The Great Disastrophy by Bob Fowler


The Stollery-Godfrey canoe was tail-end-Charley at this point, and I was poised to chronicle their descent. They took the corner wide and, at first, worked to get back towards the centre and our sand-bar near river left. It seemed as if, finding that difficult, they intended to pull in on their right, but then realizing that that would be hazardous, given a smaller and then a huge boulder ahead of them in the stream but almost touching the right bank (and directly opposite to where the remainder of us were standing, barely 15 metres away), they made a late, but valiant effort to force their way back to the centre and our bar, but there wasn’t room and there wasn’t time.

Abandon Ship

As they angled toward their left, they smacked into the smaller, more submerged rock and abandoned ship as their canoe rode up on that boulder, flipped, filled with water and, now perpendicular to the river, proceeded toward where the bow-man, John Godfrey, had ended up; up to his waist in the eddy behind the smaller rock, but with his back almost touching the larger one.

The Spill

Downstream of a canoe filled with water and gear, coming at you broadside with your back against a huge rock is about the worst situation imaginable. I expected to see John turned into a strawberry jam smear on that rock within a couple of seconds.

The canoe did indeed smash against the large rock and scrape mightily against its surface as it proceeded downstream, only to have its back broken across another mostly submerged rock only a few metres further downriver. John, though, had avoided being smushed by backing into a small niche or crevice in that boulder while the water and gear filled canoe (with a combined weight of, perhaps, two tons) scraped across the front of that small cavity.

Salvage Operation