NEEDLE TO THE NORTH
Arthur C. Twomey.
Volume 11 Number 2.
Northrope Frye once termed the history of Canada as a journey without arrival. Arthur Twomey's account of the 1938 expedition to the Seals Lake region of Quebec (north of Fort George) is an exception to that rule. In simplest terms, Twomey writes of the successful quest for a previously unrecorded freshwater seal called a Kasagea by the natives. The journey, however, was no simple charter excursion.
"Weather permitting," the favourite phrase of one character, could serve as an appropriate subtitle for the book. Twenty-one Indians caught in the Seals Lakes in a "hard drifter" died there of starvation in 1930. Two of the survivors accompanied Twomey as guides. The carefully planned trip was fraught with problems, both human and climatic. The initial guide they had contracted to take them would not go; the next expert guide did not show up, but as Twomey said, "One learns that at Great Whale River there are few surprises." Twomey and his crew wait over a month at Great Whale River for the storms to die down so that they can proceed.
As noted in the excellent introduction, the book has very little to do with biology, and concentrates on humans surviving in a formidable climate, and the cultural clashes of whites, Inuks, and Indians. Two of the more charming anecdotes in the book are the story of Robert Flaherty's piano and the attempt to explain the concept of war to uncomprehending Indians. Considering the fact that the way of life depicted in the book has vanished, the book is an important historical document as well as a good literary read. This book, along with Richard Harrington's The Inuit: Life As It Was (Hurtig, 1981), should be in all high school libraries. A final irony that North-rope Frye would appreciate is that the expedition was financed by Americans, and the seal renamed after an American. Strongly recommended.
David Chadwick, Norway House H. S., Norway House, MB.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers
Young Canada Works