National Geographic : 1936 Jun
CANADA'S AWAKENING NORTH He thus covered on foot, for the first time, an immense triangle, from Hudson Bay to the Coppermine, from the Copper mine to the Slave River, and from the Slave River back to Hudson Bay. Having crossed the last loop of the Slave, we flew out over the big inland sea, Great Slave Lake, not far from Outpost Island where gold deposits are being developed. We were flying fairly high, and the sur face of the lake far below, disturbed by a slight breeze, looked like frosted silver. None of the northern lakes, except Great Bear, impresses me so much by its magni tude. We picked up a point on the north shore, turned up the long North Arm, and finally came down beside a rocky little peninsula on which stood Rae, of the Hud son's Bay Company. It was about as barren a place as you could find anywhere: a few scattered trees, the rest smooth rock. However, there was shelter and food here, and we were to spend the night at the fort. In the morning we were off north again, to Great Bear Lake. The country was literally filled with lakes, of all sizes and shapes, in every direction, each in its rocky basin. They have a color and attrac tiveness lacking in lakes and waterways farther south (page 763). After a time we came in sight of Camsell River, near Hottah Lake, and then dropped down to leave a box of beer at a mining camp. The mechanic got the box out of the cabin safely, but, as he let it down gently on one of the floats, he overbalanced and went backwards into the water. That might be a mere joke farther south, but the humor evaporates when you plunge into water that never gets much more than a degree above freezing. GREAT BEAR LAKE IS BIGGER THAN MASSACHUSETTS Up we went again, sailed over a hill top, and looked down evergreen slopes to the blue waters of Great Bear. Its coasts, deeply indented, stretched away north and west, and in between lay a limitless expanse of water, far out to the remote horizon. Great Bear Lake has an area of nearly 12,000 square miles. If it were similarly shaped, Massachusetts could be dropped into the middle of it and still leave plenty of water on every side. At the west end of Keith Arm are the ruins of Fort Franklin, where Sir John Franklin wintered, with Back and Rich ardson, in 1825. Great Bear Lake is now waking up from its long sleep. The change came in 1929, when the first plane rudely shattered the silence that had brooded over the lake since prehistoric times. SOURCES OF PRECIOUS RADIUM From the plane a miner, Gilbert LaBine, examined closely the rocky shore of Mc Tavish Arm, looking for indications of sil ver. He and another prospector were landed and trudged patiently up and down the hills. Finally LaBine found not only silver but something much more precious, the pitchblende from which radium is ex tracted (page 757). A short distance from the point where LaBine's mine, the Eldorado, is situated, a narrow entrance leads to a sheltered little bay. On its shores a town has been grow ing up, Cameron Bay. It is still a small place, but very much alive, being the center of an important mining district. There is a small mill, and one of the first things that struck me when we landed was the size of the timber that was being cut from the surrounding hillsides, sawn into boards, and used to build the town. One hardly expected to find anything growing on Great Bear Lake, remembering that the Arctic Circle cuts across it. As a matter of fact, the tree line runs diago nally from the southernmost part of Hudson Bay to Great Bear Lake. East of the lake are the Northern Plains, and you will find very few trees of any description between the lake and the shores of Hudson Bay. As Cameron Bay and its circle of min ing camps grow, the time is bound to ar rive when it will no longer be possible to rely on wood. What then? Well, the oil wells at Norman, near the mouth of Great Bear River, are already providing gasoline for mine and boat engines on Great Bear Lake, and may later help to cook food and heat houses at Cameron Bay. Also, a coal seam has been burning on the banks of the lower Mackenzie since it was first reported by Alexander Mackenzie in 1789, and there is a perfectly good water way between the Mackenzie and Great Bear Lake. There appears to be silver all around the east and southeast coasts of Great Bear Lake; and there are copper deposits on Hunter Bay.