Point de la Guiche
Richard and David here. We are delighted to announce that at 2:30 this afternoon, the Arctic Return Expedition is finally at Point de la Guiche, after a month’s travel. Upon arriving at Point de la Guiche we found the plaque that was presented and placed here 20 years ago in 1999, by Louie Kamookak, Cameron Treleaven and Ken McGoogan. In light of this moment, having now achieved our goal, I would like to read what it says. It is titled: HOMAGE TO JOHN RAE
“This plaque marks the spot where Arctic explorer John Rae (1813-93) discovered the final link in the Northwest Passage. In the spring of 1854, acting on behalf of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and after wintering in Repulse Bay, Rae led four men across Boothia Peninsula bent on completing the mapping of the northern coast of North America. By delineating the coastline between two accessible points— the mouth of the Castor and Pollux River and Bellot Strait–the intrepid Rae meant to establish or invalidate the existence of a navigable Northwest Passage.
Hauling sledges through gale-force winds, blowing snow and bitter cold, the Orcadian Rae and his two hardiest men—the Inuk William Ouligbuck, Jr., and Ojibwa Thomas Mistegan—reached the mouth of the Castor and Pollux River, which Europeans had attained from the Pacific Ocean. Rae then led the way northwest along the coast of Boothia towards what was still called “King William Land.” On May 6, 1854, the party arrived at this promontory (Point de la Guiche) and built a snowhut and a cairn.
Standing here, looking out over a channel covered by “young ice” Rae realized that “King William Land” was an island. The channel before him, which joined known points accessible by sailing ship, constituted the missing link in the Northwest Passage. He named it Rae Strait. In 1903-06, when the Norwegian Roald Amundsen became the first European to navigate the Northwest Passage, he did it by sailing through Rae Strait.”
Today, it is Richard and I, standing where Rae stood 165 years ago. We feel incredibly proud and privileged that we are here, that we made it, that we are able to pay our tribute to him. It is an incredibly humbling experience, and words fail to do justice to our being here this moment in time.
It has taken us a long time to get here, but every single step was well-worth the effort. Point de la Guiche, marks an historic spot on the map, for Canada, and perhaps the world; thanks due to the strength of character and determination of, Orcadian explorer and surveyor, John Rae.
Arriving at the very place we had read so much about, or poured over pictures of, has capped our efforts today. Very definitely, this is an auspicious day for us and the entire Arctic Return team.
That said, it is without question that we wish to dedicate this day, Saturday, April 27, 2019, to John Rae, and also to Louie Kamookak, the Inuk historian from Gjoa Haven, who worked so hard, so diligently, and for so long, to bring awareness to the fascinating history that exists in this part of Canada and the world.