Atlantic-to-Arctic voyage ends in The Pas

August 23, 2007

AT 4:16 p.m. on Aug. 18, Jay Morrison paddled his canoe on the Saskatchewan River into The Pas.

It marked the end of a 7,020 kilometre, 150-day journey along Canada’s waterways from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arctic to promote wilderness conservation.

“I don’t think there is a more important issue facing the planet today than the condition of the planet,” said Morrison.

He came away from his journey without injury save some sore hands and thumbs with callouses the size of bunions.

He initially hoped to complete his trek last summer but that proved impossible if he also wanted to take time during his trip to meet with local residents in the communities he was passing through.

“I’ve met the most interesting people,” he says. “That was the most important part.”

In all he spent 200 days away from home, and 150 days in his canoe, between April and August 2006 and May and August 2007.

“It was about four million paddle strokes, give or take half a million,” said Morrison, chuckling.

Morrison, a retired federal civil servant, has been a nature lover since childhood. He remembers learning about people travelling across Canada by canoe in his fifth grade history class, and was fascinated by the idea.

A board member of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Morrison wants to draw attention to various conservation needs in every place he visited. In Manitoba, it is the Boreal Forest on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

That area is the subject of a political debate over whether to locate a new hydroelectric transmission line through it. Manitoba Premier Gary Doer made an election promise not to do that, and is hoping to turn the area into a United Nations world heritage site, putting it in the same category as places like the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef.

Morrison wouldn’t delve directly into that debate, saying he didn’t know enough about the specifics but he said the area has to be conserved.

Morrison plans to take his photos and stories from his canoe on the road next year, speaking to young kids in schools as much as possible about nature and why it’s important.

He said the response he got from a young Winnipeg boy last summer made him believe his message can get through. The boy was at Camp Stephens on Lake of the Woods when Morrison pulled up in his canoe for an unplanned stop.

He spoke to the campers and counsellors about his journey and one young boy was particularly interested and asked a lot of questions, including what he needed to know to do it himself.

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