Friday, July 26, 2013

BERNARD EXPLORER sails for Sachs Harbor to search for the schooner MARY SACHS of NOME

Photo courtesy of the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum

COMMEMORATING— A ship called the Bernard Explorer recently left Nome to retrace the route of the Mary Sachs, an support vessel for the Canadian expedition ship Karluk. The Karluk was the flag ship of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, the first Canadian government expedition to the western Arctic, between 1913-1918. The Karluk sailed from Nome on July 13, 1913 and became trapped in pack ice and drifted with the ice westward. The ship sank on January 15. The supply ship Mary Sachs’ captains were Peter Bernard and Joe Bernard. This summer, the Bernard Explorer under caption Bob Bernard, grand-nephew of Joe Bernard, is leading to Sachs Harbor on Banks Island to plant two plaques in honor of those who perished on the expedition.

The Mary Sachs wrecked near Sachs Harbor and crew of the Bernard Explorer hope to find relics or remains of the schooner.


P.E.I.-born captain, Peter Bernard, and the ship, Karluk, photographed before its doomed role as the flagship in the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-18.

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Sachs Harbour, NWT, Saturday July 27, 2013

posted July 28, 2013
The day started with a short interview with Roger Kuptana, who with his wife Jackie, runs the Polar Grizz Guesthouse where we are staying. Roger’s father, William, was a member of the CAE as a young boy. He was either “traded” or adopted to William and Annie Seymour, who were on the CAE ship, Polar Bear. William Seymour was from Australia, Annie from Alaska. Roger has travelled to the northwest corner of Banks Island where we are headed, but only in winter. It will be so exciting to get there!
The wind and waves had settled down enough that Mitzi, Kyle and I were able to go back out to the Mary Sachssite. It was a different place with all of the ice floes drifted in to the bay and along the shore. We made sure that Kyle was extra alert as polar bears can move in with the ice too. Today we used the metal detector to search along the beach where the historic site has eroded away. As we suspected, there was not much to find as the waves just carry anything small away. Just in the last 2 days, because of the waves, the beach has changed a lot and we never would have found that new old engine block today. We did find a few rusty bits of chain, stove parts and bolts in the sand below the mound where the Mary Sachs’s wheelhouse was placed.
It was cool in the wind, 0 degrees C, and a few snow flurries, but nice when the sun was out. I photographed each of the sites with Henry’s wonderful mini-camera at the end of a telescoping pole to give an overhead view.
Riding back in the boat was a joy with seals and ice floes keeping John alert at the wheel.

Sachs Harbour, Friday July 26, 2013

posted July 27, 2013
A foggy day in Sachs Harbour, with a strong west wind blowing ice in from the Beaufort Sea. There is more ice piling up on the shore all the way from here out to Cape Kellet, beyond Mary Sachs. Today was a mix of waiting, visiting and walking. Had a good visit with John and Samantha Lucas, John’s parents. Samantha’s grandmother was Violet Mamayuak, who was part of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, and traveled on the schooner Polar Bearto Victoria Island. She married Henry Gonzales, who became the ship’s captain, and seems to have been responsible for wrecking the Mary Sachs. He did not stay in the Arctic after the Expedition and she re-married.
We had hopes of the Aklak plane coming today, but the fog and uncertain weather led them (eventually) to postpone the flight until Sunday. So Mack has more time in Inuvik and Mitzi will miss her Mum’s 90th birthday party (which she organized!).
I walked out along the beach to the east, but didn’t see much. A few Glaucous Gulls, parts of muskox skulls, waves and many flowers still blooming in spite of the low temperatures and snow flurries.
Bob Bernard called this morning from the boat. They were just passing Herschel Island, Yukon, and making good progress. They were held up by ice near the US-Canada border, but the silver lining was that they were at Collinson Point, where the CAE over-wintered in 1913! They were able to visit and photograph the remnants of the CAE house there. So many good things on an un-planned day.

Sachs Harbour, NWT, Thursday July 25, 2013

posted July 26, 2013
It was a rainy and foggy day in Sachs Harbour today, and now it’s snowing. It was a “hurry-up-and-wait” day as the scheduled Aklak Air flight from Inuvik was supposed to take Mitzi Dodd (Peter Bernard’s great-great-niece) out and bring Mack (Alex) MacDonald in. Now we have to wait for tomorrow to see if the weather cooperates with our crew turnover. It was mostly an inside day today, a good opportunity to work on mapping the CAE camps. I have been talking with Elders here trying to relate the place names used in 1915 and 1930 with the names on the maps today. It is difficult to locate the old camps and caches because the Expedition journals often refer to places whose names have changed, and give distances from unknown places too. There were only a very few official place names on the old British Admiralty charts the CAE men were using. But with input from three different eras, I think I now have figured out where all the places we need to find really are!
We heard today via the old Inuit telegraph system (Facebook) that there is a sailboat in Tuktoyaktuk. But it may be the one boat that is ahead of our Bernard Explorer. But it is good news, if one boat has made it through, Bob can’t be far behind.

Wednesday July 24, 2013 (Cool wind, no mosquitoes, no snow flurries yet)

posted July 25, 2013
Sachs Harbour, NWT
Today we continued with our visits in the community. First stop was at Joey and Margaret Carpenter’s home. Joey’s father was Fred Carpenter who was one of the first to establish a permanent home here. He was also the first to open a store in Sachs Harbour in 1954. Margaret’s parents lived at Baillie Island and she was born there. Margaret’s mother was Cora Kemiksana, and her step-Dad was was Silas Palaiyak, who worked for the CAE scientists in 1915-1916. Cora told Margaret that Silas Palaiyak’s schooner “CORA” which we hope to visit and document next week, was named after her. This was something I had long suspected, and the personal confirmation today was one of those special little shared moments that make historical research so exciting. Tomorrow I will give Margaret photos of both Palaiyak and the CORA, which she has never seen.
Our next stop we thought was just to buy a local history book, but it turned out to be hidden treasure! Earlier this summer a young man from Sachs was hunting geese out at the Mary Sachs historic site. Right on the ATV travel route they use he found a large cross-cut saw which had just appeared on the sandy beach. It had already been run over by an ATV so he brought the saw home. Knowing our interest, he took us to see it and now wants us to find the proper home for this old CAE saw. We photographed it and captured the story. The saw would have been used to cut driftwood for use at the CAE camp for heat and cooking.
Update on the Bernard Explorer: The boat was held up by ice just west of Point Barrow Alaska for a couple of days, but they are now on the way and expected to arrive on Friday the 26th.

Tuesday July 23, 2013

posted July 24, 2013
It is a sad day in Sachs Harbour today. A young woman who grew up here, and who died in BC recently, was buried in the Sachs Harbour cemetery up on top of the hill above our lodgings. We went to the funeral along with virtually everyone in the community. At the community supper afterwards we met many of the people from Sachs who know about us and our Expedition. They are so pleased that someone from the outside knows their background and is excited about their local history. Earlier today we met with the RCMP officers stationed here (both from Ottawa), the Mayor, Betty Haogak, and the Postmaster, Joey Carpenter, who also are delighted about our project, and shared many local history connections with us. Almost everyone in town is related to the CAE in some way or another. We met Alex Kudlak who is related to Stefansson on one side of his family, and to Billy Banksland (Natkusiak) on the other! The Mayor and her family used to camp at the Mary Sachs site we have been working on. It is a traditional site for hunting geese in the spring. So today was as rewarding in its own way as were the previous days, the new treasures being family stories of the people and their love of the land.
We think the mosquitoes are done! It is rainy and going down to -1 tonight with possible snow flurries tomorrow. Hurray!

Monday July 22, 2013

posted July 23, 2013
Back to the CAE historic site at Mary Sachs Creek today for our third day of research. We travel out and back by boat which is the best way to travel here. We have seen an Arctic fox patrolling the shoreline, and a Tundra Swan flying over as we travel. The shores are sandy or light gravel so John Lucas, our driver, just runs agound where we want to be. He picks us up again at the end of the day. John will be going with us on the boat trip up the west coast.
Today our main chore was to get GPS locations for each of the sites and for the major artifacts. For that we used the great little inReach device. We also completed a few measurements so that we can tie everything together for the Map. Highlights were making rubbings of the raised letters on some glass bottle fragments and a cast iron “Success” stove, finding a wooden box probably from the CAE partially buried in the creek bed, and filming insects slowly walking on the ice floe. There were several large weevils (beetles) which I suspect are new species for Banks Island. We also walked up the lake formed by the ocean damming Mary Sachs Creek with a sand bar at the mouth. Saw relatively fresh polar bear, arctic wolf and arctic fox tracks all together on the sand, plus sand hill crane and snow goose tracks.
The down side of the day was that the mosquitoes were actually worse still! There was little or no wind, it was hot (well 12 +) with layers of anti-mosquito clothes. You just can’t believe how “buggy” they are until you experience them. Several times today we retreated to the shoreline, hoping to find a little breeze, or some respite on the grounded ice floes, but there wasn’t much. Picture Mitzi and me snuggling up to opposite sides of an ice floe, me sticking my head into an icy hole and still not able to get away from the bugs! Kyle, our wildlife monitor, has no control over bugs! Imagine. He just lies out flat on the beach gravel with his hoodie over his face! It was so refreshing to be in the boat on the way home, with a cool breeze and no bug jacket over our heads. Another great day in the Arctic.

posted July 22, 2013
It was a good day today out at the MARY SACHS site. The mosquitos were terrible , even worse than yesterday. The street of Sachs Harbour is empty because the kids can’t go out and play. Today we measured and made rough maps of each different feature of the site, trying to figure out what each foundation or ground detail means, comparing what we see with the photos from 1915 etc. Also listing and photographing the artifacts in each feature. There are six major and obvious features, one being the house which was the Headquarters, and another where the wheelhouse of the Mary Sachs was used as a home, even as late as the 1930s. And the 2 Desperate Venture guys stayed in one of these too. Then there are the Inuit tent rings or tent platforms as well, plus the two engine blocks (now 3 as we found one buried in the beach sand). I tried to photograph individual artifacts with a close-up lens today and got my hands well-bitten. We found a neat little glass/ceramic/stone bead today, a beautiful, teardrop shape of pale green colour. Not sure how old it is, but my feelings is that it is from the CAE, so 100 years. Kyle and I also moved the 3rd engine block up the sand slope from the eroding beach to a safe place. It was heavy work as it had to be rolled or flipped uphill in sand and it is way too heavy to lift. So now it is safe. We heard from Captain Bob Bernard last night. They are in Point Barrow, Alaska, still a little behind schedule, but all is going well. Point Barrow is where the ice hangs in the longest, so it is great that they made it. I have to check the ice charts now and see what challenges they still face. The people from Sachs saw 3 Orcas earlier this week just off Sachs Harbour and 3 bowheads this weekend in the ice off Cape Kellet. So we hope we will see the whales later as well. There are 5 cute little husky puppies across the road.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

posted July 21, 2013
DSCN5961An emotional day for David and Mitzi, just being at Mary Sachs Creek (see inReach map), base camp for the Northern party of the CAE, Captain Peter Bernard’s home for two years (Mitzi’s great, great uncle, who was lost trying to deliver mail at the north end of Banks Island).
Incredible erosion happening. David was there in 2009 and sketched a building foundation. A corner of that foundation is about to fall into the ocean. The drop from the land turf to the beach was about a metre in 2009, now it is about 3 metres because the beach under it has been washed away, as well as about a ½ m of turf.
Found a second major chunk of the Mary Sachs engine block, its tip just visible in the sand. Also found a wooden pulley block, probably used to pull the Mary Sachs up on the beach, or to raise sail. They are not allowed to remove anything. On the ground lots of bits of pottery, glass, and a brass nail, probably from the Mary Sachs. They also established where the Mary Sachs wheel house was by a couple of upright tongue and groove boards. It had been left as a house for trappers.
Saw one Arctic fox, three loons (yellow-billed?), three ringed seals.
10 degrees and wind from north. Some photos ruined because so many mosquitoes in front of lens.
Two new members on the expedition! Kyle Wolki, bear monitor, and John Lucas, guide; both men have family connections to the CAE.
Tomorrow they will go back to measure and map the site, about 30 km west of Sachs Harbour.

Just arrived…

posted July 19, 2013
David and Mitzi have arrived in Sachs Harbour! It is about 13 degrees and the sun is bright, and there are BILLIONS of mosquitos, more than there have ever been before.
People are staying inside. Tomorrow they meet with Elders. They expect the Bernard Explorer on Saturday. The ice looks clear along the mainland, though there is still some in the Passage.
They flew in under cloud but just as they passed over Baillee Island the clouds opened and they had a good glimpse.
They hope to blog every few days – it depends where they are. Through their inReach device we can at least track them daily, and they can send a simple, “everything is fine” message. Whenever they can they will send more.

The Bernard Explorer

posted July 13, 2013
Captain Bob Bernard beside his boat  as he prepared to leave Cordova
Captain Bob Bernard beside his boat as he prepares to leave Cordova.

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