Brent Sass leaving Two Rivers on Monday morning; Photo credit: Yukon Quest
Brent Sass won the 36th running of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race at 12:40 Monday afternoon. Sass finished with a full team of 14 dogs. It was the second Yukon Quest win for the Alaskan from Eureka.
Sass travels down the Chena River to the finish line; Photo credit: Robin Wood/FDNM
Yukoner Hans Gatt, coming in 90 minutes later, took second place. Alaska’s Allen Moore came in third. It should be noted that all of the top three mushers have previously won the Quest.
The Yukon Quest travels the historic Klondike gold rush mail and supply route between Whitehorse, Dawson City and Fairbanks. The 2019 race started on February 2nd, with 30 teams. Three teams have dropped out.
The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race starts on Saturday morning from Whitehorse, YT. Thirty mushers and their teams will head down the 1000 mile trail towards the finish line in Fairbanks.
Yukon Quest elevation map
There is one section of trail that does not have enough snow for safe travel. Mushers will have to truck around the section between Braeburn and Carmacks. They will then restart 12 hours after their arrival in Carmacks. It is only the second time in the Quest’s history, that teams had to truck around a section due to lack of snow.
Prompted by the post on here about the sinking of the Princess Sophia, I had to read Walter Harper’s biography by Mary Ehrlander. It turned out to be a well written, and fascinating read.
Walter Harper was the youngest child of the famed Irish gold prospector Arthur Harper and Athabascan Jenny Albert. He was born in Nuchelawoya, which is now the village of Tanana, in December of 1892. Walter did not know his father, as his parents separated after his birth, and Jenny raised him in the traditional Athabascan ways.
At 16, Walter met the Episcopal archdeacon, Hudson Stuck. Stuck was immediately impressed by Walter, and he soon became the archdeacon’s trail assistant. It was a role that Harper flourished in. Already an accomplished hunter and fisherman, Harper quickly mastered the river boat and dog team, as Walter traveled with Stuck throughout the Yukon River basin.
Walter Harper with a pet fox kit
It didn’t take long for Harper to become vital to Stuck’s operation. In 1913, Stuck and Harry Karstens decided to attempt to climb Denali, North America’s highest peak. There was never any question that the 21 year old Harper would be a member of the expedition. Missionary Robert Tatum also joined the group. On June 7 of that year, Walter Harper became the first known person to step on the summit of Denali. By all accounts, Harper was the glue that held the expedition together, allowing it to succeed.
Walter Harper led an incredible life, in many ways he experienced the very best that Alaska had to offer at that time. Hudson Stuck was a prolific writer, and Harper kept his own journals of his experiences, although only Walter’s journal of the Denali summit has survived. Ehrlander is a great storyteller, and does a wonderful job of recreating Harper & Stuck’s adventures, as well as exploring what had developed into a father/son relationship.
Harper packed a lot of life into his short time on earth. Fresh off of his marriage at the age of 25, Harper and his new bride, Frances Wells, left for a camping trip, spending their wedding night in a tent along the Porcupine River. They did a hunting-honeymoon, for food to stock the Fort Yukon mission & hospital for the coming winter. Having such a good time in each other’s company, they stayed longer than planned, missing a steamer to Whitehorse, for their trip Outside. Eventually, the couple did leave Fort Yukon on the steamer Alaska for Whitehorse. From Whitehorse, they took the White Pass & Yukon Railway to Skagway, where they booked passage on the Princess Sophia’s last trip south for the season. The Princess Sophia would strike Vanderbilt Reef, and rough seas would eventually sink the ship. All lives on board were lost.
Walter Harper and Frances Wells were buried in Juneau.
“Here Lie the Bodies of Walter Harper and Frances Wells, His Wife, Drowned on the Princess Sophia, 25th October 1918. May Light Perpetually Shine on Them. They Were Lovely and Pleasant in Their Lives, And in Death They Were Not Divided
Harper Glacier on Denali is named after both Walter and his father, Arthur. The ranger station in Talkeetna is also named after Walter Harper. I highly recommend Walter Harper: Alaska Native Son to anyone interested in this unique time and place in history. Nothing is quite like early 20th Century Alaska, and Walter Harper makes an extraordinary subject. The sky is the limit as to what this Alaskan could have accomplished if he had lived a longer life. Which is simply amazing in itself, considering what he did accomplish in such a short time span.
In the fall of 1956, Bristol Foster was itching to get out and explore the world. He had recently finished his masters degree in biology at the University of Toronto. Foster immediately thought of his friend, Robert Bateman as an ideal travel companion. The two men mapped out a trip that involved crossing four continents. They only needed a vehicle.
Foster and Bateman picking up the Grizzly Torque in England
“… it had to be a Land Rover,” says Bristol Foster. So they ordered a 1957 Series I with an ambulance body. Foster went to Solihull to pick up the Rover, and get trained on their off road course. Bateman arrived later and they took the Series I on a shake down trip through Scotland.
Camping out of the Torque
Foster & Bateman set off for Africa with the newly christened Grizzly Torque. They had agreed to send regular articles and illustrations documenting their trip back to the Toronto Telegram, where they became known as The Rover Boys.
The Rover Boys had a very loose schedule. There was a general direction they meant the trip to follow, but the route taken from Point A to Point B was by no means a straight line. They were free to do as they wished, at a time when this type of travel was ideal. Today, it would be virtually impossible to make the same trek. Not only due to safety concerns, but the difficulty of getting visas throughout the area.
In the Belgian Congo, the little four cylinder engine whined from the excessive load. Some thirty members of the Mbuti tribe were crammed into and onto the Land Rover along with the two Canadians up front. They bounced along a forest track, with the tribe members laughing and singing traditional hunting songs. Foster and Bateman were in Africa, on an adventure of a lifetime. Robert Bateman, thinking back on that time said, “One of the greatest senses of freedom I think we’ve ever had.”
Bateman, now a renown Canadian artist and naturalist, painted small murals along the body of the Grizzly Torque, documenting the places they traveled through. The artwork is stunning, and no doubt caused some excitement with the people they met along the way.
Elephant meets Grizzly
The trip was not without unexpected “adventures”. The Grizzly Torque was flipped over on its side in India, after swerving to avoid a bicyclist. A window was lost in the crash, and was replaced with plexiglass.
In total, The Rover Boys traveled over 60,000 kms, through 19 countries, on 4 continents over 14 months with their Grizzly Torque. The trip ended in Australia with the Land Rover being shipped back to Vancouver after traveling throughout the Australian Outback. From there, the Grizzly Torque continued to be well traveled.
Foster used it on what was then known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, as he pursued his doctorate. It was eventually sold to a student studying peccaries in Texas. The student was raising a juvenile eagle at the time, and the raptor learned to perch up front between the seats. As an adult, the eagle rode happily along, all across the state of Texas, on various expeditions. The student returned to British Columbia with the Land Rover, where he sold the Grizzly Torque to a rancher. Things become murky after that. At some point, the well traveled Land Rover gets sand blasted down to bare metal, painted light blue, losing the wonderful murals, and its identity. The old Rover then spends decades out of the public view.
A blue Torque (?)
Stuart Longair now enters the story. A rancher has four old Land Rovers out in a field, and he wants them gone. Longair, has been a Land Rover cult member from an early age, since riding along with his father in a Series I as a young boy. He buys all four Rovers, sight unseen. The now, faded blue Grizzly Torque, spends the next decade out in another field. Then Longair comes across an old picture of Foster & Bateman with the Grizzly Torque, and he starts to wonder about the neglected Rover he purchased over a decade ago. Longair gets a hold of Bristol Foster, and convinces him to come out and look over the blue Rover. Foster immediately recognized the Grizzly Torque under all of the neglect, but to make sure he went over to the driver’s side door, and found that it was still fitted with the replacement plexiglass from India.
The Grizzly Torque restored
Now that Longair knew that he had a piece of not only Land Rover history, but Canadian history too, he went about restoring the Grizzly Torque. Working off of old photos, Robert Bateman himself, repainted the Rover’s murals along the flat sides.
The Rover Boys reunite with a restored Grizzly Torque
The restored Grizzly Torque and its repainted murals
The eagle in the Grizzly Torque, somewhere in Texas
Photos credit: Bristol Foster & Robert Bateman; Video credit: Land Rover
When we were in Quebec, The Curator, The Brazilian and I visited the Gilles-Villeneuve Museum, which is just north of Montreal.
A real-size bronze statue of Gilles Villeneuve outside the museum
The museum opened in 1988 in an old post office building. By 1995, the museum had outgrown the original building, and moved to its current location. The museum receives, on average, 20,000 visitors a year.
Villeneuve began his racing career on snowmobiles in Quebec. It was his main source of income as a professional driver starting out in his late teens. In 1974, Villeneuve won the World Championship Snowmobile Derby, which only heightened his popularity on the ice.
In 1977, McClaren offered Villeneuve a ride in five Formula One races, making his debut at the British Grand Prix. He finished ninth in that race.
Enzo & Gilles
Dropped by McClaren, Villeneuve signed on to race for Ferrari for the final two races of 1977 and the 1978 season, picking up his first win at the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix. In 1979, Villeneuve finished 2nd in the Formula One World Championship.
In total, Villeneuve won six Formula One races, with his last win coming at the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix.
Gilles Villeneuve died on 8 May 1982. During his final qualifying session at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, Villeneuve came over a rise at 140mph, and hit the back of a slower moving car driven by Jochen Maas. Villeneuve’s Ferrari went airborne for over 100 meters before nosediving into the asphalt and disintegrating as it somersaulted. Villeneuve was 32.
The museum is full of Gilles Villeneuve memorabilia, including his personal Ford 4WD pickup. It’s well worth a stop if you’re in the Montreal area.
Wapusk National Park is a 11,475 square kilometer park located on the western coast of Hudson Bay. The University of Saskatchewan has been studying polar bears within the park since 2011. Wapusk sits at the transition of boreal forest and Arctic tundra. The park contains three different, but equally dynamic ecosystems: forest, tundra and ocean. Wapusk is one of the largest polar bear denning areas in the world, with a population of over 1000 polar bears venturing in and out of the park. During a five year period, remote cameras were able to document the visits of 366 polar bears within the park.
Since the southern portion of the park contains the northern edge of a boreal forest, it was no surprise to find images of black bears on the remote cameras. Researchers were surprised to find that the number of black bear visits were almost as high as the polar bears.
For the first time, researchers were able to capture visits from all three of North America’s bear species within the park. It wasn’t just a few grizzly bears that had moved into the area, but many, and at least one is believed to be denning within the park.
Barren ground grizzly bears have been expanding their range in the Arctic in recent years. The question now for park managers is what, if anything, should they do about it. Prevailing thought claims that the grizzly is a threat to polar bears. Is that based on research, or opinion? Have the two bear populations benefitted each other in the past, or clashed?
With the continued decrease of sea ice, and the grizzly roaming into new territory for food and habitat, this interaction of the two species will only increase.
It’s an interesting study by the University of Saskatchewan, and they ask some intriguing questions.
Photo credit: University of Saskatchewan; Research by Douglas Clark, University of Saskatchewan
Located in Algonquin Provincial Park is the Algonquin Logging Museum. There is a visitor center with a bookstore and theater, but the exhibits are all outside along a 1.3 km loop trail. It’s a beautiful walk through the forest, but keep in mind the ground is uneven, so if you need the help of a cane, do not be too stubborn to bring it along.
During the 1800’s there were periods when over half of Canada’s able-bodied men, worked in winter logging camps. The earliest style of camp was the “camboose shanty”, a log structure with a rough wood floor and central fireplace. A camboose usually housed 52 men, had one entrance, and no windows.
I loved the simple design of the camboose roof. Cedar logs formed into “scoops”, which provided a strong and waterproof roof.
Door to the horse stable
The horse stable was much like the housing for the men, just without bunks and fireplace. I took the picture, because I liked the hinges.
Horse-powered log lift
Prior to the arrival of logging trucks in the 1940’s, horse power was the means of log transport. Trees would be skidded to a loading area, then loaded by these lifts onto horse-drawn sleighs. The sleighs would then take the logs down to rivers and streams, and then floated out on the swollen rivers with the spring runoff.
Horse drawn V-snowplow
Due to the massive weight of a log-loaded sleigh, the haul roads had to be constantly maintained.
A water tanker
Loads could be as much as 20 tons. To keep the haul roads as slick as possible, crews would go out at night in their water tankers and spread water on the sleigh-runner tracks, which would freeze immediately. This particular tanker held 100 barrels of water.
The William M. “Alligator”
In 1889, hauling log flotillas across lakes suddenly became a lot easier. John Ceburn West had invented the “alligator”, a steam powered tug & winch paddlewheeler. The alligator ran on a 20 hp engine, which powered a paddlewheel on either side of the tug. The engine could be disengaged from the paddlewheels, to power the winch and log boom. The winch held 1.6 kms of steel cable. An alligator, powered by 3/4 of a cord of wood, could warp booms of 60,000 logs for ten hours. The alligator could also winch itself overland from lake to lake. The hull had two steel-plated runners, and progress overland was 1-1/2 kms per day.
The William M. was built in 1905, and is one of only three alligators that survive today in a reasonably preserved state. It steamed around the lakes of the Park’s north side until 1946, when it hauled itself out of the water for the last time. It was put on display in 1960.
To float logs over obstacles or low water, a combination dam and log chute was built. This location saw the log chute in use in the 1920-30’s when logs were floated down the creek here.
Looking down the chute, per The Curator’s request
This chute is only 18 meters (60 feet), which would have been shorter than most of the era. Many were 100 meters long, and one (not in Algonquin) was known to be 16 kms (10 miles) long.
Inside the blacksmith shop
The blacksmith shop was from the 1940’s. The hand-powered, wall-mounted, drill press is purely for my enjoyment.
A “saddleback” locomotive
As late as 1959, log drives were made on some Algonquin rivers, but logs had been moving by rail long before that. The Ottawa, Arnprior, and Parry Sound Railway was completed in 1896 by timber barron J.R. Booth. At their peak, six different railroads operated in Algonquin Park. This locomotive was built in 1911 in Montreal. It’s a “saddleback”, due to its water tank mounted over its boiler. It originally ran on wood, but was later converted to coal.
International logging truck
The first trucks came into Algonquin in the 1930’s, and were used initially to pull sleighs. By the 1940’s the trucks had become powerful enough to haul the logs themselves. Horses were still used in the bush to skid the logs out, but even that ended by the 1950’s, with the introduction of the first mechanical skidders.