June 30, 2001

Parents know the scenario. Pile the kids in the car and hit the road. Drive along for about 45 minutes. Here it comes - "Mom, Dad. I'm hungry. There's a Mickey D. Can we stop? Please!!" Console yourself; things could be worse. It's one of the greatest problems encountered by those who must lead large expeditions over great distances for long periods of time. Food. In his book "Barrow's Boys" author Ferguson Fleming describes a number of British expeditions sent to Africa, the Arctic and the Antarctic by Second Secretary of the Admiralty John Barrow in the years 1816 to 1859. None of these locations provided vast amounts of crops or game. Arctic expeditions had the added drawback of often spending 2 or 3 very long winters frozen in the ice and sometimes having to depend on their own food supply the entire time. Those traveling by ship usually could carry a sufficient supply with them. Overland trekers could often count on hunting for some of their food supply. Barrow's boys were fortunate in the timing of their expeditions. At the end of the previous century the Emperor Napoleon had offered a prize to the person who could find a way to provide marching armies with preserved food. French scientist Nicolas Appert labored over the problem for 15 years, finally discovering that food could be stored for long periods of time by heating it sufficiently and sealing it in air-tight bottles. Then the Brits got into the act. Peter Durand developed a method of sealing food in tin containers. Bryan Donkin and John Hall opened a commercial canning plant in 1813, soon taking on a new partner, John Gamble. Several of Barrow's explorers would make large purchases at the firm of Donkin and Gamble.

Naval commander John Franklin traveled to the Arctic by both modes of transport and in both cases met disaster, partially due to food. The ultimate goal was, of course, finding the elusive Northwest Passage. His first two attempts were overland, traveling out of the southeastern Hudson Bay region in 1819 and 1825. He nearly didn't survive the first try. Both expeditions were meant to carry him north across western Canada by river, to enable him to explore the shore line of the supposed Passage. This first time he made his way down the Coppermine River, encountering prolonged temperatures so cold they froze tea almost as fast as it was being poured. After traveling 857 miles to Fort Chippewyn the voyageurs they'd hired balked at going further in uncharted territory. Nearly 20 finally consented, and an equal number of local natives agreed to come along as hunters and guides. After going beyond the next post, Fort Enterprise, and wintering over they pushed on. The guides proved incompetent and were finally allowed to turn back, with instructions to hunt and leave caches of food along the route for Franklin's party on their return trip, especially at Fort Enterprise. On August 18th, 1821, Franklin reached Bathurst Inlet on a point jutting out into a channel across from today's Victoria Island, named the place Point Turnagain then turned around and began racing starvation home. He didn't realize he'd just seen the Passage. Game had long since disappeared and as they made their way up the Coppermine, four more voyageurs left the party and struck out on their own. Barrow soldiered on, finding none of the promised caches of food along the route. Wasting away and barely able to stay on their feet by the time they neared Fort Enterprise, they sighted it on October 29th, stumbled up to the building and tugged the door open. The room was empty.

Part II next time. For Classical 91.5 and 90.3, this is David Minor, ready for a snack.



"Top of the world, Ma." Jimmy Cagney's defiant line from "White Heat" might be used for the explorers who sailed through and slogged across Canada searching for the Northwest Passage or the North Pole. To follow their adventures check out the Explorers of Canada site at:


[8/19/01 - The page seems to be down a lot. If it doesn't load look at another site at http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/canada.shtml ]

You;ll find links to explorers such as Jacques Cartier, Samuel Hearne, Alexander Mackenzie, Radisson & Des Groseilliers, and maritime explorers George Vancouver, Alejandro Malaspina and Sir John Franklin. You'll also find histories of Forts Fraser, Steele and Victoria. Visit the Hudson's Bay Digital Collection of Artifacts (be warned - If you're on a dial-up modem you'll find the pages load very slowly). The site lacks maps, so if you'd like to see the exploerers' main routes take a look at the Compton's Encyclopedia atlas page at:



The Game's Afoot ! !

© 2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte