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Barren Grounds: The Story of the Tragic Moffatt Canoe Trip Kindle Edition
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The book tells how the remaining five made it to Baker Lake and eventually to home.
Art Moffat's body was recovered from the place where the remaining five had set it on a hilltop under his canoe, together with his exposed film. Some years ago I visited Moffatt's grave in the cemetery above Baker Lake, and recently I had the pleasure of talking to Skip Pessl and seeing his showing of what there is of Moffatt's film. Just as for me and many others, a canoe trip through one of the world's last remaining wildernesses was a life-changing experience for Skip. You should read his book.
determined young men are confronted with a unexpected tragedy having to test there survival skills
under the harshest conditions. There will to survive and comradely prevail.
Of the six men on the trip, we hear from Skip and Pete. Perhaps they were the only two who kept journals or perhaps they were the only ones whose journals survived. The men - mostly young college students led by the older, experienced adventurer, Art Moffatt, traveled hundreds of miles during June to September of 1955 through rivers and lakes in Canada, up into Inuit territory. The young men's journals talk a great deal about the rivers and lakes upon which they move forward with their journey, the wildlife they see (and often catch or shoot), the dynamics among the six explorers, and food. Food takes up a tremendous number of words on the page: men thinking of food, hunting for food, preparing food, and eating food. Indeed, if one did not know the journey centered around canoeing and photography, one would think the entire purpose of the trip was to eat.
Skip's old journal entries seem fresh, show him at his best as a thinker and leader, and allow the reader to feel totally comfortable with him in a leadership role after the untimely death of Art Moffatt. Peter Franck's journal entries are different from - and a nice complement to - Skip's. Pete relates many of the day's activities in much the same way as Skip, but from his own, shyer perspective. Franck's writing tends to be more personal, often reflecting on himself and his life and not always writing about the trip, the scenery, or the food.
Most readers will shake heads in disbelief by the way this particular canoe trip was conducted. Why would they do this? Why would they do that? Many questions are raised. But Pessl, compiling the journal entries and writing the book from the distance of fifty years, tells the truth about their trip and does not appear to hide any of their obvious blunders. It is easy for readers, knowing the outcome of the adventure, to make judgments, but who is to say that any of us would have conducted the trip any differently if we were doing it in the 1950s.
If the canoe trip were being undertaken today, there would be cell phones, probably a plane overhead doing food drops, and perhaps a television crew along to shoot footage for a documentary or a reality TV show (and there are times in the journals when, yes, the entries read a bit like a TV segment of "Survivor," especially when the members of the group are not seeing eye-to-eye or getting along). But in 1955, the men just went ahead with their canoes, their cameras, their food supplies, and their muscles.
The book is a fast and fascinating read. It is perfect for wilderness canoe aficionados as well as timid arm-chair travelers. One cannot imagine someone NOT getting something from a reading of BARREN GROUNDS as it says a lot about nature as well as ego. We wonder whether Pessl felt compelled to write when another member of the expedtition, George Grinnell, came out with a book a few years ago. Instead of allowing the Moffat Canoe Trip (as it was known) to be the George Grinnell story, Pessl undoubtedly felt driven to tell his own side. And that he did - beautifully.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a really good telling of an adventure in the Canadian wilderness.Read more