In 1929 the disappearance of 2 planes carrying 8 men, led to one of the largest aerial searches in Canadian history. Known as "the ill-fated MacAlpine Expedition", it is one of Canada's greatest stories, demonstrating the bravery of both those who had to survive on land, and those who searched desperately to rescue them.
The expedition's original plan was to take three weeks to fly over the Northwest Territories. Their first plane ran into trouble before they were able to take off, forcing them to delay their flight until they could get another plane. However, this delay caused the group to run into bad weather.
On one leg of the trip, they were headed to Bathurst Inlet, intending to arrive there September 12, and to return to the south again by the 20th. Instead, they found themselves marooned due to aircraft troubles more than 100 miles within the Arctic Circle, without any way of communicating their distress to the outside world. Luckily, they had landed right beside an Inuit winter hunting camp. Since the camp was completely isolated from the nearest white settlements by water, they were stranded until there was enough ice for them to walk across.
Undaunted, they began to work, survival the only idea in their minds. They built themselves a house of stone, mud and moss, 4 feet high, using their only tent as the roof. The team resorted to trading the items not needed for survival with the Inuit, managing to get a stove and some dried fish. They were able, by rationing their ammunition, to increase their food supply by hunting ptarmigan and ground squirrels. They kept their packaged supplies for special occasions and emergencies.
It wasn't until October 21st that the group was able to move out of their camp. They managed to travel downland awhile, and then started to cross the ice towards the Hudson Bay Company's post on Victoria Island. They were just beginning to get optimistic when disaster struck again, in the form of open water between them and the post. This delay caused even more problems, as the group had to wait for six days until their Inuit guides could go get supplies. Nearing starvation, they fought over whether to go on or to wait for the return of their guides. Fortunately, the guides soon returned, dispelling the tension with fresh fish, tobacco, flour, and sugar. With augmented supplies, the group was able to survive picking their way across the treacherous ice floes.
November 3rd, they made one last dash across the ice and finally reached the post, where they were given the best care that was available. Although some members of the party had severe frostbite, their overall health was good. The operator of the post used his obsolete radio equipment to call off the aerial search rescue parties and relay to the world that the missing party was alive and well.
Source: The Stuart Graham Papers
Wed, Jan 11 2012 3:07 PM
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