Cool, Clear Water by Ted Johnson

Godfrey stops for a drink on the Ajaqutalik

Having cut his broadcasting teeth as a DJ spinning country and western discs on local radio in Prince Rupert, Craig could entertain us with an amazing repertoire of ‘fifties’ western songs. Most of them seemed to have been sung by Gene Autry; some were more obscure. One that he particularly enjoyed launching into was about water and parched cowboys finding a drink in the dusty Arizona desert. “Water – cool, clear water….” We got to know that one pretty well because he’d start into it on those glorious hot days paddling on calm stretches of flat water, when we would pause to dip a cup over the side and enjoy a cool drink.

Cool, Clear, Water

Arctic water is almost always quite drinkable. No communities upstream, no trees and therefore no beaver and so no debilitating ‘beaver fever’ to worry about, and thus, no purification necessary. I don’t remember us ever bringing, let alone using, purification pills or gear. Most of us kept a plastic or metal cup at the ready, tethered to a belt or thwart in the canoe, and never hesitated to use it. Always cold (the temperature of most of our rivers was generally less than 10° C) and the taste was exquisite.

The only ‘pollutants’ I recall were occasional masses of floating caribou hair on rivers like the Hood and Burnside whose valleys served since time out of memory as migration routes for the big herds. And even there we were never seriously inhibited.

We took it for granted at the time, but looking back, one wonders how many places remain on earth where one can dip a mug over the side of a boat and enjoy a cool, potable drink.

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