Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Historic ship moored at Maritime Museum - North Star of Herschel Island: Sailed with St. Roch in Beaufort Sea

Re: This day in history, Oct. 16 Thank you for recognizing the RCMP's St. Roch and her historic doubling of the Northwest Passage in 1944. Sun readers will be happy to learn that another historic vessel, Canada's Arctic tall ship, North Star of Herschel Island, has arrived in port and is moored at the Vancouver Maritime Museum's Heritage Harbour.

North Star of Herschel Island and St. Roch sailed the Beaufort Sea together and their captains, Henry Larsen and Fred Carpenter, were the best of friends. North Star was Inuit-owned and used primarily for transporting the winter's catch of fur to market, but she was also commissioned during the Cold War by the Canadian government to assert Canadian Arctic sovereignty at the entrance to the Northwest Passage.

Subsequent adventures included surveying the controversial B.C./Alaska boundary; sounding for oil deposits; sail-training for Inuit and a Cambridge University scientific charter to search for mermaids off of the Aleutian Islands.

A new book about her history has now been published. Farley Mowat calls it, "one helluva book about one helluva ship," and former prime minister Jean Chretien reviews it as "an important book that every Canadian should read."


In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, two Canadian Inuit fur trappers ordered the largest private sailing ship ever delivered to be used in transporting their annual catch of fur to Herschel Island on the MacKenzie Delta in exchange for the supplies that they needed to survive another winter hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle. Three times she did not make it into port in time and was frozen solid into the ice. This is the story of one of the most historic ships in Canada, who under three owners faced many challenges including; holding land at the entrance of the fabled NorthWest Passage to protect Canadian Arctic Sovereignty, was used in sail-training for Inuit, surveyed the controversial B.C./Alaska border and was chartered to search for mermaids off of the Aleutian Islands. North Star of Herschel Island is now a familiar sight on the Victoria, B.C. waterfront and a regular participant in Classic Boat and Tall Ship Festivals. In 2005 she represented her country as the Canadian GoodWill Ambassador in an international gathering of Tall Ships. This is the true story of a remarkable ship and the people who have known and loved her.

R. Bruce Macdonald

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