The Gallant Saint Roch


Kudos to Wayne Richards of Vancouver, for his engaging letter to CCNet, a climate change newsletter indispensable for anyone following the climate change debate.

The letter, reproduced below, was addressed to social anthropologist Benny Peiser, CCNet’s editor.

I’ve reached my own personal tipping point.

I’ve heard once too often that the Arctic ice melt of 2007 was unprecedented, that it’s going to happen again, only worse, and that we’re all doomed. Including the polar bears. Never before in history…etc.

Mr. Peiser, less than a half mile from my home in Vancouver, B.C. sits the RCMP Vessel Saint Roch. She’s been declared a national monument or some such designation, and for good reason. In the early 1940’s she traversed the Northwest Passage. Then she did it again. Then again, in the other direction. Three times, Mr. Peiser, three times. She’s a small thing, but sturdily built. At a little over a hundred feet long, she displaces about 325 tons.

She was powered by some small auxiliary sails and a piddling 150 hp.diesel engine. And she’s not steel. She’s built of good British Columbia Douglas fir, externally sheathed with Australian gumwood (thank you, Aussies). Mind you, her bow had some metal on it, whether iron or steel I do not know. This small, woefully underpowered vessel was the first to traverse the Northwest Passage west to east, was the first to traverse it more than once, was the first to traverse it in both directions, and was the first to circumnavigate North America (using the Panama Canal at the small end).

But she was not the first in recorded history to traverse the Northwest Passage. In 1906 Roald Amundsen ran it from east to west in his even smaller (76ft) sloop "Gjoa". It may have been all sail; if it had an auxiliary motor I do not know of it.

The log books of neither the Gjoa nor the St. Roch record any drowning polar bears.

Yours truly,
Wayne Richardsn/a

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