For centuries, European explorers seeking the Northwest Passage ate poorly, often paying the ultimate price for not knowing how to sustain themselves in the harsh environment of Canada’s North. At the same time, the indigenous people of this region ate well, having mastered the essential skills to wrest a balanced diet from this same unforgiving environment.
As Parks Canada reaches its centennial in 2011, its mission has evolved even as it continues to oversee corners of the country that remain well and truly remote even in the 21st century. With around 300,000 square kilometres now designated as national park holdings, around three-quarters of that total consists of large, entirely roadless areas to the north. Understanding a park’s ecological integrity means keeping tabs on what is happening to the plants, animals, rocks, and water within its boundaries.
In 1908 two individuals from the south bought round-trip tickets to the Arctic Ocean from the Hudson’s Bay Company. In doing so, former British Columbia school principal, Agnes Deans Cameron, accompanied by her niece, Jessie Cameron Brown, became the first white women to penetrate the Arctic Circle on their own. They travelled by a combination of railway cars, open-to-the-weather stagecoaches and scows, oxcarts and river steamers.