While there were many advance concerns expressed about conditions on the Yukon River this year -- everything from careful concern by community authorities to near panic by Northern Affairs -- the river has confounded predictions once again and has gone out peacefully.
The siren went of shortly after 1 PM on Monday, May 6, bringing the usual crowd of concerned river watchers to see what was happening. BY the time they got to the dyke, there wasn't much to be seen.
The unofficial winner of the annual IODE Breakup Ice Pool is Kip Fisher from Whitehorse. IODE representative Joyce Caley didn't think that was likely to change, but the organization always waits about a week before making it official just in case something comes up.
Fisher will take home $2,799 for coming closest to the actual break-up time of 12:56 PM. The money for the prize was raised by selling 3,737 tickets at a cost of $1 each. What remains after the cost of promoting the contest is used by the organization to finance its charitable works during the year.
There wasn't a great deal of excitement when the siren went off, and those who got there after the ice pan shifted wouldn't have seen much. One eye witness described it by simply saying that the whole pan in front of town moved down river. Sure enough, later in the day you could see jumble ice where the IODE's tripod had been, and the tripod itself sitting upturned on the ice, about three or four hundred metres downstream from where it had been.
"No break-up is ever like any other one," said IODE member Myrna Butterworth. It would also seem that no break-up is very predictable either. Observers had felt that this was the year the dyke might be tested, but so far that hasn't been the case.
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It wasn't over that night, though. The ice pan sat quiescent during the day. During the night the river rose and fell a number of times, shattering the pan and fragmenting it into chunks that were sailing off down the river the next morning at 8:30. Several times during May 7 the river rose and fell, causing people to wonder if earlier concerns about the dyke being tested might still be valid. By evening, however, the shore was littered with ice bergs and the river was flowing free.
The flush that finally broke up the Yukon was provided by floes moving down river from 40 kilometres away on May 5. Water had been low here, which is one reason why the Yukon River was so slow to move. "We think it's bringing forward a fair wave of water, which is what we need here to break the ice, to flush it," Emergency Measures Coordinator Cayen said that evening.
A week earlier people could have been excused for thinking that the Klondike River had gone out. There was a flushing of about a kilometre of the ice pan out to the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, but further upstream much ice, thick and stubborn, still lingered.
"We thought it went out too," said EMO chair Pat Cayen, "but it didn't." The effects of this small surge left ice chunks over a metre thick scattered on the mud flats near the Klondike's mouth and Cayen pointed to these as a sign of how frozen the river was. They were thicker than normal Klondike River ice.
"When the water in the Klondike went out (on the weekend) we flew it, and it was still jammed all the way to Dempster Corner," Cayen said. By Sunday a lot of that expanse seemed to be clearing out, but in places one could see that the freely moving water was in fact moving on top of a layer of ice that remained to be thawed.
At Dempster Corner it appeared that certain flooding had been averted, or at least, retarded, by the action taken near the bridge. Work crews gouged several deep channels into the solidly frozen river to give any free water a place to move and encourage thawing. Some of the excavated ice currently forms an ice berm on the west side of the river, protecting the area around the Klondike River Lodge.
Rock Creek and Henderson Corner also managed to avoid what many thought would be a certain flood.
This year is very odd in that the Klondike River is really still frozen, water running free on top of ice that, in many places, continues to be frozen right down to the river bed.
The Department of Highways had been in the "Compound" for so long that it seemed to be part of the history here. For this "Compound" was part of historic Fort Herchmer. The R.C.M.P. once had their warehouse behind the garage. The woodpile that prisoners worked on was also at the back. Long ago, the scaffold was in the same area behind the garage.
Those times changed and a Grader station evolved on this spot. The Grader Station became more business-like about 1967 when the Highways office was built. Humphrey Construction, who also built Clinton Creek at the time, did the work. The garage was built and other changes were made.
Talking to the employees of the Department of Highways, one discovers that there is a pride in their place and the work they do. Many have worked there for most of their working lives.
Mayo born George Nagano has been with the Dept. of Highways the longest, a total of thirty-seven years and beginning in Mayo. George recalled past employees such as Ed Whitehouse -- District Foreman, Jack McDiarmid -- Road Foreman, Tommy Clare -- operator, names familiar to many Yukoners. George also recalled the flood of 1979 when the water level in the garage rose to seven feet.
Dawson born Anna Hanulik worked in the offices of the old Gold Company, Y.C.G.C., for several years before joining Y.T.G. She began work in the new Highways office on February 1st. 1968, and that has been her working "home" ever since.
The employee with the next greatest length of service is Dawson born Chuck Barber, with twenty-six years, followed by Dawson born Gerry Crayford with twenty-three years.
Recently retired Joe Braga and Tommy Nakashima were both Dawson born and both worked for Highways for thirty years. The Grader station seems to hold the work history of many Dawsonites.
The First Superintendent of Highways was Charlie Profeit who started on January 1st. 1967 and retired for health reasons in October 1984. Charlie was succeeded by Al Close who worked from 1985 - 1991 when he transferred to Faro.
His successor, Duff Felker, is the present Superintendent. Most times we tend to refer to activities in this area in terms as "Government workers", "the Government truck", "Government graders", and say, for example, "Oh, the road will be all right now, I saw the 'Government grader' going out." We forget the many people working there, mechanics, parts people, workers who keep the "Government" equipment operating.
So, it was surprising to discover from Duff Felker, exactly how many workers there are. He says that during the summer there are a total of twenty-six employees who work out of the Dawson shop, plus the ferry crew of fourteen people. During the winter the crew out of the Dawson shop totals eighteen.
What is to become of the buildings in the Compound? The "sign" shed goes to the Dawson Fire Department who will move it off site. It is to be used as a training and practice building. Both the grader station and the garage will be disposed of in a tender process through asset disposal.
The old office will undergo a feasibilty study to see how it can be turned into a heated storage area by Government Services and moved to their grounds. The cold storage shed in the North-west corner is being looked at by two Government Departments.
The area will then be readied to prepare the site for the building of the new school. The "Compound" will be entering a new phase in its history.
Whatever else "Up With People" may stand for, a talk with Rebecca Gosse and Regi Möller makes it clear that it definitely means "enthusiasm!" with an exclamation point.
What else could entice hundreds of young people each year to fork over $12,600 (US) to work as hard as they do for the year they are on the road?
Prospective Up with People cast members know from the start, which is often up to two years before they actually get to join the group, that they are going to travel all over the world, learn every aspect of the skills needed to stage the extravaganzas they put on, work long days, put in community service hours as well as actual performance times, and actually pay the organization to let them have the privilege of serving.
It might be a daunting prospect for a young person, but Regi and Rebecca love every minute of it. The hardest part about being the advance team in Dawson City is being separated from the 105 members of their cast and not getting to do all that stuff for a month.
"I really do miss the performing. I miss my cast," Rebecca says, sounding almost embarrassed by the strength of her feeling. Regi is less reserved. "I live for the green room," she says, referring to the motivational exercises that they always go through before each performance.
The young women came to Up With People from quite different backgrounds. Rebecca is the Canadian. She grew up in Toronto and graduated from high school there. Because she has dual citizenship she was then able to work for a year in the USA, doing everything from store clerking to working for an InterNet provider. Up With People came into her life after she became dissatisfied with a fling at university. Her parents took her to the Festival show in Woodstock, Ontario, as a coming home present, and she was hooked immediately.
You don't have to audition for UWP; all that is required is to sit for an interview. Rebecca did that as soon as she could and by October of 1995 the 19 year old knew she would be going to Denver in January for training.
It comes as a surprise that there is no audition, but the program tends to attract people who already have some talent or interest in this area. Besides, the organizers seem to belief that that they can provide whatever training and skills are needed.
Across the world in Switzerland, 23-year-old Regi had come to the end of her commercial apprenticeship in real estate, having gone into that career straight out of school. Two years ago she saw an UWP performance and began to think about it.
"I was blown away. I was shocked. Whooo! What was that! I was jealous of those students who can participate, but I never really thought about travelling myself because I thought you'd have to be a movie star or something to travel with them."
She returned to a junior accountant's job with another firm, but the experience stayed in her mind, and last year, when she saw another show, she couldn't resist going for an interview. That was in September. Both of them got into the program quite quickly. Some people wait up to two years and spend that time raising the money needed to join the show.
Program acceptance is open to any school graduate between the ages of 17 and 25, so cast members may be as old as 27, though this is rare. The program is set for one year though some people return as staff members for a period after their year with the student cast.
Now it's May and both young women have been in Dawson for two weeks, the advance team for this season's first Canadian performance date, which will be here on May 20.
"We've been on the road for ... what? ... five months," says Rebecca. "You know, it doesn't seem like that. Up With People time is weird. In one year you seem to experience about five years worth of life." A month is a bit long for an advance team to be in place, but Regi and Rebecca came here from Washington State when the rest of their cast headed to Alaska, and are quite enthusiastic about the time they have spent in the town. Their biggest chore has been finding billets (in other parts of the world they are called "host families") for the 105 members of this North American cast. In a way, they are lucky, since this is the smallest of the five casts currently touring the world with a multi-ethnic program called "Festival".
Their second chore has been finding community service activities for cast members to do in the short time they will be here. Normally the entire group would do four hours of community work for every two hours they perform, but here there will only be time for 15 or 16 cast members to do this.
"I really appreciate the time here," says Regi, "because then you get to know the people from the whole community and you can work together to look forward to the performance. I like that. I couldn't imagine that in a bigger city...We already feel like a part of the community."
The rest of the cast and 22 tons of equipment will arrive here on May 19. Monday will be a whirlwind of community activity, setting up the stage in the Bonanza Arena, rehearsal, performance and striking the set for the next day's travel to Whitehorse. That's going to be a lot of work, but Regi and Rebecca are looking forward to it, and to being back with the other members from all over the world with whom they have bonded so thoroughly in just half a year.
After Canada, this show moves on to Japan and will eventually end up in Paris late next fall.
I've just checked out your internet site; it is easy to follow, well organized and looks very professional. My super good friend Shelley Brown sent me the clipping out of the paper with the internet address on it. Shelley lives in 40 mile and travels to Dawson quite often; she reads your paper and thought I might enjoy reading the articles too. Have a great day! Signing off from New Brunswick, Beth Fairbairn firstname.lastname@example.org
p.s. It's 19 degrees here today and wonderfully sunny...we've had a lot of rain this spring; it actually snowed Monday morning!...the nerve.
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