Remembering Scotty Gall, Pioneer Arctic Mariner, Trader and Explorer

by George Duddy 2013

Scotty Gall

Scotty Gall in his garden – a screenshot taken from the film Coppermine 1993. (Photo copyright 1992 National Film Board of Canada (with permission to the author))

In February 2013 a plaque commemorating Ernest James ‘Scotty’ Gall was placed on the wall of the causeway of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. It is in the Explorers Walk section section of Victoria’s unique maritime plaques project honouring local ships and navigators. The plaque was placed by Iain Cameron, Scotty’s great–nephew on behalf of the family and by George Duddy on behalf of Scotty’s friends.

Gall Plaque

Scotty Gall Commemorative Plaque (Photo courtesy Achinback Foundry.)

The plaques are owned by and are under the administrative control of the Victoria Harbour Commission. A descriptive paragraph is required to be submitted for the approval of each plaque. For this plaque the sponsors stated:

A plaque is proposed to honour and educate passers–by in Victoria’s Inner Harbour concerning a long term area resident who made significant contributions to Canada’s arctic navigation and settlement and northern development: Almost forgotten, the mortal remains of Ernest James ‘Scotty’ Gall lay beneath the turf on a pleasant slope at an unmarked location in the Royal Oak Burial Park. For thirty years after his retirement, Victoria was home to this remarkable but self-effacing arctic navigator, traveller, survivor, trader, manager and elected North West Territory councillor. In 1996 it became his final "harbour". During retirement many noteworthy writers, film makers, relatives of associates, archivists and historians came to his home to learn of his adventures, contacts with famous arctic personalities and to share his first hand knowledge of the fur trade, navigation and establishment of settlements in the Western Arctic. The most well known of these was author Peter C. Newman, who used material obtained from his interviews in his book "Merchant Princes". In his early career with the Hudson’s Bay Company, Scotty travelled many thousands of miles both by motor schooner and by dog sled. The motor schooner was the tool that allowed Canada’s last frontier to be settled and the long–sought Northwest Passage to be finally used for trade. He became a master in piloting these vessels through the shallow rock and ice infested waters through the school of ‘hard knocks’ and by listening to native advice. His most famous accomplishment was the first successful west to east navigation of the treacherous Bellot Strait between the Boothia Peninsula and Somerset Island in 1937 (five years before the St Roch). The meeting and the exchange of cargoes between his schooner, the Aklavik, and the Hudson Bay Company eastern supply ship, the RMS Nascopie, at the eastern end of the strait at Fort Ross was celebrated as the first commercial use of the Northwest Passage. Scotty continued on to Halifax with the Nascopie, being its first passenger from the Western Arctic, and thence to a planned furlough in Scotland. Sadly he travelled alone with his greatest triumph quashed. His beautiful and beloved wife Anna had died at the controls of Aklavik’s diesel engine while awaiting transfer of supplies at Cambridge Bay. He had met his wife Anna (nee Fagerstrom) at Nome Alaska in 1931 on another of his adventures after being evacuated from the Hudson's Bay Company supply ship SS Baychimo. The ship became trapped in the ice near Barrow, was abandoned and later became the famous ‘ghost ship’ of the Arctic.

An adventurous youth, probably a bit of a misfit, Scotty was unable to find satisfying employment in his native Scotland in 1923. He applied and was accepted as a fur trade apprentice with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Out of the 21 apprentices engaged in Scotland that year only he and a Donald Forbes Watt were sent to Western Canada. His first posting was to Canada’s western frontier at the old whaling settlement on Herschel Island. Herschel Island was an important destination at that time as most supplies for western arctic settlements arrived by ships rounding Alaska from Vancouver. It was the only safe harbour for many miles on the northern coast. The Western Arctic, unlike southern Canada was settled from West to East. Settlement at the time was occurring before air travel and two way radio communication had been established in the area.

He arrived at Herschel Island after assisting in the installation of an engine in the Company’s new 58 foot motor schooner the Aklavik at Fort Smith and helping with her navigation down the Mackenzie River system. The distance from Fort Smith was over 1,200 miles. He soon came into contact with many famous arctic characters of the time. The first was Pete Norberg who had come over the mountains to Fort Simpson from the Yukon to help pilot the Aklavik through the lower reaches of the Mackenzie. Norberg went east later that year to establish the first trading post on King William Island.

At Herschel Island Scotty met other personalities including the independent fur trader Charles Klinkenberg (later Klengenberg) and his sons and the Hudson's Bay Inspector Phillip Godsell. He also encountered and travelled with Knud Rasmussen, the famous Danish explorer and scientist, who Scotty reported had honed the art of high speed dog team travel and arctic anthropological research. Rasmussen used a retinue of paid assistants to set up camp sites and food caches and a native female interpreter companion to help gather information. Scotty’s eyes were further opened to the ‘wild west’ when he had to deal with a Company trader at an outpost near the Alaska border who was involved with home brewed liquor. After it was found that half the post’s trade goods could not be accounted for, it was determined that the missing goods along with the trader’s native interpreter had been bartered to the Alaskans.

Scotty’s early years in Arctic fur trade involved a lot of travel. In the short navigation season from July to October he was busy with motor schooners transporting supplies, trade goods, building materials and fuel to an expanding chain of fur trading settlements. He also helped setting up and constructing buildings. In the winter he travelled by dog sled with native companions visiting posts from the Alaskan border to King William Island, delivering mail and helping the post managers sort out their accounts and records. The Kitimeot Heritage Society’s website Angulalik - Kitimeot Fur Trader is an excellent source of information about the expansion of the Western Arctic fur trade. It has specific sections on the key players, one of which is Scotty Gall.

In the summer of 1924 the Western Arctic found itself in a desperate situation. The Hudson’s Bay Company’s supply ship Lady Kindersley was crushed in the ice and sank off Barrow, Alaska. Supplies, cash trading money, a radio transmitting and receiving set scheduled for installation at Herschel Island did not arrive. In consequence Scotty was sent by dog sled from Herschel Island across the mountains to Fairbanks, Alaska, where there was telegraphic service, banks, supply depots and a railroad connection to the south. His mission was to obtain emergency instructions, fur prices, radio receiver parts, replacement dogs and presumably cash. Their party on the outward journey included three Company employees who were escaping the Arctic by the Alaska Railroad and the Alaska Steamship Company’s service to Seattle. The return journey was made by Scotty and his companion Ambrose with the assistance of a Gwitchin guide whom they enlisted at Old Crow. Scotty’s winter travelling in 1924/25 including a subsequent trip to Bernard Harbour with a return to Kittigazuit, the wintering location of the Aklavik near the mouth of the Mackenzie River, totalled over 2,600 miles. A transcript of a diary kept by Gall of the trip from Herschel Island to Fairbanks Alaska plus a map showing the approximate route is found on Iain Cameron’s blog site. The original of Scotty’s copy of this diary was found recently by his niece, Patricia Gibson, in an English attic.

Although the trip from Herschel Island over the mountains in the depths of winter was not unprecedented, even for Company employees, it was a remarkable achievement. Northerners who particularly understand the challenges and hazards of such travel hold those who accomplish such journeys in high regard. This is illustrated in remarks made in a speech by Alaskan Congressional Delegate Frank Waskey in a tribute after dinner speech to Amundsen in 1906 as reported by the Nome Nugget.

. . . what appealed to Alaska in Amundsen was not, perhaps his clever and lucky feat in taking the Gjoa through the northwest passage, nor even his determination of the position of the north magnetic pole, great as these performances would be in the eyes of the outside world, but the long and successful mush, he had made from Herschell’s (sic) Island to Eagle alongside the Porcupine River.

Waskey was referring to a trip, similar to Gall’s, that Amundsen and a partially incapacitated whaler Captain William (Billie) Mogg made over the 9,000 foot Ogilvie Mountains from Herschel Island. The trip was made with the assistance of several Inuit men who accompanied them as far as Fort Yukon on the Yukon River. They set out on October 24, 1905 and arrived at Eagle, Alaska, 500 miles distant having endured up to -60F temperatures. At Eagle there was a telegraph station from which Amundsen announced his successful transit of the North West Passage to the world.

In 1927, Scotty Gall was shipwrecked, along with a young Scottish sailor Ian ‘Jock’ Christie and the Inuit assistants Ovilook and Oviolook’s wife Canyiyuk. He was trying to find a route to deliver supplies to King William Island when their small vessel was wrecked. An account of their resourceful survival, as related by Scotty to former District Manager Dudley Copland, is contained in an article Copland’s "The Wreck of the Emma Jane" was published in the summer 1970 issue of The Beaver magazine.

Jock Christie was not so fortunate in 1929 when as employee of the Canalaska Company he froze to death after falling into a creek in a spring blizzard in Bathurst Inlet. Shortly afterwards Scotty saved himself from a similar fate by applying a technique he had learned from his native companions. While trapping in the same area, he too broke through thin ice. He rolled in the snow letting his soaked clothes freeze and then quickly knocked the ice off of them.

Scotty finished his apprenticeship in the fall of 1928 and returned to Scotland for a holiday but not without another survival adventure. While travelling south, he was nearly drowned helping to lay out a winching cable for the Distributor to ascend the rapids in the Ramparts section of the Mackenzie River in the low water conditions that prevailed that year.

In 1929 he again sailed for Canada, this time arriving at Halifax in the S.S. Antonia on March 1st with a Canadian passport, to take employment with Northern Aerial Minerals Exploration Company of Toronto Ontario. This was a new firm which hoped to revolutionize mineral exploration by the use of aircraft. Scotty had dreams of a flying career and becoming a bush pilot. That summer he was sent back to the Arctic to prepare for the introduction of aircraft in the Coppermine area where a mineral staking boom was in progress. In addition to helping with servicing of the aircraft, he worked as field person assisting geological staff in claim staking and in winter transportation of personnel and supplies by dog team. Unfortunately his aviation dreams were dashed when he was discharged in the fall of 1930 after the stock market collapse and the onset of the Great Depression. He stayed in the area supporting himself by working at odd jobs and by trapping.

His fortunes were reversed in the Spring of 1931 when it was discovered that his old vessel the Aklavik had partially sunk at her wintering berth at Bernard Harbour. Richard Bonnycastle the Hudson’s Bay Company District Manager hired Scotty to recover the vessel. Scotty’s success with the venture not only salvaged the vessel, it salvaged his career with the Company and led to continued employment with it until his retirement in 1966.

When he was rehired an arrangement for the supply of a passage for Scotty from the Arctic to Vancouver on the Company’s supply ship the Baychimo was made. He wished to see the West Coast. The plan was that he would reside in Vancouver on retainer during the winter before rejoining the Aklavik the following summer. The voyage south proved to be another survival adventure for Scotty; surprisingly, it also resulted in his marriage. The vessel became trapped in the ice after rounding Cape Barrow and was eventually abandoned by her crew who moved to temporary quarters constructed ashore. Subsequently, with unobserved overnight ice movements, the ship disappeared. Afterwards she was seen from time to time, boarded on occasion, but never recovered. She became known as the ‘Ghost Ship of the Arctic’. Bonnycastle together with Scotty and several other passengers and Company officials were evacuated by air to Nome Alaska to take passage to Seattle on the Alaska Steamship Company’s steamer Victoria. While in Nome, Scotty was smitten by a beautiful young lady he met there, Anna Fagerstrom. It was fortuitous she was also travelling in the Victoria. Anna, born in the nearby Golovin Village, was the artistic and educated daughter of Charles Fagerstrom, a Swedish born miner and gas boat engineer, and his wife Susan Kowak. Scotty and Anna were married in Whatcom County in Washington State on January 6,1932.

Anna and Scotty in Boat

Scotty Gall and wife Anna Gall at Jenny Lind Island. (Photo from NWT Archives/ Jack Woods Family/N-1988-041: 0057)

In the spring of 1932, after working at odd jobs in Vancouver, Scotty returned to the Arctic with Anna to crew on the Aklavik. After repairs were completed under the supervision of a shipwright, he became her engineer, and later her master. He and Anna spent more than five happy years working and living in the Coronation Gulf area fur trading in the winters and running the Aklavik in the summer navigation season. During two winters of this period they lived aboard the vessel.

Winter Berth

Aklavik in winter berth in Bathurst Inlet. The Camp beside a schooner which is frozen in the ice]. In the Fall of 1936 the Galls, with apprentice Jack Wood, had attempted a late season delivery of supplies to Perry River Post but were turned back by ice conditions. They attempted to reach the Bathurst Inlet Post to warehouse the goods but could not reach it. (Photo from NWT Archives/ Jack Woods Family/N-1988-041: 0112 Winter quarters.)

The most significant navigational achievement of Scotty Gall’s career was the first successful navigation of the Bellot Strait in 1937. As the navigation involved the transportation of fur and trade goods between the Western and Eastern Arctic, it also constituted the first commercial use of the North West Passage – an unrealized dream of the Hudson's Bay Company for hundreds of years.

A first attempt at navigation of Bellot Strait was made by Franklin-seeker Captain Leopold McClintock in 1858. On September 6, 1858 after six starts of pushing his vessel the Fox westward, he managed to reach the western entrance; but ice blocked the way and it was impossible to break through.

An opportunity for the navigation of the strait by a Hudson’s Bay Company vessel arose before 1937 but it was not part of their plans at that time. In 1928 their Eastern Arctic vessel the Fort James made an exploratory voyage from St. John’s Newfoundland to the West Boothia Peninsula and King William Island area. The Fort James followed the Amundsen route through Peel Sound into and out of the area. The vessel wintered at Oscar Bay on the Boothia Peninsula during its first year in the area. In 1929 after trying to reach its objective at Cambridge Bay, she turned back and attempted to return to the East but was not able to find passage through blocking ice conditions that existed near Oscar Bay, her first wintering location. As a consequence, the vessel wintered at Gjoa Haven on King William Island during its second year. Both the Hudson’s Bay and rival Canalaska Companies maintained fur trading posts at Gjoa Haven supplied by vessels from the west. For the Hudson’s Bay Company, the arrival of the Fort James at Gjoa Haven meant that Company vessels had finally navigated the full length of the long sought North West Passage. Although the Fort James passed the western entrance of Bellot Strait on her entry in 1928 and on her leaving in 1930, it is clear from records made by her on-board radio operator Henry Lyall Smyth and senior fur trader Cecil E. Bradbury that she never entered or navigated through Bellot Strait. Further, she did not carry any fur trade returns from the Western Arctic to the East other than those that had been trapped by her crew when wintering.

District Manager Dudley Copland paid a visit to the Galls in the early spring of 1937 by dog sled when they were wintering on the Aklavik in Bathurst Inlet. The idea of a voyage through Bellot Strait was hatched between the Galls and Copland when he informed them of the pending establishment of Fort Ross near its eastern entrance. The plan sponsored by Copland and approved by Company management was to link up a trading voyage by the Aklavik, forwarding fur returns from King William Island from the West, to a rendezvous with the Company’s eastern supply vessel RMS Nascopie at Fort Ross. Nascopie was tasked to bring supplies and building materials for the establishment of the new post, which her crew would construct, as well as trade goods and supplies for Aklavik to take to the West. After five years in the Arctic, the couple looked forward to a furlough in Europe – even a trip to Paris. If the trip was successful, they would take passage on the Nascopie to Halifax for an Atlantic crossing while Patsy Klengenberg and his family would return west to Gjoa Haven with Aklavik bringing reserve trading outfits for the King William Island and Perry River Posts shipped from the East on the Nascopie from Montreal. Chief Inspector William ‘Paddy’ Gibson, who would arrive on the Nascopie, would travel with them taking over as post manager for the King William post from Lorenz Learmonth. In his book "Coplalook", Copland summed up the plans for the venture: "All of the Company men involved knew their arctic history: Scotty Gall, Paddy Gibson and Lorenzo Learmonth of King William Island. The undertaking could not be in better hands."

A principal advocate for Fort Ross, Learmonth was to become its first manager. He was supposed to travel on the Aklavik but had his own plans. He set out with apprentice D.G.Sturrock, some native helpers, a whale boat, an outboard motor and a canoe and completed his own remarkable journey to the new post. After completing a coastal passage up the Boothia Peninsula, he and Sturrock made an overland traverse across its tip and a frightening canoe crossing of the eastern entrance of Bellot Strait to Depot Bay where the new post was being constructed.

The Aklavik’s passage through Bellot Strait was an internationally celebrated success. After suffering and recovering from an near fatal engine failure in the rapid current of the passage, she linked up and exchanged cargo with the Nascopie on September 2, 1937. A detailed account by Richard Finnie of this historic event and the establishment of Fort Ross in his article "Trading into the North West Passage" is contained in the December 1937 issue of "The Beaver". The final paragraph of the article sums up the end of the endeavour with this historic wireless message: "Gjoa Haven, King William Island (Special to the Nascopie by private wireless) – The schooner Aklavik arrived here on the fourteenth of September, thus completing the successful freighting of goods via the North West Passage. Chief Inspector W. Gibson sends his regards to all passengers on board the Nascopie and wishes them the best of luck.". A photo essay in the March 1939 issue of "The Beaver" about Fort Ross by photographer Lorene Squire complements Finnie’s article. Squire visited the post while on assignment for the Company documenting Nascopie’s 1938 arctic voyage.

Gall Smellie

E.J. "Scotty" Gall of the Aklavik shaking hands with Captain Smellie of the R.M.S. Nascopie across the North West Passage on September 3, 1937. Mr. Downes, a passenger on the Nascopie, took the photograph. (Photo from NWT Archives/ Lorenz Learmonth/N-1989-020:0001 )

A nearly identical photo by reporter Lindsay Hoben and later editor of the Milwaukee Journal appeared with his article in that paper on September 11, 1937. Hoben was one of the press and radio reporters that travelled on Nascopie that was on hand to record the event. Ironically, the triumph of the event turned out also to be a tragedy. Anna Gall died, apparently of a heart attack, while starting the diesel engine at Cambridge Bay. She was hastily buried and the pained Scotty had to go on without her. He left immediately after the burial, with J.R. Ford and Patsy Klengenberg and his family, for the Company’s post at Gjoa Haven on King William Island to deliver supplies, pick up fur returns and take on a native pilot, Tommy Norkow.

Returning to Scotland alone, Scotty received a letter from Hudson’s Bay Fur Trade Commissioner Ralph Parsons dated October 18, 1937 containing the following congratulatory statement: "This was a most historic occasion, and the important part you played in it reflects much credit on your navigation and mechanical ability."

On June 26, 1938 Parsons sent a second letter to him via the Western Arctic District Office. It states: "It is not often in the present day that such voyages are undertaken, and I think your effort deserves to rank with those of the great explorers.". The letter enclosed a cheque and asked Scotty to accept "the souvenir I am sending you, as an indication of the Company’s pride in your accomplishment". The souvenir turned out to be a silver cigar box engraved: "Presented to, E.J. Gall, by the Fur Trade Commissioner, Hudson’s Bay Company, To Commemorate His Negotiation of, The North-West Passage, September 2, 1937"

Book Inscription

Book inscription by Scotty Gall (Photo from George Duddy collection.)

This inscription was found in a front leaf of a copy of a book "Hudson’s Bay Company. A Brief History" published by the Company in 1934. The inscription piqued the author’s interest in Scotty Gall and led to his friendship with Iain Cameron. The book, given to the author by his friend Chris Gardner, had been purchased by Chris in a used book store in Merrickville Ontario. Mrs McCuen was wife of prominent Montreal cancer researcher Dr. J.E. McCuen. Both were on the RMS Nascopie in 1937: he on a northern research project while she was one of the first paying female tourists carried by the vessel. On September 6, 1937 Scotty made a final voyage as skipper of Aklavik taking her through Bellot Strait to test a new propeller, shaft and reduction gears that had been fabricated by Nascopie’s mechanical staff. He took along Government and Company officials to view the fabled passage. It was the 79th anniversary of McClintock’s final attempt to navigate the passage. (Author’s Note the year of McClintock’s passage shown in the inscription as 1856 appears to be incorrect – it should be 1858.)

While in Scotland Scotty reconnected with Isobel Macdonald whom he had known before coming to Canada. They were married in 1938 before Scotty returned to Canada on May 14 from Greenock to Montreal on the Duchess of Atholl to take employment as Second Mate of the Hudson’s Bay Company river steamer Mackenzie River. Isobel did not join Scotty in Canada until the summer of 1939. While working on the river steamer, Scotty fell ill and had to take time off. The December 1938 issue of "The Beaver" indicated that he was recalled from the Aklavik after a full recovery to manage the Rocher River post near Yellowknife. Scotty’s final seafaring duty in the Arctic was to act as Pilot on the Company's new arctic supply vessel the Fort Ross on her first trip to King William Island in 1939.

During the Second World War Gall served as Post Manager at Cambridge Bay. Isobel, who had been trained as radio operator made their daily transmission of weather forecasts as part of the war effort.

Isabel Gall

Isobel Gall wearing radio head phones at Cambridge Bay (Photo copyright to the National Film Board of Canada (with permission to the author))

Scotty endured a second tragic event at Cambridge Bay in 1946. The Aklavik had been purchased by Patsy Klengenberg, who used it for freighting for the HBC. Early on the morning of September 3rd, a fire and explosion occurred in the engine room. Patsy’s adopted son Donald Ayalik was severely burned while trying to save his father. The Aklavik subsequently sank and Patsy’s body was found several days later. He had apparently drowned while attempting to swim to shore. The story of this sad event and Scotty’s efforts in rescuing Donald and arranging for an evacuation flight for him to a medical facility is told in an article "Boy Hero" by J.H. Webster published in the June 1947 issue of The Beaver.

In 1949 the Galls left the fur trade and the Western Arctic. After working at Waterways Alberta for two years, managing freight forwarding for the Mackenzie River, they moved to Yellowknife where Scotty managed the Hudson’s Bay Company stores both in the old and new towns. Here they became part of a community that was in a state of transition from a mining and mineral exploration outpost to the new capital of the North West Territories. Scotty took early retirement on November 30, 1966 after spending almost 43 years in the North. Scotty became a Member of the Northwest Territorial Council in 1958 he served as an appointed member, and then from 1959 to 1964, after winning a by–election, as the elected member for the Mackenzie North District. He fought for employment opportunities and fuel subsidies for residents and worked on plans for the eventual division of the North West Territories. He understood the reasons for, but generally opposed, the centralization of indigenous peoples in communities within the region.

Scotty At Desk

Mr. J. Gall Manager, H.B.C. New Town (Portrait of J. "Scotty" Gall, the Hudson Bay’s Company store manager at his desk. Yellowknife (Photo from NWT Archives/ Henry Busse/N-1979-052: 6889)

In the Summer 1968 issue of the "Moccasin Telegraph" (the Hudson’s Bay Company’s successor to "The Beaver" magazine for staff news), it was announced that Scotty, fellow pensioner George Porter and staff member Henry Voisey had been awarded the Canada Centennial Medal. The announcement indicated "All three men received their medal for their outstanding contribution to the welfare of the Eskimo people, and as pioneers in the development of the Canadian north."

Scotty spent a long retirement in a comfortable home in Saanich, a suburb of Victoria BC. He was able to share its pleasant location close to the sea near the University of Victoria’s Gordon Head campus with Isobel until 1983 when she passed away. It is understood that he liked to go on long walks with his dog and that he helped out at a local swimming pool. He attended regular meetings of the Arctic Club in Victoria.

Many interviewers came to visit him in Victoria to record his reminiscences of arctic events and characters which he related in a down–to–earth style. Some of these are recorded in Peter Newman’s book "Merchant Princes", while others can be found in an article by Mark Dickerson of the University of Calgary in the Journal of the Arctic Institute of North America (Vol 42, No 2 (1988)) which Dickerson prepared for the Arctic Profiles series for the Institute (link). In spite of Scotty’s popularity as a source for arctic history, we are told he preferred to contemplate the future more than reflect on the past, even in old age. His friend Jack (Woody) Wood apparently was much more heritage oriented. Wood collected many of Scotty’s documents and combined them with his own and over 900 photographs and donated the compilation to the Prince of Wales Archives in Yellowknife. In the Archives they can be found in the Jack Wood family fonds. Some of the photos are of Scotty and Anna, some others are of Aklavik. It was also Woody who was responsible for the donation of the Thomas Harold Beament painting of the Nascopie and Aklavik meeting to the Maritime Museum of British columbia.

There is a rich store of audio recordings that can be purchased from the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. In addition to helping fill in the details of the history of a man intimately involved in the settlement of Canada’s last frontier, they reveal aspects of his character, philosophy and passions that do not fully come across from the written record. Excerpts from the CBC’s "The Days Before Yesterday" series, available from the archives, can be heard on line but full interviews can be purchased for only modest fees. The author reviewed three: The first by Les MacLaughlin of the CBC (N-1998-30: 0126), the second by the Prince of Wales Centre archivist Richard Valpy (N-1998-040: 001) and the third by Ian Christie (N-1994-034: 0032). Christie had come to Scotty’s home to try to learn more about the sad demise of his uncle Ian ‘Jock’ Christie who had survived the wreck of the Emma Jane with Scotty but subsequently perished in the Bathurst Inlet area. What emerges from these interviews is an image of a very humble straight forward person who enjoyed the simple life and independence he found in the North. Scotty respected the native peoples and was deeply conscious of the effect that European settlement had on them. At the end of an interview Scotty was asked if there was anything else he wished to add. The inclusion of an event Scotty emphatically wanted recorded is a fitting way to end the article.

In the spring of 1937, before the trip to Fort Ross, Scotty, Anna and Woody were completing delivery of supplies to the Perry River Post. Proceeding in fog about one hour from the post, they heard, but could not see, what sounded like a very large aircraft flying at low altitude overhead. It seemed to be dangerously close to the ground. When they arrived at the post, the Post Manager and the natives present confirmed that they had heard the same thing. Scotty reported his observations to the authorities but no aircraft were supposed to be in the area. At the time of their report none of those on the Aklavik or at Perry River Post were aware that the Russian aviation pioneer Sigismund Levanevsky with five companions was attempting a pioneering polar flight from Moscow to Fairbanks in a four engine bomber–type aircraft. As described in an article in the White Horse Star on August 20, 1937, the aircraft failed to arrive at its destination; in spite of extensive searches no traces of it or its crew were ever found. The case of the missing Russian airmen like that of the fate of the Baychimo and the location of Franklin’s ships remains one of the enduring mysteries of the Western Arctic. Perhaps inhabitants of this region who have lived there for thousands of years will find answers; but perhaps some misfit from a more southern culture will stumble upon one – the Arctic gives up her mysteries grudgingly.

References and Acknowledgments:

The writer used the archived "Beaver" magazine which is available on line extensively for information about Scotty’s arctic history as well as archival information from the Jack Woods family fonds of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre including documents concerning the NW Passage trip, articles from the "Moccasin Telegraph" and photographs. The Hudson’s Bay Company Post Records for the King William Island and the Diary of Henry Lyall Smyth the wireless operator on the Fort James used were obtained from the National Archives in Ottawa by researcher Ken McLeod.

The following books were used as sources for the article:"Merchant Princes" by Peter C. Newman, "Arctic Trader" by Philip H. Godsell, "A Gentleman Adventurer – The Arctic Diaries of Richard Bonnycastle" by Heather Robertson, "Coplalook – Chief Trader, Hudson’s Bay Company 1923–39" by A. Dudley Copland, "Arctic Man" by Ernie Lyall, "The Arctic Grail – The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole 1818 – 1909" by Pierre Berton and "Ten Years in the High Canadian Arctic" by Cecil E. Bradbury.

Grateful acknowledgement (with apologies to any inadvertent omissions) is made to the following individuals who supplied information or helped with the article and the plaque project: Chris Gardner, Helen O’Neill, Wilma Saville, Sven Johannson, Kevin Fagerstrom, Robin Weber, Karina Monsalve, John and Catherine MacFarlane and my partners in the project Iain and Janis Cameron. Achinback Foundry of Victoria manufactured and installed the plaque.

The Author

George Duddy is a retired Professional Engineer. His 40+ year working career was spent on hydro electric construction and construction planning with B.C. Hydro and as a consultant. His father, like Scotty Gall, was born in Scotland in 1903. Both joined the Hudson’s Bay Company as fur trade apprentices in 1923. Duddy was born in Fort St John were his father managed the Hudson’s Bay Company store. His family moved to Vancouver Island in 1944. His interest in maritime subjects was developed in his boyhood and youth observing log transportation, naval exercises and incoming ships calling at the William Head Quarantine Station at Parry Bay. He was active for many years with the Lower Mainland Yacht Coop at White Rock B.C. where he currently resides and was Commodore in 1989-1990. He actively enjoys historical research.

To quote from this article please cite:

Duddy, George (2013) Remembering Scotty Gall. 2013.

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