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The Story Of The Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913 - 1918
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North Star

Martin Andreasen, owner of the schooner North Star, looked upon exploration as a means of opening up new territories to trade. In July 1906 he and Joe Bernard (owner of the schooner Teddy Bear) listened to Norwegian explorer Amundsen in Nome tell of possibilities of trade with the Coppermine River Inuit. Bernard went to Coppermine River district and Andreasen "sailed to another part of the Arctic coast and is reputed to have made a profit of $150,000 from the furs he brought out" (Madsen 1957).

In the spring of 1913, when Stefansson was considering the ships available in the Arctic for possible use or purchase by the CAE, he wrote the following about North Star:

"The schooner North Star Captain and half owner Matthew Anderson, (together with the same Ira Rank, mentioned above). The North Star is of the same capacity as the Teddy Bear, but has a centre-board instead of a keel, and therefore draws only four feet of water as against six feet for the Teddy Bear... The North Star, according to the intention of her captain last summer, was going to winter in Liverpool Bay, just west of Cape Bathurst....
Of the five ships wintering in the Arctic, two are from our point of view desirable - the Teddy Bear and the North Star. Each of these is for sale at $4,000 or possibly even less... I believe Mr. Rank has not the power to sell the North Star without the consent of Captain Anderson"
(Letter, Stefansson to Desbarats, May 18 1913).

A few months later, in the winter of 1913-1914, Stefansson bought the North Star at Demarkation Point, Alaska, from Captain Andreasen to replace the lost Karluk. The government had to pay $13,000 for the gasoline-powered schooner, a gasoline launch, and all the equipment on board, including a thousand dollars worth of tools.

The North Star was a 10-ton, gasoline-motor powered, 40-foot fishing schooner, drawing less than 5 feet of water. It had been caught by ice conditions as it sought to reach Nome from Herschel Island in August 1913, and wintered in Clarence Lagoon, some 10 miles east of 'Duffy' O'Connor's place at Demarkation Point (Jenness 1991).


The North Star leaving Herschel Island for Banksland.


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North Star hauled up on ice, Bernard Harbour, Nunavut. July 7, 1915. RMA 38726. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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North Star hauled up on ice, Bernard Harbour, Nunavut. July 7, 1915. RMA 38727. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

In the summer of 1915 Wilkins took the North Star east to Bathurst Inlet to assist the Southern Party scientists, then crossed over to Banks Island and took the schooner as far up the west coast as the ice conditions permitted. The North Star was hauled up on shore opposite Robillard Island. In the winter of 1915-1916 North Star became one of the camps used by the advance and hunting parties to further the next year's exploration. Natkusiak established another hunting camp nearby at the tip of Cape Prince Alfred. From there he hunted seals and polar bears and collected specimens for the expedition.

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North Star, Natkusiak and Aarnout Castel on deck, viewed from rocky shore, Cape Barrow, Coronation Gulf, Nunavut. August 12, 1915. RMA 38732. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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North Star (close view of bow with three men on deck) preparing to head for Banks Island, in small rocky harbour just west of Cape Barrow, Nunavut. August 12, 1915. RMA 39236. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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North Star leaving harbour at Cape Barrow, Coronation Gulf, en route to Banks Island with Wilkins, Natkusiak, and Castel; launch returning to shore with Cox and O'Neill or Chipman, Cape Barrow, Coronation Gulf, Nunavut. August 12, 1915. RMA 38861. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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North Star starting to leave little rocky harbour near Cape Barrow, Nunavut, en route to Banks Island, viewed from hillside; launch nearby. August 12, 1915. RMA 39188. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

At the end of the CAE in 1917, Stefansson gave the North Star and supplies to Natkusiak in lieu of $2,000 wages owing. Natkusiak spent four years (1917 to 1921) in northwest Banksland using the schooner as his base for fox trapping. According to the RCMP, North Star was "ice bound" on the west coast of Banks Island just south of Cape Prince Alfred for six years before being released (Wood, Inspector RCMP, to Commissioner RCMP, Ottawa, 18 August 1931, National Archives of Canada). Natkusiak was finally able to get the North Star out, probably in 1921.

The Loss of the North Star

Agnes Goose of Holman recalls information about the North Star: "When my Dad finished working for Stefansson, he got the North Star. It was an old ship and eventually was wrecked when I was about seven years old. I remember seeing it when the waves took the boat, so I ran into the house and was crying. Someone had been using the boat to get driftwood and hadn't anchored it properly. So when it got really stormy, the waves just took the ship [at Baillie Islands]... When I turned about eight years old [approximately 1933], my parents and us all moved back to Banks Island" (Condon 1996).

Elizabeth Banksland also remembers her husband Alex Banksland's story of the loss. As the schooner was blown away in the big west wind, they "couldn't do anything, just watching it drifting away." Alex described how Natkusiak told the others not to worry about trying to save the schooner, "Never mind, leave it, just let it go," he said, "I can't do anything more with it, just let it go, it's not a person" (Elizabeth Banksland Interview, September 2002, Holman).


Elizabeth Banksland describing the loss of the North Star

Jimmy Memorana of Holman also described the loss of the family's schooner: "North Star lost 1932 or 33. Big west wind coming, roll over, go into shore, wrecked bottom, had just put new engine on it, right to the bluff. In the winter Natkusiak took off the mast [pulled out with tackle from the cliff]. Some parts used for ice house. Natkusiak had five ice houses at Baillie Islands, one under his house, straight ice, no rock" (Jimmy Memorana Interview, September 2002, Holman).

The New North Star

A second North Star, a 57-foot wooden sloop, was ordered by Fred Carpenter and Jim (James) Wolki and built in San Francisco in 1935. It was transported to the north on Petersen's boat Herman. With a hull shaped like a clipper ship, the new North Star served for many years as an Arctic supply ship, travelling to and from Banks Island. In 1944, Jim Wolki traded his half interest in the ship to the late Fred Wolki’s widow Susie. Purchased in 1967 by Sven Johansson, North Star was repaired and used on charters, with a new name, North Star of Herschel Island. In 1975 she was moved to Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria B.C. She is still in use today sailing from Victoria B.C. under a new owner, Bruce MacDonald.


Schooner North Star of Herschel Island, Victoria B.C. October 4, 2002. Source: David Gray