Theme Layout

Boxed or Wide or Framed

[style4]

Theme Translation

Display Featured Slider

No

Featured Slider Styles

Display Grid Slider

Grid Slider Styles

Display Author Bio

Display Instagram Footer

Dark or Light Style

Search This Blog

Blog Archive

Followers

Popular Posts

Pages

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
0 Comments
Share This Post :

Dead Reckoning hailed as transformative masterpiece




TIMES COLONIST 


OCTOBER 15, 2017 05:20 AM

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
0 Comments
Share This Post :

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.
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. . . .

Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

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.



Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

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
1 Comments
Share This Post :

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
0 Comments
Share This Post :

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
0 Comments
Share This Post :

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
1 Comments
Share This Post :

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
1 Comments
Share This Post :

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
0 Comments
Share This Post :

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
1 Comments
Share This Post :

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
0 Comments
Share This Post :

Save Rae's Clestrain with actions in Orkney and the High Arctic


Arctic explorer John Rae, who died in 1893, is alive and well in the news. The BBC reported on July 5 that the Orkney Islands Council is conferring the Freedom of Orkney on that Stromness-born explorer, albeit posthumously. Bravo for that action! Here's hoping it draws attention to the ongoing drive to fund the restoration of Rae's childhood home, the Hall of Clestrain.
In 2014, after a relentless, ten-year campaign, Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish member of Parliament for Orkney, managed to get Rae recognized at Westminster Abbey with a modest ledger stone. Carmichael had been promised a plaque on the wall identifying Rae as the "discoverer of the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage."  As I write in Dead Reckoning, the plaque got beaten down to a ledger stone on the floor by an anti-Rae protest, "a particularly shameful episode in a tedious tradition of repudiation that dates back to the Victorian era."
We can return to that another day. This latest news reminded me that St. Giles Cathedral, Scotland's answer to Westminster Abbey, has no statue of John Rae. Shouldn't that be rectified? Then I thought of a statue of three figures which can be found in both Scotland and Canada. Near Helmsdale, it is called The Emigrants. In Winnipeg, it is The Selkirk Settlers.
Then I remembered that the famous statue of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn was financed by a (Scottish) Canadian named Eric Harvie, who erected an identical statue in his hometown of Calgary, Alberta.
Meanwhile, I had been chatting online with Louie Kamookak, the Inuit historian and leading expert on the Franklin expedition. In 1999, Louie and I and Cameron Treleaven had placed a plaque beside the ruins of a cairn that John Rae built in 1854, marking his discovery of Rae Strait in the heart of the Northwest Passage. 
Rae had been accompanied by an Inuk, William Ouligbuck, and an Ojibway, Thomas Mistegan. Without these indigenous companions -- expert hunters and travelers, and the only two men who could keep up with Rae -- the Orcadian explorer would not have made his crucial discovery.
Shall I cut to the chase? We need two identical statues of three figures in action: Rae, Ouligbuck and Mistegan. One of these statues could go into St. Giles . . . OR, even better, into a refurbished Hall of Clestrain. The other could go into the heart of the Arctic, to the John Rae Memorial Site on Boothia Peninsula where in 1854 Rae built his cairn.
Louie reminded me that our modest plaque probably saved the life of an Inuk who, while lost in a blizzard, had stumbled across it. Just imagine what a MASSIVE, three-person statue could do. All we need to make this happen is a present-day Eric Harvie -- a no-nonsense philanthropist of vision. Yo, can anybody hear me?

Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

Make that Ocean to Ocean to Ocean: Canada's Really BIG!



Over the past few days,  I have been revisiting 50 Canadians Who Changed the World and shamelessly reliving The VIA-Rail, 50 Canadians, Ocean-to-Ocean, Book-Tour Extravaganza.  Rail-trip of a lifetime, courtesy of VIA-Rail and Harper-Collins Canada. Sure, I had to talk endlessly about one of my books and write a few articles for VIA-Destinations, a now-defunct magazine, but that’s what I do anyway. Lots of defunct publications out there.
Along the way I remembered that Canada borders on not two but three oceans -- that the country is so big, in fact, that the Arrogant Worms wrote a song about it. If we can't have Northwest Passage as our national anthem, I vote for Canada's Really Big.
But three oceans. One image each for Canada Day, why not? First up, a good-looking young couple literally ON the Arctic Ocean. This is from a couple of years back, one of our voyages with Adventure Canada. And, yes, this September we'll again go voyaging with AC and ride around among the icebergs. Someone's gotta do it, right?
Ocean number two is the Pacific. Soon after Sheena took this photo, we made our way to Granville Island, home of the Vancouver Writers Festival, where one sunny afternoon, I had chatted with Australian novelist Peter Carey. I was puffed up with irrational pride at the way Vancouver sparkled in the sun, and I said, “So what do you think of Vancouver?”
Carey smiled and said it was great, but then he took a beat: “Have you ever been to Sydney?” At that point, I had not, and he encouraged me to visit. Later, when I did get there, I went to the top of the tower, Centrepoint, and found myself gazing out over the most spectacular harbour in the world. Just keeping things in perspective.

But before revisiting Granville Island, having walked much of the Seawall around Stanley Park, we sat down on one of those big grey logs on the beach and I removed my shoes and socks and rolled up my pantlegs. Carrying a copy of 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, I strode across the sand in manly fashion and waded into the cold, salty water of the Pacific. 
What I had forgotten was that those waters were relatively warm. I was reminded of this a few weeks later, when we reached Halifax and I felt obliged to make some corresponding gesture. One afternoon, assisted by three volunteers -- Sheena and the Mallorys, Mark and Carolyn, fellow voyagers in the Arctic -- I ventured into a hard-to-reach corner of Point Pleasant Park. There, at least twenty metres from the main parking lot, despite a driving rain and a rocky shoreline that would have deterred a less intrepid author, I waded into the Atlantic Ocean.
I wanted to build a cairn to mark the occasion, but my companions convinced me to adjourn instead to a nearby pub. At the Lord Nelson, looking into the future, we raised a glass and drank to the greatest country -- or at least the second biggest -- in the world. Happy Canada Day!

Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

This Canadian moment symbolizes achievement & reconciliation


Here I stand on King William Island in August, 1999. Matheson Point. Behind me is Rae Strait. Three of us were about to cross that strait -- Louie Kamookak, Cameron Treleaven, and I -- to see if we could find a cairn built in 1854 on Canada’s Arctic coast.  We were bent on honoring the three men who had put it there: an Orcadian Scot (John Rae), an Inuk (William Ouligbuck), and an Ojibway (Thomas Mistegan).
Together, these three had marked a location overlooking the final link (Rae Strait) in what would prove to be the first navigable Northwest Passage. Is that a Canadian moment or what? To me it symbolizes achievement and points to reconciliation. As it happens, that moment -- which finds "white" and indigenous succeeding together -- is at the heart of Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage.
The book recognizes the contributions to Arctic exploration of the Dene, the Ojibway, the Cree and, above all, the Inuit, without whom John Franklin’s ships, Erebus and Terror, would still be lying undiscovered at the bottom of the Polar Sea. Slated to appear from 
HarperCollins Canada in September, the work encompasses both naval and fur-trade explorers, but also such figures as Thanadelthur, Akaitcho, Tattanoeuck, John Sacheuse, Ebierbing, Hans Hendrik, Tulugaq, and Tookoolito.
Louie Kamookak is the latest to join that sterling list. Those of us sailing Out of the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada this September are thrilled that, circumstances permitting, Louie will join us in visiting the site of the Erebus. So, yes, autumn will find me still celebrating reconciliation with furious passion. Shall we start on Canada Day? Why not? Let the party begin!



Ken McGoogan
1 Comments
Share This Post :

Crossing Canada by train gave me three reasons to hate Calgary


We called it The VIA-Rail, 50 Canadians, Ocean-to-Ocean, Book-Tour Extravaganza.  By using voodoo magic, my book publisher, Harper-Collins Canada, had worked a deal with VIA-Rail to send me and my artist-photographer-wife, Sheena Fraser McGoogan, back and forth across the country by train to promote 50 Canadians Who Changed the World.  All I had to do was write a few articles for VIA-Destinations, a now-defunct magazine. No, I didn't inquire too deeply.
But with Canada 150 directly ahead, now is the time to reveal how that played out. Having boarded The Canadian in Toronto, we rocked westward into the night, bound for Vancouver and the Pacific. The Atlantic leg would happen later. Now, we would stop off in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, and Banff, and stay in each city at a classic railway hotel. The idea was Canadian history, right? I would talk to any media outlet that would have me, and then we would board VIA-Rail’s next Canadian. Hey, I said someone worked magic.
True, our train looked nothing like the Countess of Dufferin (pictured below), which is housed at the Railway Museum in Winnipeg. But we ate our meals in a dining car complete with friendly servers, four-person tables, and white-linen tablecloths. We slept in a private compartment. And if we wanted a better view of the countryside, we would make our way to one of the dome cars.
We whirled through a kaleidoscope of landscape, history, and memory. It was the rail-trip of a lifetime, and it taught me a few things. It taught me to hate Calgary, for example, where Sheena and I lived for two decades while raising our now-adult children. I shared three of those reasons in the city itself, while praising 50 Canadians at Pages on Kensington. Looking back, I see that those reasons stand up. 
The first reason I hated Calgary was Naheed Nenshi. We chanced to be in the city when Calgarians elected this brilliant, charismatic leader to a second four-year term. Why should Calgary get the Best Mayor in Canada, that's what I wanted to know. Meanwhile, in Toronto, we were suffering the death of a thousand cuts under a certain Mortifying Blowhard. Nenshi alone would have been sufficient to make me gnash my teeth with envy. Come to think of it, I'm still gnashing.
That brings me to my second reason. I hated Calgary because it has the C-Train, a Light Rapid Transit system that runs like a dream. A multi-stop C-Train is precisely what Toronto needs to run out Scarborough way. Instead, our new and slightly improved mayor remains committed to building a radically inferior and far more expensive subway line. Don't get me started. 
The third reason I hated Calgary was the superabundance of swimming pools. They are everywhere, wonderfully clean, always half-empty. By comparison, swimming in Toronto is like something out of The Hunger Games. Nasty, brutish, and hard to survive. So: Nenshi, the C-Train, the swimming pools. All these I found hard to forgive.
But at Pages, I didn’t say a word about the most hurtful thing of all. I couldn't even speak of Calgary’s proximity to the Rockies. Did I mention that in summer we camped and hiked in those mountains, and in winter we skied every weekend at Sunshine or Lake Louise. You want justified hatred? Think about that.
In fairness, I have to say that the Calgary Herald ran an insightful article about 50 Canadians. The CBC Homestretch and Global TV gave me prime-time exposure. And I saw a whack of old friends at Pages on Kensington. Yes, we adjourned to a still-familiar pub. My hatred of Calgary is not unmitigated.


Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

Youngish White Dude says YES to indigenous peoples, visible minorities


I hate to create mysteries during our run-up to Canada Day. But while the book we’re loud-hailing is rightly called 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, it celebrates 49 human beings, give or take -- 19 women and 30 men. Given that the human race is split 50-50, still I felt not too bad about having achieved 38.7 per cent women.
Then Justin Trudeau came along and, with his first cabinet, hit 50 per cent. Talk about raising the bar. I'm not bitter, but will note only that he didn’t have to accommodate the first half of the 20th century.
Then came the voices in my head. What about indigenous people? What about visible minorities? How many of those do we find among your 50 Canadian world-beaters, mister? Just how inclusive are you?
Well, hey, I thought you’d never ask. Turns out we have a dozen -- out of 49, more than 24 per cent. In Canada’s total population, those who self-identify as
indigenous or belonging to a visible minority comprise nineteen per cent. So when it comes to being demographically representative, this dude is ahead of the game. Yes!
The book’s table of contents included no names, only one-line descriptions. My idea was to encourage guessing games -- and it worked, here and there. Now and then. Among a few folks. This time around, I’ll give you bold-face names and then the one-liners:
Sheila Watt-Cloutier: An Inuit activist links climate change to human rights
Irshad Manji: A spirited Muslim calls for an Islamic Reformation.
Douglas Cardinal: A pioneering architect builds on his indigenous heritage
Kenojuak Ashevak: An Inuit artist enriches world culture
Joy Kogawa: A Japanese Canadian clears the way for minorities
Deepa Mehta: A transnational filmmaker gives voice to marginalized women
Michaelle Jean: A Haitian immigrant proves that pluralism works
Jay Silverheels: A talented Mohawk blazes a trail for aboriginal actors
Oscar Peterson: First this Montreal jazzman took Manhattan
K’naan Warsame: A flag-waving rapper tackles trouble in Somalia
David Suzuki: An environmental warrior awakens the world to climate change
Russell Peters: The Canadian comedian makes the world laugh with us
And did I say 19 women? Voila: Louise Arbour, Maude Barlow, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Irshad Manji, Naomi Klein, Jane Jacobs, Kenojuak Ashevak, Alice Munro, Joy Kogawa, Margaret Atwood, Deepa Mehta, Michaelle Jean, Samantha Nutt, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion, Sarah Burke, Hayley Wickenheiser, Brenda Milner, Sara Seager.
That still leaves our mystery inclusion, our number fifty. No, it is not Northern Dancer -- though I fought hard to include that peerless progenitor. He’s Canadian, right? Anyway, if you can’t stand the suspense, you’ll have to buy the book. 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. It’s available in better bookstores, and here online from Chapters-Indigo.

Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

These five Canadians created the Digital Revolution


With Canada 150 upon us, I’ve been ransacking 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. Yesterday I turned up half a dozen Canadians, among them Margaret Atwood and Joni Mitchell, who spirited the Sixties into the 21st Century. Today I discover that five Canadians created the Digital Revolution.
Marshall McLuhan: Recognized internationally as the Prophet of the Electronic Age, McLuhan was an obscure English professor when, in the 1960s, he published two visionary books: The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media. He anticipated a “global village” of instantaneous communications. Look around: we all live in a World Wide Web.
James Cameron: After creating the blockbuster movie Titanic (1997), Cameron began developing  the digital 3D Fusion Camera System he would use in Avatar (2009). That movie, which relies heavily on computer generated animation, revolutionized the film industry when we weren’t looking. It replaced traditional 35 mm celluloid with digital 3D technology. Movies are different now.

Mike Lazaridis: In 1999, after creating a series of increasingly sophisticated mobile devices, this electrical engineer invented the Blackberry, the world’s first widely used smartphone. Today, more than 1.2 billion people use smartphones to access the World Wide Web, and many rarely use any other device to go online. Misplace your smartphone and you feel sick inside.
Douglas Cardinal: Best-known for creating the Canadian Museum of Civilization (aka the Canadian Museum of History), Cardinal pioneered the use of digital technology in architectural design. Drawing on his indigenous heritage, he created curvilinear buildings that drove him to develop Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD). Can you imagine these fancy new skyscrapers without it?
Don Tapscott: The author of Wikinomics and Macrowikinomics, the visionary Tapscott explorers and champions the collaborative innovations made possible by the Internet. He argues that the Millennials, born between 1977 and 1997,  are “digital natives” who are changing the way the world does business. 
You can find out more in 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, available online by clicking here (Chapters-Indigo). Oh, and if you worry that the book might be short of women or visible minorities, check back tomorrow.
Ken McGoogan
1 Comments
Share This Post :
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.