The Book

Recovering History

The objective of the Desperate Venture project is to bring to the Canadian public for the first time this fantastic and true story, a story that was almost lost.

Using Sandy Austin’s well-written manuscript as a base, the story of the expedition will be published in book form, mostly using his own words. As one of the few winter expeditions to northern Banks Island and Aulavik National Park, the "Place Where People Travel," this book will make available a wealth of new information about the western Arctic in the 1930s to local northern communities and the international Arctic community. Sandy Austin’s unpublished journal records a rare picture of the Bankslanders at a time near the beginning of their year-round occupation of Banks Island.

The book project also recovers Sandy’s articulate historical information about the lives of people, and the nature of the wildlife and weather of Canada’s western Arctic and northern Alberta. It will return to northerners an important part of their cultural history and will add to the knowledge of Alberta history in relation to the Northwest Territories.

Sandy’s manuscript

The manuscript that Pamela Austin discovered in her attic was handwritten in pencil, probably by Sandy’s Uncle, John Austin. Sandy had apparently sent his original manuscript to his uncle for editing. In going through the papers in 2007 we found a few pages of Sandy’s original manuscript with his drawings on the reverse side. Those few pages showed us that the amount of editing done was minimal, though some detail had been cut out.

Unfortunately, the manuscript is incomplete as Sandy never finished the writing before he died in 1976. The missing part of the manuscript, including their departure from Banks Island in 1932 and the final trip south to Edmonton, will be completed using archival records, interviews, and newspaper accounts. New chapters will outline the later life of both Sandy and his trapping partner Napoleon.

Writing and Preparation for Publication

In 2008-2009 we converted all of the old typed manuscript to a document in Word format and compared the original handwritten manuscript pages to the typed manuscripts. We have also transcribed the relevant parts of oral history interviews recorded in 2002. The manuscript has been reorganized into chapters to help the flow of the story, and we have provided more indications of dates and seasons.

The next phase of writing will require new funding to complete the writing of the bookmanuscript. The manuscript could be ready for publication in Spring 2010.

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