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Umiak and launches


An Alaskan whaling umiak purchased from Charles Brower at Cape Smyth, Alaska for $100 became a valuable part of the "Expedition Navy." The umiak was almost 9 m in length and 2 m wide, and covered in the heavy skins of bearded seals. At Bernard Harbour the men strengthened the structure at the stern and fitted an Evinrude outboard motor. The umiak could be lifted by two men and, in the spring of 1915, was hauled by four or five dogs on an ivory-shod sled with over 100 kg of gear inside. Later in the summer, in open water, the umiak carried two or three men, three dogs, and 450 kg of provisions, gasoline, and camp gear.

On the coastal survey east to Bathurst Inlet and back, the umiak could make about 9 km/h, and weathered some pretty heavy seas. It could be beached on any kind of coast in a hurry, by rolling it up on inflated sealskin pokes – a great advantage when exploring an unknown coast, and in an area subject to sudden winds causing dangerous waves. When navigating among ice floes, the umiak was practically immune to ice damage. The umiak was left at Tree River in the fall, with the skin covering removed and hidden in a cache of slate slabs. As R.M. Anderson wanted the umiak on board the Alaska for the trip out to Nome, in case of accident or ice crush, it was brought back by the last of the spring sledging parties in June 1916 (Anderson 1917).

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Umiak frame, with mast set and Evinrude motor attached, being prepared to leave for Bathurst Inlet; J.R. Cox (with goggles and sweater) and J.R. Crawford, Bernard harbour, Nunavut. June 6, 1915. RMA 38714. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization


Umiak frame. Source: Canadian Museum of Nature

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Several Copper Inuit from Tree River in the CAE umiak, Port Epworth, Coronation Gulf, Nunavut. June 20, 1915. JJO 38553. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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Umiak brought from Tree River on Kohoktok's sled, pulled by four dogs, one man leading the way, west of Cape Lambert, Dolphin and Union Strait, Nunavut. June 5, 1916. RMA 38772. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization


The launch Edna was used in surveying the Mackenzie Delta in 1914, then taken by Mary Sachs to Banks Island. There it was used to collect driftwood and specimens before it was caught by ice up on the west coast, north of Cape Kellett.

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Launch Edna powered with Evinrude outboard motors on trial run, with two men (O'Neill and Peterson); viewed from shore, Mackenzie Delta, N.W.T. July 23, 1914. KCG 43247. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

Wild Bill was a 20-foot gasoline launch with a 7-horsepower Gray motor, used along with the umiak, by Cox, Chipman, and O'Neill of the Southern Party to examine the geography and geology of Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut, in the summer of 1915. On the return trip in September the launch was damaged by new ice and was cached at Tree River for the next summer. Finding the damage too great to repair, the launch was abandoned in the spring of 1916. Hoff, the Alaska's engineer, and his assistant Mike removed the engine and hauled it, along with the Evinrude outboard, back to Bernard Harbour by dog team.


Launch Wild Bill used to examine Bathurst Inlet, and canoe, near mouth of Hood River, Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut. August 28, 1915. CD?

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CAE temporary camp, tent, umiak, canoe, and launch Wild Bill, on a beach in a small harbour at Cape Barrow, Coronation Gulf, Nunavut. August 12, 1915. RMA 38864. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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J.E. Hoff, engineer of CGS Alaska, and Mike, assistant, with motor loaded on sled, mouth of Tree River, Coronation Gulf, Nunavut. May 6, 1916. RMA 39573. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization