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The Weather Network Original Series | Canada Uncovered

Canada Uncovered: Our untold stories of limitless adventure

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 22, 2018, 7:44 AM - Humans are naturally curious and here in Canada, exploration is an important part of our national identity. From the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to commanding the International Space Station we have made our mark, showing the world that for Canadians exploration is limitless.

Can you imagine cruising by a kilometre-long iceberg, travelling through the Northwest Passage, waking up to the Northern Lights or drifting to such far corners of the Earth that even satellites struggled to locate you. Canadian explorer Garry Tutte has done all of these things in one unforgettable journey.

Join us each month for a new adventure as we highlight the achievements of a celebrated Canadian explorer as part of our Canada Uncovered series.

Garry Tutte is a filmmaker and content creator based loosely between Toronto, Canada and Peru. His passion lies in documenting expedition, science, and environmental related projects in an effort to expand social awareness and motivate change. His work has taken him from Mount Everest to the Sahara Desert.

Tutte was recently a content producer and director for two months aboard the Canada C3 expedition. The Canada C3 ship sailed 23,000 km from Toronto, Ont., to Victoria, B.C., and through the Northwest Passage to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

"I would say if there was one word to sum up the expedition it was epic," Tutte said. "It was truly epic in every sense of the word."

Tutte told The Weather Network what it was like to experience the trip trough a lens, profound moments during the expedition, and his favourite stop.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

How did you get involved with the C3 expedition?

I was in contact with Peter Wall who was the communications lead on the whole project. They were crewing up to basically hire filmmakers.

In each leg we had two photographers, two filmmakers, a social media producer, a drone tech pilot role and then we had another role that was sort of a swing role. So, we would have an editor or journalist aboard depending on the leg.

I came aboard originally to get involved as the drone and sort of tech role. But, I realized there was an opportunity to move into a producing and directing role and that's sort of how the cards fell. When you're on an expedition project often you are occupying space on the expedition and that comes at a large cost to the expedition. So, the more skill sets you have the better.

What technology/equipment did you use on the ship?

We brought six drones with us. We had a Sony FS7 camera, which was sort of our main production camera. We had a couple of Sony FS5s, which are smaller 4K cameras, and then we had the full range of DSLR.

One of the main toys, or tech toys we had on the ship, was this Intellian 2.4-metre wide satellite dish. It was literally our connection to the world as the ship went around the entire country. We always had a full broadband internet connection.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

This ship would point to a satellite that was fixed in orbit roughly above Los Angeles. And it was 30,000 km away and the satellite dish would just stay pointed at the satellite, so we always had this broadband internet connection no matter where we were, which enabled us to share our stories, upload our videos, make our different posts and photos, and basically tell the stories all around Canada.

Our satellite connection was stable throughout the trip, which was amazing. But one of the caveats with the technology is because the satellite is hovering above the west coast of the southern U.S., the further northeast we went in the ship, which was the beginning of our voyage up the Eastern Seaboard of Canada, we were getting further and further away from that.

The satellite was 30,000 km away and the dish that we had on the ship is pointed at it, but the further north we went, the lower and lower the satellite pointed across the curvature of the Earth. So at one point, we had a lot of ice that we had to go around and we ended up within 100 km of the Greenland coast and as we started to approach that, we got a call from SSI Micro and they said you know, 'where are you guys going?' And they kind of notified us that you know, if we went any further we were going to lose our internet connection. The satellite was about 1.7 degrees off the horizon, so almost to the point that the curvature of the Earth was going to be in the way of us reaching the satellite, but we never lost the connection. 

Did you have a plan as to how many videos you wanted to produce, who you wanted to interview and the stories you wanted to tell to Canada and to the world?

The thing about expeditions in general is that you start with a plan and then you start out your expedition. We sort of had a motto, which was flexibility is key. Ultimately as we went, ice patterns would change where we would get access to. So, maybe somewhere we were supposed to visit, we were not able to get access to simply because of the volume of ice and we would end up in another community.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

That didn’t happen too often, but it’s always a possibility with expeditions. We had a goal to reach 20 million Canadians and we wanted to do it across multiple platforms. We wanted to use social media and we wanted to produce all of our content on the four teams of the expedition and the Canada 150 sponsorship: reconciliation, youth engagement, science and environment, and diversity and inclusion.

In terms of the content specifically, we didn’t necessarily know who we were going to be interviewing. We had certain participants aboard. Some were higher profile and some had amazing stories that we knew about on their arrival. So, we would start to form a plan for every leg, but really it was a leg-by-basis.

What was the most memorable part?

There were just so many great stories to cover and ultimately, we had to pick and choose which ones we were going to chase, and which ones were going to make it to our content page on Facebook.

On one of the legs we were up in Nunavut and we came across an island called Sutton Island. It was an incredible landscape, a beautiful island. On that leg we also had a gentleman named Roger, and Roger was an Arctic ranger in the area.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

It was the look on his face arriving at Sutton Island. He was showing a lot of emotion and we talked to Roger and asked what’s up, what's going on. He said, 'while I was six years old, I was coming across the water with my parents, siblings and a family friend when we got shipwrecked on this island.'

He basically told us this story. They were shipwrecked on the island for a total of three months, him and his family. And they hunted and fished and lived on the island awaiting rescue, and it wasn’t until three months later when the water around the island had frozen over and his uncle ended up coming across by dogsled and finding them, and rescuing them. Roger was back on the island for the first time since then.

In total, how many videos and photos were produced?

In the end we produced 120 mini documentary videos, we ended up doing 93 Facebook live broadcasts from the ship and we posted over 6,000 photos to social media. It was an impressive output, because ultimately all of the content that was created was created on the ship.

The intensity of the production environment was such that you were sharing a room with someone, you were sharing a bunk bed with people and you ended up in this scenario where there was literally not an once of privacy to be had on this ship. So, the intensity in the production environment was high. To crank out this volume of content is one thing, but to do it under those circumstances, it was really an impressive output.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

How was it experiencing this trip through a lens?

One of the things we always talked about on this expedition was that it was an expedition and it wasn’t a cruise. So, everyone that was on this ship was a participant and they were actively involved in some way.

There wasn’t a lot of downtime. You would come into a community and produce content all day in that community, shooting and running around chasing stories.

Then you would get to the end of the day and be back at the ship. You would eat some food, you would dump the media off, you would back the files up and would start to edit and upload the video content. There were no weekends, this kind of went day after day, after day.

Amidst all of that, when the northern lights come out in the middle of the night and you get a chance to take a breath and see them, that’s enough to keep you going for another two weeks.

When you’re seeing things through a camera lens it is a different perspective, but the beauty of that perspective is that it is recorded and you're able to share it. You're able to have other people experience these amazing things.

What was your favourite Canadian landscape to shoot and why?

My favourite Canadian landscape would be bar none, Torngat Mountains National Park. We were in Saglek Fjord on the north arm, and it is just the most spectacular scenery. The water was blue, blue, blue and you had these incredible sharp fjords on either side, mountains that were close to a kilometre high on either side.

The sheer scale of it, that you're in this environment and you’re travelling by ship down the middle of it. You’re looking at the fjords at either side and I really couldn’t grasp how large it was until I launched the drone.

You’d get the drone up to like maybe 90 metres and you were no where near getting a high angle shot of any of this stuff. It was almost too large to photograph, which provided a creative challenge.

What was your favourite weather phenomenon to shoot in?

When it came to the weather, we got incredibly lucky. A lot of days were these beautiful bluebird days. It was almost ridiculous how lucky we got with the weather.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

When the ship was originally coming to Toronto for the departure they had hit some big weather and some big swells. The crew had shown me some photos from their phone and were like, 'this is some of the big high sea stuff that we are going to get into.'

I guess secretly I wanted the big high sea stuff, I thought this would be really great. But the truth is, over the course of the expedition, we only really ran into some big weather up around Alaska.

We ended up getting probably swells of somewhere between 4-6 metres, so some decent-sized waves and they were crashing over the bow. It was an interesting mix inside the ship because you had half the people up on the bridge and the captain being like, 'look at that wave! That’s amazing!'

The other half of the people were down below hunkered around their garbage bag or toilet, suffering from sea sickness. That was a bit of a challenge because if you did end up having a big weather day and there was a sway to the boat, you could lose half of your team. But, the nice part is as soon as the waves stop, so does the sea sickness and everyone is back in action.

Was there a profound moment during the expedition that sticks out to you the most? Something you will take with you through the rest of your journeys?

One of the most profound moments on the expedition was really just a lot of the communities we visited on the East Coast, especially in northern Labrador in Hebron, Nain and Hopedale. Hearing a lot of the indigenous stories firsthand about residential schools, relocation of entire communities and talking to these people. To see how devastating their experiences were with these residential schools. 

To have those conversations first-hand, and to see how it really affected an entire generation of people in our country, that was a really profound moment that changed my thinking. It changed how I am moving forward in viewing Canada and the kind of Canada that I want to work on creating and living in.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

Other profound moments certainly revolved around a lot of the natural environments that we saw. At one point, we ponied up alongside a tabular iceberg, which is sort of a big, flat iceberg. It was probably about 25 metres high, about 500 metres wide, and about a kilometre long. To just see a chunk of ice this size and to be right next to it, it was really a humbling experience.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

What stop was your favourite?

Ironically, on the Canada C3 Expedition, one of my favourite stops was actually in Alaska. We stopped in a whaling community called Tikigaq, Point Hope and this was a community of about 700 people. It was an incredible experience because they were bar none, the most welcoming community. They were so excited to see us, so excited to have us. It was a massive warm welcome. Everyone onshore had big hugs welcoming us into the community.

Tikigaq is interesting because they’re a whaling community and depend on whales to thrive. They have about seven or eight teams of whalers and they will go out in groups at the beginning of the whaling season each year to hunt the whales. They will bring these whales back to the community, and the first captain who catches a whale will effectively get to deem when the slaughter and feast will happen.

They get all of the meat into a position where they can store it for the rest of the season, and the whole community lives off of the whales.

It was really a powerful welcome into the community, and they had some incredible stories about their whaling life and the real sense of community of how everybody pulled together to get by.

The whaling captains, over the course of their career, they would always pick the largest rib from a given whale that they had captured or caught over the course of their career. When they finally passed away and were buried, they have this amazing graveyard. In the graveyard, anyone who was a whaling captain would have this massive rib planted in behind their tombstone. So, you could look out over the graveyard and you can see where all of the whaling captains were buried.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

Did you get to sample any local delicacies?

One interesting moment was when we were filming in Fogo Island and exploring Fogo. We were on our way out and it had been an incredible visit. As we were leaving on the zodiac on our way back to the ship, a motorboat pulled up beside us and the guy said, 'you want some cod!'

And we were like, 'cod, yeah what do you got?'

I look over the side of the boat and he has bins and bins of cod. And we were like, 'yeah bring it on over to the ship.'

I didn’t even know what to make of it, and sure enough they were just sending us on our way with bins and bins of cod. So, for the next several legs we were eating a lot of different cod dishes. It was an incredible gesture, a classic Newfoundland goodbye.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

What did you take from this trip and what are you hoping to do with it in the future?

I think the biggest takeaway for me was just how un-unified a country we are. From the southern perspective, I had a whole different idea of what Canada was about. But, now having experienced the north and met the people there -- the different challenges and the history that they have been subjected to, I really think this idea of reconciliation and making changes that include us as a unified country north and south is critical for Canada to move forward.

Image courtesy of Garry Tutte -- Canada C3

So, in terms of the films and future documentaries I want to make in the future, there is going to a strong focus on stories of the north and sharing those with the rest of the country so that we can have a better understanding of Canada as a whole.

WATCH BELOW: Best of Canada

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