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The Story Of The Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913 - 1918
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Bernard Harbour

In February and March 1915 Anderson, Jenness, Johansen, and Castel travelled up the Coppermine River by dogteam, using a Nome sled and a toboggan. They carried out biological, geological and archaeological surveys along the river. Johansen studied the dead and dying spruce at the northern limit of trees, discovering three species of bark beetles at work in the timber.

After Jenness and Johansen returned to base, Anderson and Castel continued on up the Coppermine and across to Dease Lake. Slowed by soft snow and rough, jagged ice on the Coppermine and deep soft snow on the Dease River, the dogs became exhausted, making it impossible to reach Great Bear Lake to transfer the mail. They turned back, reaching Bernard Harbour on 1 April.

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Dog-sled party en route to Coppermine River from Bernard Harbour. Left to right: A. Castel, D. Jenness, Palaiyak, and Dr. R. M. Anderson. Travelling eastward past Cape Krusenstern, Coronation Gulf, Nunavut. February 4, 1915. FJ 42241. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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Rough ice and gently dipping sandstone cliffs, snow-covered; part of the Coppermine River Series in the canyon of the Copermine River, near the northern limit of spruce trees, Nunavut. February 16, 1915. RMA 38884. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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Old Indian lodge frame with seven poles, among spruce trees, upper Dease River, north of Great Bear Lake, N.W.T. March 11, 1915. RMA 38827. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

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Most southerly diabase cliff, east side of Coppermine River near Sandstone Rapid (looking north), with boulders at base of cliff, Nunavut. March 23, 1915. RMA 38848. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

Spring Travels

Diamond Jenness travelled to Victoria Island in April and began seven amazing months of travel with his adopted Copper Inuit family, roaming around the southwestern part of the Island, hunting caribou and learning first-hand the hardships of nomadic life.

As soon as conditions allowed travel in the spring of 1915, the other men of the Southern Party travelled east from Bernard Harbour to Bathurst Inlet by schooner, dogsled and umiak (skin boat), studying, mapping, and collecting as they went. They mapped in detail land not explored since Franklin's journey in 1821, and surveyed and mapped copper-bearing rock formations in Bathurst Inlet.

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Copper Inuit camp with three tents; first rapids on Tree River, Coronation Gulf, Nunavut. October 4, 1915. RMA 38936. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization

Alaska's Adventures

The year 1915 began with a visitor, Fred Jacobsen, who brought the crew of Alaska the first news of the Great War. This news of global tragedy was followed by a personal tragedy at Alaska's winter quarters. Following a long struggle with scurvy, Daniel Blue, chief engineer of the Alaska, died of pneumonia on 2 May 1915 after an illness of ten days.

Alaska came up out of her winter bed in the ice on 15 May and preparations began for her summer trip back to Herschel Island for supplies. Captain Sweeney was worried about the absence of Dr. Anderson, who was to go with Alaska. Soon though, Ikey Bolt and Palaiyak arrived from Bernard Harbour with the Expedition's outgoing mail, and the news that Anderson had gone east with the survey party. Wilkins and the North Star carried the men and supplies of the party to Bathurst Inlet, before heading to Banks Island.

Ikey and Palaiyak were soon at work boiling polar bear skulls for the museum in Ottawa, while Mike and Jacobsen began the long, frustrating job of getting Alaska's engine running. Twenty-three days later, Jacobsen was "paid off" with $5.00 cash, 4 sacks of flour, 1 lb. of tobacco, 2 lb. of soap and the late Mr. Blue's caribou skin shirt. But the engine was still not running. Eventually it was decided that the gasoline brought in last year was at fault and that they would have to sail to Herschel Island.

In spite of struggles with ice and shallow reefs, Alaska safely reached Herschel Island. There her engine was finally put in running order and the new supplies were loaded. Alaska put to sea in mid-August with a new engineer, J.E. Hoff, Mike's wife Cis and children, three other Inuit (Adam Ovayuak, Mungalena, and Ambrose Agnavagak) and Corporal Bruce of the RNWMP, who was to investigate the disappearance of two priests thought to have been killed by Inuit.

Arriving at Bernard Harbour before the ice closed in, the Alaska took Fritz Johansen, the Expedition's marine biologist, out into Dolphin and Union Strait where he took some valuable soundings down to 50 fathoms and obtained specimens by dredging from greater depths than he had been able to reach before. On 22 September the harbour froze over and Alaska was placed in position for the winter.

Weather Observations (Meteorology)

Taking daily weather observations, recording tidal measurements, trapping mammals and preparing specimens were all part of the regular tasks at CAE Headquarters.

"Messrs Cox and Chipman worked all forenoon setting up gas inflation apparatus for meteorological balloons. The apparatus is rigged up in a large snowhouse, and the observing telescope set up on tripod outside. The observer is supposed to keep the telescope fixed on the balloon as long as it is in sight, and a self-recording apparatus keeps record of angles at which the telescope is moved. The first balloon sent up was light-colored and soon became invisible. They sent up another smaller dark red balloon which showed up better but Chipman could not follow it with the registering apparatus." (R.M. Anderson Diary, November 27, 1915 Bernard Harbour).


Anemometer (wind gauge) mounted on pole, Bernard Harbour, N.W.T. (Nunavut). July 12, 1916. RMA 39208. Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization