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The 2017 Expedition

Mission Arctic: The Legacy of the Canadian Arctic Expedition

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the last explorations of the CAE in Arctic Canada, we are planning our fourth expedition to the Northwest Territories, traveling on an expedition sailboat from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. Our goal is to document for the first time, several important CAE expedition camps on Banks Island and the Arctic mainland that we were unable to reach in previous expeditions in 2002, 2009 and 2013.

The sites we will visit and document on Banks Island include the CAE headquarters at Mary Sachs near Sachs Harbour, Terror Island, Bernard Island, the North Star camp, Cora Harbour, and Natkusiak’s Gore Islands camp. We will also search for the remains of Captain Peter Bernard and the mail bags he was carrying when he was lost near Cape Alfred in the winter of 1916.

Other sites we plan to visit are Jim Fiji Harbour and Cape Bathurst. Jim Fiji (also known as James Assela) was a member of the CAE who lived at Fiji Island until his death in 1925. At Cape Bathurst we will visit the grave of CAE engineer Daniel Blue. He died at Baillie Islands in the winter of 1915.

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

For 2017, our major objectives on Banks Island are to reach the following sites that we could not get to in 2013 because of the ice conditions.

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 hunting 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 Expedition Team

Our international team is made up of seven experienced and dedicated men, four Canadians, two Americans, and one Britisher. Expedition Leader and Captain, Nicolas Peissel is an accomplished Arctic sailor who has sailed through the Northwest Passage north of Banks Island on a previous expedition. David Gray is the expedition scientist, biologist and historian, with over 45 years of Arctic experience. Other members of our team are divers, videographers and experienced sailors, who have been on many expeditions. Five team members work with Doctors without Borders, serving people in need in some of the most dangerous places in the world.

Timing of the CAE Expedition

Our team will leave Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, on August 26, stop at Fiji Island near Cape Parry at the end of August, and will arrive in Sachs Harbour in early September. Timing will depend on ice and weather conditions. Between September 5 and 25, we will travel on our 43-foot expedition sailboat, Exiles, north along the west coast to Cape Prince Alfred, Banks Island. In late September we will sail back south to Cape Bathurst and then on to Tuyktoyaktuk by October 1, 2017. Our trip will end in Tuktoyaktuk where our boat will be stored for the winter.

The Expedition Vessel

Our boat is a 43-foot unique aluminum yacht reinforced with watertight compartments. We have two emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) and two satellite telephones for emergencies and communications. We have three very high frequency (VHF) radios onboard for boat to boat and boat to land communications. All waste products will be retained in holding tanks on board the ship until we reach a port with approved waste facilities.

Safety and Communications

The expedition will have access to daily ice charts and will be in daily communication with the Canadian Coast Guard, as suggested under NordReg. We will also be in constant communication with our support team who will support and track our progress. We will comply with the Arctic Ice Regime Shipping Standards in interpreting ice conditions for safe navigation.

For safety in bear encounters all crew will have firearm licenses and polar bear safety training. The ship will have registered firearms as well as wildlife deterrents (bear horns, pepper spray). The team will have emergency signaling devices (InReach) at all times when on shore. If possible, we will hire a local bear monitor when working close to communities.