Over the five hundred or so years that man searched for an elusive sea passage from Europe to Asia through the North American land mass, dozens of ships were lost and hundreds of mariners died. Eventually, a sea route stretching through the waters of the archipelago and along Canada’s mainland Arctic coast was pieced together. But could ships navigate the Northwest Passage to the extent that it could be used as an international shipping route? Two seagoing captains and their ships – a Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, and a Canadian of Norwegian birth, Henry Asbjorn Larsen – answered that question in the first half of the 20th century.
The first part of this book recounts their successful efforts. The second part addresses the many unsettling environmental and sovereignty issues concerning the future of the Northwest Passage in this time of melting ice caps, glaciers and sea ice in the Arctic.
Gerard Kenney -- his friends call him Gerry -- was born in St. Rémi d’Amherst not far from Mont Tremblant, Quebec, in 1931. Though a Canadian, he spent the first sixteen years of his life in New York City except for the months of July and August, which he enjoyed in the small French-Canadian village of his birth. In 1948, he returned to his native Canada and has lived there ever since.
Gerry’s work as a telecommunications engineer has taken him to many countries of the world as well as to the northern reaches of his native land. Working for Bell Canada in the 1960s and ’70s, Gerry was responsible for the engineering aspects of the telephone system based on short wave radio that served the eastern half of the Northwest Territories, Labrador and Nouveau Quebec.
In the late ’60s, while he was travelling on Ellesmere Island, an RCMP officer in Grise Fiord showed him the horizontal member of a wooden burial cross which had been found nearby. It was in memory of a Norwegian sailor, Ove Braskerud, who had left his bones in the frigid waters of nearby Harbour Fiord in 1899. Braskerud had been a member of the 1898-1902 Sverdrup expedition aboard the Norwegian ship Fram which discovered and explored high Arctic islands lying north of the Canadian mainland. That chance encounter with Braskerud’s cross eventually led to his books.
Gerry has published three books about the Arctic: Arctic Smoke & Mirrors, published in 1994, Ships of Wood and Men of Iron (Natural Heritage, 2005) and Dangerous Passage (Natural Heritage, 2006).
Gerry is now retired, which gives him more time to pursue his interest in writing about, and exploring, things northern. In 1999, he and a friend canoed a part of the path of the fatal 1903 Hubbard and Wallace expedition in Labrador.
Gerry lives in Ottawa and has two daughters, Amanda in Montreal and Jessica, accompanied by young Cara, in Ottawa.