Into the Beautiful North!
I will just miss ‘Break Up’, the moment when the Yukon River ice in front of Dawson breaks up and starts to flow. Below is last year’s break up, on May 7, 2011 at 4.25 PM. Dawsonians have been keeping track of the exact minute of break up since 1896, which was on May 19 at 2:35 PM.
Nearly everyone in Dawson buys a ticket and places a bet on the month, day and minute they think break up will happen. To record the moment, they put a tripod on the ice that is connected by a cable to a clock at the Danoja Zho Cultural Center. When the ice starts moving, it stops the clock and records the exact time. Then an alarm sounds and everyone leaves work and school and goes down to the Yukon River.
Nature here is spectacular but people say they miss loons, crickets and fireflies. I love being here in winter. The cold is easy to handle with layered clothing and a big parka. It is a dry cold that doesn’t get into my bones like the damp cold in Oregon. Dawson City is incredibly quiet (very little traffic, no stop lights, no industry in town), the sparkling snowy landscape is clean and lovely and 14 hours of sunshine daily (only one snowstorm in 3.5 weeks) is delightful. But as the snow melts, we get to see the trash that has been jettisoned all winter long and many months of frozen dog shit are appearing. Locals say there are more dogs than people in Dawson.
Andreas and I took a break from the short film screenings and drove out the icy road to Bonanza Creek, the site of the gold discovery that brought 100,000 gold seekers to the Klondike (translated from Tr’ondek) between 1897 and 1899. We stopped at gold Dredge No. 4 (above), which operated 24 hours a day from 1913 until 1966. It is now a National Historic Site. No. 4 was the largest wooden hulled bucket lined dredge in North America and it dug up mountains of earth as it churned through the creeks. The entire valley is lined with thousands of huge worm shaped mounds, the tailings left by 53 years of scooping and processing by the dredges.