The biologist for the Expedition, Fritz Johansen, collected many samples of invertebrates
from both salt and fresh water. These samples, now cared for by the Canadian Museum
of Nature, represent the first comprehensive collection from the Arctic. Initially
providing the basis for describing Arctic species and for preparing identification
keys, they now serve many other purposes, especially when compared to recent surveys
of marine and freshwater animals.
Because the CAE samples were were collected before any nuclear
bomb testing, they can be used to study past environmental conditions. Such a
study led by scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada used small mollusc
shell fragments and provided an explanation for a catastrophic climatic change
that took place approximately 8,400 years ago. The specimens collected during
the CAE played an important role in this discovery.
When the men of the Southern Party were on board the schooner
Alaska en route to their winter headquarters, they spent much time helping the
ship's crew extracting her from tight spots in the ice and from many groundings
in the shallow, uncharted waters. The expedition's frustrated marine biologist
Johansen was soon "growling because manual labour interferes with his collecting"
(R.M.Anderson Diary 1914).
"Banks Island - After we had left the mainland a few miles
behind, the water presented a dark blue appearance, almost black. I put a plankton
net over the side for half an hour, and when I hauled it up, it contained a quantity
of small fish [probably invertebrates] which have a dark line running through
their body. They appear to be in such numbers that they may be the cause of the
colouration of the water. I did not have time to examine them closely, for Crawford
was still under the influence of drink, and I had to look after the engines. However,
I collected some for preservation as specimens" (Wilkins Diary, August 22,
The many specimens of fish and unpublished information on fish
ecology collected by Fritz Johansen during the CAE, and now in the Canadian Museum
of Nature collections, form the earliest significant basis for fish studies in
Canada's Arctic. These collections are a valuable resource still relevant today.
Scientists at the Museum of Nature and at Fisheries and Oceans Canada are using
this material in the production of books on the Arctic Marine Fishes of Canada
and the Freshwater Fishes of Nunavut.