On September 24, 1929, twelve days after the MacAlpine expedition was to have arrived at Bathurst Inlet, a message was received from the northern outpost. It contained the first notice that MacAlpine and his group had disappeared. Exactly what had occurred was unknown, but it was obvious something was very wrong.
People from all over responded quickly to the situation. In fact, more than 200 aeroplanes were volunteered for the search. Due to a lack of available supplies, however, most of the planes couldn't be used. Regardless, it turned out to be one of the largest aerial searches in Canada up until that time. Pilots and engineers from all parts of the country converged on the small city of The Pas, Manitoba, in hopes of locating the lost expedition.
The volunteers scoured every inch of the 300,000 square miles where the MacAlpine party could have potentially landed. Unfortunately, the weather conditions were not good for bush flying. The water itself had ice in it, so the floats were in danger, but the ice was too thin to use skis. As a result, the planes had a very difficult time landing on the lakes. In fact, the only reason the rescuers didn't wait for the freeze-up was because it would be even more difficult for the downed party to survive during that time.
The searchers themselves often experienced difficulties. Some were downed while searching for the MacAlpine party, almost losing their own lives. In their diaries they tell of being lost and starving until one of the other rescue parties discovered them. Even their accommodations in The Pas were simple igloos that local Inuit had been contracted to create.
The search continued for 6 weeks, with absolutely no luck. It is believed that without the Inuits' help, the MacAlpine party would never have been found. All totalled, the search cost approximately $400,000 dollars, an impressive amount for 1929. This amount was refunded by MacAlpine and his partners, their way of thanking those who had risked much in their attempt to save them.
Source: The Stuart Graham Papers
Wed, Jan 11 2012 3:12 PM
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