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The CAE Film

Though over 50 minutes of original film was taken during the Expedition and still survives in archives, there has never been a film made about the entire Canadian Arctic Expedition.

It is time to bring this unknown Canadian, and intriguing Arctic story, to the people of Canada through the medium of film. We first proposed the idea of a film on the CAE in 2003. Now with the completion of Expedition Arctic, 1913-1918, the traveling exhibition on the CAE, and the publishing of Stuart Jenness’ new book on the CAE, it is time to produce the film.

A story of scientific and geographical exploration, the film is also about trials and tragedy, deaths and births, marriage and meeting of cultures. This documentary film will tell the story through a focus on the people of the Expedition—the local Inuit and Inuvialuit men and women who contributed so much to its success, as well as the seamen, scientists, and leaders.

This film will be an excellent Canadian contribution to the 100th anniversary celebrations of the launch of the CAE. This film will also be available to use as outreach/publicity during the travelling component of Expedition Arctic, 1913-1918, the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s major exhibition on the CAE. The documentary can be made available for sale in DVD format at the participating museums and at the CMC boutique/bookstore, as well as through other film distribution systems.

The Approach

This film will go a long way to filling the gaps of Canadian and scientist voices in our Arctic history. With so many books, articles and films about Stefansson and the disaster of the Karluk, it would be a refreshing step forward to feature more of the work of the Canadian scientists who were the reason for the substantial scientific success of the CAE, along with their locally hired Inuit and Inuvialuit assistants.

The film therefore will focus on the northern people and the Expedition scientists, particularly Diamond Jenness, anthropologist/ethnologist, who lived with an Inuit family and Dr. Anderson, biologist, who was well-respected by local Expedition members.

The film will use Northern voices in telling this rich and revealing story. Archival film footage created during the CAE and other contemporary expeditions, blends beautifully with modern HD images of the places visited by the CAE and the wildlife, people, weather, and landscapes they encountered.

The extensive film sequences taken by Expedition photographer George Hubert Wilkins have so far only been used as supporting materials in previous Arctic films, including David’s film: Arctic Shadows: the Arctic Journeys of Dr. R. M. Anderson, (2010) an International Polar Year film.

Other films which have used some CAE footage are Arctic Dreamer: The Lonely Quest of Vilhjalmur Stefansson (2003), a story of Stefansson’s life; and Icebound, the final voyage of the Karluk (2005), a docu-drama about the Karluk disaster. Some of the ethnographic sequences were also used in a series of museum educational films produced in the 1960s (The Copper Inuit) and in two NFB productions on Stefansson himself, Stefansson: The Arctic Prophet (1965) and Memories and Predictions (1963).

Point of View

This film story of the CAE will be told through the voices of the men and women who were actually on the Expedition, using their real voices, as recently discovered in several rare sound recordings, and their own words as found in Expedition diaries, letters, notes, and published accounts. These voices include not only the scientists and seamen hired from the start of the Expedition, but also the local men, women, and children who joined up as the ships traveled north into the Arctic.

The real voices to be used in the film, preserved in recordings from the time of the Expedition and later interviews, are those of anthropologist Diamond Jenness, seaman Robert Williamson, Expedition leader Stefansson, Russian Inuk Mike Siberia, and many Mackenzie Inuit and Copper Inuit singers including Jenny, Taipana, Kuniluk, Takoheqina, and Naneroaq.


The general Canadian public have a deep and abiding interest in the Canadian Arctic. A recent Ekos survey confirmed that the average Canadian sees the North as an integral part of our heritage and our identity as a nation.

The people of Alaska, Yukon, NWT and Nunavut, desire better access to their own history. This film provides a unique look into the past that is founded on local history and information preserved in archival records that does not exist in oral history accounts. It will give a sense of pride to the descendents of the men and women who served on the CAE, and restore the knowledge of their ancestors and bring this knowledge back to the northern community.

The film will give a sense of pride to the descendents of the men and women who served on the CAE, and restore the knowledge of their ancestors and bring this knowledge back to the northern community.

There is a great desire for education about the opening of Canada’s North in schools. Interest has already been expressed by school boards for such a film.

The world outside Canada has long been fascinated by Canada’s North, as shown by the multitude of adult and children’s books on the Arctic, and the hunger for more stories abounds.

During the 2013 expedition, as well as obtaining hundreds of photographs, the team captured over 10 hours of high definition video of the sites, local Elders, wildlife and research activities.