A Journey to the Northern Ocean: The Adventures of Samuel Hearne

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TouchWood Editions, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 306 pages

Widely recognized as a classic of northern-exploration literature, A Journey to the Northern Ocean is Samuel Hearne's story of his three-year trek to seek a trade route across the Barrens in the Northwest Territories. Hearne was a superb reporter, from his anguished description of the massacre of helpless Eskimos by his Indian companions to his meticulous records of wildlife, flora and Indian manners and customs. As esteemed author Ken McGoogan points out in his foreword: Hearne demonstrated that to thrive in the north, Europeans had to apprentice themselves to the Native peoples who had lived there for centuries-a lesson lost on many who followed.

First published in 1795, more than two decades after Hearne had completed his trek, the memoir was originally called A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean in the years 1769, 1770, 1771, and 1772. This Classics West edition brings a crucial piece of Canadian history back into print.


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I absolutely loved this book, a journey it itself. Hearne comes across as completely honest and trustworthy, never seeking to build up his own status or accomplishments – indeed, sometimes dwelling on his "failures" far too long. He is exceedingly brave, always ending up alone amongst strange peoples with customs to which he must adjust. He is nearly as hardy as his stoic, hard travelling companions. I read the book daily until it was done, so rich in observations within a forgotten landscape of such severe grandeur it is still hard to believe how far he hiked and managed to sustain himself. The best part, however, is the unvarnished glimpse of northern tribes who have no acquaintance with the wheel or the horse. He is biased neither way; in fact, he often expresses admiration for the the sheer toughness of his First Nations companions. At the same time, however, he tells it like it really was, with no romantic veneer over the "noble savage" or "In tune with nature" myths. Wives do almost all the camp work but are left behind or beaten to death without penalty. One tribe will attack another (even as they sleep, as in the infamous case of the Bloody Falls massacre, in which women & child of the Inuit were murdered). In some cases, a man's word was his bond for life, yet in others one individual will flagrantly lie and actually be praised by his brothers for his falsehoods. This is how it was, and we today, sinking under layers of romanticized falsehoods, need to know it. 

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This didn't really help ,e in my research!


November 6th 1769 to December 11th 1769
February 23rd 1770 to August 11th 1770
August 13th 1770 to November 25th 1770
November 28th 1770 to May 3rd 1771
May 3rd 1771 to July 13th 1771
July 14th 1771 to August 5th 1771
August 1771 to December 24th 1771
January 9th 1772 to June 29th 1772
The Landscape and its People
An Account of Flora and Fauna

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About the author (2007)

Born in London in 1745, Samuel Hearnejoined the Royal Navy at the age of 12 and served under Captain Samuel Hood during the Seven Years War. In 1766, seeking adventure, he joined the Hudson's Bay Company to work as first mate on a whaling ship. He was based at the HBC's northernmost outpost, Prince of Wales fort, and was only 24 when he set out on the quest described in this book.

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