wilderness LECTURES

Canoeing 3000 miles through the Canadian North.

John Harrison on 26/02/2020 19:30

Adv £11. Door £12. Conc £10

1532 Performing Arts Centre

John Harrison is a Bristol-based explorer who has made a number of canoe expeditions to the Amazon, always travelling with only one companion and with no radio or back up if things should go wrong. Two of these expeditions lasted more than 6 months. John has written two books, "Off the Map: The Call of the Amazonian Wild" and "Up the Creek: An Amazon Adventure". He has been the subject of a National Geographic Film and has broadcast for BBC radio. In addition to his canoe exploits in Amazonia, he has also canoed extensively in North America, Europe and Africa. John has paddled through countless rapids, with and without mistakes, but if a white-water kayaker can be compared to a racing driver, John is more a Ford Mondeo estate car man who needs a big canoe to carry supplies for many weeks.


After 7 long canoe journeys on Amazon tributaries, John has chosen somewhere cooler for his new exploits. The huge triangle of tundra to the west of Hudson Bay was called the Barren Lands by trappers and early explorers, and is the remotest area of the North American continent. A pristine wilderness populated with wolves, musk-oxen, wolverines and grizzly bears, and where herds of caribou numbering several hundred thousand animals migrate through the region. Very large trout and arctic char populate the rivers.

This beautifully illustrated lecture tells of four expeditions that John and his Czech companion have made to this region, canoeing the Thelon, Hanbury, Anderson and Kazan rivers. They also canoed 200 miles of the Beaufort sea.
They have learnt that even in the brief summer it’s wise not to get too relaxed. Large lakes remain frozen until late July, and temperatures can plummet from 25 degrees to near freezing in a matter of minutes. All the rivers have challenging rapids and canyons where to capsize in the near-freezing water could be fatal. Sudden gales can transform calm lakes into deadly hazards for canoeists, or keep the traveller cowering in his tent for days. Close encounters with grizzly bears happen frequently and John tells the story of travellers who have starved to death when trying to over-winter here.

And the biting bugs are worse than anywhere else on earth.

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