The National visits Canada's North
Last Updated October 27, 2006
The National visits Canada's North
Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1
The National focuses on Canada's icebreaker fleet, Canada's arctic and the ongoing research and discussion over climate change.
The National toured Canada's Arctic July 31-Aug.4, 2006 aboard the Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent.
Resolute is the second-northernmost settlement in Canada, and one of the coldest inhabited places in the world with an average temperature just below -16 C.
Resolute Bay was named after one of the ships searching for the lost Franklin expedition in 1852. The town of Resolute was born almost 100 years later when Canada and the U.S. built an airfield and weather station there soon after the Second World War. A couple of years later, Inuit from Quebec and Baffin Island were relocated to the town so they could take advantage of the area's wildlife and help assert Canadian's sovereignty over the Arctic.
Today, with a population just over 200, the town remains centred around the Resolute airport. The town is used as a starting point for many expeditions, and the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent will set out for the Northwest Passage from here. On board the ship are a team of scientists who are looking at climate change in the Arctic and Peter Mansbridge with a crew from The National, who will be exploring the passage 100 years after it was first navigated.
Cambridge Bay is a small hamlet on the south coast of Victoria Island, which was visited by the Inuit for hundreds of years. The Hudson's Bay Company helped found the town by establishing a floating trading post in the bay in 1927. The post consisted of one of Roald Amundsen old ships, the Maud. Amundsen, the first to navigate the Northwest Passage, had tried to freeze the Maud into the Arctic ice so he could drift over the North Pole. But after failing several times he wasn't able to pay his debts, and the ship was eventually seized and sold to the HBC. Renamed the Baymaud, the ship became a floating trading post, but then sank in the shallow waters of Cambridge Bay a few years after it arrived. Well preserved by the cold Arctic waters, the ship remains a strange sight for visitors and a curious memento of Arctic exploration.
Lorenz Learmonth at the Hudson's Bay post in Cambridge Bay in 1954, after he left Fort Ross. (Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba)
It was thanks to the Cold War that Cambridge Bay grew into the administrative centre it is today. In 1955, the town became the key transport and supply centre for the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line radar stations in the area. The DEW line was a string of radar stations stretching thousand of kilometres through the Canadian and American Arctic to detect bombers coming from the U.S.S.R. While most of the sites have long since closed, the one at Cambridge Bay remains as part of Canada's more modern North Warning System.
Just east of the Nunavut border with the Northwest Territories, Kugluktuk (formerly called Coppermine) is a bustling town of 1,200 sitting at the mouth of the Coppermine River at the Arctic Ocean. Need to check your e-mail here? Don't worry, the entire town is covered by wireless internet access.
Developing rapidly after 1916, the town included a Hudson's Bay Company post in 1927, and the RCMP arrived five years later. Over the decades the town acquired a weather station, radio facilities, a nursing station and a school. But it was oil and gas exploration in the 1970s that helped propel the local economy.
The icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent's main scientific phase begins at Kugluktuk, where more scientists will meet the ship and sail into the Canadian Basin, one of the deepest parts of the Arctic Ocean. They will spend the rest of the summer surrounded mostly by ice, conducting experiments to learn more about this largely unknown vast wilderness at the top of the world. Their focus is to understand the effects of climate change.
Fort Ross was the last trading post built by the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada's Arctic. It was meant to bridge the eastern and western Arctic fur trading districts through the Bellot Strait, a narrow 32-kilometre passage separating the northernmost tip of North America from Somerset Island
Fort Ross was the brainchild of Lorenz Learmonth, a legend among both the Inuit and the HBC. Small in stature but incredibly determined, Learmonth was the first manager of the fort and helped build it in 1937.
Learmonth was a true company man. Born on the Orkney Islands, he joined the Hudson's Bay Company as a young man and was originally posted in Labrador.
After serving in the First World War, Learmonth returned to the trader's life, working the rest of his career in the high Arctic. It was Learmonth who chose the location for Fort Ross, and its establishment was a highlight in his career. Learmonth retired in 1957 after 46 years in the North and spent the last years of his life in Georgetown, Ont., passing away at the age of 93.
Rising out of the vast Arctic wilderness, Fort Ross had two buildings — a manager's house and a store — and was also home to a number of Inuit families. It was operated for some 11 years, but eventually abandoned because ice constantly choked the strait.
Fort Ross was once evacuated by the U.S army after it had been surrounded for two years by ice and supplies were running out.
When Fort Ross was finally closed in 1948, everything was moved some 250 kilometres south to Stanners Harbour, establishing the town of Spence Bay, now known as Taloyoak.
The two buildings of the old Fort Ross now serve as a shelter for Inuit passing through to hunt caribou and as a refuge for various science projects in the area. Fort Ross is also sometimes a tourist destination for polar cruises and polar bear watching.
- Main page: The Arctic Grail
- The National in the North
- Notable Events - Interactive Map
- By the numbers
- The Northwest Passage by satellite
- Arctic passage: A Canadian icebreaker on patrol
- Fort Ross: The last trading post
- The National Road Stories: Our Changing Arctic
- Arctic sovereignty (July 31, 2006 | Runs 10:37).
- Fort Ross (July 31, 2006 | Runs 5:58).
- Researching climate change in the Arctic (Aug. 1, 2006 | Runs 5:25).
- Mapping Canada's outer limits (Aug. 1, 2006 | Runs 3:19).
- On the icebreaker Sir Wilfred Laurier (Aug. 1, 2006 | Runs 7:48).
- Will the Bowhead whales return? (Aug. 1, 2006 | Runs 3:50).
- Cambridge Bay and climate change (Aug. 2, 2006 | Runs 7:08).
- Future of polar bears (Aug. 2, 2006 | Runs 2:30).
- Life in the Arctic (Aug. 2, 2006 | Runs 3:16).
- The quest for the Northwest passage (Aug. 2, 2006 | Runs 12:31).
- Life on the Louis S. St-Laurent (Aug. 2, 2006 | Runs 9:52).
- Climate Change
- In depth
- Arctic Sovereignty
- In depth
- Breaking the Ice: Canada and the Northwest Passage
- CBC Archives
- Exploration of the Northwest Passage, Canadian Arctic Profiles, Canada's Digital Collections
- Drift Bottle Project
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