursday, July 18, 2013

hunting for dinosaurs

"You guys!" I said to nobody in particular (also known as "tweeting"). "I saw something weird the other day, and I think it might be a DINOSAUR SKELETON. The gang is gonna have to investigate!"

But alas, the Scooby Doo gang doesn't live in the Arctic, and most of my friends are out of town on vacation, so nobody listened to little old me.

[Trigger Warning: This entry contains images of things I found at the local dump.]

The weather's been awful lately. It's been raining for five or six days straight, so nobody's been able to go out and enjoy their favourite summertime activities of hiking, kayaking, fishing.... Instead, I've been going out for long drives in the rain.  I've been teaching T how to drive, in preparation for his driving test next month. We're trying to get as much road time in for him each day, but Cambridge Bay isn't all that huge, so we just drive down every single road in town, wishing that the truck's radio worked and that Bruce Springsteen had sung about riding around in cars in the Arctic.

Tonight, tonight the strip's just right 
I wanna blow them away in my first heat 
Summer's here and the time is right 
we're goin' racin' in the tundra...

We see some weird things on our drives.  For example, the lagoon near the old metal dump, with scrap machinery parts just breaking the surface of the murky water. Like silent robots, waiting to be resurrected.  Or a snowmobile, almost completely submerged in a small pond.  How did that happen? Did someone try to make a jump and fail? Did someone park it on the ice and then just, somehow, forget about it for the spring thaw?

One day, while driving past the dump, I saw something completely out of place. Which is pretty crazy, because it's a dump and there's all sorts of weird things there.

"Hold on," I said. "Stop the car. There's something there." And then I rolled out of the moving car, because I am classy like that.

T checked the rearview mirror and braked at a safe speed, pulling over to the side of the road. He's gonna have no problems with his driving test.

"What is that thing?"
"That thing! Is that a body?"

It could have been a number of things.  A mattress frame? A boat? A death robot? The tire chains from a snowmobile? Whatever it was, it looked pretty big, even from the distance.  We were too far away to really be able to make out what it was. Unfortunately I only had my iPhone with me, which doesn't have a zoom function because it's a bit of a dinosaur itself.

what lies beyond?

We drove away, but the Thing stayed in my mind.  I had my own theory about what it was.  I'd just finished reading The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore, a novel about an ancient sea beast that takes a sleepy small town by surprise, and I was prepared to see the same here in Ikaluktutiak, rattling up the locals and wreaking all sorts of havoc.

The next day, I had a mission.  But first I had to lay down a trail, like a cautious detective does. I told my friend Will:  "I think I saw some dinosaur bones in the junkyard. I'm going to investigate. If no one ever hears from us again, YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND US." Will lives in Vancouver, but I'm sure he would have sent a search party in the right direction if it had been needed.

To T, I said: "Let's go check out the dinosaur. I'm going to bring my camera."  T took the wheel and drove back to the dump at a reasonable speed.  This time, instead of driving by the dump, we decided to drive right into the dump, which was kind of a risky move because the dump closes at 5PM, and it was now a quarter to five.

"Are we going to get locked in?" I pondered, nervously looking at the chain linked fences lined with garbage that I did not want to climb. "They wouldn't lock us in, right? They'd check the yard to see if anyone was here first, right?"

No answer.  Being locked in the town landfill overnight with a dead dinosaur would be a weird kind of nightmare, even worse than discovering that trypophobia is a thing and you have it.  But we had a mystery to solve, so we proceeded, with one eye kept on the gate.

This time I waited till the car was fully stopped before I jumped out. I'm glad I did, because it meant I was looking where I was stepping.

"What on earth is that?"

"I don't know, but I just almost stepped in it."
"Is that it?"
"That's not our guy. Our guy is over there."

our guy: clearly not a mattress frame, still potentially a giant death lizard

"Then what was that?"
"That's a tuktu."

What was this place?

That's when we saw the sign, and realized that there is actually a designated area for dumping bodies.

Bodies, and honey bags. So you can imagine what this place smelled like.  Luckily, I have a poor sense of smell so that wasn't bothering me in particular.  What was bothering me though, was that there was dead carcasses everywhere, and it was a windy day. I definitely didn't want to linger too long now. What if the wind picked up and thrust some flesh-eating disease in my face? What better way to become full-blown trypophobic than to get necrotizing fasciitis in the face?


But we still had to figure out The Thing.

In the end, we came to a conclusion that our guy was not actually a brontosaurus, but some kind of whale.  Possibly beluga or narwhal; both are roughly similar in size and both can be found in the waters around here, although clearly our guy had not been swimming around the sewage lagoon. Some hunter obviously had dumped the skeleton here after making use of the meat.  It was certainly too big to be a seal.

What do you think? Beluga or narwhal?

Either way, I considered the mystery to be solved. Mainly because I wanted to leave before I accidentally breathed in botulism. So that was the end of the day's driving lesson / dinosaur bone expedition at the dump.

Now I'm going to start reading my next Christopher Moore novel, Fluke, which is all about whales.

*Writer's note: I don't actually have trypophobia, although I am also not a fan of Google images of flesh-eating disease. I'm just mildly trichotillomanic.