This weeks post is a continuation of Tony’s story told from the apocalypse. It follows on from the end of last weeks post.
Tony’s Story (continuation)
I arrived at Michael and Vanessa’s house above Pemberton Meadows at 7 p.m., sixteen hours after I left Vancouver. The total distance was only 150 kilometres. I’d averaged less than ten kilometres per hour. That ponderous pace had a silver lining. Our modern, highly efficient electric vehicle generated enough power from the photoelectric cells in its roof to drive at that speed without depleting the batteries.
At Pemberton, the convoy continued northeast toward Lillooet and the highway to northern BC. I alone turned off and headed northwest into the Pemberton Valley. When I reached Michael’s, I fell asleep almost immediately on their porch and remained dead to the world until Alice woke me on Sunday morning.
During the following weeks, the skies became hazier, and the smoky smell more pervasive. I joined the effort to clear combustible material from an extensive firebreak they were creating west of the town. The residents of nearby Mount Currie were making a similar effort across valleys to the south and east. These were valiant efforts, but I feared, based on other experiences I gleaned from my radio, probably futile.
As spring turned to summer, we expanded the firebreaks separating Pemberton and Mount Currie from the encroaching fires. By August, we had impressive clear cuts scraped clear of undergrowth. Our efforts were largely successful. We limited the damage behind the firebreaks to a few fires that were ultimately contained without serious damage to either town. September brought heavy rains to our part of BC and the fires retreated. Knowledgeable firefighters rejoiced, convinced the battle was won.
I had no role in the summer’s other major effort. Experienced mountaineers investigated escape routes from the upper Pemberton Valley to the coast. Warmer weather and retreating glaciers made the effort possible, but I couldn’t imagine the valley’s citizens escaping the flames through the mountains. A communication channel, however, would be in everyone’s interests. I applauded an effort that demanded skills far more specialized than mine.
In October, they abandoned trail building in the mountains. They had a route to the head of the Toba Inlet laid out and plans to continue work after the winter snow melted.
At the mouth of the Tobi River, our trailblazers encountered a group of refugees who arrived in a ragtag armada of boats from points south. They’d constructed several log cabins and planned to overwinter there and establish a permanent settlement.
During my early days in Pemberton Meadows, I set up my shortwave radio. I began broadcasting messages to anyone who could receive them and listening for messages coming my way. I had no trouble pulling in Bill Robertson on Haida Gwaii, but not my contact at our other monitoring site at Tofino. Tofino was much closer but I heard nary a peep from them.
I heard from Ham radio operators in Alaska and across Canada’s north. I heard from Iceland and various locations in northern Europe. No messages originated from the rest of Canada or the United States. In fact, I had no communication with anyone located south of Pemberton’s 50°N.
The absence of messages from anyone located south of about 55°N was a major puzzle. No more than two percent of the world’s population lived that far north, so why didn’t I hear from the other ninety-eight percent. Was the destruction far worse than I imagined? Had electromagnetic pulses destroyed all electronics? How many survived from the globes most populated areas?
My most precise, but unfortunately localized, knowledge came from my almost daily communication with Bill Robertson. He and his colleagues from Haida Gwaii kept close watch on the fires that were pressing northward along the BC coast. By mid June they’d reached the Johnstone Strait and pushed westward onto northern Vancouver Island. Bill’s estimates of the spreading speed seemed slower than the numbers I’d determined from the few early reports of fires in eastern North America. They were hardly encouraging. Nothing seemed capable of stopping the relentlessly expanding fires.
The fires dominated our thoughts, but Bill’s monitoring data yielded another important observation. Despite the hazy conditions, temperatures during that first month spiked to the highest springtime levels ever seen on Haida Gwaii. Bill’s carefully controlled measurements were confirmed by our less rigorous measurements in the Pemberton Valley. It was much hotter than normal.
The highlight of my first month was a radio message I received on Wednesday, the twenty-third of June from my old colleague, Dan Delacour. He started his graduate studies in my supervisor, Dr. Heinrich Krueger’s, climate research group shortly after I began my post-doc in Victoria.
After Dan graduated from Dalhousie, he spent a year in Georgia, then migrated to England. He and his wife, Elena Llewellyn, had survived and relocated to the Shetland Islands, a refuge area from the United Kingdom. I can turn to the first part of his story, one that stretches from 2027 to 2031. During that time, the focus of research on climate change’s impacts shifted from my ocean acidification problem back to our earlier concern for global warming.
I’m still consider the idea of using Tony’s story as explanatory glue like the narrators who show up in front of the curtain at the beginning of some plays (and between acts) to explain what is going to happen. If I do, this segment could go between Part One (The Souring Seas) and Part Two (An Industrial Solution).