This is part of our series on the Alberta oil sands.
The snow has nearly melted here, the river ice is almost totally broken up, and winter runoff is foremost on the minds of Canada's Department of the Environment.
This helicopter was parked on the banks of the McKay River outside Fort McMurray, Canada as I made my way off the McKay Native Reservation Saturday, and it caught my attention.
When I looked to the right and saw two people by the river with small vials, one in waders, I had to stop.
The site was being logged and the lumber machines idled as the chopper and its occupants completed their business.
After wandering down to the banks and saying hello to the pilot, I went to talk to the pair wading in from the water.
They told me they were students from the University of Saskatchewan testing the river as part of a daily routine in the wake on the winter runoff.
They couldn't tell me much, but offered the number of a representative I'll contact when I get back in New York.
I'm tempted to mention how the oil sands are the driving force of the Canadian economy, and that the oil companies are driving $55 billion into the local markets this year alone, but yeah, they're making a ton off these deposits so why wouldn't they.
What's more interesting is that environmentally friendly, stealth helicopter they shuttle their environmental folks around in.
The pilot told me it was "just a taxi cab, that's all" but went on to explain it is the most silent helicopter on the market, and the most environmentally friendly.
He said I wouldn't be able to hear them once they cruised past the bend in the river, but he was wrong. I couldn't hear them even before that.
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