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The 2013 Expedition


In order to complete the story of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the CAE, we completed a two-part research and filming expedition to Banks Island in the summer of 2013.

The 2013 research expedition to Banks Island in July and August 2013 will have both land- and sea-based components. The land expedition will be based in Sachs Harbour; the expedition by sea will utilize a 46-foot motor-sailboat, the Bernard Explorer.

Part 1. The Bernard Expedition

The Bernard Explorer will leave Cordova, Alaska, in mid June 2013, arriving in Sachs Harbour, Banks Island, about mid July. Researchers will arrive in Sachs Harbour by air on July 9. They will document, map, and photograph the CAE headquarters site at Mary Sachs Creek, which is just west of Sachs Harbour, and accessible by road. Their research will focus on the Expedition hut foundations and the remnants of the schooner Mary Sachs.

The “Cape Kellet” Headquarters

The site of the major camp of the Northern Party of the CAE from 1914 to 1917 is located at Mary Sachs Creek, west of the community of Sachs Harbour. The foundations of the CAE huts built in 1914 plus a few remnants of the Expedition’s schooner Mary Sachs are the main features of the site today. Coastal erosion is slowly encroaching on the site and small artifacts on the surface of the site are falling to the beach below, and being lost in the sand.

Part 2. Desperate Ventures Expedition

Heading north on the Bernard Explorer along the west coast of Banks Island, the research team will visit the locations of several camps of the CAE, most of which have never been visited before by historians. None of these sites have ever before been properly mapped or documented by historians or archaeologists. Filming at these sites would be the final key component of our planned documentary film on the Canadian Arctic Expedition.

The North Star Camp

This CAE camp was established as the Northern Party attempted to get the schooner North Star as far north as possible to serve as a staging site for the northern explorations in 1916. When the schooner became trapped by ice conditions, Stefansson gave the boat to Natkusiak in lieu of wages owed to him by the Expedition. Natkusiak was not able to get his schooner out for another four years.

Natkusiak’s Camp

Natkusiak’s 1916 winter camp on the Gore Islands, just off the coast at Cape Prince Alfred has not been visited, except by local hunters, since the time of the Expedition.

Peter Bernard and the Mail Bags

When Peter Bernard was lost somewhere along the coast of Banks Island, near its northwest tip, in the winter of 1916, he was still carrying two large bags of Expedition mail. No trace of Peter or the mailbags has ever been found. But, no one has looked either. The Gore Islands, Cape Prince Alfred and neighbouring coastlines, including Cora Harbour, are the primary targets.


The objectives for the CAE commemorative research project in 2013 are:

  1. To locate, document and film the camps and artifacts of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-1918 on Banks Island, NWT, including the Northern Party headquarters near Sachs Harbour, Natkusiak’s Gore Islands camp, and the North Star camp, and to search for the remains of Peter Bernard and the mail bags he was carrying when he was lost in the winter of 1916.
  2. To interview Elders of the Sachs Harbour community, especially those related to members of the CAE, and those who have visited CAE sites.
  3. To share with the local community, the country, and the world this marvellous Canadian story through a major new website, a documentary film, and publications.

We will be using the original diaries, daily journals, maps and notes of several members of the CAE (especially Wilkins, Castel, and Noice), the two trappers who found CAE caches in 1931, and Tom Manning’s Banks Island expedition of 1951, to locate the various CAE sites.

To contribute to the Expedition funding, please go to the Partners page.