Research Trips

Scotland 2007

With funding from Parks Canada, I traveled to Scotland in September 2007 to conduct preliminary research on Sandy Austin’s life before and after his Canadian experience. I interviewed Sandy’s surviving relatives, in particular Pamela Austin, Sandy’s sister-in-law, the one who discovered Sandy’s manuscript after his death. These interviews provide an indication of the impact Austin’s Canadian adventure had on his later life. Some interviews were recorded on Hi8 videotape. I returned home with digital copies of Sandy’s manuscript and photo albums.

Thomas Manning Archives, Iqaluit 2008

While visiting Iqaluit in 2008, I located the original diary describing the 1952 discovery of the trappers’schooner Cora and their camp at Cora Harbour. Also in the Thomas Manning Collection at the Iqaluit Centennial Library, I found Manning’s annotated aerial photographs showing the location of the camp and schooner.

Banks Island Field Work 2009

In 2008 the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation provided a grant, through their Heritage Preservation Partnership Program, to the Canadian Circumpolar Institute to support travel, field work and other logistical expenses for additional research and communications for the Desperate Venture project. The proposed field research on Banks Island in July 2008 was postponed to July 2009 because the field expeditions I was to accompany were cancelled.

In July 2009 I traveled to Sachs Harbour and northern Banks Island for two weeks. Parks Canada kindly allowed me to accompany their field party on a flight from Inuvik to Sachs Harbour and Aulavik National Park. I stayed at Parks Canada’s Polar Bear cabin in Aulavik for four days along with the Parks Canada field crew and two other field parties. View map.

My field work was also supported by the Polar Continental Shelf Program, who agreed to provide helicopter and Twin Otter aircraft support at the government rate. Through cooperation with the other field parties, I was able to search by helicopter for the cache of supplies and equipment left by Austin and Verville at Cape McClure in October 1931. Unfortunately, no trace of the cache was found. It seems likely that the cache has long ago been washed into the sea, due to the active coastal erosion of about one metre every two years.

Because of the high cost of helicopter flights, the limited amount of helicopter time available (which had to be shared by several parties), and the complication of scheduling due to fog, I was not able to get to the camp and the abandoned schooner Cora at Cora Harbour at the northwest corner of Banks Island.I interviewed several Elders in both Inuvik and Sachs Harbour and gave a presentation on the Desperate Venture project to the Sachs Harbour community during my stay there. Two brass artifacts from the schooner Cora were given to me for deposit to a northern museum following approval by the trappers’ families.

The required permits for historical/archaeological research were issued by the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, through the community consultation process, including the Inuvialuit Land Administration.

New Research 2010

I am planning to return to Banks Island in July 2010, to investigate and document the camp and schooner that Sandy and Napoleon abandoned at Cora Harbour. The research trip will include further interviews with hunters and Elders in Sachs Harbour and documentation of the old Canadian Arctic Expedition camp at Mary Sachs Creek, just west of Sachs Harbour, where Sandy lived during the winter of 1931-1932. I will give another presentation to the Sachs Harbour community, bringing them up to date on this project that is of so much interest to them.

We are now seeking funding for this new research expedition.

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