AUGUST 21. The
morning brought the entire summer fish camp to the bank of the river for a
sight these Eskimos had never seen before. Four white men in two brightly
colored canoes, a full foot narrower than their freight canoes, shot down the
edge of Franklin Falls and followed the low, brown hills and distant purple
ridges toward the sea.
AUGUST 22. At
noon we overturned our canoes for the last time on the beach of a small point
surrounded by tidewater. Our descent of Captain Back's Great Fish River was
From our final
camp we could gaze out at the vast reach of Chantrey Inlet that Back had mapped
in 1834, at the waters that had yielded to Anderson little sign of Franklin's
tragic search for the Northwest Passage. (It is known today that in 1848 the
starving and scurvy-ridden members of the Franklin expedition struggled from
their icebound ships to the bottom of Chantrey Inlet, 90 miles beyond the sand
dunes on our horizon. Here, in a spot known as Starvation Cove, their futile
effort to reach the Back River and the great caribou herds of the barrens met
AUGUST 26. It was
chilly this evening as we flipped our last batch of pancakes. The sunset was a
dull orange bordered by patches of wintry gray and wisps of white. A thin mist
settled over the sand flats and a small white cloud hovered beneath the dark
outline of the ridge on the far shore. The summer is over. The geese have
headed south, the Eskimos have their heavy tents up and the children have flown
out to school. It is time to leave the arctic to the Eskimos.
AUGUST 27. Chuck
landed this afternoon, a day early. He shook our hands, passed out smokes to
the Eskimos and told us to get moving. It was 640 air miles to Yellowknife, and
if he got in after dark the Mounties would be on his tail.
For six hours,
from the warmth of the plane, I again peered down at the vast northern desert
and the lakes and rapids of the river that stretched silently across it.
Already I had begun to miss the bite of the wind in my face and the fury of the