THUNDER BAY – R. Bruce Macdonald is the author of the book, North Star of Herschel Island: last of the Canadian Arctic fur trading ships. Mcdonald is traveling across Canada to promote this book and putting on slide shows and talks at museums and bookstores.
The book launch is being held next week in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Mcdonald will be in Thunder Bay at the Chapters store on November 22nd at 6PM and there are plans being made for other appearances on November 23rd and 24th. The ship’s history has been a well kept secret from her work to maintain Canadian Arctic sovereignty to her scientific voyage to search for mermaids. He is also scheduled to be at the Thunder Bay Museum on the evening of the 23rd of November.
“I would love to share this ship’s incredible history with your audience,” shared Bruce. “North Star of Herschel Island was built in 1935 at the height of the Great Depression for two Inuvialuit fox trappers. There were hundreds of these ships built in that ‘schooner era’ but North Star was the largest and most finely fitted and sadly she is the last left afloat. Each year from 1936 through until the mid 1960’s the ship would be launched at Sachs Harbour when the ice had moved out enough from the Beaufort Sea to allow for navigation,” explains Macdonald.
“The Bankslanders would load aboard all of the pelts as well as up to seven families with all of their possessions, including fifty sled dogs and one wolf that they kept for breeding. From there, through storm and ice, they would make their way to Herschel Island, Aklavik, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in order to trade their fur for their up-coming winter’s supplies.” Macdonald continued. “At the height of the Cold War the Canadian Government and the Prime Minister formally asked the Captain of North Star to load up the ship with as many volunteers as he could find to return to Banks Island and to hold it for Queen and country to show Canadian Arctic Sovereignty as both Russia and the United States had been considering the island as a good tactical place to set up their armies. For this the Captain, Fred Carpenter, was awarded a special medal from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Under her second owner, North Star was again asked by the Canadian Government to prove Canadian Arctic sovereignty when he was detailed to survey the controversial B.C./Alaska boundary”.
“North Star was also one of the first, if not the first ships to be used for oil and gas exploration in the Western Canadian Government. She was also used for a unique sail-training program for young Innu in order to train them for working on vessels to support the Arctic oil industry. Presently, under my wife and my ownership, she has been used as an official Canadian good will ambassador in International tall ship festivals,” adds the author.
“In researching this book I traveled through the Western Arctic stopping in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk and Whitehorse in order to visit with the Inuit elders who had spent their childhoods travelling on the ship. Some had even born on North Star. They generously shared their memories and their photo albums with me and as a result the book is illustrated with over one hundred never before published photographs of that time period”.
Proceeds of the sale of this book go towards maintaining this important Arctic treasure – a floating museum of Inuvialuit life.