Gallery - Past Exhibitions - 1999 - Bylot Island
(Click image for slideshow)
In the summer of 1999 I joined an exciting cross cultural sea-kayaking adventure organized by the multi-talented team of Mike Beedell and Pamela Coulston. Their plan was to spend the summer circumnavigating the 600 km. coastline of Bylot Island which lays north of Baffin Island, in the Canadian High Arctic.
For a two week portion of the trip five Inuit youth and some southern cultural and media people (including myself) joined Mike and Pamela, as we travelled together exploring new terrain and learning from each others culture. We also wanted to celebrate the creation of Nunavut as well as the recent proclaiming of Bylot Island as a National Park.
Bylot is an uninhabited island; huge and magnificent in it's assortment of gable castled mountains, flowing glaciers, vertical graniteHunting Grounds, etching headlands and lush wild flowered valleys. Arctic wolf, fox, polar bear, arctic hare, lemmings and caribou patrol the land with a large array of birds including; owls, hawks, falcons, geese and water fowl. (Previous to becoming a National Park, Bylot Island was a Bird Sanctuary.) The surrounding waters are teaming with life of all descriptions including a variety of marine mammals; bowhead and killer whales, beluga, narwhal, walrus and ringed, harp and bearded seals. The Group of Seven artist Lauren Harris painted Bylot Island, referring to it as a place of great inspiration.
After the rest of the group had returned to Pond Inlet, Mike and I continued paddling west along the south coast of Bylot then turned north up Navy Board Inlet. Beedell a professional photographer, was documenting the expedition with stills and video. I was drawing, photographing and painting small 6"x 9" watercolours. (This material forms the basis for my years studio work.)
However like explorers of old, we were rapidly facing the duel dilemma of running out of food and the onset of the arctic winter. Upon reaching Tay Bay at the north west corner of the island (read Alvin Simon's North in the Night, 1997) we found that our cache barrel of food, which we had been fantasying about for two weeks, had been broken into and eaten by a polar bear. We tried fishing and hunting seals but we decided that with winter on its way and the next food cache a further 100 km., it was prudent to continue circumnavigating Bylot the following summer. [See 2000: Bylot Island Cont'd]
Allen Smutylo, Paintings and Prints of Bylot Island at the Theilsen Gallery, London, Ont. May, 2000.
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