Next morning I was awakened by a Caribou clattering through camp
within 30 feet of my tent.
After breakfast we set off on foot northward to seek for Musk-ox,
keeping to the eastward of the Great Fish River. The country is
rolling, with occasional rocky ridges and long, level meadows in the
lowlands, practically all of it would be considered horse country;
and nearly every meadow had two or three grazing Caribou.
About noon, when six or seven miles north of Aylmer, we halted
for rest and lunch on the top of the long ridge of glacial dump
that lies to the east of Great Fish River. And now we had a most
complete and spectacular view of the immense open country that we
had come so far to see. It was spread before us like a huge, minute,
and wonderful chart, and plainly marked with the processes of its
Imagine a region of low archaean hills, extending one thousand
miles each way, subjected for thousands of years to a continual
succession of glaciers, crushing, grinding, planing, smoothing,
ripping up and smoothing again, carrying off whole ranges of broken
hills, in fragments, to dump them at some other point, grind them
again while there, and then push and hustle them out of that region
into some other a few hundred miles farther; there again to tumble
and grind them together, pack them into the hollows, and dump them
in pyramidal piles on plains and uplands. Imagine this going on
for thousands of years, and we shall have the hills lowered and
polished, the valleys more or less filled with broken rocks.
Now the glacial action is succeeded by a time of flood. For another
age all is below water, dammed by the northern ice, and icebergs
breaking from the parent sheet carry bedded in them countless
boulders, with which they go travelling south on the open waters.
As they melt the boulders are dropped; hill and hollow share equally
in this age-long shower of erratics. Nor does it cease till the
progress of the warmer day removes the northern ice-dam, sets free
the flood, and the region of archaean rocks stands bare and dry.
It must have been a dreary spectacle at that time, low, bare hills
of gneiss, granite, etc.; low valleys half-filled with broken rock
and over everything a sprinkling of erratic boulders; no living thing
in sight, nothing green, nothing growing, nothing but evidence of
mighty power used only to destroy. A waste of shattered granite
spotted with hundreds of lakes, thousands of lakelets, millions of
ponds that are marvellously blue, clear, and lifeless.
But a new force is born on the scene; it attacks not this hill or
rock, or that loose stone, but on every point of every stone and
rock in the vast domain, it appears - the lowest form of lichen,
a mere stain of gray.