Canada's History

Marking the Far North


In April 1952, I walked sixteen kilometres from the Joint Arctic Weather Stations at Alert, in what is now Nunavut, to look for a cache supposedly left at Cape Sheridan by the 1875– 76 British Arctic Expedition led by George Strong Nares. I never found it, but I did stumble upon Niels Christian Petersen’s gravestone, which was made of sheet copper backed by heavy planking and beautifull­y inscribed with a punch or chisel. The rock slab covering the grave must weigh two tonnes. I’m neither religious nor superstiti­ous, but, standing in front of the grave in that lonely snow-swept setting, I felt the hair rise on my neck.

Petersen died while serving as a member of the Nares expedition, which aimed at reaching the North Pole but was abandoned earlier than intended due to scurvy and the lack of suitable clothing and equipment. The crew neverthele­ss mapped many kilometres of the Ellesmere Island and Greenland coasts and reached as far north as 83° 20' N.

Submitted by Lee Morrison of Calgary, who worked as a radiosonde operator at the Joint Arctic Weather Stations.

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