TO FIND OUT WHERE THIS WATER IS COMING FROM,
YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE SOURCE.
The production team spent two weeks on the remote Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, filming the ascent to the summit of Mount Snowdome, the frozen source of the Athabasca River- where oilsands companies get their water from. During this time they braved snow-storms and sub zero temperatures.
At one point, David fell 30 feet into a cavernous crevasse. This scene was caught on tape and will be part of the DVD extras when the film is released on home DVD. After spending 45 minutes down in the hole, his companions manage to rescue him by setting up an anchor and pulley system while clawing in the snow above with their ice axes.
Following a hypothetical drop of water, the team then embarks on a canoe journey down the Athabasca River. 1500 kilometers and many rapids later, they reach Fort McMurray, the nerve centre of the bitumen extraction industry. Paddling alongside the plants adjacent to the river is an eerie experience- cannon explosions go off in the distance (part of the measures used to scare off waterfowl that might be tempted to land in the toxic lakes where waste by-products from oilsands development are dumped). As the team paddles past the plants all they can hear is the steady hiss of smokestacks- it’s the sound of Canada’s natural gas supplies being burnt through.
Further downstream, all is quiet, and the production team gets to enjoy the peace and tranquility of Canada’s boreal forest. That peace is shattered one day when a Boeing 737 jet pulls out of the forest and takes flight- the team is surprised to find out that there are runways for large jets that are used to ferry in workers from locations across Canada.
The quiet returns. Wolves, loons and Caribou all live up here- though their existence is threatened by the growing network of roads and open pit mines proposed to feed a hungry world with oil.
Finally, the team arrives in Fort Chipewyan, a tiny community of 1500 people downstream of the largest energy project in the world. This picturesque community is home to the Mikisew Cree and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. This is the oldest community in Alberta- its people have lived here even for hundreds of years prior to the time it was the fur trade capital of Canada. Now, history repeats itself as this tiny community once again finds itself in the eye of an economic storm which has implications for the entire continent.
Although the journey from source to the end of the river is done, David’s journey of discovery has just begun.