Adam Shoalts has won multiple accolades for his expeditions
The CBC refers to him as one of Canada’s greatest living explorers. The Toronto Star has called him Canada’s Indiana Jones.
High praise for a 35-year-old adventurer whose roots are in rural Fenwick.
Adam Shoalts will be back on familiar ground when he introduces his latest book, The Whisper on the Night Wind: The True History of a Wilderness Legend.
On October 7 at 7 PM, the Pelham Public Library, along with the Town of Pelham, will present “An Evening with Adam Shoalts” at Old Town Hall, on Canboro Road. Shoalts will be speaking about his new book and sharing photos from the adventure, along with hosting a Q & A session. A limited in-person audience of 40 will be present at the event (advance registration is required), in accordance with provincial Covid limits. Admission is free, and proof of vaccination is required. The presentation will be live-streamed through www.facebook.com/pelhampubliclibrary.
A local independent bookstore, Some Day Books, in St. Catharines, will also be on hand to handle book sales.
The Whisper on the Night Wind has generated some serious interest, as the CBC and the Globe and Mail have both named it to their “Recommended Fall Reads list,” and Indigo has added it to their “Most Anticipated Books of the Year List.”
Shoalts completed an undergraduate degree at Brock in 2009, and followed it up with a Masters and PhD at McMaster in history and archaeology. His talents as a writer emerged in high school at E.L. Crossley, and in his 20s he had a regular gig with his hometown paper, the Voice of Pelham.
“The Voice was my first real writing experience, from 2007 until about 2012,” said Shoalts. “For those five years, I was writing nature columns pretty regularly. I like to think that the Voice laid the foundations for all my later success as an author.”
The vast majority of Shoalts’ travels have been solo. His best-known expedition was when he crossed Canada’s Arctic alone in 2017, a 4000-kilometre journey that took four months, and was the subject of his well-received book, Beyond The Trees. Shoalts’ latest book, which comes out in October, involves a Labrador expedition with a partner, Zach Junkin, son of the current Mayor of Pelham, Marvin Junkin.
“Zach has a background in mixed martial arts, triathlons, and marathon running, so he was well qualified to do this kind of extreme expedition in a remote environment,” said Shoalts. “He was an excellent companion, both on foot and on the water. We did a lot of canoeing, actually paddling on the North Atlantic, off the coast of Labrador, under pretty extreme conditions. It was September when went up a river into the Mealy Mountains of Labrador, which really pushed us to our limits.”
The Whisper on the Night Wind is different from Shoalts’ other books, in that it is more of an historical mystery.
It was September when went up a river into the Mealy Mountains of Labrador, which really pushed us to our limits
“The story follows my investigation of a Labrador legend that goes back a century,” he said. “A ghost town called Traverse Pine, which is abandoned today, was a trading post a hundred years ago. I read journals from fur trappers, describing how this place was haunted by a strange creature or creatures that no one could identify. One of the eyewitnesses from back in the 1920s described it as sort of Yeti or Bigfoot, walking on two legs. The creature left tracks that no one could identify. Strange calls were heard in the night, and sled dogs would go missing. I found the mystery very intriguing, and did a lot of archival research, digging up all these personal accounts. In my book, our expedition tries to solve the mystery.”
Promoting his new book will be more difficult in pandemic times.
“For my other books, I did cross-Canada tours, and lots of in-person book events and book signings, but for this one, because of Covid, I’m doing very limited traveling, and will be relying much more on virtual events.”
While holding a number of sponsorships to support his expeditions, Shoalts’ primary support comes from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, where his official job title is Westaway Explorer-in-Residence.
Shoalts said that he consumes about 4000 calories a day when on one of his treks, “and I still tend to lose weight. I pretty much eat every hour while on an expeditions, usually a high-calorie energy bar. There’s no stopping for lunch or breakfast or anything like that, since my priority is to maximize the amount of time I can spend traveling.”
The food he packs must be lightweight, so as not to be a burden in his travels.
Encounters with wild animals are par for the course when on expeditions.
“Oh yeah, that happens quite regularly,” said Shoalts. “I was just charged by a grizzly a couple of weeks ago. I’ve had polar bears come at me in the river—it just comes with the territory. In fact, on my list of scariest moments, the bears are not at the top. It’s mostly the weather, like extreme gale-force hurricane winds on the Arctic tundra.”
He doesn’t carry a firearm on his treks.
“It’s essential that I travel as light as possible, and a rifle is heavy. Plus, when you’re doing a lot of canoeing, especially whitewater canoeing, a firearm can easily get wet. So normally, I don’t carry a firearm on my expeditions.”
Asked about snake encounters that might maker readers cringe, Shoalts replied, “snakes aren’t usually an issue, because most of my treks are in the North where there aren’t any snakes. I’ve done one expedition in the Amazon, and there were obviously a lot of venomous snakes and spiders and scorpions there. But that’s a whole other story,” he said.
Shoalts intends to keep trekking and writing as long as he’s able. “I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world, because I get to go off on adventures and expeditions and then write about it. So those are my two great loves right there.”
He’s clearly comfortable in his own skin, and says that the solitude of solo travel is not a problem for him.
“I love the natural world,” said Shoalts. “This weekend, I’m leading guided nature hikes, talking about wild mushrooms and edible plants, and identifying different species of trees. To me, that’s endlessly fascinating. So when I’m out in the wilderness, I don’t really feel the loneliness. I feel the excitement, because every bend in the river brings something new. On the other side of every hill, there are new things to discover. That keeps me engaged in the journey.”
RELATED: Column Six | Charged by a Grizzly