The Thlewiaza-Seal Rivers

Challenge of the Ice

This book is about six canoeists who planned a 450-mile canoe trip down the Thlewiaza River in northern Manitoba, Canada to the Hudson Bay and then north to Eskimo Point. However, they couldn’t continue the planned trip after six days because Nueltin Lake was still covered with 80 miles of ice! Consequently, the canoeist worked their way 75 miles overland to the Seal River and canoed to the Hudson Bay then south to Churchill. The canoe trip on Hudson Bay became an ordeal when a polar bear prevented them from camping on the shore. Consequently, they spent a night on Hudson Bay in a storm. If you like exciting stories, this book is for you.


               These rapids were, by far, the biggest any of us had ever gone through. Both Fred and Gary told of their experience of running these rapids. Gary’s description is first:

The rapids started much the same as the previous ones on the Seal, but it quickly became very rough and unmanageable. I looked ahead and saw Brian and Carl really having trouble. Right then, Greg and I hit some very large standing waves head-on. They were a good eight to ten feet high, and there were five or six of them. Had it not been for the decking, we would have swamped as the water broke over the canoe. We barely had control of the canoe, and the river was tossing us around pretty much at will. The Seal was not about to let us off easily. We straightened the canoe out, and I began to get a sense of the river when I heard Greg yell, “Oh, my God!

Immediately ahead was the largest set of waves I had run on any river. We were being sucked into a monstrous V-shaped wave. The wave on the right was a ten-to-twelve-foot green giant, dwarfed only by the left wave. The wave on the left was fifteen feet from base to crest. We are going to hit the “V” at the apex, I thought. No, the left wave was much stronger; we were hitting it three-quarters on the port side. 

There was no doubt in my mind or in Greg’s; we had bought the farm! Strangely, though concerned, I did not experience the morbid fear of several days earlier in waves considerably smaller.

The wave broke over the Wakemaker II and flipped the canoe over like a toy. It was green all over and cold, sending a shock through my entire system. I was underwater for several seconds and then popped to the surface and experienced a secondary scare. I could not find the stern rope, and my left hand was only lightly resting on the bottom of the canoe. The current was pulling the canoe away from me, and there was nothing I could hang onto. I did not want to lose the canoe at all cost.