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Lake Kamestatin, Labrador:
September 29-October 18, 2008

The Expedition____ Artwork____ Expedition Report

Historical Overview

Lake Kamestastin (Mistastin on most maps such as the one to the bottom right) very roughly translated from Mushua-Innu means 'Place where the wind knocks things down'. This is a bit ironic since what makes the lake significant biologically, ecologically, culturally, anthropologically and archaeologically, is arguably the relative shelter from the wind that the bowl the lake sits in provides (though we directly experienced the wind knocking things - and people - down).

Lake Kamestastin was formed by a meteorite impact about 38 million years ago (+/-). The crater is just under 20 miles in diameter according to all the learned sources I could find, though to my artist's eye the circular pattern surrounding it extends closer to 40 miles in diameter as seen in the Google Earth image in the middle above. In either case the depression of the crater apparently provides enough shelter from the namesake wind mentioned before to provide some vestige of moderation from the surrounding near Arctic climate. This allows a significant stand of mature Black Spruce to grow on the south shore of the lake which in turn is a wildlife magnet that funnels much of the George River herd through on migration each spring and fall. This in turn has drawn the Innu - for over 7,500 years.

Our Expedition

It also provides a key migratory stopover and/or breeding habitat for untold waterfowl, shorebirds, passerines and raptors; literally "untold" in that there has never been a bird census done in the area; something we hope to rectify next year.

This years' main expedition was a base-camp operation rather than our usual canoe trip. We did this for several reasons:

1. It allowed us to include some excellent artists who might not have been able to be on a canoe crew

2. It allowed us to focus intensely on the area without having to spend a great deal of each day setting and breaking camp.

3. It allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the area in preparation for subsequent work next year

4. It maximized our chances of intercepting the George River caribou herd on migration

Why Caribou?

Our focus on Woodland Caribou for this trip flows from our work with Dr. Loring and the Arctic Studies Center and our previous expeditions on the George River. Caribou are dependant on old-growth Boreal Forest and as such are a good indicator species: if they are doing well then the underlying ecosystem is doing well. In addition to their ecological significance, caribou have been a central aspect of Innu culture for thousands of years and provide a cultural, anthropological and even archaeological insight into the Boreal Forest and the people who have called it home since the glaciers retreated.

Caribou on a ridge
Lake Kamestatin from afar Lake Kamestatin topographical view Map of Lake Kamestatin