Hope On Hope Ever

Hope On Hope Ever. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Object ID AAA0834From the collections of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London:

‘A sledge flag embroidered with Sir John Barrow’s motto ‘HOPE ON HOPE EVER’ made by Lady Jane Franklin for Lieutenant Bedford Pim. It was flown from HM sledge John Barrow commanded by Pim when he made contact with the crew of Investigator on 6 April 1853. The flag is made of dark blue ribbed silk with an anchor and motto appliquéd in yellow felt— the details are picked out in gold coloured silk. It has been framed. The Investigator, commanded by Robert McClure, was beset in the ice north of Banks Island, having entered the North-West Passage from the Pacific. After three winters in the Arctic her crew were starving and suffering from scurvy. The arrival of Pim heralded their eventual rescue. He had been sent in charge of a sledge party from HMS Resolute following the recovery of a message from the trapped McClure. This was the first meeting of expeditions entering the North West Passage from opposite ends. Both vessels had been sent to the Arctic to search for the missing ships of Sir John Franklin’s expedition, but Resolute was part of a larger squadron under the overall command of Captain Sir Edward Belcher.’

Sledge flag
Jane Franklin, 1852
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Object ID AAA0834

Gordon W. Smith’s A historical and legal study of sovereignty in the Canadian North: terrestrial sovereignty, 1870-1939


Gordon W. Smith has long been known to historians of northern Canada for his ground-breaking work in the 1960s on Canada and arctic sovereignty. In the years that followed, he devoted his time and his impressive research skills to a comprehensive study that would cover every possible aspect of the subject from 1870 up to his own day.

Smith produced a lengthy manuscript fairly early on in the process, then spent over two decades carrying out additional research, often gaining privileged access to closed government files. Sadly, however, he never either completely finished the manuscript or incorporated most of his new findings into it. His massive work, thousands of handwritten pages long, remained unready for publication at the time of his death in 2000.

Smith’s friends and relatives knew that the manuscript nevertheless had great value. Last year, the University of Calgary Press published its first part, edited by Whitney Lackenbauer.

Even though it’s abridged, the edited version runs to nearly 500 pages! An electronic version is available free of charge on the University of Calgary Press website. In an era when academic books can bear substantial price tags, many thanks are due to those who made this possible.

One of us (Janice) had the opportunity to review the publication.

As she mentions, during our research for Acts of Occupation, we came across correspondence between Smith and Arctic geographer Trevor Lloyd, whose papers in the Trent University Archives contain many copied documents on the sovereignty scare created by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. In 1920, Stefansson told Canadian officials that there was a Danish plot to take over some of Canada’s Arctic islands. According to Stefansson, the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen was pretending to have scientific motives, when in fact he planned to colonize uninhabited Canadian islands with Greenlanders.

Lloyd read Smith’s draft manuscript in 1974. Smith accepted Stefansson’s story as true, but Lloyd had already done extensive research in Danish archives and in the files of the British Foreign Office. His findings proved that there never was any Danish plot, so he convinced Smith to change his analysis of this episode.

We’re happy to take this opportunity to highlight Lloyd’s research and his contribution to Smith’s work. Here are links to an obituary of Lloyd and a photo of him receiving the Hans Egede Medal from Prince Henrik of Denmark in 1984.

Spotted in the Archives

One of the Loening Amphibians used by the 1925 Macmillan-Byrd Expedition, at Squantum, Massachusetts. Chapter 8 of the book discusses the Canadian response to the expedition, which proposed to search previously unexplored Arctic areas using three aircraft such as this. By 1925, Canadian officials were far better prepared to react to threats to Arctic sovereignty than they had been just a few years earlier.

Photograph by Leslie Jones
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection, 08_06_001830

Race to the End of the Earth

Scott’s party at the South Pole, 17 January 1912.
(Wikimedia Commons)

From 17 May to 24 October 2013, the Royal BC Museum is presenting the special exhibition Race to the End of the Earth, which “recounts one of the most stirring tales of Antarctic exploration, the contest to reach the South Pole.” In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum is also presenting the giant-screen film Shackleton‘s Antarctic Adventure, about the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. (Shackleton’s later efforts to raise money for another expedition brought him into the story told in Acts of Occupation. In Chapter 4 of the book, we talk about the plans for a proposed arctic expedition by Shackleton, to be sponsored in part by the Eaton family.)

Fresh and cold–Lager beer direct from the North Pole

Fresh and cold--Lager beer direct from the North Pole

This 1877 advertisement, printed by the A. Hoen & Company of Baltimore, seemed particularly appropriate for this Canada Day long weekend, when more than a few lagers and other beverages will be consumed. Happy Canada Day!

Fresh and cold–Lager beer direct from the North Pole
A. Hoen & Co., Baltimore
Published by F. Klemm, No. 254 N. Central Ave., c1877
Library of Congress, cph 3g04440

Centennial of Canadian Arctic Expedition spawns return voyage

Centennial of Canadian Arctic Expedition spawns return voyage

OTTAWA — An ill-timed journey during the First World War, a rocky relationship between the two leaders, the sinking of the Karluk and 11 deaths are what most historians associate with the Canadian Arctic Expedition.

But, despite those drawbacks, the 1913-1918 expedition — the most comprehensive Canadian-led Arctic research project of the day — was an extraordinary success in other ways, says researcher and filmmaker David Gray, and it deserves to be recognized and celebrated.

Which is why Gray and a handful of researchers and crew members — including Bob Bernard, the great-great nephew of Peter Bernard, captain of the expedition schooner Mary Sachs — are heading north again on the expedition’s 100th anniversary, to visit, map and film CAE sites which have never before been documented.

Read the rest of Lisa Gregoire’s story on NunatsiaqOnline.

For anyone who wants to contribute, the indiegogo fundraising page for the project – “The White North has thy Bones” – can be found here.

J. B. Harkin’s Marriage

J. B. Harkin is a key figure in Acts of Occupation, yet one about whom there is little biographical information. We were able to put together a picture of his career from government files, but since he left no personal papers, his private, emotional life remained somewhat of a mystery. (Harkin’s biographer E. J. Hart also had little to say about the private side in his recent book, J. B. Harkin: Father of Canada’s National Parks). There seemed to us to be hints of some private frustration that made Harkin especially determined, even unrelenting, in pursuit of his career goals, but we had only guesses in place of conclusive facts.

We knew that Harkin had not married until December 1924, the month before his forty-ninth birthday. We knew, too, that the marriage ceremony was carried out at home, by a Presbyterian minister, even though Harkin himself was Roman Catholic. The bride, Jean McCuaig, had worked in the same government department as Harkin for many years. The likelihood was that they had known each other a long time. Harkin’s mother, Eliza, to whom he was devoted, had died of influenza a few years before. Was the difference in religion, which might have upset a devout mother, the reason for his long bachelorhood?

This is the kind of question that often teases historians but seldom gets a clear-cut answer. We were therefore delighted to hear from a reader who was also a relative of the Harkins. She told us that her mother had often recounted the story of how “Uncle Bun” (Harkin’s nickname was Bunny) and Jean McCuaig had been in love for years, but waited until after his mother’s death to marry. “This tale of sorrow and romance was piquant enough to be passed on to me after three generations,” she comments. She also provided this beautiful photo of Jean (far right) with her two sisters, Jessie and Anna Isobel. The second photo, taken by Jeff, shows the Harkins’ grave in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.

Our thanks to Margot McPherson!

Resources: The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum on Tumblr

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College has been on Tumblr for a number of months now. Its staff regularly uploads new content relating to the museum, its collections, and its activities. Among the people who show up are Peary and MacMillan (obviously), but also others like W. Elmer Ekblaw, one of the members of the 1913-1917 Crocker Land Expedition. Vilhjalmur Stefansson would later use Ekblaw’s 1920 article “A Recent Eskimo Migration and its Forerunner” to help fabricate a (non-existent) Danish threat to Canadian arctic sovereignty.

You can visit the museum’s Tumblr at: