Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition to the Mouth of the Great Fish River, and Along the Shores of the Arctic Ocean, in the Years 1833, 1834, and 1835.


From ABEBooks: George Back's expedition charted over 1200 miles of new territory and made important observations of Magnetic North and the Aurora Borealis, all while working under appalling conditions. The original purpose of the trek was to determine the fate of the second Ross expedition, which had set out in 1829 and was feared lost in the Arctic Ocean, and incidentally to make scientific observations and survey an unknown section of arctic coast. Back, a veteran of the Franklin expeditions, volunteered to lead an overland expedition north along the Great Fish River, which extends from the Rae Strait to the Great Slave Lake in northern Canada, west of Hudson's Bay. Notified that Ross had returned safely to England, Back was directed to proceed with an expedition of discovery. He found the river (now named for him) "which, after a violent and torturous course of five hundred and thirty geographical miles, running through an iron-ribbed country without a single tree on the whole line of its banks, expanding into fine large lakes with clear horizons, and broken into falls, cascades, and rapids to the number of no less than eighty-three in the whole, pours its waters into the Polar Sea" (p. 390). "As a literary composition this work may rank higher than any former volume produced by the northern expeditions" (Edinburgh Review, Sabin 2613). "Expedition via Montreal overland to north central Canada, traveled by canoe and portage down Slave River to Great Slave Lake, up Hoarfrost River, through Artillery Lake, Clinton Colden Lake, and Lake Aylmer, down the Great Fish River (now Back River) to the arctic coast, thence along Chantrey Inlet to Ogle Point. Descent of Back River was made in July and Aug. 1834. The narrative includes descriptions of the rivers and lakes traversed; ice conditions on the waterways, and in the seas in spring and summer of 1834; general landscapes, including land forms, rock types, and plant and animal life; and the difficulties of canoe transportation. Includes two Yellowknife Indian tales, and account of founding of Fort Reliance and of starving conditions; notes on physical characteristics and facial tattooing of Netsilik Eskimos. And discussion of Hearne's journey" (Arctic Bibliography, 851). p. 171-72: It has been my endeavor to foster this feeling of contentment by general kindness, by a regular observance of the Sabbath (the service being read in English and French,) and by the institution of evening schools for their improvement.