Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Little More of the Northwest Passage History - Captain Joseph Bernard aboard TEDDY BEAR

North Andover native talks about 'Chasing Alaska'

NORTH ANDOVER — When Chris Bernard, formerly of North Andover, drove 7,000 miles to Alaska in 1999, he was looking forward to making a living by fishing and hunting.

Instead, he began a quest that 14 years later culminated in his first published book, “Chasing Alaska.” This is the story of his ancestor, Capt. Joseph Bernard, who journeyed to Alaska at the beginning of the 20th century and spent many years exploring the huge, frigid Last Frontier.

Bernard, 42, who now resides in Portland, Ore., found out about Joseph Bernard – his great-grandfather’s first cousin – by accident. His father met a distant relative at a funeral and when he mentioned that the younger Bernard had gone to Alaska, the relative revealed that Joseph Bernard had also traveled there a century before.

In another coincidence, Chris Bernard discovered that Joseph Bernard was buried in a graveyard only 40 feet from the house he was renting in Sitka. Bernard began researching his ancestor and discovered that “he was a remarkable man,” he said.

While most of the Arctic explorers of his era, including Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, Roald Amundsen and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, were sponsored by governments, Capt. Joseph Bernard, worked completely on his own, according to his descendant.

“His goal was curiosity,” he said. Sailing in his 56-foot schooner Teddy Bear, Bernard traveled “more water miles than any predecessor,” the author said. Capt. Bernard also sailed farther east in the Northwest Passage than any previous explorer, he added.

(I think this is not figurative but rather an expression of the author's proud accomplishments of his great grandfather's cousin's adventures into the Arctic since the Northwest Passage is between Atlantic Ocean Arctic Circle and Pacific Ocean Arctic Circle. There is no record of a Captain Bernard proceeding east from Alaska's Bering Strait Pacific Ocean Arctic Circle sailing to the Atlantic Ocean Arctic Circle in Davis Strait before Roald Amundsen's Northwest Passage voyage of 1903-1906.  The below website documents Captain Joseph Bernard's TEDDY BEAR sailing in Alaska and Canada's NWT and Nunavut in 1909-1914 and again in 1916-1920 then Siberia in 1921-1926.)

(See the website and urls below:

Capt. Bernard spent 10 winters “frozen in” at various Arctic locations.

“He lived off his rifle and his traps,” Bernard said.

Joseph Bernard, a native of Prince Edward Island, suffered from tuberculosis as a child and was not expected to live to be an adult, his chronicler said. Yet he lived to be 93, after surviving temperatures that sometime plunged 58 degrees below zero.

Besides exploring, Capt. Bernard worked as a commercial fisherman and boatbuilder. He acquired a huge collection of Eskimo and Inuit artifacts, which he donated to museums and universities, Bernard said.

He also kept at least one polar bear as a pet.

“Chasing Alaska” has 280 pages and was published by Lyons Press of Guilford, Conn. Bernard, a former Salem News reporter, will be in the area this week to talk about what he calls his “labor of love.”

He’ll be signing copies of his book at Andover Bookstore, 89R Main St., Andover, at 7 p.m. Thursday; and at Jabberwocky Bookshop, 50 Water St., Newburyport, at 7 p.m. Friday.

Chris Bernard was born in Lawrence, raised in North Andover and graduated from St. John’s Prep and St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vt.

Book Description

Publication Date: May 7, 2013

Alaska looms as a mythical, savage place, part nature preserve, part theme park, too vast to understand fully. Which is why C.B. Bernard lashed his canoe to his truck and traded the comforts of the Lower 48 for a remote island and a career as a reporter. It turned out that a distant relation had made the same trek northwest a century earlier. Captain Joe Bernard spent decades in Alaska, amassing the largest single collection of Native artifacts ever gathered, giving his name to landmarks and even a now-extinct species of wolf. C.B. chased the legacy of this explorer and hunter up the family tree, tracking his correspondence, locating artifacts donated to museums, and finding his journals at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Using these journals as guides, C.B. threw himself into the state once known as Seward’s Folly, boating to remote islands, hiking distant forests, hunting and fishing the pristine landscape. He began to form a landscape view of the place that had lured him and "Uncle Joe," both men anchored beneath the Northern Lights in freezing, far-flung waters, separated only by time. Here, in crisp, crystalline prose, is his moving portrait of the Last Frontier, then and now.

Editorial Reviews


• A National Geographic Intelligent Travel Best Travel Book selection
• A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Travel Pick

• A Longfellow Books Bestseller

"Elegant snapshots of contemporary life in Alaska."
—Willamette Week
"Bernard writes movingly of the northern climate and landscape, of solitude and distance, of feeling utterly transformed. ... An illuminating quest to understand his fascinating ancestor and himself."

"This lyrical book, with its abundant wisdom, humility, and grace, made me see Alaska anew and with deeper regard. Bravo, C. B."
—Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak and Visions of a Wild America

"C. B. Bernard deftly takes us along on the pivotal journey of following his lodestar. His life and his words flourish for this continental migration, and his journey is like an extended vision quest. Through his eye we gather the extreme diversity of the land and the colorful people who inhabit it, past and present. By strapping us in for the ride, Bernard reminds us that we too might discover the breadths of our own waiting potentials."

—Mark Warren, author of Two Winters in a Tipi

About the Author

C. B. Bernard, winner of several Alaska Press Club awards, has written extensively for Alaskan Southeaster, Pacific Fishing, Professional Mariner, and Gray’s Sporting Journal. He lives with his wife, Kim, in Portland, Oregon.

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