The Great Goose Chase

After spending an incredible week in Rigolet, the Researchers (a.k.a. #PolarPeeps, a.k.a. Alex, Ashlee, Oliver, and me) were off to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Ringing the town bell? Yup. We did that.

We arrived Thursday afternoon. It was cold, but not too cold. While we waited for our transportation from the airport to our hotel, we watched as the sky slowly transitioned from blue to pink to orange as the sun began to set behind the mountains in the distance. The first stars of the night began to appear.

After settling into Hotel North 2, and after a quick dinner at Pizza Delight, we were off to an eve of comedy at the O’Brien Arts Centre. More specifically, we were off to watch Revue 2015 – a collection of Air Farce type skits about local Labradorian and East Coast politics (with a few Harper/Trudeau skits thrown in for good measure)1.

Fancy beer at Jungle Jim's.
Fancy beer at Jungle Jim’s. Yes. We did that.

The next morning Ashlee and I were back at work meeting with folks from Happy Valley-Goose Bay who are part of the broader team related to the work in Rigolet, and Nunatsiavut. I also met with some folks about a separate but somewhat related project about Goose Bay and NunatuKavut that I’m a part of with Dr. Leah Levac at the University of Guelph. Yes, that’s correct, I am part of two separate research programs in Labrador2. Clearly the Universe intended me to come to this area of the world. Well done Universe. Well done indeed.

While Ashlee and I were busy in meetings, Oliver and Alex were back at the hotel reviewing course work, grading, or doing other graduate related things3. The group reconvened for our final meeting of the day; a review with the local Public Health folks regarding what we’ve learned so far, and what our next steps might be.

And then it was the weekend! Now you might be wondering what does one do on the weekend in Happy Valley-Goose Bay? Well this, dear readers, is where things get a whole lot more Happy Valley-Goose Bay’y.

Playing with time? Yup. Did that too.

Earlier on Friday morning it became apparent to Mayor Jamie Snook (yes, the Mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay) that Alex and Oliver would be on their own while Ashlee and I were in meetings. Clearly seeing an opportunity, he direct messaged them on Twitter with a scavenger hunt. Specifically, he asked them to find the following (and to tweet photographic evidence):

  1. The Waste Water Treatment Plant (because the town is a leader in waste water management),
  2. A view of the Churchill River from Birch Island,
  3. A picture of Birch Island from the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce4 back garden,
  4. A view of Lake Melville from the Birch Brook Nordic Ski Club veranda,
  5. A photo of the Red Dress Project,
  6. The Big Red Knob at the LHFA boat launch,
  7. Buy a special Nunatsiavut version of Them Days at the Them Days location,
  8. Visit the O’Brien Arts Centre and view the public art in the foyer,
  9. A picture in front of Town Hall with the stopped clock5,
  10. A picture with the dilapidated hanger located on the “Canadian Side”6, and
  11. A visit to Slippers n’ Things to buy a bar that says “Not Even” or “Arse on Dat”.

And why did the Mayor do this? Because clearly he loves his town, and in his words

You will have a new appreciation for the town after the challenge.

Band photo on the “Canadian Side”? Obviously.

Since much of the quest required the use of a vehicle, Ashlee and I decided that we’d take on this epic adventure on Saturday, because why should our grad students have all the fun? We also decided to add a few items to the list, including:

  1. Visit the dog park8,
  2. Visit Northern Lights and enjoy the variety of items the store sells,
  3. Visit Spruced Up and buy some local soaps or lotions,
  4. Randomly karaoke in Jungle Jim’s (which is not a karaoke bar),
  5. Take as many band photos as possible,
  6. Do all of these things while wearing our new Labrador hats.
Fighting a bear? Leave it to Oliver.

After breakfast we were off. And despite a break in the afternoon for food and a wee rest, we were at it all day. Amazingly, we managed to hit everything on the list (although we had to make a few modifications given that some of the locations we had to visit weren’t technically open). We may or may not have had to climb a few locked fences, and we may or may not have wondered how it might look if we or our grad students were arrested for trespassing. When we arrived at the “Canadian Side”, we pondered the various Authorized Personnel Only signs, and I’m sure we received a few odd looks when we got to the Birch Brook Nordic Ski Club veranda because there appeared to be some sort of family function going on inside. Nevertheless we carried on, laughing constantly while tweeting our success because we are the Researchers and that’s what researchers do.

Chilling by the ice? Why not?

While we joked with Mayor Snook that after successfully completing the Great Goose Chase9 we expected a key to the town, a picture with the official Mayoral chains, official documents identifying our new status as honorary Labradorians, a billion dollars, and a helicopter out of town, we were more than happy to get to experience Happy Valley-Goose Bay in this way. It gave us an opportunity to get to know the town better, and to meet the people who call it home.

Shots from the “Canadian Side”

To Mayor Snook – thank you for an amazing adventure. It definitely gave us a better appreciation of Happy Valley-Goose Bay. It also gave us a chance to take in some of the natural beauty that surrounds the town (which I’ll have to admit I didn’t get a chance to see the first time I was there). But most of all, thanks for being such an amazing host, and an awesome sport to the Researchers. And we’re glad you finally found the note we left in Town Hall.

1 While admittedly I didn’t get all of the local references, I found myself laughing during several skits – most loudly when the phrase “tenure means never having to say you’re sorry” was mentioned. And the reworked Simon & Garfunkel’s Cecilia/Seal-ia was brilliant.

2 The extra fun part here is that I became involved in both research projects after being approached by the two research teams independently, but at the exact same time.

3 Which I’m hoping also included relaxing a bit, because those two deserved it.

4 Recognizable by the painting of the caribou on the front of it.

5 Bonus points for doing it when the clock is correct.

6 This makes for excellent retro grunge photos and is popular with newlyweds7.

7 Which Ashlee and I read as get band photos and get wedding photos at the hanger.

8 Which was sadly free of dogs.

9 Which is, by the way, the epically awesome name we gave this (first of many) scavenger hunt.


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