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Arctic Return Expedition will seek Northwest Passage in the footsteps of John Rae


“A snow storm of great violence raged during the whole of [April] 14th, which did not prevent us from making an attempt to get forward; after persevering two and a half hours, and gaining a mile and a half distance, we were again forced to take shelter.” -- John Rae on his 1854 expedition

In the Canadian Arctic, the month of April means below-zero temperatures, ice-jammed waterways, blinding blizzards and challenging traveling conditions. April is the month, in 2019, when Arctic explorer David Reid will lead a four-person team on a 640-kilometre trek across Boothia Peninsula in the Central Arctic. Travelling on skis and snowshoes, Reid and his team will follow the route Scottish explorer John Rae took in 1854, when with two indigenous companions, he accomplished one of the three most significant expeditions in the history of Arctic exploration.
Together with the Inuk William Ouligbuck and the Ojibway Thomas Mistegan, Rae discovered both the catastrophe that had engulfed the failed Franklin expedition and the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. On Friday night David Reid, who recently led the first-ever circumnavigaton of Bylot Island on skis, unveiled his next undertaking -- the ARCTIC RETURN EXPEDITION: Discovery, Northwest Passage, John Rae -- while presenting in Toronto at a meeting of the Canadian Chapter of the Explorers Club.
His 540 km Bear Witness journey in 2017 around Bylot required 29 days. Reid proposes to complete this longer expedition -- 640 km from Repulse Bay (Naujaat) via Point de la Guiche to Gjoa Haven -- in 35 days. He is now selecting team members, each of whom must be capable, he says, “of hauling a 200-pound sled every day for a month while meeting the mental and physical challenges of travelling in a harsh, cold environment -- one of the most extreme on earth.”
This expedition is his most ambitious yet, the Scotland-born explorer said, because it is not just linear, man against nature, a purely physical test. Certainly it is that, but it also has a significant historical dimension that invites multi-faceted comparison between today and yesterday. Climate? Technology? Culture? Gear and equipment? Communications? All completely transformed since Rae’s time. Not only that, but Reid has also enlisted an experienced co-author -- full disclosure: yours truly -- to write a book about the expedition, one that we hope will give rise to a documentary film.
“This is purpose-driven travel,” Reid said. “And it’s a serious undertaking. It is certainly not lost on me that people die doing things like this, travelling in this part of the world at the time of year Rae did.” Reid notes that for centuries, Inuit have travelled through this area, and “because of blizzards, whiteouts, and other dangers, the reality is some have not made it home.”
Then he asked rhetorically: “Why do it? Why, at considerable personal risk, why try follow in the tracks of John Rae? Well, because historical achievement needs to be recognized, honoured, and celebrated. This expedition is designed to highlight and bring attention to excellence and achievement. It will bear witness in a remote part of Canada where history was made.”
History, he added, is often evoked in bricks and mortar. And that brought him to another motivating factor -- the dangerously run-down condition of Rae’s birthplace in Stromness, Orkney: the Hall of Clestrain. For the past several years, the John Rae Society has been striving to raise funds to purchase, salvage, and restore the edifice, with a view to turning it into an international John Rae Centre -- a World Heritage site for exhibitions, lectures, research, and scientific study. Last month, a Scottish woman living in Canada donated 40,000 pounds (almost $70,000 Cdn.) to the cause.
But much more is needed, and Reid -- who hails from Bishopton near Glasgow, not 300 miles south of Stromness -- is hopeful that the ARCTIC RETURN EXPEDITION will attract funding not just for the undertaking itself, but also for the restoration of the Hall. “Clestrain stands as an example of something once proud, dignified, and strong,” he said. “The passing years have not been kind to it. It would be wonderful if our expedition could help to breathe new life into the Hall -- not just for the people of Orkney, but people from around the world.” Reid would also like to see some private funds go to a youth group based on King William Island -- a group identified as deserving by historian Louie Kamookak, who has agreed to serve as Gjoa Haven consultant.
And the three most significant Arctic expeditions? The first was that of John Franklin, who in 1846 established the existence of an open waterway from Parry Channel as far south as King William Island. The second was that of John Rae, who with Ouligbuck and Mistegan, discovered Rae Strait -- the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. The third was that of Roald Amundsen, who vindicated both Franklin and Rae when, in 1903-06, he became the first to navigate the Northwest Passage. Of these, the only expedition that did not require a ship was John Rae’s.
And that, in 2019, is the one ARCTIC RETURN will re-enact.

[Potential sponsors should contact David Reid at arcticreturn@gmail.com.]

[Next up here: The remarkable true story of the Hall of Clestrain.]


Ken McGoogan
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Geologist finds relic from Franklin search


Canadian geologist Francis Manns was prospecting for lead and zinc.
The mid-summer day was bright and literally endless -- 24-hour sunlight.
Manns was working his way along the Abbott River in the middle of Cornwallis Island, some distance north of Resolute Bay, when he spotted a cairn on a ridge or pinnacle.
"It was two or three feet high," he told me earlier today. "You couldn't miss it."
Manns went to investigate, picked up a couple of loose rocks, and found three identical pieces of paper. Maybe I should mention that he did this forty-odd years ago, between June 20 and August 20 of 1973.
The high-rag-content pieces of paper had been deposited there, in the middle of Cornwallis Island, in 1851 by a search party from the Felix, under the command of Sir John Ross. The previous year, Ross had been present off Beechey Island during the discovery of the gravesites of the first three men to die from the lost Franklin expedition.
Together with several other captains, Ross had wintered over and resumed searching north up Wellington Channel -- along the east coast of Cornwallis Island. As the Manns discovery shows -- and though I, for one, have not been able to locate the Abbott River -- Ross's men ventured some distance inland during their hunt.
"The paper lasted because it is very good quality," Manns said, "and the Arctic is a desert. The pages were just loosely placed -- gently folded and nestled in the rocks. A high wind blows constantly, and the rain when it comes is sparse and horizontal and dries in minutes. I would guess that the cairn had never been wet inside."
When he got home to Toronto, Manns sent the two other copies he found to the national archives in Ottawa . . . and never heard a word.
"We used to go out in pairs," he recalled at his home in the Beaches, which is where in Toronto all the cool folks live. "A helicopter would put us down and we'd go prospecting and mapping." This was before GPS, of course, but even their compasses were useless. "The North Magnetic Pole was just off Little Cornwallis Island," Manns explained. "It's now a thousand miles away."
One geologist with whom he was working -- Malcolm Wilson -- came upon another cairn on a different traverse. He never said a word about it back at camp, but inside that cairn, he found a piece of paper identical to the three pages Manns had discovered -- only this page had been dated and signed. Wilson published an article about it in a Saskatchewan-based journal called The Muskox. In recent decades, Manns has looked for that article a few times, but has never managed to lay hands on it.
Ken McGoogan
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Polar Bears explain the Fate of Franklin


What happened to the Franklin Expedition? Researchers have been debating that since 1847, two years after Sir John Franklin disappeared into the Arctic with 128 men. From the note found at Victory Point on King William Island, we know that in April 1848, 105 men left the two ice-locked ships. The note tells us that already, nine officers and fifteen seamen had died. That represents 37 per cent of officers and 14 per cent of crew members. Historians have wondered: why such disportionate numbers?
Researchers have spent vast amounts of time and energy inquiring into the deaths of the first three sailors to die, whose graves remain on Beechey Island. Did lead poisoning kill them? Botulism? Zinc deficiency leading to tuberculosis? But wait. Maybe those three early deaths were anomalies. Perhaps the nine officers and twelve other sailors died as a result of some accident or injury. Some have wondered if the dead men ingested something that others did not.
But nobody, to my knowledge, has publicly invoked the calamitous Munk expedition of the early 1600s, which lost sixty-two men out of sixty-five. In 1619-20, while seeking the Northwest Passage, the Danish-Norwegian explorer Jens Munk wintered in two ships at present-day Churchill, Manitoba. In Dead Reckoning, drawing on Munk’s journal, I detail the unprecedented miseries that ensued. During my research, I had turned up an article by Delbert Young published 44 years ago in the Beaver magazine (“Killer on the ‘Unicorn,’" Winter, 1973). It blamed the catastrophe on poorly cooked or raw polar-bear meat.
Soon after reaching Churchill in September 1619, Munk reported that at every high tide, white beluga whales entered the estuary of the river. His men caught one and dragged it ashore. Next day, a “large white bear” turned up to feed on the whale. Munk shot and killed it. His men relished the bear meat. Munk had ordered the cook “just to boil it slightly, and then to keep it in vinegar for a night.” But he had the meat for his own table roasted, and wrote that “it was of good taste and did not disagree with us.”
As Delbert Young observes, Churchill sits at the heart of polar bear country. Probably, after that first occasion, the sailors consumed more polar-bear meat. During his long career, Munk had seen men die of scurvy and knew how to treat that disease. He noted that it attacked some of his sailors, loosening their teeth and bruising their skin. But when men began to die in great numbers, he was baffled. This went beyond anything he had seen. His chief cook died early in January, and from then on “violent sickness . . . prevailed more and more.”
After a wide-ranging analysis, Young points to trichinosis as the probable killer —a parasitical disease, unidentified until the twentieth century, which is endemic in polar bears. Infected meat, undercooked, deposits embryo larvae in a person’s stomach. These tiny parasites embed themselves in the intestines. They reproduce, enter the bloodstream and, within weeks, encyst themselves in muscle tissue throughout the body. They cause the terrible symptoms Munk describes and, left untreated, can culminate in death four to six weeks after ingestion.
So, back to the Franklin expedition. Could trichinosis, induced by eating raw polar-bear meat, have killed those nine officers and dozen seamen? And galvanized the remaining men into abandoning the ships? And rendered many of them so sick that they could hardly think straight or walk. And made the faces of some look black, so that they had to be quarantined into a separate tent?
In recent years, while visiting Beechey Island with Adventure Canada, more than once my fellow voyagers and I have been driven off by polar bears. We retreat into the zodiacs at first sign of approach. In that same situation, how would Franklin’s men have responded? They would have killed those curious bears and eaten them -- perhaps bringing some of the meat onto the ships. That undercooked polar-bear meat, unevenly distributed among officers and crew, might well have led to the lopsided fatality statistics . . . and to all the rest.
So, anyway, I suggest in Dead Reckoning. Within the next few years, Parks Canada will almost certainly turn up some decisive evidence -- written records or human remains or both -- as divers investigate the Erebus and Terror. Until then, my money is on polar-bear-meat-induced trichinosis.
Ken McGoogan
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Say goodbye to defenders of the Royal Navy narrative of the Northwest Passage



A few days ago, in the comments section below the Globe and Mail review of Dead Reckoning, I placed a link to my rejoinder. The review's author, Janice Cavell, has responded in that same forum. She says nothing about my two main criticisms, and so apparently concedes -- first, that her review short-shrifted the Inuit, failing to name even a single Inuk, and second, that it suggested white males are interchangeable. Instead, Cavell again takes up the cudgels in defence of the Royal Navy narrative of the Northwest Passage -- a story that does change to suit new information, but that ALWAYS manages to keep those old familiar naval officers front and centre.
Ever since Lady Franklin in the 1850s, the defenders of Official History have relied on geographical confusion and misunderstanding to make their case. But check the map attached, taken from the endpapers of Dead Reckoning. As you can see, despite Cavell's contention, Bellot Strait is more than 100 km northeast of King William Island. It played no role whatsoever in the first navigable Northwest Passage, as established by Roald Amundsen in 1903-06. Click on the map and check out the route he took.
Far from denying that John Franklin “discovered” Franklin Strait -- which is simply the southern extension of Peel Sound, south of Bellot Strait -- I argue and show clearly that Franklin sailed directly through that waterway. By so doing, he established a navigable passage through those waters, all the way south to near the top of King William Island (KWI). Whether the coastline was charted is irrelevant. In January 1830, travelling with several Inuit, James Clark Ross had crossed the ice from Boothia to the northern tip of KWI -- but surmised, in snowy conditions, that the waters to the east of that island ended in a bay. The map Franklin carried showed precisely that, which is why he turned west and got trapped in the ice.
In 1854, after travelling overland across Boothia with an Inuk, William Ouligbuck, and an Ojibway, Thomas Mistegan, John Rae determined that what James Clark Ross, and so Franklin, had believed to be a bay was in fact a strait: Rae Strait. Aware of Rae’s discovery, which had been verified by Leopold McClintock, Amundsen followed in the wake of Franklin to KWI, then veered east through Rae Strait to Gjoa Haven, before proceeding onward. So, once more with feeling: Dr. John Rae -- that Orcadian Scot, that Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader, that first great champion of Inuit oral history -- John Rae discovered the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage.



Ken McGoogan
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Arctic expert Kenn Harper sings the unsung in solidarity with Dead Reckoning heroes


Over at The Arctic Book Review, Kenn Harper begins by declaring that I have "produced yet another worthy northern book." Harper, an Arctic historian and formerly Denmark's honorary consul in Nunavut, continues: "Dead Reckoning sets out to tell, as its sub-title proclaims, “The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage.” The book is peopled with the usual suspects in the history of Arctic exploration and the search for the elusive Northwest Passage. I needn’t name them here; if you are reading this, you already know who they are. But this book introduces other names that will be unfamiliar to many readers, even some well-versed in northern history. Their stories are the “untold stories” of the sub-title. . . ."
Harper observes, rightly, that my goal "is 'to restore the unsung heroes to their rightful eminence.' [McGoogan] recognizes not just the physical work, but the contributions, of the fur-trade explorers, and of Dene, Ojibway, Cree, and especially Inuit. He points out that Franklin’s ships would still be undiscovered at the bottom of the ocean were it not for Inuit and their oral histories. And so the reader encounters unfamiliar names in this sweeping tale. McGoogan’s point is that they have largely been nameless to date, so I feel compelled to name them here, in solidarity with McGoogan’s championing of them, and to help in rectifying the injury that past histories have done them." Harper carries on at some length, and in considerable depth, as you can read here.
So, a tip of the hat to editor Russell Potter for assigning a knowledgeable, fair-minded reviewer. To Harper's questions, I offer a few answers. Yes, I included Hall's voyage to the North Pole because that yarn extended the stories of Tookoolito, Ebierbing, and Hendrik. I included the Peary-Minik story because it is the quintessential example of abusive Inuit-white relations. I omitted Kalli and Beck with a view to maintaining focus on the Northwest Passage rather than the search for Franklin. Harper correctly identifies the map-glitch that will turn some first editions of Dead Reckoning into collectors' items! He is mistaken about Moses Norton, however, who started at Prince of Wales Fort as chief factor but became governor; and Samuel Hearne, who was made governor from the get-go (1776).
Why did I make no reference to recent scholarship casting doubt on Hearne's authorship of the Bloody Falls massacre? Well, in 2007, after writing a biographical narrative about Hearne (Ancient Mariner), I undertook a foreword to a new edition of Hearne's journal (A Journey to the Northern Ocean), which tells the story of how the Dene leader Matonabbee led the former navy man to the Arctic coast of North America. After perusing the Hearne passages in Dead Silence by John Geiger and Owen Beattie, and then delving further into the archives, I ended up repudiating that scholarship. I detailed my analysis in the foreword I wrote. And I considered rehashing it in Dead Reckoning. But then I decided that doing so would take me too deeply into the eye-glazing arcane, which we are fast approaching, given that I am writing not for scholars but for a broad general audience. Too much such detail has killed many a readable book. And so I refer you to the works themselves.
Ken McGoogan
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Globe review fails the Inuit, declares white males interchangeable, earns an F



[According to the Victoria Times-Colonist: "This book is a masterpiece, setting the standard for future works on Arctic exploration." The Georgia Strait put it this way: "Dead Reckoning is an outstanding 21st-century Canadian history that refutes myths about the Franklin expedition promoted by Victorian England, its modern-day media and academic apologists." Those reviews required no rejoinders, but . . . .]

In her Globe and Mail review of Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage, academic Janice Cavell hits her stride in the second paragraph, when she asks what this book has to offer that is truly new? She answers: “Actually, something very important. Over the years, historians have become more careful about giving credit to the Indigenous men and women who acted as guides, hunters, cartographers and more. But McGoogan goes beyond any other previous writer in highlighting their deeds. A book like his is long overdue – and he deserves all possible praise for it.”
At that point, one might logically expect elaboration. Even a selected list of chapter titles would work well: What Thandelthur Made Possible. Matonabbee Leads Hearne to the Coast. An Inuit Artist Sails with John Ross. The Yellowknife Rescue John Franklin. Tattannoeuck Prevents a Second Debacle. What If This Inuk Had Sailed with Franklin? Greenlandic Inuit Save the Kane Expedition. The Scot, the Inuk, the Ojibway. Tookoolito and Hall Gather Inuit Accounts. Inuit Hunters Keep Castaways Alive. Ebierbing and Tulugaq Work Magic for Schwatka. ‘Give Me My Father’s Body.’ Rasmussen Establishes Unity of Inuit Culture. Erebus and Terror Validate Inuit Testimony.
Building on that list, Cavell might have named Akaitcho, Hoeootoerock, John Sakheouse, Eenoolooapik, Hans Hendrik, Puhtoorak, Kamookak, Kogvik, all of whom figure in the book.
Instead, she turns immediately to circling wagons: “Yet even so, in the end McGoogan champions a white explorer.” So, wow! Has it really come to this? To the idea that no white explorer could possibly merit celebration? Sure enough, Cavell doubles down: “And if historians are going to follow McGoogan's bold example and give Indigenous people a true leading part, why is it necessary to exalt any white explorer?” And again: “[John Rae] and [John] Franklin were both 19th-century Brits, and the differences between them were differences of degree, not of kind.” I guess that’s it, then: distinguish among explorers? Don’t even try. Dead white males are interchangeable.
Funnily enough, a few years ago, I did develop a book proposal focusing exclusively on the Inuit contribution to Arctic exploration. That got shot down as too-small-audience and now I am glad, because the inclusive Dead Reckoning is vastly superior to the book that might have been.
Errors of fact in the Globe review? William Kennedy (1852) never explored Rae Strait, that “crucial track east of King William Island.” I have never claimed that Rae was "the Northwest Passage's true discoverer." I do say that he discovered the final link in the first navigable Passage. Franklin, Rae, Amundsen: check the map that serves as endpapers. Differences of opinion? Cavell ignores 90 per cent of the book to grandstand (me, me, me) and ingratiate herself with her fellow academics. Hers is an old argument. Any areas of agreement? “McGoogan is an adept storyteller and Dead Reckoning is an engrossing read.” Sorry, too little, too late. For this one, Cavell gets an F.

Cavell’s review appeared in the Globe and Mail on Oct. 28, 2017).

From the Times-Colonist: "This book is a masterpiece, setting the standard for future works on Arctic exploration."

From the Georgia Strait: "Dead Reckoning is an outstanding 21st-century Canadian history that refutes myths about the Franklin expedition promoted by Victorian England, its modern-day media and academic apologists."

From CBC-Radio / Victoria: Indigenous explorers in Ken McGoogan's new book
Ken McGoogan
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Disdain for the Inuit won't fly in Canada when Franklin exhibition moves to Ottawa


The disdain for the Inuit is palpable . . . and worrisome. We can only hope that the people bringing this project to Canada are planning major revisions. Yes, I have laid hands on a copy of Sir John Franklin’s Erebus and Terror Expedition / Lost and Found by Gillian Hutchinson (Bloomsbury). It grows out of and presumably reflects the current Death in the Ice exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich -- an extravaganza that moves to Ottawa and the Canadian Museum of History on March 2, 2018.
The book is well-written, beautifully illustrated, professionally produced. But also it is disappointing, above all in its disregard for the crucial Inuit contribution to Arctic exploration generally, and to the search for the lost ships in particular. [See NEWSFLASH at bottom.]
The book serves up the same old, same old, rehashing what I call the "official" or “orthodox” history of Arctic exploration -- the Royal Navy version of events, with its familiar roll call of personalities.
This movie invariably begins around 1818. It features such naval officers as Edward Parry, John Richardson, John Ross, John Richardson, James Clark Ross, and George Back. And of course it stars that well-meaning bungler Sir John Franklin as the tragic, windblown Arctic hero.
The author deals with John Rae and his inconvenient truth-telling in a cursory aside and, while admitting that Charles Dickens created a “racist fiction” about the Inuit, approves of his holding the fort until yet another Royal Navy man, Leopold McClintock, could distract people from the intolerable business of cannibalism.
Hutchinson summarizes Franklin’s two overland expeditions without crediting Akaitcho and Tattanoeuck, who saved his life on the first and second respectively. She treats those American searchers Charles Frances Hall and Frederick Schwatka without so much as mentioning the Inuit who were absolutely necessary to their achievements: Tookoolito, Ebierbing, and Tulugaq. And what of John Sakheouse, William Ouligbuck, Louie Kamookak, Sammy Kogvik. The list goes on and on.
Here, too, we discern the decades-old yearning to make a success of the Franklin expedition. Hey, maybe some of his men trekked to the mouth of the Mackenzie River, and then we could argue that they achieved a Passage? Sigh.
Anyway, here we see, yet once more, what drove me to write Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage. And given that the Canadian Museum of History is on record as promising to explore "the critical role played by the Inuit,” I am reasonably confident that it will undertake a major overhaul before bringing this show before a Canadian public.
[Painting above by John Sakheouse / Hans Zachaeus]

[NEWSFLASH: One of my field agents writes to inform me that, although marketed as a tie-in to the exhibition, Hutchinson's book was planned and executed by a different branch of the National Maritime Museum. Neither the UK nor the Canadian curator of the show became aware of the book until late in the day. The British show proper opens with a section on the importance of the Inuit in the Franklin story, and the Canadian show promises to be still more emphatic about this. Says I: Glad to hear it!]
Ken McGoogan
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Our Hero sacrifices modesty to preserve insightful review in Cyberspace


Dead Reckoning offers lively account of Inuit contributions to discovery of Northwest Passage

Review by Charlie Smith
(Georgia Strait, Oct. 22, 2017)

Charles Dickens is deservedly seen as the greatest novelist in Victorian England. The author of such masterpieces as David Copperfield and Great Expectations was also an influential social activist, campaigning for various reforms, including an end to child labour.
In light of this, who would have thought that Dickens and the widow of explorer Sir John Franklin would have conspired to cover up one of the worst debacles in North American exploration history?
Yet that's exactly what Canadian historian Ken McGoogan has documented in his crackling new book, Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage.
In this epic examination of the nearly 400-year struggle to find a sea route through the Arctic, McGoogan also offers page-turning portraits of several courageous and highly intelligent Cree, Dene, and especially Inuit people who are central to the story.
Indigenous giants like Matonabbee, Thanadelthur, Akaitcho, Tattanoeuck, Ouligbuck, Tookoolito, and Ebierbing—names unfamiliar to the vast majority of Canadians—take their rightful place in history alongside far more famous explorers, such as Martin Frobisher, Henry Hudson, Samuel Hearne, Franklin, and the first man who completed the Northwest Passage by sea, Norwegian Roald Amundsen.
What's so remarkable about Dead Reckoning is how McGoogan demonstrates that some of the most successful northern explorers—notably Amundsen, Scottish surgeon John Rae, and Americans Elisha Kent Kane and Charles Francis Hall—were invariably those most eager and open to learning from their Indigenous guides and translators.
Many of the English explorers on the other hand, including Franklin, tended to be less open-minded. This reflected a colonial attitude that made them less able to adapt to the harsh and unforgiving northern climate.
[Read the published version of this review, complete with pix, by clicking here.]
[Painting above: Beechey Island by Sheena Fraser McGoogan]
Dead Reckoning is an outstanding 21st-century Canadian history that refutes myths about the Franklin expedition promoted by Victorian England, its modern-day media and academic apologists, and Dickens himself.
The book's only serious shortcoming is its lack of detailed attribution because of an absence of footnotes.
According to McGoogan, one of the most crucial 19th-century developments in the discovery of the Northwest Passage was not the bumbling Franklin expedition that led to the sinking of the HMCS Erebus and Terror near King William Island in the late 1840s.
Rather, it was Rae's recognition of a small strait separating what was previously known as King William Land and the southwestern side of the Boothia Peninsula. Had Franklin's two ships taken this route rather than through Victoria Strait west of King William Island, the expedition might have reached Alaska rather than getting stuck in the ice.
More than a half-century later, Amundsen traversed this Rae Strait and later gave credit to Rae for making it possible for him to complete the Northwest Passage.
The Norwegian could do this in the early 20th century because pack ice from the north did not make Rae Strait impassable: this waterway was sheltered by the Boothia Peninsula and King William Island.
With great storytelling skills, McGoogan shows how Rae was thwarted in receiving sufficient credit for his discovery because of the machinations of Lady Jane Franklin.
Sir John Franklin's widow couldn't abide by Rae's report that members her husband's voyage ended up eating human remains.
So she summoned Dickens to tell a different tale, which generated widespread publicity and which was more in accord with the colonial mindset of the era.
"John Rae relayed Inuit testimony, as translated by William Ouligbuck, that many of Franklin's men had starved to death while trekking south, and that some of the final survivors had been driven to cannibalism," McGoogan writes. "Victorian England refused to believe this and, through Charles Dickens, suggested that the Inuit had murdered the weakened white sailors. Lady Franklin decreed that the final survivors had completed the Northwest Passage."
Dickens maintained that Franklin's men were murdered to paper over the truth. And this work of fiction by Dickens gave rise to the myth of Franklin as a great explorer and his subsequent commemoration in countless books and even in a statue in Westminster Abbey.
In fact, McGoogan demonstrates that Franklin was a rather uninspiring, sometimes blundering, seriously overweight, and hen-pecked former lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen's Land (modern-day Tasmania) who was sent back to England for incompetence.
Franklin was only appointed to head the expedition to find the Northwest Passage in the mid 1840s because of his wife's influence over the Royal family.
"In truth, Franklin discovered no Passage," McGoogan writes. "The man himself died a few months after his ships got tracked in pack ice. And when his crews marched south to seek help, they forged no link in any chain."
In many respects, the relentless and detail-oriented Lady Franklin is the villain in Dead Reckoning. But her ability to influence the British government and wealthy American Henry Grinnell to mount several expensive voyages in search of her husband actually accelerated the discovery of the Northwest Passage.
That's because these subsequent explorers, including Rae, made genuine discoveries that enabled Amundsen to successfully complete his journey in 1906.
This is not the Canadian history that we learned in school. But it is a far more nuanced and objective view of Indigenous people in North America. For that reason alone, McGoogan's book deserves wide readership in our country. But Dead Reckoning also deserves to be read because it's so enthralling.

Ken McGoogan
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Sailing the St. Roch through the Northwest Passage


Here I am in the St. Roch, steering the ship through the Northwest Passage.
OK, OK, so I am hard at work in the St. Roch Wheelhouse Experience, which is nearly the same thing, right? This is at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, where tonight I gave a talk called Breaking the Ice: Dead Reckoning in the Northwest Passage. Saw some beautiful people there. But what really got me going was this virtual adventuring . . . and, even more, the St. Roch itself.
This is the ship -- and no mere facsimile -- that Henry Larsen sailed through the Passage from Vancouver to Halifax in 1940-42. That voyage, designed to assert Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, took 28 months, including two winters in the ice. After installing a 300-hp diesel engine, and making other adjustments, Larsen sailed back to Vancouver in 1944 in just 86 days.
The ship is beautifully restored, and bears comparison with any of the ships you see in Oslo -- and that is not faint praise. Interesting fact: the St. Roch is 31.6 metres long, 7.6 metres wide, and displaces 323 tons. The Terror, recently discovered off King William Island, was almost exactly the same size: 31 metres long, 325 tons. You can draw your own conclusions. But it certainly looks as if, in the right hands, the Terror could have sailed through Rae Strait and even Simpson Strait, and gone on to complete the Passage.(Pic by Sheena.)
Ken McGoogan
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Dead Reckoning hailed as transformative masterpiece



By Dave Obee
Victoria Times-Colonist Oct. 15, 2017

Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage

By Ken McGoogan
HarperCollins, 438 pp., $33.99
The Arctic is not the place it used to be; climate change is taking care of that. It is still a challenging part of Canada, but warmer weather and the relative ease of navigation are opening up a region that contains some of this country’s greatest mysteries.
For more than a century and a half, many of those mysteries have had to do with Sir John Franklin, who led an ill-fated expedition into the Arctic in the 1840s, seeking the Northwest Passage to the Orient.
Franklin, all of his men and his ships disappeared — but over time, more and more evidence has been found, and with that, more has been determined about the fate of the Franklin expedition.
The two greatest discoveries are quite new. One of Franklin’s ships, Erebus, was discovered in 2014, and the other, Terror, was found in 2016. These two ships represent true sunken treasures, because the relics they contain — possibly including human remains — might answer many remaining questions about Arctic exploration.
That’s not the only difference. Today, there is a greater awareness of Indigenous involvement in the exploration and rescue missions. There is an acknowledgment that without the help of those who lived in the area, many more people would have died, and many of the Franklin mysteries would never have been solved.
Put it all together and the history of northern exploration needs to be rewritten. Books done a decade or more ago are out of date. As history is revealed, reshaped and reconsidered, we need a fresh assessment of Franklin and the other early adventurers, including the First Peoples who made it all possible.
Ken McGoogan’s Dead Reckoning helps fill that need. This book is a masterpiece, setting the standard for future works on Arctic exploration.
This is McGoogan’s fifth book on the Arctic and the explorers and adventurers who challenged that icy world. In Dead Reckoning, he draws from his past work, but weaves it all together in a more complex but highly readable account, enhanced with fresh insight based on the new discoveries as well as more extensive research.
For years, the conventional narrative of the Arctic has been based on names such as Franklin, Parry, McClure, Ross and Peary. McGoogan goes deeper into the story, introducing us to such figures as Thanadelthur, Akaitcho, Tattenoeuck, Ebierbing, Tulugaq and Tookoolito.
Some Inuit saw living members of the Franklin expedition, and others later found their bodies. They provided information to search parties led by Charles Francis Hall and Frederick Schwatka that helped them uncover crucial clues about the fate of the Franklin party. More recently, information from the Inuit helped drive the discovery of the two ships.
There are heroes and villains here, with Lady Franklin, Sir John’s widow, at the top of the list of antagonists. She pushed her husband to embark on his final expedition, and she led the way (with Charles Dickens) in dismissing the revelations of John Rae, and in denigrating his Inuit informants.
The end result could best be described as politics. Franklin’s fate became a matter of great controversy in England, with plenty of misinformation tossed this way and that. McGoogan deals with it in detail.
Over the years, many books have been written on the far north — but with the publication of Dead Reckoning, those early ones don’t matter the way they once did.
There is little to criticize in this book. It should be the starting point when considering the story of Arctic exploration from the 16th century onwards.
Beyond that, Dead Reckoning could be the best work of Canadian history this year.
Ken McGoogan will be in Victoria on Tuesday for a reading at Bolen Books in the Hillside shopping centre. The event will begin at 7 p.m.
The reviewer is the editor-in-chief of the Times Colonist.
Ken McGoogan
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Fearless Girl and Charging Bull point way to third option in statues debate



Amid the widening debate about the removal of the names and statues of controversial, colonial-era figures from public places, The Canadian Encyclopedia asked three writers to offer their opinions on the subject. In this article, author and historian Ken McGoogan argues against both replacement and the status quo, and suggests a third option. . . .

The Fearless Girl controversy is old news even in New York City, but it sheds light on the discussion around removing statues and renaming buildings. The bronze sculpture of a defiant young girl went up in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district last March. The girl stands, hands on hips, facing off against the much larger Charging Bull, which has stood at that particular corner since 1989.
Installed temporarily to celebrate International Women’s Day, Fearless Girl inspired 40,000 people quickly to sign petitions demanding to make “her” a permanent fixture. Dissenters denounced what they saw as a publicity stunt — “fake corporate feminism.” And Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created Charging Bull, declared at an emotional press conference that Fearless Girl was “attacking the bull.” He created the sculpture to symbolize a booming economy. The new installation changed the meaning of his work.
That insight stayed with me.
FRANKLIN AND RAE
I have been wrestling with statues and memorials since 1998, when I began researching Fatal Passage, a biographical narrative about Arctic explorer John Rae. I remember how offended I felt when, at Waterloo Place in London, I first encountered a larger-than-life statue of Sir John Franklin. A plaque beneath it celebrates Franklin and his companions for “completing the discovery of the Northwest Passage.” It added that “they forged the last link with their lives.” As I wrote in Fatal Passage, “This historic fraud would matter less than it does if it had not been perpetrated at the expense of another man, the explorer who really did discover the final link in the Northwest Passage.” That would be the Orkney-born Rae.
A few years later, still offended, I began writing Lady Franklin’s Revenge by describing how Franklin’s widow orchestrated the creation of that statue at Waterloo Place. Later in the book, I showed how Lady Franklin created statues of her dead husband to seize control of the narrative of Arctic exploration, and launch the myth of Franklin as a successful explorer, when in truth he was no such thing.
Jane Franklin stipulated the wording to go on a statue in Franklin’s birthplace, insisting that he be described not as having lost his life while searching for the Passage, but as its discoverer. She financed and sent a duplicate of the Waterloo Place statue to Hobart, Tasmania, where she and Franklin had lived for several years. Lady Franklin’s machinations culminated in the installation of a bust of Franklin at Westminster Abbey — a bust complete with canopy and elaborate base, and where again, backed by such prestigious relations as Alfred Lord Tennyson, she elaborated the myth of Franklin.
But wait. In 2013 well over a century later, and after a long campaign, Orcadians were thrilled to learn that Westminster Abbey would correct this myth of Franklin by installing a plaque crediting John Rae with having discovered the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. They cheered too early. In my 2017 book, Dead Reckoning: the Untold Story of the Northwest Passage, I describe how, at the last moment, champions of the old orthodoxy derailed this installation, reducing the promised truth-telling plaque to a ledger stone saying nothing but: “John Rae / 1813-1893/ Arctic explorer.” As I write in that book, this derailing “was a particularly shameful episode in a tedious tradition of repudiation that dates back to the days of [Charles] Dickens.”
ROBERT PEARY AND THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
The statues of Franklin are not the only ones I find offensive. In Dead Reckoning, I also describe a memorial to American explorer Robert Peary at Cape York, on the northwest coast of Greenland. It soars 28 metres into the air, “essentially a grotesque obelisk jutting skyward, topped by a giant 'P.'” It offends me mainly because of the way Peary treated the Inuit, most notably a boy named Minik Wallace — brought from Greenland to New York City in 1897 as a kind of natural history exhibit — whose story Kenn Harper tells in Give Me My Father’s Body.
Again, on the outskirts of Golspie, Scotland, we find an equally towering and grotesque monument to the Duke of Sutherland — grotesque because he was largely responsible for the Sutherland Clearances of the early 19th century, which saw roughly 15,000 Scottish Highlanders evicted and driven from the lands of their forefathers. I could multiply examples, but you get the idea. I dislike any number of statues.
Rebut, Remove or Change the Meaning?
As regards the Franklin bust in Westminster Abbey, I strongly supported the Fearless Girl approach — the idea of adding something that would change the meaning of the original. Would that work in every case? Would it work with memorials to Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin, responsible for the deaths of millions or tens of millions of innocents? Obviously not. Would it work in the United States with memorials to Robert E. Lee? Certainly not at this point.
But I can’t believe arbitrary destruction is the answer. I think of Afghanistan and Iraq, where the Taliban and ISIS (Daesh) have gone about destroying statues, memorials, and architectural treasures without a second thought. That is not a model we wish to follow.
The key questions are: Where do we draw the line? And how do we decide? With any statue that causes offence, we have three options. We can rebut the complaint, remove the statue, or change its meaning with an addition. Think Fearless Girl, Charging Bull. The same principles hold with the names of streets or buildings.
RYERSON AND CORNWALLIS
Within that framework, we should focus on specifics. Not long ago, students at Ryerson University advocated the removal of a statue of Egerton Ryerson, arguing that he was anti-Indigenous. For anyone undecided, Alberta-based historian Donald Smith blew that argument to smithereens in the Globe and Mail. (On 5 July 2017 in the Globe, Smith explained Ryerson's work with First Nations, and the relationships he enjoyed with certain Indigenous individuals, as well as the respect they had for each other.) Complaint rebutted, in my view.
The Halifax statue of Edward Cornwallis presents a more complex challenge. The Indigenous peoples despise Cornwallis for the way he treated their ancestors. Immigrant Scots detest him for his vindictive cruelties against Scottish Highlanders after the Battle of Culloden. The man was despicable — though not, perhaps, on the scale of Hitler or Stalin. So — what to do?
In 1749, Cornwallis set a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps after an attack on colonists, condemning a whole people for the actions of a few. Today, leaders of the Nova Scotia Assembly of Mi’kmaq Chiefs are showing the way forward. Instead of allowing an unruly gang of protesters to destroy the Cornwallis statue — an action that could only lead to American-style polarization and possible violence — those leaders are advocating civic engagement. In April 2017, Halifax city council voted overwhelmingly in favour of setting up an expert panel — one that includes Mi’kmaq representatives — to examine the Cornwallis issue.
Rebuttal and exoneration appear to be non-starters. So: what then does the statue represent? What narrative does it further? Would it be possible to change the statue’s meaning — to incorporate it into a different story? Think again of the Orcadian attempt to answer the Franklin bust in Westminster Abbey. Think of Fearless Girl and how she changed the meaning of Charging Bull.
Could an Indigenous artist — a sculptor or a carver — respond to the Cornwallis statue in stone, and so make it part of a different narrative, perhaps one of recognition and reconciliation? If that challenge is unwelcome or impossible to meet, then the statue goes. Maybe erect a plaque explaining this decision. Tomorrow needs to know where yesterday went wrong.
Whatever we do, let’s not follow the lead of Donald Trump’s America.

To read the original, complete with images, in the Canadian Encylopedia,click here.

Ken McGoogan
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Dead Reckoning inspires first-ever book launch at Beechey Island


First came the book launch at Beechey Island. We were sailing through the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada when, thanks to a myriad of volunteers, the party just erupted. OK, we didn't party ON the island, site of the graves of the first three men to die on the 1845 Franklin expedition. That would have been disrespectful. But on video, we caught bits and pieces of both the island and the event, as you can see here. And I will go out on a limb and suggest that this Dead Reckoning extravaganza was the first-ever book launch at Beechey. We brought aboard 65 copies of the book and presto! they were gone! This is not J.R. Rowling territory, but I've made my peace with that. Now, tonight, comes the downtown Toronto launch at beautiful Ben McNally Books. It's not a first, and won't be a last, but me, I'm looking forward to it.



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Here's why we're excited to visit the site of Franklin's found Erebus


Parks Canada divers will resume exploring Erebus a few days from now, around the time we reach the site with Adventure Canada. That's the word on the street. Thanks to Parks Canada, we will have a live feed that will enable us to witness discoveries as they happen. Why is this exciting? Well, I offer an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage. . . .

The other ship (Erebus) was carried south by ice to Wilmot and Crampton Bay, an area known to the Inuit as Oot-joo-lik. [Researcher] David Woodman suggested that a large group of sailors abandoned that vessel in 1851, while it drifted south in the ice. Some Inuit hunters met this party of men, weak and starving, slogging south along the west coast of King William Island. These were the men In-nook-poo-zhe-jook described to John Rae. A few sailors—probably four, according to Puhtoorak—remained aboard the ice-locked ship, probably until early 1852.
This is not the place for a forty-page analysis of Inuit oral history. But the discoveries of the ships does suggest turning a spotlight on a few key passages that explain why most Franklin aficionados believe archaeologists will discover at least one body aboard the Erebus. Not far from where Canadian searchers found the ship, Charles Francis Hall and Tookoolito interviewed a local woman named Koo-nik. She was the one who spoke of finding “a very large white man” dead on the floor inside a ship.
In a letter to his sponsor, Henry Grinnell, Hall added details: “The party on getting aboard tried to find out if any one was there, and not seeing or hearing any one, began ransacking the ship. To get into the igloo (cabin), they knocked a hole through because it was locked. They found there a dead man, whose body was very large and heavy, his teeth very long. It took five men to lift this giant Kabloona [Qallunaat or white man]. He was left where they found him. One place in the ship, where a great many things were found, was very dark; they had to find things there by feeling around. Guns were there and a great many very good buckets and boxes. On my asking if they saw anything to eat on board, the reply was there was meat and tood-noo [caribou fat] in cans, the meat fat and like pemmican. The sails, rigging, and boats—everything about the ship—was in complete order.”
This same story turns up again in 1879, when with the help of Ebierbing, Frederick Schwatka interviewed Puhtoorak, one of the Inuit who had ventured aboard the Erebus. Puhtoorak said that he found a dead white man in a large ship eight miles (thirteen kilometres) off Grant Point (near where Erebus was found). He reported that the Inuit found a small boat on the mainland, and many empty casks on the ship. “He also saw books on board the ship but did not take them.”
Puhtoorak also said that before discovering the ship, while hunting along the shore with friends, he came across the tracks of four white men and “judged they were hunting for deer.” Later, he found the tracks of three men, and suggested “that the white men lived in this ship until the fall and then moved onto the mainland.” In so saying, he affirmed the earlier account by Koo-nik, who told Hall that Inuit had seen “the tracks of 3 men Kob-loo-nas & those of a dog with them.” Hall added that “there is no such thing as their being mistaken when they come across strange tracks & pronounce them not to be Innuits.”
These accounts and others, taken together, suggest that four men were living aboard the Erebus when the ice carried it—some suggest they guided it—into Wilmot and Crampton Bay. One of them¾a large man?¾probably died on board. The other three left the ship in a bid to survive, and were never seen again. Inuit hunters boarded the ship. They made off with a few “treasures” but left a great many more.

Over the next few years, Parks Canada archaeologists will almost certainly produce artifacts and possibly papers that will further clarify what happened to the Franklin expedition. Inuit testimony suggests that they will come across at least one body in Erebus. . . . If the past is any guide, these findings will generate conflicting interpretations. This much is certain: as experts thrash out an all-encompassing revision, they will draw heavily on Inuit testimony. 
Ken McGoogan
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Dead Reckoning takes us into the secret life of maps


This glorious map turns up as endpapers in Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage. It was drawn by Dawn Huck, one of the principals at Heartland Associates in Winnipeg. I love the way it captures the discovery of the original Northwest Passage in three essential expeditions. The first, led by John Franklin, got halted by ice off King William Island. In the British (Royal Navy) version of exploration history, it stands alone, the culmination of a centuries-long search. The second highlights a profoundly Canadian moment that arose out of the fur trade. Here we find an Orcadian Scot, an Inuk, and an Ojibway -- John Rae, William Ouligbuck, and Thomas Mistegan -- locating the final missing link in the Passage: Rae Strait. The third expedition is that of Norwegian Roald Amundsen, who succeeds in completing the Passage by diverging from Franklin's route and sailing through Rae Strait.
This map is one of half a dozen in Dead Reckoning, which launches on September 27, when I return from voyaging Out of the Northwest Passage
with Adventure Canada. But books may start trickling into bookstores mid-month, and I want to give faithful readers a heads-up: early copies from the first print run include a map-related glitch that will turn those books into collectors' items. Most readers won't notice, and the glitch disappears from later printings and won't be found in the ebook. But for Arctic history buffs, it will identify that book as coming from the earliest printing. So, if you collect Arctic history or you are buying for a collector, you might want to pick up a copy sooner rather than later. Just saying!



Ken McGoogan
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A younger male writer crosses swords with Margaret Atwood


Over on Twitter, I find myself arguing with Margaret Atwood. When I mentioned that I am proud to be part of The Atwood Generation, she objected: "Now Ken. You are WAY younger than me!" Yes, I am younger. But future scholars will talk of The Atwood Generation of Canadian writers as comprising those born 15 or 20 years before or after the warrior queen herself. I suggested as much in my 2013 book 50 Canadians Who Changed the World.  First, I launched a section on Artists (painters, writers, and film-makers) with a quick look at Atwood in action on the global stage. . . .  


Speaking in Jerusalem while accepting the Dan David Prize for Literature, Margaret Atwood noted that writers are easy to attack because they don’t have armies and can’t retaliate. She and Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh, with whom she shared the $1 million award, had “both received a number of letters,” she said, “urging and indeed ordering us not to attend, on the grounds that anything connected with Israel is tabu.”
Those letters “have ranged from courteous and sad,” she added, “to factual and practical, to accusatory, outrageous, and untrue in their claims and statements; some have been frankly libelous, and even threatening. Some [of the correspondents] have been willing to listen to us, others have not: they want our supposedly valuable ‘names,’ but not our actual voices.” In other words, Atwood said, “the all-or-nothings want to bully us into being their wholly owned puppets. The result of such a decision on our part would be – among other things – to turn us into sticks with which to beat other artists into submission, and that we refuse to do.”
The Dan David Prize for the Present, as distinct from those prizes awarded for the Past and the Future, was ear-marked in 2010 for “an outstanding author whose work provides vivid, compelling, and ground-breaking depictions of 20th-century life, rousing public discussion and inspiring fellow writers.” Atwood was cited specifically for enabling “the emergence of a defined Canadian identity while exploring . . . issues such as colonialism, feminism, structures of political power and oppression, and the violation and exploitation of nature.”
. . . As an artist, and more specifically a writer, Margaret Atwood is more politicized than most, and also more politically effective. Here in Canada, she long ago established herself as the Warrior Queen of Canadian Literature. Globally, as we see from her words and actions in Jerusalem, Atwood remains fearless. She defends the diminishing space afforded to art in the broad sense -- the psychological space an artist, writer, or film-maker requires to work. . . .
Later in the book, in a chapter about Atwood, I wrote:
As a novelist, poet, essayist, and, indeed, activist, Margaret Atwood is a global figure. She has published more than fifty acclaimed books and won a still greater number of awards, including prizes from France, Germany, Ireland and the United States, as well as the Booker Prize (she was shortlisted five times), the Giller Prize, and two Governor-General’s Awards (she has been a finalist seven times). Here in Canada, Atwood has been doing cutting-edge work for decades. Her influence is so far-reaching that, in the minds of many, she leads a generation of writers: the Atwood Generation. . . .

The image above is from 1999: Atwood walking the picket line at the Calgary Herald.
And with that, the younger writer rests his case.

Ken McGoogan
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Sailing Out of the Northwest Passage launches Dead Reckoning



More Dead Reckoning events are in the works. But at this point, Our Hero is sailing with Adventure Canada Out of the Northwest Passage from Sept. 7 to 23. After that, the confirmed schedule looks like this:
Sept. 27: Toronto: Ben McNally
Oct. 1: Stratford Writers' Festival 
Oct. 14, 15: Calgary Wordfest
Oct. 17: Victoria: Bolen Books
Oct. 18, 19: Vancouver Writers' Fest
Nov.6: U of T series, Oakville
Nov. 9. U of T series, Markham
Nov. 15. U of T series, St. George 
Nov. 18: Niagara: Hotel Dallavalle
Nov. 24: Embro, Ont: Caledonian Society, St. Andrews Day
Dec. 6: Burlington, Different Drummer
Ken McGoogan
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Log church at Loch Broom commemorates arrival of Scottish immigrants


The little log church at Loch Broom, Nova Scotia, is open seven days a week . . . except on Mondays. Sheena took this shot through a window at the side and I was quite pleased with the result. A memorial cairn out front indicates that this was the site of Pictou Country's first church, erected in 1787. Forty feet long by 25 feet wide, it was built of logs. First services were conducted in Gaelic. A second memorial, to the left of the church,  commemorates the arrival of Alexander Cameron (and other Scottish immigrants) on the Hector in 1773. Born in 1728 in Loch Broom, Scotland,
Cameron saw two older brothers killed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.  Here in Nova Scotia, he named his land grant Loch Broom and, as a pioneer farmer, turned forest into farm land. A community leader, Cameron lived to the age of 103. He is buried a few miles from this site at Durham Cemetery. Some BBC types have been poking around in these environs. They have produced a documentary that has yet to be seen in Canada.

Ken McGoogan
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Prince Edward Island can be REALLY boring. Please stay away!



So you hear about the glorious red-sand beaches and the entrancing sites pertaining to Anne of Green Gables and the culinary, architectural and historical delights of Charlottetown. And the 75-minute ferry ride from Nova Scotia, and the boating and the lobster dinners and the shocking friendliness of the people, and like that. And that's how Prince Edward Island ends up being over-crowded all summer long!  So I am here to show you
that PEI can be really, really boring. Look: above we have St. John's Presbyterian Church in Belfast. The Selkirk settlers, having arrived here starting in 1803, built it in the 1820s. That's boring, right? Behind the church, you might stumble upon a stone marking the grave of Mary Douglass . . . the only daughter of the 5th Earl of Selkirk, who brought several hundred Highlanders here from Scotland in three ships. I have no doubt that the story of this daughter is well-known. She had a family, after all, as you can deduce from adjacent gravestones, and lived quite a long life. Still, because in my ignorance I had not expected this, the site made me wonder. Selkirk himself rambled all over the place, and died in France. How did his only daughter end up living out her life in PEI? Boring, right? Wait! There is more. Below, we have a view of the beach behind Prim Point. This is where the Selkirk settlers, and the Acadians before them, first came ashore. Nondescript, right? There's a graveyard above the beach, and also a nine-hole golf course. Boring, boring, boring. In short, I recommend that you take a miss on PEI. Leave this boring little island to me and my history-minded ilk. We'll find ways to cope.


Ken McGoogan
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Advance readers discover 'a brilliant reclaiming of history'


The advance readers are encouraging. Bob Rae writes: "Finally! A page-turning book about Arctic exploration that puts the heroism and leadership of indigenous people at the centre of the story." Ronald Wright calls it "a lively and gripping tale of heroism, folly and icy death . . . by highlighting the role of the Inuit, Dene and Metis, Ken McGoogan shows how the most successful white explorers were those who learned from the locals." Katherine Govier discovers "our national myth finally recast on our own shores . . . A brilliant reclaiming of history." Modesty, long known to be my bugbear, precludes my offering more extensive quotation. Dead Reckoning arrives in September.
In response to overwhelming popular demand (see comment below) I am adding two more advance bits: The legendary Peter C. Newman hails Yours Truly as "the ultimate guide to our last frontier." And the equally legendary Louie Kamookak writes: "This is Ken's best book yet. I am going to post a picture with all of his books so that he can show it around. I will even put on a seal-skin vest and tie."
Ken McGoogan
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Opinionated? Moi? Q&A turns up in Celtic Life International


  
[The following is a shortened version of the original article.]

Prolific, profound, witty, and opinionated, Canadian author Ken McGoogan made waves recently when he suggested that Canada adopt Scotland as a new territory. Celtic Life International recently spoke with the scribe about his Celtic connections. 

What are your own roots? My roots are Scottish, Irish, and French Canadian. In Scotland, DNA research led me to meeting Jim McGugan, a long-lost “cousin” who lives in Arbroath; and from there to the island of Gigha in Kintyre, where our earliest ancestor is buried. In Ireland, I have tracked my ancestor Michael Byrnes to New Ross, County Wexford, where he was a contemporary of Patrick Kennedy, a forebear of American president John F. Kennedy.

Why are those roots important to you? Tracking my roots drove me to scrambling around on Cruach MhicGougain in Kintyre, and to having many other fun adventures. The process not only gave me a whole new sense of self, but inspired two books: How the Scots Invented Canada and Celtic Lightning: How the Scots and the Irish Created a Canadian Nation. Unearthing my own roots inspired me to conceive of what I call “cultural genealogy.” Canadian intellectuals hunker down with geographers and sociologists. That’s a mistake. We assume geography’s limitations and cease investigating our collective past at the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, like genealogists, we should keep sleuthing. This nation’s history crosses the Atlantic. And, given that nine million Canadians trace their roots to Scotland and Ireland, it does so more often to those two countries than to anywhere else.

From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges facing Celtic Canadians today? I see Celtic culture in Canada as egalitarian, pluralistic, and progressive. So I worry about the emergence onto the world stage of a powerful right-wing partnership led by Theresa May and Donald Trump, or the Tories of Little England and the Republicans of the ‘Wild Wild West.’ I worry that, together, they might create some great libertarian beast and set it slouching towards Canada.

Are Celtic Canadians doing enough to preserve and promote their heritage? Not really. In my own small world, that of books and authors, we have regressed. Once upon a time, Canada and Scotland shared a writers-in-residence program. One year, a Scottish writer would come to Canada for three months. The next, a Canadian writer would spend three months in Scotland. One of the founders of that program told me recently that we Canadians were the ones who dropped the ball. We should be fostering closer relations with Scotland and Ireland, creating linkages of all kinds - cultural, economic, and political - not watching excellent initiatives wither and die.


What can be done to change this? We could start by waking up to the great wide world. Obviously, we face domestic challenges. But the current leadership of the country next door, backed by tens of millions of citizens, wants to create a society in which everyone carries a gun and only the wealthy can afford education or health care. Celtic Canadians should smell the coffee and start casting about for stronger alliances elsewhere - beginning with Scotland and Ireland.

(To read this piece in full, along with much else, pick up the magazine by going here.)
Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.