Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

In Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, the Beringia Center Allows us to Relive Personal Adventures From an Ancient Landscape

┬ęBert Gildart: In Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, there’s an interpretative center that has so influenced us that we have made summer-long boat trips into the area it represents. Once this ancient area connected Russia and Alaska and the center interprets that great connection and the mega fauna that surrounded it. My stories concerning the people of the area have appeared in over a dozen publications to include Time/Life, National Wildlife and the Christian Science Monitor.


Beringia Center helps bring the distant past alive

The land is known by several names. Some call it the Bering Land Strip, but I prefer the the word Beringia, which is the name of the center, specifically the Beringia Center. Its purpsose is to interpret this area that once exsited about 10,000 years ago, focusing to some extent on the “mega fauna.” We’re familiar with many of their forms, but their size astounds us, for some were two and three times as large as what their counterparts now are today.

The center also interprets the tribes of Native Americans and their ancestors who might have followed these species, and many wound up in the area we now call Old Crow. That’s the area to which we boated, but you don’t have to embark on such a trip, for, today, the Beringia Center will help you appreciate this mega fauna, which includes saber tooth tigers, wooly mammoths, giant beaver and the gigantic short-faced grizzly bear.


One of my proudest moments as a journalist was photographing Sarah Abel at Old Crow. Some said she was 103 at the time.

As well, the Beringia Center provides the words of these elders, though some have now passed away. But while they lived they provided insights into this bygone world, and we feel privileged to have once heard their voices and listened to their thoughts, now posted in the center and heard in the interpretive movies offered at the Beringia Center.


Just how long ago some of these creatures died out is not known for sure, but elders from Old Crow, such as Sarah Abel and Charlie Peter Charlie, all say that their ancestors recall a time when the animals were much larger. “Our fathers,” said Ms. Abel, “all say animals much bigger when they hunted.” Then she starts in on a story about a huge beaver.

Peter Charlie (a man I photographed several years ago) agree that animals were much bigger: “First I’ll tell you,” said Peter Charlie, is that long, long ago, lots of dangerous animals lived here long ago.” What’s implied in all this, of course, is that animals have been decreasing in size for the past few thousands years.


Life-like figures depicting ancient scene at Blue Fish Caves (two Nikon SB-800 Strobes).

Over the years I’ve photographed both of these individuals on various occasions. However, the last time I photographed Ms. Abel was in 1998, and sadly she died the following year. At the time, some say she was 103 or 104 (in those times no one kept records), but what is so remarkable is that her life spanned one century, touched another and, and then, finally, almost–but not quite–ended in another.

Janie and I met both Peter-Charlie and Sarah Able following a several week-long boat trip up the Porcupine River to the small village of Old Crow. (The trip was part of a four-month trip along the Yukon and Porcupine rivers.) At the time, we knew we had entered a remote country, but we did not realize that Old Crow was a part of this ancient land mass known as Beringia. Perhaps we should have known, as several natives showed us huge tusks taken from along the banks of the Porcupine and the nearby Old Crow River.



Interpretations of all this is what you’ll find at the Beringia Center, and is one of the main reasons Janie and I again stopped in Whitehorse. Included are panels showing people from Old Crow; life-size models that look extremely real of an ancient people dressing out a caribou. All of this is back-dropped by Blue Fish Caves, which is also reached from along the Porcupine River. This is an ancient and, essentially, untouched land.


The Center also offers personal involvement, and Brad, one of the naturalists, allowed us to try our skills with the atlatl, an ancient hunting devise that takes a spear, then links it to a lever arm which increases the thrust by several times of the spear. The image I’ve included here shows the setup and was taken from a free site featuring the atlatl.


Trying my hand throwing atlatl, an ancient weapon.

Others spectators tried it, but I’m very happy to say that I optimized the lever arm better than did others, enabling my spear to travel further. My conclusion is that I was born in the wrong age, and am now awaiting the return of this ancient landscape. Of course, it’s all a dream, but I can come close by returning to Old Crow–or by visiting the Beringia Center in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.





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