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Transportation History

Polar Winds

A Century of Flying the North

by (author) Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2014
History, Post-Confederation (1867-), Polar Regions
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2014
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2014
    List Price

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Polar Winds traces a century of northern flight from balloonatics to bush pilots and beyond.

"They were all gamblers and fortune seekers. They did things on their own — were independent people who wanted to be free to roam. They were good people, but, of course, some were loners or escapists. They all depended strictly on their wits."
Joe McBryan, pilot and owner of Yellowknife-based Buffalo Airways, was talking about gold prospectors in the 1940s when he said this, but he could just as easily have been describing the aviators who have flown northern skies for over a hundred years. They were adventurers and pioneers, but also just men and women doing what was required to make a living north of the sixtieth parallel.
Polar Winds uses the stories of these pilots and others to explore the greater history of air travel in the North, from the Klondike Gold Rush through to the end of the twentieth century. It encompasses everything from exploration flights to the North Pole in airships to passenger travel in jet liners; flying school buses for residential schools to indigenous pilots performing mercy flights; and from the harrowing crashes to the routine supply runs that make up daily life in the North. Above all, it is a unique history told through the experiences of northerners on the ground and in the sky.


About the author

Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail specializes in telling hidden histories for all ages. She has worked as a freelance writer, consultant, speaker, CBC radio columnist, and is Edmonton's former Historian Laureate. In addition to editing the bestselling collection, In This Together, Danielle has authored several nonfiction books. She is currently at work on a creative nonfiction approach to the history and legacy of the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital. Please visit her at

Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Presented in a well written, well paced narrative that even non-aviation enthusiasts should find engaging and informative.

Yukon News

This book not only tells the stories of the successes, failures, oddities, and tragedies of flying in the north, but [also] delves into the lives of the people and communities…captur[ing] the essence of northern flying.

COPA Flight

Polar Winds misses nothing in the multifaceted field of aviation... this book has earned its place in the collection of every reader who not only enjoys aviation history but also wishes to learn more about history of our country and its people.

Arctic Magazine

Offer[s] fascinating insights into an industry that has revolutionized many aspects of life in Canada.

With Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail brings us an extraordinarily intimate, engaging and all-encompassing chronicle of Canadian flight north of the 60th parallel. Metcalfe-Chenail proves herself a remarkable historian and writer, weaving factual accounts with compelling stories of risk, heroism and adventure. Brimming with amazing archival photographs and gripping detail acquired through meticulous research and personal interviews, Polar Winds is a definitive and important addition to the canon of Canadian aviation history. An astonishing accomplishment.

Carol Shaben, bestselling author of Into the Abyss

As Edmonton’s historian laureate, Metcalfe-Chenail has captured a rich heritage in great detail, and yet woven it all together in such an entertaining way that it’s hard to put Polar Winds down…it’s a wonderful read for anyone interested in aviation of Canada’s north.

Sherwood/Strathcona News

Other titles by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail