Seven weeks after the start, Arthur Moffatt's expedition to the vast and uncompromising tundra of the Great Barren Grounds had reached a critical point. The six-man party had started out from Black Lake in Saskatchewan. Their destination was an isolated outpost on Baker Lake in northeastern Canada, some 900 miles away. On August 1 they entered a bleak, wind-swept country only once before crossed in its entirety. Now the days grew short and cold, food stocks low. With 400 miles to go, the party faced its greatest challenge.
We went down a beautiful, swift stretch o river today. There were piles of cumulus clouds overhead and in the blue distances brilliant golden hills There were groves of white spruce and lovely sane beaches. A remarkable countryside.
This is the part of the route where Tyrrell [Dr. J. B. Tyrrell, who in 1893 led the first and only other expedition across the Barren Grounds.—Ed.] had constant rain and cold, also patches of old snow everywhere. But for us it has been very pleasant—this despite the fact that we are more than a week behind Tyrrell's schedule. Not a fly for weeks and cool at night.
Today we shot a couple of heavy but short rapids, only the second of which I looked over. Not very smart of me. I probably should be more careful.
George [Grinnell], who had been feeling poorly after trying a yellow mushroom, went back to his tent after supper. He found a big white wolf right in camp. I went up on a hill and saw three more—two adults and a gray pup. I watched them lie down on the next ridge, curling up to sleep, though two of them first put their noses in the air and howled.
Waves on Dubawnt Lake running three feet. We had to stop at 10 after only four miles. I went to sleep at 2 p.m., while the wind rocked and snapped the tent, then woke at 5. For some curious reason, I busied myself figuring out how much cash we had left to get us home from Baker Lake. Not too much.
Wind shifted to north after supper. May move tomorrow—at least I hope so. Only about 20 days' food left. Lean caribou is temporarily filling, but does not stay with you. We get five meals out of the caribou-four quarters and back meat, plus heart, tongue and liver. Neck and spareribs for lunch meat. Unfortunately, we do not have enough wood to make soup. No more onions, dried vegetables.