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Found in a Quarry

September 14, 2013

quarry truck 1

People sometimes ask whether we need to protect ourselves from wild animals when we do fieldwork in remote northern areas.  Sure, we carry shotguns for protection against polar bears when we are in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, and I have been known to carry pepper spray in case we meet black bears in boreal forest areas, or feral dogs close to farms.  But the fact is that bears, coyotes, dogs, and wolves do not worry me all that much. I am more concerned about encounters in remote places with that most unpredictable of mammals: Homo sapiens.

quarry truck 2

I have to say that we have been very lucky with the kind, pleasant, interested people we meet as we tour around central and northern Manitoba. Nevertheless, when we are out there we do recognize that there is little backup other than our colleagues and their perceptions and reflexes. And though I have never had any outstandingly weird encounters with people in remote places, in my work in the city I have occasionally had dealings with some very strange individuals, so I know that they do exist.

quarry truck 3

We have sometimes seen things in quarries and along rock outcrops that make us wonder if some of those strange people have been there before us. Mostly we seem to find beer cans, tires, and shotgun shell casings, but I have seen bags of oddly soiled clothing and broken and burned objects of every possible class, many of them unrecognizable in terms of original nature and usage. I have observed vehicles burned, smashed, and sometimes partly immersed in water or mud. And then, of course, there was the time we found an “installation” of headless doll bodies, clothing, and red-spraypainted rocks, artistically arranged on a remote section of seashore. It is best not to think about who might have been responsible for that.

quarry truck 4

From conversations with other geologists I know that, when I enter an abandoned quarry, I am not the only person thinking, “I hope I don’t find a body.” And we don’t have that thought because we are fanciful or morbid: a few years ago an unfortunate group of school students did find a body when their class visited a quarry in the Manitoba Interlake. We have seen many dead animals during our geological travels, but fortunately our own species has not been among them.

We found the truck in these photos in a pit in the Interlake yesterday. Even with the amputated roof, scorches, and bullet holes, it seemed relatively benign. Still, I was careful not to look into the cab all that closely.

quarry truck 5

© Graham Young, 2013

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