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Finding Farley Media Coverage

Alberta family on quest to find Farley by Nancy King

Published: Tuesday, May 04, 2007

ST. PETER’S - Karsten Heuer and his family will retrace the literary steps of Farley Mowat as they venture across the country to meet the iconic author.

But instead of choosing a conventional mode of travel such as plane or car, the family will paddle, walk and sail its way from Canmore, Alta., in an anticipated six-month journey to St. Peter’s, documenting the voyage on film and in words.

Heuer, an author and biologist, was finishing his manuscript Being Caribou, about a five-month trek he took with his wife, filmmaker Leanne Allison, with a herd of endangered caribou in the north, and thought it might interest Mowat.

He sent a copy of the manuscript to Mowat’s publisher, hoping it might find its way into the writer’s hands. A few months later, Heuer received a typewritten letter from Mowat and, later, a phone call.

“I thought someone was playing a joke on me, and here was Farley Mowat’s voice,” says Heuer, noting he had long looked up to the writer.

“I think a lot of the themes and principles and values in his books have been quite formative in my own themes and values growing up.”

Mowat invited Heuer and Allison to visit. Mowat summers in St. Peter’s and spends his winters in Port Hope, Ont.

“That really was the beginnings of the idea of not just flying or driving to go see Farley Mowat, which wouldn’t be a fitting pilgrimage to see an iconic author, I don’t think,” Heuer says. “This notion of canoeing, moving slowly through the landscapes of the settings of his books, we started to look at a map of Canada, and that’s how the idea was born.”

Joining Heuer and Allison will be their young son, Zev.

“Our biggest fear and worry is travelling with a two-and-a-half-year-old,” Heuer laughs.

But he noted Zev has gone on some shorter trips with his parents and when in the canoe his demeanour changes and he becomes calmer.

“He’s fascinated by everything from bugs to birds to fish and we really wanted to share that with him at this age,” Heuer says.

The family will canoe to Hudson’s Bay, where Heuer hopes to catch a ship that will take them to northern Newfoundland. They then hope to find someone to sail them down the west coast of Newfoundland.

“That is sort of dictated by us hoping to get into the settings of a lot of Farley stories,” he says. “Sailing would be The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float, A Whale For the Killing, Bay of Spirits. Finally, at the end, to meet him in the flesh after sharing our trip with him through an exchange of letters is going to be pretty special.”

While some people may initially question their decision, Heuer notes he and Allison have a track record with similar expeditions. In addition to travelling with the caribou herd, in 1998-99 they walked from Yellowstone to the Yukon along the mountains, a trip that took 18 months.

“The initial reaction is, ‘are you guys nuts? Oh wait a second, you’ve already done a couple of things that were nuts,’” Heuer says.

The National Film Board is partially sponsoring the trip, which will be filmed by Allison. She shot and co-directed the film version of Being Caribou, winning a a Gemini Award, as well as awards at the Telluride Mountain and other film festivals. It may also result in another book by Heuer.

Even Zev will pitch in, Heuer says, and will be given a small video camera to record “some of the perspectives of a two-and-a-half-year-old.”

The family’s progress can be followed at the website www.findingfarley.ca.

© Cape Breton Post