Exploring Canada west to east
Nahanni featured

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 08/99) - A new television series -- set to begin airing in May of this year on the Canadian Outdoor Life Network -- will feature the Fort Simpson area and Nahanni National Park in its first episode.

The new series, titled Exploring Horizons -- Canadian horizons, that is -- was created almost by accident. The crew from Arctic Jungle Films, the independents who created Exploring Horizon were filming a pilot for a hiking series in Newfoundland.

"For our aerial stuff we had a guy with an ultra-light (plane) join our crew for about a week," explains associate producer Sue Boshcoff. (Boshcoff is also co-creator, writer and host on the series.

"That was our first experience with an ultra-light and rigging an ultra-light. We got great aerials out of it. And we had a lot of fun with rigging the plane. It was a small plane, it could really do a lot. So in terms of performance it impressed us."

Arctic Jungle was, at the time, in negotiations with their broadcaster for the hiking series when the idea for Exploring Horizons reared its head.

"We sat down together and nailed down an idea of what we liked and wanted for it. We, of course, didn't have any footage so we cut a demo tape of an idea of what the series might look like from old footage we had from the shoot with the ultra-light. We had shot rigging and we had done some behind-the-scenes shooting."

This technique of incorporating the set-ups involved with making the individual episodes would be emulated in the making of the series itself.

"We wanted to keep it the least contrived as possible," says Boshcoff.

The broadcaster loved it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The concept, said Boshcoff, was 13 episodes, which, in the end, included 11 locations across Canada, though originally 13 were planned. As well, chosen locations were to have some basis in environmental protection issues, without being didactic.

"And in a couple of short months we were on the road."

The road meant, in order of appearance, Fort Simpson and Nahanni National Park, NWT; Dawson City, Ogilvie and Mackenzie Ranges, Yukon; Spruce Lake, B.C.; Golden, B.C.; Pincher Creek, Alberta; Maple Creek Saskatchewan; the Charlebois region in Quebec, Amherst, Nova Scotia and finally, Cape Breton Island.

"We were based in Fort Simpson," says Boshcoff of the first episode. "We did some flying into Nahanni. With our ultra-light, technically we could fly into Nahanni, but with smaller planes and those big, high mountain ranges, fuel would be one consideration and the wind would be the other."

The crew flew around the Fort Simpson area, up and down the Mackenzie River, and just outside the park at Little Doctor Lake and Cli Lake, finally, a ways into Nahanni National Park, to the falls.

But for the park itself they flew with Jacques Harvey.

Remembers Boshcoff:

"He took us on an incredible flight, through the Cirque of the Unclimbable. We were shooting from his plane. We had rigged up his plane and the director of photography was also shooting from the shoulder, from the passenger side of the twin."

(Jacques Harvey's Twin Otter, incidentally, is the one I incorrectly identified as the ultra-light in last week's arts section. Oops).

"We got some spectacular footage," Boshcoff continues. "He took us into the Cirque of the Unclimbable, which is this circle of mountain peaks which is really quite scary to fly into."

"You couldn't fly in straight with the plane otherwise you'd clip off both wings. He has a special method of flying in. He has to drop power and drop a thousand feet, or something, and swoop in on the side... and then go straight back up. It was wild."

When the crew returned to Fort Simpson later in the day, Harvey told them it had taken him three years to perfect getting into the Cirque of the Unclimbable.

"One of the most amazing things we saw was people climbing the Cirque of the Unclimbable," says Boshcoff. "And while we were flying by we saw a little human clinging to the side of the peak. Very, very strange."

Besides meeting Italian canoeist/hikers at Victoria Falls, the Exploring Horizons' crew also spent time enjoying the company and hospitality of locals.

"We also flew with Ted Grant. He has a lodge at Little Doctor Lake," says Boshcoff. "One of the local artists, Floyd Grossetete, he hung out with our crew for a couple of days. He gave us some beautiful artwork to go home with."

They then hopped over to Cli Lake where Loyal and Ria Letcher own the North Nahanni Naturalist Lodge.

While in Fort Simpson, the crew camped out at Simpson Air.

"There was a young guy there, Jamie Tsetso, he got together a whole group of people, who we did a shoot with. They hung out at our campsite, sat and talked and told us how life was there."

The nightlife was also on the agenda, with a visit to the Sub Arctic Lounge.

Judging from the many adventures the crew had -- they lost their first ultra-light in Golden, and almost their pilot -- the series promises to be a thrill ride and worth the watch.