This week (Tuesday 9 August), British Columbia’s Knowledge Network is re-running the 2015 documentary about the revitalization of Fogo Island, the Newfoundland location featured in my polar bear attack thriller, EATEN. It’s called Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island and highlights the Fogo Island Inn, where our recently elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apparently spent a weekend earlier this year – gambling he could avoid a lethal encounter with a hungry polar bear when fictional others haven’t been so lucky.
The Prime Minister and his family stayed at the Fogo Island Inn over Easter (25-28 March 2016). Did Justin Trudeau know they could have been EATEN by a polar bear at that time of year? Were members of his security detail actually prepared for a polar bear attack?
Did Trudeau’s advisors do any preparatory reading? I mean, seriously: aside from reading my terrifying science-based novel (where polar bear attacks take place right outside the Fogo Island Inn where the Trudeaus were staying), Fogo (see maps below) has a recent history of polar bear visits.
Most bears come ashore on Newfoundland in late March-early April, although this year one came ashore on Fogo in late January. Another was shot in early May this year as it advanced on an RCMP officer near one of the artist’s studios on Fogo. I guess I’ll have to send a complimentary copy to Ottawa…because next time, what with polar bear numbers increasing in that region, this high-profile family might not be so lucky.
“What-if” indeed…the risks they took are mind-boggling.
The Trudeau family didn’t safely stay indoors: they went on a snowmobile excursion (snowmobiling got at least one Newfoundlander eaten in my novel), and popped into church at Joe Batt’s Arm (the location of another fictional polar bear attack). They may have even taken an unreported walk along a beach or two – a seemingly innocent activity that got more than one character eaten in my book.
This is all a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course. The story in my novel takes place in early March – earlier than the Trudeaus’ visit – and the polar bears in my tale are especially hungry. In contrast, most of the bears that visit Fogo in late March are well fed after gorging on baby harp seals (except for the bears that visit in January/February, of course, or young bears who are not only inexperienced hunters but face the prospect of being driven off what kills they do make by voracious adult males. Still, these bears are always on the lookout for food, whatever time of year).
Regardless, it’s odd that none of the media reporting on this trip thought to mention the risks the Trudeaus were taking: they could have been eaten! These are risks that ordinary Canadians in the Arctic face every day and coastal residents of Newfoundland and Labrador now face five months of the year (January – May). The last polar bear survey of Davis Strait (in 2007) showed much higher numbers than in the 1990s, and it is very likely (given the abundance of harp seals and generally favorable ice conditions) that by now those numbers are even larger. More polar bears means more polar bears looking for food.
Of course, Prime Ministers don’t suffer the inconvenience of travel by unreliable ferry service to the majestic island of Fogo – they go by air: see video below of the Gander transfer from their jet to a plane that will take them across to Fogo:
Fogo Island on the map:
Fogo Island itself (the Fogo Island Inn is just outside Joe Batt’s Arm on the north coast):