National Geographic : 1929 Nov
GENTLEMEN ADVENTURERS OF THE AIR Many Regions of Canada's Vast Wilderness, Long Hidden Even from Fur Trappers, Are Now Revealed by Exploring Airmen BY J. A. WILSON AUTHOR OF "CANADA FROM THE AIR," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Illustrated with Photographsfrom the Royal CanadianAir Force IN A Golden Age of centuries agone it was the Sea Hawk, daring, cutlass rattling skipper of galleon or caravel, who careened over stormy, unknown seas to find strange lands of treasure and a life unlike any that Europe knew. To-day, wiping out distance with wings, bold skippers of the sky spy out the last raw, empty regions of the world, as air men are doing now in northern Canada. Here, breaking the silence of centuries, their planes drone and growl from Labra dor to the Yukon, exploring a wilderness kingdom almost as large as the whole United States. Just as daring their air cruises are as any sea voyage of old, when a golden palace of the Incas or fabled Seven Cities of Cibola was the goal. Just as interest ing, too, and full of exciting surprises, and far more profitable; for, in place of men in coats of mail, armed with cross bow or primitive arquebus, they carry engineers and geologists armed with scien tific instruments, miners with picks, and cooks with pots and pans-and plenty of food, tents, tools, and camp supplies for the economic conquest of this new Eldorado. Since the World War, airplanes have perhaps done more to open up and reveal the undeveloped wealth of northern Can ada than men on foot, in canoes, or on dog sleds had done in the previous three centuries. By yet another comparison, the airplane now does for this wilderness of the far north what pony-express riders and ox-team freighters did for the golden West of the United States before railways crossed the Plains. In one year a certain Canadian air line carried 122,000 pounds of mail, 1,200,000 pounds of freight, and about Io,ooo passengers ! Prosaic? Merely a truck driver's life after all, hauling freight and passengers over clouds instead of up and down hills? Not in that vast, untouched ex panse, where man now makes his last great struggle on this continent to wrest fortune from a virgin mineral' region! Hurtling over herds of staring caribou; startling the placid moose; now and then glimpsing even the savage grizzly roam ing along the ridges, Canadian airmen may look down on hills and valleys where no man's foot, not even an Indian's, has ever been planted,-flying above a Gar den of Eden, as it were, although a rather cold garden at times, before man was made and set in it. LITTLE KNOWN OF GREAT NORTHERN EMPIRE For northern Canada, despite its prox imity to civilization, remained almost a sealed book till airmen explored it. The Cabots came, of course, 400 years ago; then Frobisher, exploring its coasts; Davis, and Henry Hudson. Then came that great group of gentlemen traders magnificent, enduring monument to the continuity of British commerce-the Hud son's Bay Company. Long before air planes, Canada's general outline was known and her main waterways were ex plored and used. They were the familiar routes of fur traders and trappers, whose industry is still of great importance. But the vast interior itself, that still almost trackless region which stretches from the northernmost settlements poleward, had, till a very few years ago, been seen by no white men at all. But now industrial Canada faces north. She seeks to roll back her wilderness frontier and double her productive area.