Dawson City, Yukon Friday, February 21, 1997

ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE...A Yukon Quest musher arrives in Dawson on February 14 (left photo). After 36 hours, the Quest began again on February 16. In the righthand photo, a team prepares to hit the trail. The Waterfront Building, seen in the background, is the home of the Klondike Sun. Photos by Sylvie Gammie and Greg Karais

Feature Stories

Yukon Quest Hits Dawson
Nuggets Getting Rave Reviews Across the Nation
Hotelier Burned by C.I.B.C.
Dawson Students' Trip to Quebec is Saved
So Minus 50 was Cold?
New Lots Go On Sale in Dawson
Who were those Quiet People, Anyway?
Comment: Virtual Reality? Bah - Humbug!

Yukon Quest Hits Dawson

By Caroline Murray
Special to the Sun

(Caroline, a former Sun summer staffer, was following the Quest for the Whitehorse Star when she mislaid the power cord for her PowerBook. In return for office use here, she provided us with this excellent story on the Quest.)

Alaskan musher John Schandelmeier was leading the pack when he and his 14 dogs raced into Dawson City on Friday morning. For the third time in his history with the Quest, the 44-year-old trapper and commercial fisherman took the Dawson Award. He'll receive four ounces of gold provided he finishes the 1,600 kilometers race.

The last two times he won the award -- 1992 and 1996 -- he also won the Yukon Quest.

On his heels was Mark May, a 40-year-old veterinarian from North Pole, Alaska. And of course, what's the Yukon Quest without some Yukoners in the bunch? Frank Turner of Whitehorse was the third musher to slide into town, followed by Ned Cathers of Lake Laberge.

Some people say the Quest has been merely a camping trip so far. The real racing doesn't begin until after the teams leave Dawson and head toward the finish line in Fairbanks.

This past week has seen some dogs battling sickness. It's led to Alaskan mushers Jay Cadzow and Peter Zimmermann having to scratch from the race at Pelly Crossing. Steve Mullen of Alaska dropped out due to back problems, and rookie racer Ingabritt Schloven threw in the towel after some of her dog's were experiencing ankle soreness.

That brings the total number of teams competing for a slice of the $125,000 US purse to 24.

The teams left Whitehorse on Sunday, Feb. 9. The first mushers began reaching Braeburn Lodge -- a dog drop -- early the next morning. The teams continued to their first checkpoint in Carmacks, followed by Pelly Crossing.

David O'Farrell of Tagish is competing in his first Quest. He had a close call earlier this week after he accidentally lost one of his dogs in the bush. He released the neck and tug lines of one of his dogs while trying to untangle the dogs' lines. The dog, Lucky, took off down the trail and disappeared into the night. The 33-year-old wilderness guide fortunately found her down the trail, relaxing on the river.

"She was waiting," he said.

O'Farrell described the trail up to Pelly as challenging. "There were some really sharp curves and some really tight trail," he said. "As well, there were some steep down hills, with glaciers and sharp corners at the bottom." It had been these kind of conditions that led the experienced Schandelmeier to crash his sled into a tree. The musher had been having problems braking on the trail because of an injury to his ankle, prior to the race.

"The thing is, I saw the tree coming but there was nothing I could do about it," he said. He described the route between Braeburn and Carmacks as being the worst run he's ever had in his life. Schandelmeier managed to patch up his sled with some electrical tape and wire.

"It looks like hell, but it'll get there."

Whitehorse area musher Turner is the only person to compete in all 14 Yukon Quests. The 1995 winner looked like he was enjoying himself on the route earlier this week.

"It's just wonderful again," he said. He had been concerned during the first couple of days when both he and his dogs were sick. "You sure feel a lot better when you see these guys getting healthier."

This year, Turner has been focusing on keeping a positive attitude. He admits that he placed enormous pressure on himself while having to defend his title in 1996. "We're having fun again," he said. "We're out there doing it -- for all the right reasons."

This year's race has witnessed new exposure with the addition of around 80 members of the media covering the Quest. Many, but not all, of the overseas reporters have been funded by Fulda Reifen, the new corporate sponsor. Fulda is a large German tire company. It's estimated that the Yukon will enjoy millions of dollars worth of free advertising through the Quest coverage.

Earlier this week, the RCMP had to talk with some of the German reporters after the detachment received some complaints of speeding snowmobiles. But, Sgt. John Taylor believes the visitors were just getting a little carried away, and had no intention of breaking the laws. He talked to the reporters about the importance of making this weekend a safe one. "I went down and spoke to our German visitors," he said. "We explained our position and they understood it. They were very receptive."

Here's the order of the mushers as they came into Dawson on Friday and Saturday: (some of the teams have yet to arrive) Schandelmeier, May, Turner, Cathers, Rick Mackey, Keizo Funatsu, Jerry Louden, Kathy Swenson, Dave Dalton, Tim Mowry, O'Farrell, Dave Rorabaugh and Nicolas Vanier.


Nuggets Getting Rave Reviews Across the Nation

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Kevin and Margo Anderson are at home this night, bagging moose chili, getting ready for the 8 day snowmobile trip to Whitehorse. This will begin on March 1 and will be the first leg of the Ottawa challenge trip that has been consuming the attention of the members of the Nuggets Old Timers Hockey team for months.

Anderson is just back from a trip to Ottawa, along with fellow organizer Pat Hogan, where they believe they set to rest any worries the Senator's fund raising arm might have had about spectator interest.

Meeting with Brad Marsh, who is in charge of community development for the Senators, and is also a member of the senior's team that will be playing the Nuggets, Anderson got the sense that his host's concerns were considerably laid to rest.

Says Anderson, "He was actually quite surprised when we came back there. He expected a few local media to show up and he didn't realize that we had national press from both sides of the border."

This trip was "the launch" for the event. There was a big press conference on January 30. The Dawson reps threw down the gauntlet and made a formal challenge which was accepted by the Senators.

"We did all the media stuff for an entire day, talking to reporters and television cameras. Then what happens is that the Canadian Press fires it right across the country and it's broadcast on television stations and sports stations -- and the hype starts.

"So now everyone across Canada knows exactly when the train is going to be coming through their city, and they arrange for press to be there and they just kinda pump you all the way along.

"Right after the first interview I did in the morning on the Rideau Canal our media fellow was checking in with the CBC station to see what kind of response there was. 'This Hour Has 22 Minutes' had phoned for footage." There's no guarantee the popular current affairs spoof show will use that item, but it's interesting that they asked to see it.

The New York Times had phoned for a story, along with the NBC and ABC networks. This week another player, John Flynn, will be interviewed by the British Broadcasting Corporation out of the Whitehorse studios of the CBC.

TSN was at the press conference and Pat Hogan has filmed a little spot with them, saying, "Hi. I'm Pat Hogan from the Dawson City Nuggets. Now that's hockey!"

The Nuggets may even get a mention on the David Letterman show when it gets closer to the time for the trip.

"They've been going through all of the procedures... to make it a for sure thing. They keep phoning back and wanting to know more, so hopefully we're going to get something on there. They've shown interest in following the trip as we go and being able to speak to us."

This will be possible because the Nuggets will have cellular communication during the entire trip. In addition, CBC will be doing a one hour documentary of the trip, although Anderson isn't sure just what branch of the network will be doing this.

"It's been very well received, that is for sure. The way the hype is going anything could happen."

Could they even win? Well, that's anyone's guess. But the way this project has been generating publicity for the Yukon, everyone is already a winner.


Hotelier Burned by C.I.B.C.

by Tim Sawa

(Tim is another former Sun staffer, now serving with the CBC in Whitehorse. He wrote this story for the Yukon News and has kindly allowed us to use it.)

Duncan Spriggs is burning mad with the local branch of the CIBC.

Over the Christmas holiday the owner and operator of the Westminster Hotel set a home-made manikin wearing a CIBC shirt alight in friont of the bank to show his displeasure. As Spriggs stood defiantly beside the flaming effigy, he chastised the bank for its poor service and unfair loan policies.

"I requested a small loan from this bank," he said in an interview later at his hotel. "They promised me the loan four months ago, but the loan has not materialized."

The problem, he explained, is with the collateral the bank wanted. He offered his hotel in exchange for a small business loan -- one he describes as equivalent to two weeks' gross revenue at his establishment -- to get him through a slow month.

But neither the hotel, nor the lots upon which it sits, were acceptable to the bank, said Spriggs.

The bank wanted him to put up his home.

"They won't accept the Westminster Hotel as any form of collateral, for reasons they can't explain to me," he added. "However, they wish to take my family home as collateral, which I object to. It's a business loan for a business premise. Why do they want my family home? I don't want to jeopardize my wife and kids."

He said he refused to put up his home, and as a result the bank has denied him the loan.

Following his protest, bank manager Peggy Kine came to the Westminster Hotel to discuss Spriggs' concerns. Citing client confidentiality, Kine refused to comment on the situation. But the next day, Spriggs said Kine guaranteed him the loan only if he would put up his home for collateral. Spriggs finally gave in to the bank's demands.

"I had to. They've got me by the balls."

Reprinted with permission of the writer.


Dawson Students' Trip to Quebec is Saved

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

AWARD RECIPIENTS...Bianca Beets and Megan Gates pose with YTG Minister David Keenan as the two girls collect their "Saved by the Belt" award. Both were in a near fatal accident in August of 1995.Photo by Palma Berger

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the students of Robert Service School when they went home on February 4. Twenty students had just learned that the Quebec exchange for which they had been planning an raising money since school opened last August was in jeopardy, probably cut due to funding restrictions imposed upon the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada.

Their twin school in Beauceville had be assigned another partner in Victoria and things looked grim.

The mood lightened considerably with the morning announcements on Wednesday, when Principal John Reid announced that the SEVEC decision had been reversed and that they were going after all.

"It felt great," said Reid that night. "It was very rewarding to let the kids know that things had been worked out on their behalf.

"The cut didn't make any sense whatsoever," he said. The planning had gone on in the school since August. All the proper steps had been taken, the forms filled out and the money $275 from each of the 20 students -- collected and forwarded by the proper deadlines. It was just days later that word of the cancellation arrived at the school.

French teacher Mark Pengue was devastated. Working hard to build up the image of a French program that had had a very rough year before his arrival, Pengue had decided to set up the trip to Quebec as soon as he learned he was moving to Dawson last May. In the meantime he had restored enough confidence in the subject that students who had not planned to last spring registered for a grade 11/12 class when the opportunity arose later on.

Cutting the trip, said Reid, "would have undermined all the solid work Pengue had done in building up the course since he arrived, and resurrected a lot of bad old feelings.

Pengue told only staff members when the bad news first came in, but turned energetically to seeing what might be done to salvage the experience. Consulting with the principal, Regional Superintendent Carol McCauley and other Department of Education officials, Pengue planned a protest campaign that would, at least, make it clear that this school was upset.

By a strange coincidence, the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada began an advertising campaign on CBC radio just a few days later, advertising its programs and urging people to apply.

Says Pengue, "I called CBC radio and I told them. 'You're advertising these exchanges through SEVEC and I don't know if you're aware what happened to a school here. Our exchange got cancelled because of funding.'"

Pengue didn't stop with the local radio station. He next placed a call to Peter Mansbridge of "The National", who wasn't very excited by yet another budget cut story.

There were also calls to the Prime Minister's and Deputy Prime Minister's offices, and it was the last one that showed some promise.

Officials at the office of Sheila Copps, also Minister in charge of Canadian Heritage, were surprised to hear that SEVEC's funding had been trimmed in that way.

Copps' office returned his call, by which time CBC Yukon had arranged for an interview with Pengue and grade 11 student Carie Rudis for the next day.

Pengue said his Ottawa caller was surprised that he had contacted so many people so quickly.

"He said to me, 'Can you just wait before you go any further? Because we're not even aware of this and there may be changes made tomorrow.'"

And when tomorrow arrived, sure enough, there were changes.

"The campaign was in place," Reid said. There was department support for going public and a letter writing campaign would have begun by the end of the week. With only eight weeks to go, the students, teacher and parents were going to turn up the heat.

Early morning calls from SEVEC the day after Pengue went public confirmed that the trip was reinstated. The details aren't completely settled yet, but it appears that the original twinning with Beauceville will take place after all.

"When you follow the correct chain up the ladder sometimes it works," said Reid. "Mark deserves a lot of credit, as he has carried most of this."

The only explanation offered at the moment is that, yes, there are indeed cuts from the Department of Canadian Heritage's funding to SEVEC, but they are intended to affect next year's exchanges, not those that have already been approved and are less than two months from their departure date.

So the countdown clock in the upper halls of RSS is moving again.


So Minus 50 was Cold?

by Palma Berger
Sun Staff

Dawsonites have been venting their feelings about the many days when the temperature dropped to below -50 degrees C. December saw only a few days when it went above -30 degrees C. January warmed up a bit..a wee bit. One optimist said we should keep spreading the word of the miserable cold because there seem to me more people coming here. We do not want everyone to discover what a great place this is to live.

On the whole -50 degrees C is easier to bear now than about forty years ago. Dick Field recalled how the town was all heated with wood back then. They seemed to have some bad stretches of -50 weather, and many people ran out of wood. The vehicles in those days were not equipped to do battle with the cold and wood-gatherers could not go out and collect more wood. For emergencies the government stockpiled wood and the folk could borrow from this pile.

Water to the houses froze up everywhere.

He recalled Heather Munroe getting married when the weather outside was -70 and he swears it was -70 inside.

Dick recalled a Texan who worked for Socony Mobil. This gentleman had never been this far north nor had any experience in how to live in this extreme cold. The temperature was -60 degrees, and the Texan had to fill up. Unthinking, he took his mitts off to grab the nozzle to fill up. He found he could not remove his hand from the nozzle. His hand had frozen to it. His fingers were all white. When they finally freed him, he said he could not understand it, it just felt like a burning sensation. He was a long time healing.

Animals did not have it too easy either. Ragnor Nielsen, Dick recalls, was a wood gatherer who used horses to haul his wood in. In the -60 degree weather he put sacks over the horses' faces so they would not breathe in the abominably cold air. Just at the junction of the Klondike and Yukon on the return journey to Dawson one horse fell down and could not get up. Ragnor could not figure out what was wrong at first. The horse was not dead, just gasping for air. On removing the sack, Ragnor found the sack had kept the horse's breath from escaping and so the moist breath had turned to ice inside the sack and in its nostrils. When he was finally able to clear the ice out, the horse was able to breathe again, but just in time.

Fred Berger remembers when there were few vehicles in town but one of them belonged to Caley's grocery store. With this, Fred Caley delivered groceries for his customers. Fred says that the tyres in those days were not made of the sturdy stuff we have nowadays. One really cold January the tyres froze, and one splintered just like glass.

So it really is a little better these days. Still one knows that -50 degrees C weather affects people when the day it warms up to -20 degrees C and the sun shines on the town, Loralyn Cleland remarks,"What a lovely day. I'm going home to turn on the barbecue."


New Lots Go On Sale in Dawson

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

It's been some time since building lots in any quantity went on sale in Dawson City, the last parcel being the country residential lots in the final phase of the Dome sub-division several years ago.

That changed on February 19 at 2 PM when 40 lots were placed on the market. These lots, mostly residential, but including two 50 ft. by 210 ft. commercial parcels, have been created out of a development project which has been remaking the north end of town during the last year.

The project itself -- with the debates and arguments over its wisdom -- goes back considerably longer than that, but came to fruition last summer when a number of streets in the area were realigned in order to extend sewer and water services into that part of the town.

There had been lots there previously, but they were smaller and unserviced.

City manager Jim Kincaid says, "This is actually only phase one of three phases that were going to go all at the same time, but because of some difficulties in finalizing land negotiation and other practical matters they decided only to go with phase one."

Seven of the lots currently sit in a zone classified as light industrial, but this classification is expected to be altered by upcoming amendments to the zoning bylaw.

The process was not without its difficulties, but ran fairly smoothly as far as it has gone, with one amusing exception. Tom Byrne, the actor whose tribute to Robert Service is a big tourist draw here each summer, owns a cabin in the north end, an ancient building that sat right in the middle of a proposed street.

In negotiations with Byrne some years back it was determined that his cabin would have to be moved onto a new lot in exchange for his land. Part of the swap was that the city would bear the cost of the move and his new utility connections. In particular his electrical connections would be restored. During the process it was found that the cabin was well below code and that once it was unhooked from service it had to be brought up to code standard before it could be reconnected. The way the contract was worded the city ended up footing the bill for this. Kincaid says it wasn't large, but it was an unexpected wrinkle.

It's easy to forget how long ago and how informally some of our older structures were put together.


Who were those Quiet People, Anyway?

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Photo by Palma Berger

They came. They saw. They were very quiet. And they left with hardly a word.

But for three days Dawsonites wondered about the sleek Porches and Mercedes that were parked in the lot opposite the Downtown Hotel, where the 20 people on the tour were trying very hard to be inconspicuous.

But how inconspicuous can you be when your vehicles are parked -- and wrapped in car covers against the elements -- right smack in the middle of town?

Dick Van Nostrand hosted the score of mostly German travellers at the Downtown Hotel and says they were great people but they didn't seem to want to talk to anyone. Though they were hardly invisible.

The night they arrived, Van Nostrand went to meet them at his hotel.

He recalls the sight: "Here's these guys in all blue suits with red trim highlights -- a winter snowsuit kind of thing -- pants and jackets. Expensive hard luggage and all this stuff. Here they are walking into a hotel and they stand out from five miles away."

On top of that there's 12 brand new Porches and a couple of Mercedes.

He set up their meal in the conference room and waited around to see what else they might need. He had put up a welcome sign to greet them.

"I forget who it was that came in and said that they really appreciated the sign but, they were trying to be a little inconspicuous so they would really appreciate it if the sign was taken down." Van Nostrand laughs as he recall the moment. "They were nice people, though."

They came from all over Germany as far as he knows, drivers, engineers and no publicity. They were up every morning and away on their rounds, attempting a trip to Inuvik but only getting as far as Eagle Plains as far as he knows. They spent three nights, from January 29 to 31, and then they were gone.

Local press were unable to get a word out of them while they were here. Klondike Sun volunteer Palma Berger said they told her they didn't want anyone making a fuss about them. They were interested in talking about the weather and Berger, who had had a lot of car trouble during the -50 spell, says they hung on her every word about that. They rather wistfully indicated that they wished it was a bit colder while they were here so they could really test their vehicles.

Next time they'll have to come closer to Christmas.


Comment: Virtual Reality? Bah - Humbug!

by the Reverend Don Sax
Saint Paul's Anglican Church

Whither can I flee from the seemingly endless discussion about technology and the economy, even if I wanted to?

For technology, the buzz words are "new" and "inevitable", and we are all exhorted to get with it, to be part of the information age.

For the other, the buzz words are "change" and "globalization", with the necessity for us to be "competitive". We are bombarded with this in all media by a vast array of experts who hawk their ideological wares with a fervour and a certainty matching that of any T.V. evangelist.

The scenario sounds something like this: We are on the verge of a great new age. We will all have the accumulated information of history immediately available to us, as well as the thoughts and opinions of every human being on the face of the planet. At the same time, we will be jet-setting around the world providing quality goods and services to millions at a competitive price, becoming ever increasingly affluent.

That self-serving story is front and centre in all media these days. But there is another discussion going on in the streets, corner bars or coffee rooms. It has to do with unemployment, with the uncertainly of education, with survival; a reality check mixed in with an accumulation of misinformation, distortions and out and out lies expounded and believed, usually, within clearly defined racial or social boundaries.

One is the bright shining profile of the recent technological wizard cum billionaire, the other the dull stare of the beggar on the inner city street corner -- occupying the same space but living in different worlds. One is the fascinated gaze of a child at the monitor with its world of programmed unreality, the other the last feeble thrashing of a whale as it dies on the bottom of a polluted ocean.

For some this is simply the historically verifiable disruption that occurs when significant social change is taking place -- a small price to pay for the new and impossible to imagine wondrous world is that is emerging. For others it is the apocalypse, the beginning of the end. For all, there is increasingly a sense of inevitability, of events over which I have no control, no say. Events to which I can only adapt, indeed, must adapt. The T.V. commentators, computer gurus, corporate hucksters, economic advocates and interNet junkies would like to con us; "This is the world of virtual reality." they say.

"Virtual" -- maybe, but "reality" -- NO! This is a simulation, an artificial world peddled as the real thing.

Is this only world for us in the coming millennium? Must we live in it, or can we choose another? Must we simply accept it, or can we evaluate and decide for ourselves? After generations of being the domesticators, have we ourselves become the ultimate domesticate?

One real contradiction in all this is inevitability. Surely we are beyond the simple animism of our ancient forebears and the dialectic determinism of the nineteenth century industrialist.

Like it or not, we human beings do have the privilege of making decisions about our future, and we must bear the responsibility for that, despite the sophistry of the new elite.

Where are we? Where are we going? What is really going on here? These are profound questions that we must deal with all the time, but which come to the fore in the Christian community during the season of Lent.

And there is no better place to reflect on this than here and now, where two great rivers meet; symbolizing the junction of two great cultures, one ancient and venerable, the other new but vital.

The Yukon River, the homeland of the Hwetchin people, reaching back in time and space to long before the last ice age. A people with the memory of Utopia, the way it used to be. Not unlike the utopianism of many in our day, the yearning for that place and time where all things are in harmony, where life is as it should be.

The Klondike Creeks, the search for Eldorado, a magnet for the gold seekers with their dreams of riches beyond imagination. And this too is not unlike the dreams of financial security and well-being of countless individuals, families and communities.

Here we have the chance to explore different ways. This is a place where diversity is not frowned upon, where cooperation is valued, where technology is tested in the crucible of community life in a demanding environment. This is a community where we have not yet sold our souls to the gods of global competitiveness and the bottom line -- where we can still single-handedly dig for gold, thrill at the sight of the Northern Lights, laugh at the antics of an old moose on a golf course, bask in the sun at -25C, and greet the stranger on the street.

Here we can define our way, or ways. We can experiment with alternative economies, polities and cultures. Maybe we can find the balance between Utopia and Eldorado, without falling into the harsh determinism that comes with either. Maybe we can define a life style that is appropriate to this time and place, where individuals exist for the community, and the community exists for the individual.

It's worth a try!

(Ed. Note: Lest ye be deceived, Don Sax has probably been on-line longer than most people in Dawson. No technophobe, he. But his use of computers as tools has not transmuted them into religious icons for him. You can reply at donlee@web.net if you like.)


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