Tundra Cub
Review from the Canadian Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assoc.

spacer Some of you have already read George Erickson, the philosopher, author, retired dentist and pilot, who wrote True North, which described his solo odyssey through Canada's north in his Tundra Cub. The voyage took him to places that most Canadians have never heard of, much less seen. True North was a gripping account of that journey.

spacer Since then, he has completed several more odysseys that serve as the foundation for the sequel, Back to the Barrens: On the Wing with da Vinci and friends. Is it more "same old, same old"? No, it is not. For one thing, the route through Canada is largely different, bringing new experiences and new memories for inclusion in this book. Even the aircraft is different.

spacer "Aha, you're thinking, "Old George has finally gone modern, using the latest advances in technology to help him navigate his way through terrain that is barely removed from being unexplored. Well, George has done no such a thing.

spacer In his words, "The Tundra Cub II is a primitive but very reliable airplane. It has no starter, generator or battery, which adds to my useful load. Its Spartan panel bears a lonely quintet of instruments: an airspeed indicator, a tachometer and an altimeter - three instruments that experienced non-instrument pilots largely ignore because their eyes and ears supply approximations of the data those three provide.

spacer "Add to these an oil pressure and temperature gauge that wise pilots monitor because the earliest signs of engine trouble are often revealed in lower than normal oil pressure and/or higher than normal engine temperatures.

spacer "The Cub also sports a venturi-powered gyro horizon. Were it up to me, I wouldn't have one, but it came with the plane, so there it stays, ready to help me get safely down through an overcast if I ever become so foolish as to fly "on top, without abundant breaks in the clouds."

spacer This, then, was the aircraft that was to take him from his home in Minnesota through many of the "quelques arpents de neige" that Canada was reputed to be when early explorers first started looking for the shortest route to the Orient, and many would say that it hasn't changed very much in the intervening centuries.

spacer Did this faze Erickson? Not really. He had a route mapped out, but none of it was particularly time-critical. Thus, he was free to go where the spirit and his plans - moved him, stop to ponder elements of wildlife that he spotted en route, pursue archeological treasures, take pictures, and generally amass adventures worth putting into a book.

spacer And what a book it is. Erickson is a skilled, self-reliant pilot, adept at overcoming difficulties. He is also a skilled observer, quick to see things, quick to describe things, and a great photographer who enriches his books with fifty artistic pictures that bring remote areas of Canada to your very doorstep.

spacer Is the book all aviation? Not by a long shot. Erickson includes a generous dollop of aviation lore that takes the reader back to an earlier era of simpler aircraft, primitive navigation and air traffic systems, and the old way of doing things, which will dazzle younger readers who perhaps never heard of such shenanigans.

spacer Erickson is a man of many interests, many of which are so lucidly explained that the reader comes away with a better understanding of agriculture, diamond mining, animal husbandry and other issues that are important in the North - and his 40 summers of visiting Canada's North qualify him to mentor most Canadians.

spacer Back to the Barrens is a fascinating melange of mining lore, contemporary and long-ago customs of other civilizations, and ours as well; religions, and not just the big R religions that claim that they alone have all of the answers. These topics and others are treated with great respect, and the reader comes away with a renewed appreciation for the beliefs of other cultures, and perhaps some doubt regarding the certainty of the "mainstream" religions.

spacer Where did he go on this excursion through Canada? Starting in Minnesota, he flew to Gillam and Churchill, MB, thence to Marble Island, Baker Lake, and Q Lake, all in Nunavut.

spacer People ask,"Why is it called Q Lake? The answer lies in one of Erickson�s photos that shows an almost perfectly round lake with a stream running from it that looks a lot like this Q, only more colorful.

spacer From Q Lake, he explored Warden's Grove on the Thelon River, Fort Enterprise, Yellowknife and Fort McMurray, a routing that gave him the opportunity to describe the open-pit tar sands project without pontificating on the morality of such a thing. "Some would call it a moonscape," says Erickson, "but it's no different from any other open pit operation - you remove what's in the way to get at what you need." �He then provides a terse-but-informative description of how oil is extracted from sand, which ends with a warning that the supply is finite, and that we should be doing more about alternative fuels.

spacer From Fort McMurray, Erickson flew to Ennaidi Lake, to Chipewyan Lake, to Lake Winnipeg, then turned for home to cap off a magnificent voyage.

spacer Back to the Barrens should be read from start to finish, but if you prefer to read books in no particular order, this one will suit you, too. In each section, there are little snippets within the voyage that are worth pondering.

spacer Erickson, an author with a broad range of interests, has mastered the art of stitching them together to create an engrossing narrative that carries readers through Canada, including its history, geography and many other disciplines.

spacer Non-aviators often ask pilots, especially amateur aviators,"Why do you fly?" Back to the Barrens provides a thousand and one good reasons for "slipping the surly bonds of Earth." In a sense, Erickson is at one with Columbus, Magellan and others who expanded our knowledge of the world and mused on what it means.

spacer Fortunately, Back to the Barrens is not an expensive "coffee-table" book. For copies please check the author's web site.

The author's website is www.tundracub.com

Bob Merrick is a retired air force fighter-navigator with a lifelong interest in aviation safety.

The author donates all of his book profits to educational charities.

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