National Geographic : 1931 Aug
VOL. LX, No. 2 WASHINGTON AUGUST, 1931 GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZl H COPYRIGHT, 1931, BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSOCIETY, WASHINGTON, D. C. INTERNATIONALCOPYRIGHT SECURED ON MACKENZIE'S TRAIL TO THE POLAR SEA BY AMOS BURG AUTHOR OF "TO-DAY ON 'THE YUKON TRAIL OF 1898'," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE With Illustrationsfrom Photographsby the Author LONG the fifty-sixth parallel of lati tude in Canada, from the Rocky Mountains to Labrador, stretches the last American frontier. North of this slowly advancing border extends a vast, unexploited wilderness, one-third as large as the United States, in which there is neither highway nor railroad. Flowing northward through this region into the Arctic Ocean is the great Mackenzie River system, with its far-reaching lakes and rivers distributed over a vast watershed. Ranking second in size to the Mississippi River system in North America, this is the Arctic highway (see map, page 132). During eight months of the year the waters of the Mackenzie River system are blocked by ice. In the few remaining months of open water the year's supplies for the inhabitants of the region must be transported to the distant posts scattered along the lakes and rivers to the Arctic Ocean. A few steamboats handle the bulk of the traffic. Away from the traveled routes, the airplane overshadows the an cient supremacy of the canoe.* UP NORTH SOMEWHERE A MAP ENTICES Great activity prevailed at the end of steel on the Clearwater River, in northern Alberta, as Dr. George Rebec and I stowed three months' supplies of hard-tack and bacon into our canoe for our I,800-mile * See "To-day on 'The Yukon Trail of 1898'," by Amos Burg, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for July, 1930. voyage to the Arctic Ocean. Northbound, Mounted Police, prospectors, traders, trap pers, missionaries, and tourists swarmed the river front at Waterways, all haunted by the need for haste. While Doctor Rebec protestingly fur nished a luncheon for the mosquitoes, I glanced at that colorful enchantress, a mod ern map. A month before it had encour agingly invited us to have a look at the Arctic Ocean. Not that I wanted to see the ocean. It was the route leading there that interested me. In the next three months we were to traverse wind-swept lakes, descend the treacherous rapids of the Slave, cut through the Arctic Circle, cross the snowy passes of the northern Rockies, and go through the territories of seven semicivilized In dian nations still dependent for existence upon the uncertain harvest of the fisheries and the chase. It was late afternoon on June 20 when we swung down the limpid Clearwater to the juncture with the sediment-laden Atha baska, whose waters form America's most southerly feeder of the Arctic Ocean. Fed by the frozen beds of the Columbia Ice Field,* the Athabaska here appeared to Doctor Rebec comparable to the St. Law rence, but it proved shallow. Everywhere our paddle jabbed sand. * See "The Mother of Rivers: An Account of a Photographic Expedition to the Great Colum bia Ice Field of the Canadian Rockies," by Lewis R. Freeman, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAG AZINE for April, 1925.