Steph and Chris Walk a Day (or four) in Ranger Shoes

(photo by Tobi Elliot)

Whiteouts. Seal hunts. Polar bear tracks. Four straight 30-50 mile days. Teaching traditional skills. Exploring an old church mission. A shooting competition. Feasting on raw fish (and Fig Newtons). Jigging for Arctic char.

The stories flew when DOP Stephanie Weimar and soundman Chris Yapp returned from their first trip out on the land with the Canadian Rangers of Taloyoak. They’d been out following the “new recruits” who had joined the Rangers last year, and the four days on patrol were packed with adventure.

Keeping up with the very active Rangers was challenging, especially when you have to travel 50 miles per day between camps, set up tents, grab some grub—Army rations most of the time—and then break out the cameras and start work.

“It was full on,” said Weimar. “From 7 am til 1 in the morning.”

The pace eventually took its toll. As Chris drove the skidoo slowly over a flat surface one day, he felt it start to pull to the side. Before they knew it, they had tipped over to an unexpected, slow-motion stop. The culprit? An errant leaner on the back: the skidoo ride had lulled Steph right to sleep!

The Rangers take all this in stride. They are used to travelling great distances to hunt and camp, so covering a large swaths of territory comes naturally to them. This particular trip had three destinations: one night in “polar bear country”, where Steph reported many fresh tracks, finding some as close as 500 m from camp. Since it happened to be mating season—when males get very aggressive—she admitted to being “a bit freaked out.”

                                            Camp: way out there on the land (photo by David Nanook)

Whiteouts deteriorated visibility enough that they had to delay departure on a few mornings until the ceiling lifted. Twice the Rangers stopped to hunt seal. They eventually nabbed two, and Chris got to have his first taste of raw seal liver, cut up right there on the ice. His verdict: “not bad.”

One afternoon, David Nanook, an incredible hunter and a senior leader of the Rangers, took Steph and Chris up to see a beautiful waterfall. David returned to get the whole company of 18 Rangers and they all drove up the narrow, perilous path, with skidoos tipping over and qamutiks (sleds) pushed and hauled by six people at a time. Once there, laughter and banter took over, a mouth harp was pulled out and it was time to relax. Time for some jigging!

                                       Chris holds Steph at the edge of a cliff so she doesn’t fall off while filming (photo by David Nanook)

Steph and Chris returned exhilarated but tired. After four days of travelling and sleeping in the same few clothes, the first thing to do was shower and do laundry. They hit the sack early, knowing that although the Rangers are back in town, the action hasn’t stopped! There will be something to film every day. In another few days they get to go through the whole experience again, this time on a Search and Rescue exercise patrol.

NOTE: Our first crew on location, Dennis, Paul and Nick, here since mid-April shooting two episodes around the Gjoa Haven Rangers, are also here on location in Taloyoak. During these four days they were with a separate patrol following a separate set of characters. They had just returned as of this writing (round about midnight) so we’ll update you on their adventure in the next post!