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CAE 100th celebration in Sachs Harbour

posted November 3, 2014


Natkusiak, known as Billy Banksland, with his big dog, Mike, north of Banks Island, 1916.

Natkusiak, known as Billy Banksland, with his big dog, Mike, north of Banks Island, 1916.

Today the people of Sachs Harbour and Parks Canada are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition by unveiling a new plaque honouring the Expedition members and acknowledging the continuing ties between the people of the Expedition and the people of Sachs Harbour. It would have been a great experience to be there for this event, but at least we can celebrate it from wherever we are by remembering the men and women who were working and travelling with the CAE on Banks Island 100 years ago.

November 3, 1914   Banks Island

In mid November of 1914, George Wilkins and Natkusiak spent several days at a hunting camp north of Sachs Harbour. They had shot over 60 caribou and had begun transporting the meat back to the base camp at Mary Sachs. This was a week of fog which hampered their hunting and on the 3rd of November they were confined to camp by the weather.

From Wilkins’ Diary:

November 2, 1914: “As I was cooking breakfast, Billy [Natkusiak or Billy Banksland] went out to see what the dogs were barking at. Two deer were near the camp, and he shot them. I kept them both for specimens [now in the Canadian Museum of Nature collections]. The fog prevented us from hunting far afield. Billy caught three foxes today, making a total of thirty-seven since we started out.

November 3, 4, and 5, 1914: “These three days were foggy with more or less wind, and we were unable to hunt with any success.”

During that week, Stefansson, Charlie Thomsen and Storker Storkersen had established another hunting camp on the west coast. Leaving Jennie Thomsen and Elvina Storkersen, with their two children, at the coastal camp, Stefansson and the others sledded east to Wilkins’ camp to plan their winter travels north. Unfortunately none of the men mapped the locations of these hunting camps and so it is difficult to discover where they actually were one hundred years ago.