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No vessel that sailed the Arctic seas has raised so much speculation or triggered imaginations as has the legendary Hudson's Bay Company ship Baychimo.
In the 1920s, Baychimo set up trading posts in eastern Canada, sailed on fur-trading expeditions to Siberia during the turbulent years of the Russian civil war and made dangerous annual voyages around Alaska to Canada's western Arctic coast, shouldering her way through ice floes to resupply the HBC's remote trading posts. Anthony Dalton digs deep to unveil the incredible tale of the hardy ship and her sometimes irascible captain, Sydney Cornwell, bringing to life the larger story of the community of northern traders, hunters and sailors of which Baychimo was a part.
This ship's story had a remarkable twist. Caught in 1931 in an ice floe that refused to let go, her crew expected her to sink at any moment, and abandoned ship. But Baychimo was as stubborn as the ice, and she floated away unharmed to begin what would prove to be the longest phase of her seemingly charmed career: for the next four decades she would appear on the horizon at unexpected times and places, always defiantly upright and afloat, becoming the legendary ghost ship of the Arctic.
In mid-July 1925, the SS Bayeskimo ran into heavy drift ice at the entrance to Hudson Strait. The ice carried her north, squeezing the steamer and testing the strength of her rivets. Helpless until the tide changed and the ice moved, the officers and crew could only watch and listen to the ship’s tormented groans. Slowly at first, trickles of freezing water seeped through the steel plates on her bow. The trickles became a flood, and Bayeskimo began to sink.
Bayeskimo was one of hundreds of ships in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fur-trade fleet. For much of the company’s history, they roamed Hudson Bay, the subarctic and beyond the Arctic Circle, servicing far-flung posts. Some even battled their way around the tip of South America to open up trade on the west coast of North America. During these arduous voyages, many of them came to grief under conditions that would test the mettle of any ship. Here are some of their dramatic stories.
Manitoba’s Hayes River runs over six hundred kilometers from near Norway House to Hudson Bay. On its rush to the sea, the Hayes races over forty-five rapids and waterfalls as it drops down from the Precambrian Shield to the Hudson Bay Lowlands. This great waterway, the largest naturally flowing river in Manitoba, served as the highway for settlers bound for the Red River colony, ferrying their worldly goods in York boats and canoes, struggling against the mighty currents.
Traditionally used for transport and hunting by the indigenous Cree, the Hayes became a major fur trade route in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, being explored by such luminaries (Pierre Radisson (1682), Henry Kelsey (1690) David Thompson (1784), Sir John Franklin (1819), and J.B. Tyrrell (1892). This is the account of the author’s invitational journey on the Hayes from Norway House to Oxford House by traditional York boat with a crew of First Nation Cree, and later, from Oxford House to York Factory by canoe in the company of other intrepid canoeists – modern-day voyageurs reliving the past.
After Royal Navy captain Sir John Franklin disappeared in the Arctic in 1846 while seeking the Northwest Passage, the search for his two ships, Erebus and Terror, and survivors of his expedition became one of the most exhaustive quests of the 19th century. Despite tantalizing clues, the ships were never found, and the fate of Franklin’s expedition passed into legend as one of the North’s great and enduring mysteries.
Anthony Dalton explores the eventful and fascinating life of this complex and intelligent man, beginning with his early sea voyages and arduous overland explorations in the Arctic. After years in Malta and Tasmania, Franklin realized his dream of returning to the Far North; it would be his last expedition. Drawing from evidence found by 19th-century Arctic explorers following in Franklin’s footsteps and investigations by 20th-century historians and archaeologists, Dalton retraces the route of the lost ships and recounts the sad tale of Franklin, his officers and men in their final agonizing months.
Dewey Soper first travelled to the Arctic in 1923. During the next seven years he accepted three research postings on Baffin Island, each of which lasted between one and two years. In 1929 he discovered the breeding grounds of the blue goose in the southwest corner of Baffin Island. He also charted the final unknown region of Baffin Island’s coastline. Later in life he worked in the western Arctic. Outside the Far North, Soper studied bison in Wood Buffalo National Park, documented bird life on the Prairies, and made a detailed study of small mammals in Alberta.
Soper was the last of the great pioneer naturalists in Canada. He was also a skilled and meticulous explorer. As a naturalist, he was a major contributor to the National Museum of Canada, as well as to the University of Alberta and other museums across the country.
He died in 1995, but his nautical adventure books continue to bring entertainment and escape to legions of fans worldwide. He was larger than life, perhaps the most successful sailing writer of the twentieth century. But, as Anthony Dalton's meticulously researched biography reveals, Tristan Jones was not who he said he was.
Wayward Sailor began as an uncomplicated tribute to a great adventurer and writer, but one line of inquiry branched to another, plunging Dalton into a three-year odyssey of his own. With the cooperation of Tristan's friends and supporters, Dalton pursued Tristan's life through correspondence, logbooks, government documents, and interviews worldwide. With each new revelation, Tristan's voyage through life seemed more and more like his greatest adventure.
His real name was Arthur Jones. He was born in Liverpool in 1929, the illegitimate son of a working-class Lancashire girl, and he grew up in orphanages with little education. Too young to see action in the World War II naval battles he would later write about so movingly, he joined the Royal Navy in 1946 and served fourteen unremarkable years.
Arthur Jones then bought an old sailboat and tried his hand at smuggling whiskey cross-Channel. In his early thirties he sailed into a Mediterranean limbo, scraping a living from charters by day and haunting the bars of Ibiza by night. When he was drunk, which was often, he could be loud and obnoxious and had the scars to prove it. He had no family, no attachments, no accomplishments.
Then came a midlife sea change. Arthur Jones looked into his future, imagined greatness, and began to claw his way to it. Having taught himself to sail, he taught himself to write. He was a natural at both. As Tristan Jones, in his midforties, he sailed out of Brazil's Mato Grosso and into a Greenwich Village apartment to write six books in three years and reinvent his past.
The Tristan Jones of his books was born in a storm at sea in 1924 on his father's tramp steamer; was torpedoed three time in epic World War II engagements; completed the first circumnavigation of Iceland; traveled farther north and farther up the Amazon River than any sailor before him; and sailed more than 400,000 miles, 180,000 of them solo. Readers loved his books and crowded his lectures and signings. He had a bard's voice and a street performer's delivery. He had more renown than he could have dreamed.
Having invented a life, Tristan Jones tried to live it. After the amputation of his left leg in 1982 he sailed more than halfway around the world. He lost his right leg in 1991 yet still returned briefly to sea. But as his body failed him, so too did his spirits. It was as if the life from which he'd bodily lifted himself were pulling him down again. He died a bitter man.
Wayward Sailor is the biography Tristan Jones did not want. His books were autobiographical, he said; there was no more to tell. But there was. Wayward Sailor is the last Tristan Jones story and the most incredible one of all: the story of a man who invented himself.
Hudson did not achieve his goal, but as a result of his skillful mapping of Hudson Bay and the Hudson River area, his name would live on as a prominent landmark in the geography and imagination of North America.
raid and its aftermath, Flo Quick tells her version of the events and puts forward a convincing tale. A lawman of the time described Flo Quick as “one hell-fire of a she-cat.” Indeed she was, and she had a raunchy sense of humor to boot.
Anson Northup, the first steamboat on the Canadian prairies, arrived in Fort Garry in 1859. Belching hot sparks and growling in fury, it was called "fire canoe" by the local Cree. The first steam-powered passenger vessel in Canada had begun service on the St. Lawrence River in 1809, and for the next 150 years, steamboats carried passengers and freight on great Canadian rivers, among them the treacherous Stikine and Fraser in British Columbia; the Saskatchewan and Red Rivers on the prairies; and the mighty St. Lawrence and Saguenay in Ontario and Quebec.
Travel back in time aboard makeshift gold-rush riverboats on the Yukon, sternwheelers on the Saskatchewan and luxurious liners on the St. Lawrence to the decades when steamboats sent the echoes of whistles across a vast land of powerful rivers.