Skis, Snowshoes, and Goggles
Skis and snowshoes were used extensively by Expedition
members, depending on the time of year and the nature and quality
of the snow.
Stefansson records using skis both as a form of transportation
and as a frame for the sled-boat used when crossing leads. When
leaving Lougheed Island in mid-June 1917, they were able to use
skis in spite of the warm temperatures: "We were carrying
skis, partly for possible use in the early spring when crusted
snow overlies water that fills all the low places of the ice,
although they were mainly of value as part of the frame of our
sled-boat. I now put them on and found I could almost sail before
the strong wind" (Stefansson 1921). Those skis are now part
of the Canadian Museum of Civilization history collection.
There were two types of snow goggles ordered for use by the CAE.
Two pairs used by R.M. Anderson survived the Expedition. There
are several interesting comments on the benefits and drawbacks
of the two types in the CAE diaries.
Stoves, Tents, and Snow
Primus stoves were the primary utensil used by the Expedition
for melting water and cooking food. Invented in Sweden in 1882,
Primus stoves were used by most Arctic expeditions, including
those led by Shackleton, Nansen, Amundsen, and Peary. Even at
temperatures of 45 below, the Primus could melt water or snow
and cook a hot meal within a half hour. A quart of water could
be brought to a boil in 4 minutes and a full tank of fuel would
last about 5 hours. A new Primus costing about $5 came with a
tin box and accessories, including a pot holder, wrench, and pricker
to keep the nozzle clean.
The Expedition bought a dozen single-burner Primus
stoves from the Abercrombie company of New York in 1913 for $5
each. Six double-burner stoves cost $6.50 each. Six other Primus
stoves were purchased from the trading schooner Herman
in 1916 and another two from Fritz Wolki of the Gladiator
at $10 each.
"I mended a primus stove yesterday that
had been useless for some time. The vaporising tubes were entirely
blocked with carbon. I drilled holes through them, cleaned them
out,and plugged up the holes with brass. I had to make rivits
because Pete Bernard had my set of taps and dies" (Wilkins
Diary, February 2, 1916).
"Our tent (Chipman & O'Neill's 'Alpine' tent) - green
tannalite with light lining is very warm. When cooking with full
stove, we usualy have to strip to the waist and perspiration runs
down in streams. It sags and flops a little in a gale but the
wind does not penetrate. The Baillie Islands double-wall tent
of white drill is not quite so warm, but the inner tent is usually
dry. The steam goes through and mostly condenses on outside of
outer tent, and the ice and frost can be mostly beaten off in
the morning" (R.M. Anderson Diary December 23, 1914).
When travelling in winter, especially when setting up camps to
be used by following parties, the men built traditional snow houses,
which were generally much warmer than tents for winter use. The
snow houses could be used several times, particularly if care
was taken to avoid melting of the walls by too much heat inside.
Tools for the Trail
When travelling over the sea ice, especially
in areas of rough ice and through pressure ridges (huge uplifted
chunks of ice formed where two ice sheets meet and crumple together),
routes have to be cleared for the sleds by chopping with ice chisels
and pick-axes. Stefansson also used an ice chisel when on sea
ice to test the thickness. The ice chisel that Stefansson used
appears in the well-known photograph taken of him in 1914 by Wilkins,
and was retrieved from his cache on Banks Island in 1954.