Main text

Major renovations were completed in November 2017 but I expect that warts remain.
Thanks for your patience. Allan

In Defence of Arthur Moffatt.

Overview.

In 1955, Arthur Moffatt set out to document, by film, photos and writings (his journal and those of his companions), the barrenlands of northern Canada. I emphasise that this was a documentary trip; I should welcome being corrected, but I believe the Moffatt trip to have been the first such in the barrenlands. It was decidedly not a recreational trip like that perhaps taken by most readers.
Perhaps because documentation was readily available, Moffatt chose to repeat the central portion of the 1893 Tyrrell-Tyrrell (Joseph Burr and James Williams) expedition of the Geological Survey of Canada; this was the reach from Black Lake (on the Fond du Lac River) to Baker Lake (on the Thelon River).
To guide him, Moffatt possessed four JBT items:
his journal, his book, his annotated maps, plus personal correspondence of 1954 and 1955.
Throughout the previous 11 weeks of the trip, Moffatt had followed J B Tyrrell’s advice, in particular that regarding rapids. That advice had proved worthy of Moffatt’s trust, as evinced by the fact that he followed it on 14 September 1955. In support, I point out that the only two dumps of the entire trip occurred in the rapids where he died.
But Tyrrell’s advice failed Moffatt that day. The evidence (I refrained from providing either analysis or comment) regarding his death is provided in Ancillary 8. Evidence regarding the tragedy.

The accusations and the evidence.
Accusations regarding the cause/s of Moffatt’s death appeared first in 1959 and continued until 2014 (and counting). Over those 55 years, the cause was asserted (no supporting evidence was ever provided) to be one or more of the following.
The Moffatt party lost sense of reality.
Reference. Appendix 1. Reality.
It took too many holidays early, forcing it to take chances later in order to escape the onset of winter.
Reference. Appendix 3. Equipment.
It lacked experience.
Reference. Appendix 4. Experience.
The early pace was plodding, forcing the party to take chances later in order to escape the onset of winter.
Reference. Appendix 5. Pace and Weather.
It lacked (sic) food.
Reference. Appendix 6. Food.
It lacked a schedule.
Reference. Appendix 7. Schedule.
The fatal rapids were run in desperate haste in order to escape the onset of winter. Moffatt took the ultimate chance by running them without a scout.
References.
Appendix 8. Rapids in general.
Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.

Summary.
In the afternoon of 14 September 1955, Moffatt led the party downstream toward Marjorie Lake on the Dubawnt River. Only when it was too late to bail out and head for shore did he realise that the advice of J B Tyrrell, which had proved worthy of his trust for the previous 11 weeks, had failed him that day; he could only tough it out. His canoe (and another) capsized and he died of hypothermia about an hour later.
Reference. Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.

Conclusions.
In Ancillary 1. Accusations, the many accusations made of Moffatt are confronted by the evidence of participants Franck, Grinnell, Lanouette, LeFavour, Pessl and Moffatt himself.
Every accusation, save one, made of Moffatt and the party as a whole fails to survive the test of that evidence. The exception is that the party did not carry a radio; but a radio would not have prevented the tragedy, and Moffatt’s request for permission to carry a radio was denied.
And so it follows that Arthur Moffatt was falsely accused for 55 years.

Acknowledgments.

I am profoundly grateful to trip participants Fred “Skip” Pessl, Ed “Joe” Lanouette and Bruce LeFavour for their generous and extensive assistance with my research. They kindly and most patiently informed me, without guiding me, as I stumbled along the path to understand the tragedy. They supplied copies of much of the source material cited in my bibliography; I would have had considerable difficulty otherwise. In fact, I would not have so much as known of the existence of some material.
In more detail:
Pessl provided excerpts from Moffatt’s journal.
Lanouette provided his full journal for 14 September (only a condensation was provided in the SI article of 1959).
LeFavour provided the third of his four newspaper articles.
All three (especially Pessl) corresponded privately as well.
I hope that I have honoured the trust that they placed in me.
But responsibility for all errors, especially those of judgment, belongs to me alone.

Thanks also to the following.
George Luste provided keen insights into the tragedy, this early in my research; I much regret that I did not speak more with him while still I could.
Bruce Buttimore assisted in setting up the blog and suggested an important clarification.
Mike Gray loaned his two books regarding the Moffatt expedition.
Elizabeth Emge provided excerpts from the journal of participant Lanouette (her father).
Mathieu Sabourin (Library and Archives, Canada) provided a highly informative response to my request for information regarding the alleged inquest into Moffatt’s death.
The staff of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library (University of Toronto) made extraordinary efforts to help me access Tyrrell material.
Michael Pitt provided correspondence regarding the fatal rapids.
George Grinnell (participant) corresponded frankly regarding the Epilogue of the Sports Illustrated article; he responded also at the blog.
David DeMello corresponded regarding the Moffatt route from Wharton Lake to Marjorie Lake, and he posted information at Canadian Canoe Routes regarding the Marjorie-Aberdeen portage.
Les Wilcox suggested an important clarification and provided correspondence regarding the Tyrrell-Moffatt route from Wharton Lake to Marjorie Lake.
Ken McGoogan suggested a more effective introduction to the evidence of Appendix 9.
CCR’s recped pointed out an incorrect URL.

Timeline of the primary Moffatt literature.

The following provides the timeline for the publications of the trip participants, plus the publications of Moffatt’s primary accusers.
I include also two personal items (a reference to my first attempt to address the accusations, plus the announcement of the opening of the blog to public view).
Items of what I call the secondary accusatory literature are listed in the corresponding part of the Bibliography.
The accusations themselves are addressed in Ancillary 1. Accusations.

1955.
Publication of participant Bruce LeFavour’s four articles in the Evening Recorder, Amsterdam NY, 27 through 30 December (1955).
The articles are not accessible to the public. Thanks to LeFavour, I possess the third, which provides important evidence regarding the fatal rapids.
If the reader will excuse a comment. As best I know, no Moffatt accuser was aware of these articles.

1959.
Publication of the Sports Illustrated article.
Part 1, 9 March. Man against the Barren Grounds. [pp 68-76].
Part 2, 16 March. Danger and Sacrifice. [pp 80-88].
Reader responses to both parts were posted at
http://www.si.com/vault/1959/04/06/604104/19th-hole-the-readers-take-over
The editor had full access to Moffatt’s journal, selections from which comprise the bulk of the article.
Other contents include Moffatt’s prospectus for the trip, photographs, a map of the route, thumbnails of the participants, a New York Times article regarding arrival in Baker Lake, a condensation of Lanouette’s journal for the day of the tragedy, and an Epilogue.

1978.
Publication of the book of Alex Inglis.
Northern Vagabond. The Life and Career of J B Tyrrell – the Man Who Conquered the Canadian North. McClelland and Stewart. (1978).
If the reader will excuse a comment, the book went unnoticed in the accusatory literature.

1988.
Publication of participant Grinnell’s article.
Canoe. July 1988, pp 18-21 and 56.

Undated assertions made prior to 1996.
The only known source regarding the assertions is George Luste’s comments in Grinnell’s book [pp 293&294].
If the reader will excuse two comments.
I possess no information regarding when the assertions were made, or their authors, or their source/s.
I possess no evidence that the assertions influenced the later Moffatt literature.

1996.
Publication of participant Grinnell’s book.
Grinnell, George J. A Death on the Barrens. A True Story.
Recently, I purchased the 2010 edition; I have not looked at the 2005 edition.
If the reader will excuse two comments.
I agree with Pessl [private correspondence] that the 2010 edition differs significantly from that of 1996.
As best I know, the Moffatt literature is based entirely on the 1996 edition, and so all my comments in the following are based on it alone.

1996.
Publication of reviews of Grinnell’s book by James Murphy and Andrew MacDonald.
Che-Mun Canoelit section. Moffatt, Myth & Mysticism. Spring 1996, pp 5 & 11.

2000.
Publication of two short articles regarding the Moffatt trip.
Peake, Michael.
Che-Mun, Outfit 99, Winter 2000.
1. 1955: A Tale of Two Trips. p 4.
http://www.canoe.ca/che-mun/99two.html
2. The Tragic Trips…1955 – The Moffat Dubawnt River trip. pp 5&6.

2005.
Publication of the two Mahler-Thum articles, identical at first glance.
1. Che-Mun. Outfit 122, Autumn 2005, starting on page 4.
http://www.ottertooth.com/che-mun/122/chemun122.pdf
2. Feature Story in the Advanced Paddler section at canoeing.com.
http://www.canoeing.com/advanced/feature/deadmansriver.htm

2012.
1. Publication of Kesselheim’s article in Canoe&Kayak, with comments by participant Pessl. Follow-up material was published in the issues of July 2012 (p 14) and August 2012 (p 12).
2. Publication of Kingsley’s first online article.
In a most dreadful sort of paradise. Up Here. May 2012; pp 88, 90 & 91.
http://www.jenniferkingsley.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/looking-back-May-2012-Moffatt-pdf-.pdf

2013.
1. Publication of Kingsley’s second online article.
Back and Beyond. Lake. Issue 6 (2013); pp 12-14.
http://www.jenniferkingsley.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Lake_Back-and-Beyond_2011pdf.pdf
2. Publication of participant Pessl’s article in Nastawgan.
The Fateful 1955 Dubawnt River Trip. Nastawgan. Summer 2013. Vol 70, No 2.
http://www.myccr.com/sites/default/files/storage/CCR%20pdf/Nastawgan/summer_13.pdf

2014.
1. Publication of Kingsley’s book.
Paddle North. Adventure, Resilience and Renewal in the Arctic Wild. Greystone Books, Vancouver/Berkeley (2014).
Moffatt material is confined to pages 185-189 and 220.
2. Publication of Pessl’s book.
Barren Grounds. The Story of the Tragic Moffatt Canoe Trip. Dartmouth College Press, Hanover, NH (2014).
Pessl provides copious amounts of new evidence, notes on trip planning, excerpts from his journal and that of fellow participant Peter Franck, a comparison with the progress of the Tyrrell-Tyrrell trip of 1893, an Epilogue and a list of nontravel days.
3. Pessl’s talk (the Second Annual Luste Lecture, 13 November; unpublished) at the Canadian Canoe Museum.
http://www.canoemuseum.ca/blog/2014/11/13/highlights-of-the-2014-luste-lecture
4. Publication of my Nastawgan article (Winter issue, 2014, pp 16-19). It contains a review of Pessl’s talk, plus related material.
http://www.myccr.com/sites/default/files/storage/CCR%20pdf/Nastawgan/winter_2014.pdf

Interjection.
If the reader will excuse a comment. The evidence suggests that neither Kingsley nor Pessl was aware of the other’s articles and books of 2012, 2013 and 2014.

2015 and 2016.
Failed attempt on my part to publish the first version of In Defence of Arthur Moffatt.
April 2015.
After consultation with the editor of Canoe&Kayak, I submitted the following items: Main text (both print and digital editions), Bibliography and five Appendices. This version, which omitted accusers’ names, was accepted for publication.
Later, at the request of the editor, I added accusers’ names and I provided ~eight of Pessl’s photos.
June 2015.
What was to have been the print edition of the Main text was posted online
http://www.canoekayak.com/canoe/in-defense-of-arthur-moffatt/#5UIXv2RETJtWMQwt.97 ,
as was the digital edition of the Main text

In Defense of Arthur Moffatt (Unabridged Version)


The subtitle of both: Allan Jacobs on why the conventional wisdom about Arthur Moffatt is wrong.
Comment. It did not do so in the beginning, but the software occasionally displays material from these two URLs; if it continues to do so, I might mangle them.
October 2015.
All eight items were submitted in final form; no response was received.
June 2016.
Given
that I had waited for months for a reply to my enquiry regarding the publication status of the remaining items, and
that the Bibliography and the five Appendices had not been published in any form,
I withdrew all items.
Neither did I receive a response to my withdrawal notice.
Summary. Allan whines again.

19 September 2016.
Announcement at Canadian Canoe Routes
http://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=45362
of the opening of my blog In defence of Arthur Moffatt to public view.
A few days earlier, I had informed several interested parties that the blog was open.

The evidentiary basis of the accusatory literature.

Given that Pessl’s articles and his book (the latter contains also evidence of participant Franck) appeared too late to influence that literature, and
that participant LeFavour’s third article became available to me only recently (and is still not available to the public, as are the other three),
one sees that the evidentiary basis of the entire accusatory literature consists of only three items.
1. The Sports Illustrated article.
Issues of 9 March 1959 Man against the barrens grounds (pp 68-76) and 16 March 1959 Danger and Sacrifice (pp 80-88).
The evidentiary material is provided in selections from Moffatt’s journal (in cases edited) and a condensation (I believe it to be a faithful one) of Lanouette’s journal for 14 September 1955.
2. Grinnell’s article Art Moffatt’s Wilderness Way to Enlightenment.
Canoe, July 1988, pp 18-21 & 56.
3. Grinnell’s book A Death on the Barrens. A True Story. (1996)
Comment.
I emphasise that these three items were the only primary sources (defined as those with an immediate basis in the evidence of trip participants) that were available to Moffatt’s accusers. I note that much of the accusatory literature consists is based not on these primary sources, but rather on previous items of that literature.
The next three paragraphs examine the evidentiary basis of those three primary sources.

The evidentiary basis of Sports Illustrated article.
This is the second most influential item of the accusatory literature; only Grinnell’s book (1996) surpasses it in this respect. The Sports Illustrated editor, who had full access to Moffatt’s journal, made the assertions listed below.

Some assertions made by the Sports Illustrated editor, and my responses.
Assertion 1.
Food was becoming the question now. [top left of p 76, date 8/9 August].
Assertion 2.
game grows scarce. [bottom right of p 76, for the period after 16/17 August].
Responses to Assertions 1 and 2.
The first caribou was shot on 5 August, at most 4 days before the date of Assertion 1.
But nowhere in the entire article did the SI editor mention that event.
As well, Moffatt’s journal (possessed in full by the editor) documents that caribou were shot on 5 August, 11 August, 20 August, 26 August and 5 September, for a total of five; the editor mentioned only the shooting of that on 11 August.
And many ptarmigan were killed. And a plethora of other food (three species of fish, blueberries and mushrooms) was obtained from the land. But the editor omitted mention of any of this evidence.
Reference for Assertions 1 and 2. Appendix 6. Food.
Assertion 3.
The Moffatt party was nine days behind schedule. [bottom right of p 76; appearing between the Moffatt journal entries for 15 and 16 August].
Response.
The Moffatt party had no day-by-day schedule. As anyone who has paddled in the barrens knows full well, no recreational party have such a schedule in the barrenlands; the vagaries of the weather, especially the wind, forbid such. Even the Tyrrell-Tyrrell party of 1893 was unable to travel some days.
Reference. Appendix 7. Schedule.
Assertion 4.
provisions dwindle. [bottom right of p 76, for the period after 16/17 August].
Response.
Yes, provisions dwindle as they are consumed. But the SI editor omitted mention here that a massive resupply of provisions was obtained from the cache, this on 7 September. [SI article, beginning at the bottom of the left column on p 82].
Reference. Appendix 6. Food.
Assertion 5, part 1.
The Moffatt party races against winter on the Barren Grounds… In desperate haste, they take an ultimate chance. [bottom right of p 76, for the period after 16/17 August].
Assertion 5, part 2.
Increasingly, the men were taking chances. They now shot down churning chutes of white water which, a month earlier, they would have scrutinized with a doubtful eye. [top right of p 82, 7/8 September].
Response to both parts of Assertion 5. Neither part is supported by any evidence known to me.
References.
Appendix 8. Rapids in general.
Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.

The redaction made by the Sports Illustrated editor.
Worthy of special note is that the editor redacted the phrase Following Tyrrell’s route from Moffatt’s last journal entry, that for 13 September.
The interpretation of the phrase is uncertain, as I discuss elsewhere. But it certainly evinces
first that Moffatt had obtained route advice from J B Tyrrell and
second that Moffatt was following Tyrrell’s advice.
Reference. Particulars 2 and 3 of Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.
Opinion.
I request the reader’s indulgence.
Given that the editor redacted possibly important evidence, I conclude that I am unable to trust any content of the Sports Illustrated article that is not supported by evidence from a credible source.

The evidentiary basis of participant Grinnell’s article.
Art Moffatt’s Wilderness Way to Enlightenment.
Canoe, July 1988, pp 18-21 & 56.
1. The article is the source of the accusation that the Moffatt party had lost sense of reality early and so later had to race down the river to catchup on time.
Reference. Appendix 1. Reality.
2. Together with his book, Grinnell’s article is the source of accusations that the Moffatt party had taken an excessive number of holidays early and so later had to race down the river…
Reference. Appendix 2. Holidays.
4. I refer the reader to Ancillary 1. Accusations for my discussion of these accusations.
Opinion.
I request the reader’s indulgence.
I trust no content of Grinnell’s article that is not supported by independent evidence.

The evidentiary basis of participant Grinnell’s book.
This is the most influential item of all the accusatory literature.
This paragraph would grow to unreasonable length were I to document all my objections to the contents of the book. Let me content myself to provide here only some material regarding Moffatt’s death.
1. Lanouette’s full journal for the day of the tragedy is provided in Ancillary 2. Lanouette excerpt.
2. The rapids part of that journal for 14 September is provided in Particular 4 of Appendix 9 (The fatal rapids); the URL is provided below.
3. The Sports Illustrated article provided what I consider to be a faithful condensation of that article [SI article, p 85].
The rapids part of the SI condensation is provided in Particular 5 of Appendix 9.
4. On page 202 of his book (1996 edition), Grinnell provided a version of the SI condensation. The rapids part is provided in Particular 6 of Appendix 9.
5. On comparing the original version (Particular 5) of the condensation with Grinnell’s version of it (Particular 6) one sees that the two are identical but for one difference.
The sole difference is that Grinnell redacted (and replaced with an ellipsis) the three-sentence passage This surprised us. Art had figured we had already shot the last two rapids before Marjorie Lake. Actually, what we had gone down were only riffles, and what lay ahead was the real beginning of the first rapids from the condensation of Lanouette’s journal [Sports Illustrated, p 85, middle of right column].
What conclusion can be drawn from that passage but that Moffatt had reason to believe that there were no rapids worthy of the name in the reach where he died, the reach between the portage (that completed in the morning of 14 September) and Marjorie Lake?
Given that the remainder of the passage is provided faithfully, exists there a rational mind that believes that redaction to have been an accident, a slip of the pen?
Reference. Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.
Comment. I express my concern
first that both the SI and Grinnell redacted what I consider to be important evidence regarding the events of 14 September,
second that they had corresponded (at least) as evinced by the Appendix An Epilogue to Tragedy, which provides comments of Grinnell, for example those concerning death from hypothermia.
That matter aside, I provide the following
Opinion.
Given that Grinnell redacted this evidence, I am unable to trust any content of his book that is not supported by evidence from a credible source.

Conclusions regarding the evidentiary basis of the accusatory literature.

I repeat that the only sources for the entire accusatory literature (primary and secondary alike) with primary basis in the writings of trip participants are the following three items.
1. The Sports Illustrated article, which contains both excerpts from Moffatt’s journal and a faithful condensation of Lanouette’s journal for 14 September (1959),
2. Grinnell’s article (1988), and
3. Grinnell’s book (1996).
The evidence regarding these three items is provided in the above three paragraphs The evidentiary basis…, and also in Ancillary 1. Accusations
Conclusion 1. The evidence leads me to conclude that I trust no content of the Sports Illustrated article, in the first instance.
Conclusion 2. The evidence leads me to conclude that I trust no content of Grinnell’s article, in the first instance.
Conclusion 3. The evidence leads me to conclude that I trust no content of Grinnell’s book, in the first instance.
Conclusion 4.
Given that the evidentiary basis of the entire accusatory literature (primary and secondary alike) consists of only these three publications, and
given that I trust no content of any of the three in the first instance,
it follows that I trust no content of the entire accusatory literature, in the first instance.
Opinion.
Given that the entire accusatory literature (primary and secondary alike) has its sole evidentiary basis in the SI article, Grinnell’s article and Grinnell’s book, and
given that I have learned not to trust, in the first instance, any content of those three publications,
it follows that, to me, the entire accusatory literature has no more substance than a house of cards.

The accusations and the evidence.

Preliminaries.
When the current round of renovations is complete, the nine Appendices (Internal URLs are provided below) will hold all evidence related to the corresponding primary accusations, plus some of my responses to them.
The bulk of my responses, and some of the evidence, will be filed in Ancillary 1. Accusations.

The running of the fatal rapids.
Because of the overriding importance of the matter, I address here (though only briefly) the primary accusations regarding the running of the fatal rapids.
Primary accusation 1.
Increasingly, the men were taking chances. They now shot down churning chutes of white water which, a month earlier, they would have scrutinized with a doubtful eye. [Sports Illustrated, top of right column, p 82]
Primary accusation 2.
Already nine days behind schedule, the Moffatt party races against winter on the Barren Grounds. The days grow colder, provisions dwindle, game grows scarce. In desperate haste, they take an ultimate chance. [Sports Illustrated, bottom of right column, p 76]
Comments.
No evidence was ever presented in support of any of these accusations, and so the paddling community could easily have rejected them out-of-hand. Unfortunately, the very opposite occurred; the accusations were accepted in toto (as best I know without dissent until Pessl’s article of 2013).
The secondary accusations
are believed to be inspired by those of the Sports Illustrated editor.
1. …Moffatt died of exposure after they dumped in a large rapid they did not scout. [Che-Mun, Outfit 99, Winter 2000].
2. The men talked less and took more risks. On September 14th,… all three boats plunged over two sets of waterfalls the paddlers hadn’t bothered to scout…. [Kingsley book, top of p 189, 2014]
Response.
I expect that most river paddlers have run rapids without scouting them. In fact, that act is so common that it has acquired a title, namely making a blind probe. Countless parties have made blind probes and have dumped as a result. Indeed, two Moffatt primary accusers (Murphy and Thum) had the courage and the integrity to state that they had done so. And so, if dumping in a blind probe is proof of incompetence, then Murphy and Thum are incompetent, as are perhaps many reading this.
But Moffatt did not make a blind probe!
As I discuss below (in the paragraph The cause of Moffatt’s death) Moffatt had been informed by a reliable source (J B Tyrrell) that there were no significant rapids in the reach remaining above Marjorie Lake, and so he led the way down them, without a scout, to his death.
(a) Evidence that Moffatt that had been incorrectly advised by Tyrrell was provided in the very first publication of the accusatory literature, namely the Sports Illustrated article; I refer here to the condensation of Lanouette’s journal, pp 85-87.
Not one accuser in the matter of Moffatt’s death mentioned that evidence of Lanouette, although most are known to have had access to the Sports Illustrated article.
Deserving of explicit mention here is the SI editor her/himself.
(b) Evidence that Moffatt that had been incorrectly advised by Tyrrell was provided also by Luste, who wrote the following: Art Moffatt, following Tyrrell’s notes, was not expecting the rapid in which he swamped and then died. [Grinnell book, p 284].
Not one accuser in the matter of Moffatt’s death mentioned this evidence of Luste, even though most of them used material in Grinnell’s book in making their accusations of Moffatt. Worthy of explicit mention here are Grinnell himself and James Murphy (in his review of Grinnell’s book)
(c) Moffatt’s accusers in the matter of the fatal rapids were likely misled by the redactions of evidence made by the Sports Illustrated editor and by Grinnell (in his book).

The information possessed by Moffatt regarding the rapids where he died, and the cause of the tragedy.
Ancillary 7. Moffatt’s Tyrrell sources
documents that Moffatt had possessed J B Tyrrell’s maps, his book and his journal; I possess only the first two of these items. It documents also that Moffatt and JBT had corresponded; I possess only Moffatt’s part of the correspondence.
J B Tyrrell’s map
https://barrenlands.library.utoronto.ca/content/zone-6-1893
for the reach where Moffatt died does not show the fatal rapids.
Ancillary 3. Tyrrell excerpt provides the complete text of J B Tyrrell’s book for the relevant reach above Marjorie Lake. No mention is made there of the fatal rapids.
Ancillary 2. Lanouette excerpt
provides the complete (uncondensed) journal entry of Lanouette for 14 September. It evinces the surprise of Lanouette and Moffatt at the sudden appearance of the fatal rapids.
These three evidences lead me to conclude that Moffatt chose to run the fatal rapids because he had been told implicitly by J B Tyrrell that were no rapids of significance in that reach.
Conclusions.
The primary accusations made of Moffatt are exposed to the light of the evidence in the Appendices and in Ancillary 1. Not one of them survives confrontation with the evidence.
In particular, Arthur Moffatt (the most vilified person in the entire paddling literature) is innocent of all accusations regarding the running of the fatal rapids.
Reference.
Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.

Some comments regarding the accusatory literature.

0. Again, the sole primary sources of the accusatory literature were
edited (in cases severely so) excerpts from Moffatt’s journal, as provided in the Sports illustrated article,
Grinnell’s article (1988), and
Grinnell’s book (1996).
1. For 55 years, from its beginning in 1959 to and including 2014, the accusatory literature consists of little but assertions, opinion pieces and rehashed versions of previous accusations. I don’t recall that one source for an accusation was identified explicitly; some sources are obvious, but most are not.
2. Little if any evidence was provided in support of the accusations. In fact, some accusations appear to have basis only in the imaginations of Moffatt’s accusers.
3. The little red fruit was picked by especially by two accusers,
4. The schedule-related accusations of two accusers are refuted by the evidence of their only source, here Grinnell’s book. There, Grinnell asserts first that there was a prescriptive schedule, then that there was only a schedule for arrival in Baker Lake, finally that there was again a prescriptive schedule. But Grinnell repeatedly and consistently stated that there was a schedule for arrival in Baker Lake.
Nevertheless, the two accusers (in their reviews of Grinnell’s book, no less) in the matter of the schedule asserted that lack of schedule of any kind was responsible in part for Moffatt’s death.
5. Several persons asserted/suggested that a lack/shortage of food in the seven weeks before the tragedy was partly responsible for Moffatt’s death.
(a) One accuser asserted game grows scarce, this made in full possession of Moffatt’s journal, which documents that five caribou were shot, the last on 5 September.
More generally, participant LeFavour documents that, on 14 September, the party had so much caribou meat on board that it had no need to hunt again; and, that day, the party added 20 lb of trout to the food supply.
(b) The assertion Lack of food… contributed to his [Moffatt’s] demise was made in a review of Grinnell’s book (the accuser’s only source). But that book documents that the seven weeks before 14 September saw an abundance of food from the land (most notably the shooting of five caribou) and also a resupply of provisions from the cache.
6. Exculpatory evidence regarding some accusations was in plain sight but went unmentioned by Moffatt’s accusers. The prime example is Lanouette’s journal for 14 September (faithfully condensed and published in the Sports Illustrated article) regarding the running of the fatal rapids without a scout.
7. Evidence was even redacted. I refer here to the actions of the Sports Illustrated editor (with respect to Moffatt’s last journal entry) and those of Grinnell (with respect to Lanouette’s journal for 14 September).
8. Assertions were unthinkingly accepted and promulgated, occasionally in embellished form.
The prime example of embellishment. The SI editor’s game grows scarce became The caribou were long gone. But that accuser’s primary source provides the following: Over the ensuing weeks… we killed our third, fourth and fifth caribous… [Grinnell book, p 156].
Comment. The last caribou was shot on 5 September. At lunch on 14 September, the party had so much caribou meat on board that it had no more need to hunt; and it caught a 20 lb lake trout at that time. [LeFavour]

The cause of Moffatt’s death

was none of those alleged by so many over 55 years.
1. The cause was not that the party had lost…sense of reality.
Appendix 1. Reality
2. The cause was not that the party took too many holidays early in the trip and so had to race later.
Appendix 3. Equipment.
4. The cause was not that the party was inexperienced.
Appendix 4. Experience.
5. The cause was not that the early pace was too slow and so that the party had to race later in order to escape the onset of winter.
Appendix 5. Pace and weather.
6. The cause was not lack of food or even a shortage thereof; in particular, the caribou were not long gone.
Appendix 6. Food.
7. The cause was not that the party lacked a schedule.
Appendix 7. Schedule.
8. The cause was not that the fatal rapids were run in desperate haste. And Moffatt did not take the ultimate chance in running them.
The cause of Moffatt’s death is documented rather in the following.
Appendix 8. Rapids in general.
Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.

The only true accusation
made over those 55 years (three generations) is that the Moffatt party did not carry a radio.
But the lack of a radio played no role in the tragedy; the presence of one (assumed to have survived the dump) might have served only to get the survivors more easily to Baker Lake.
A precaution. Lest it be asserted that Moffatt was negligent in not taking a radio, Appendix 3. Equipment evinces that his request to carry a radio was denied.

Summary.

1. I presented every known primary accusation made over all those years, then exposed each to the light of the evidence provided by the participants, as follows.
(a) Excerpts from Moffatt’s journal, as kindly provided by Pessl (ever helpful).
(b) Excerpts from Moffatt’s journal, as provided in the Sports Illustrated article (1959). I caution that the article is not to be trusted on the whole.
(c) LeFavour’s article (1955).
(d) Grinnell’s article (1988). I caution that the article is not to be trusted on the whole.
(e) Grinnell’s book (1996). I caution that the book is not to be trusted on the whole.
(f) Pessl’s book (2014), which contains also excerpts from Franck’s journal.
(g) Private correspondence with participants Pessl, Lanouette and LeFavour (2014-2017).
2. I concluded that not one primary accusation is encumbered by a basis in the evidence known to me.
Reference. Ancillary 1. Accusations.
3. By the standards of a civilised and intelligent society, Moffatt is therefore innocent, and so I say
Moffatt’s incompetence is nothing but a myth.
And a myth, even one presented as fact by so many and over so many years as to become generally perceived as fact, no matter how frequently it is stated, no matter who states it, remains nothing but a myth.
More specifically, the myth of Moffatt’s incompetence is a conglomerate of the submyths addressed in the Appendices 1 through 9.
4. How did it go so terribly wrong, that Moffatt was falsely accused for 55 years?
Opinion.
Assertions were accepted as evidence. Accusations were passed on, indeed embellished, without thought to whether they had a basis in evidence, even to whether they were credible. The rumour mill ground away. Gossip and gullibility reigned supreme.
Evidence refuting accusations was repeatedly ignored.
And, not least, alternative facts made a significant contribution.
5. Over those 55 years, not one accuser accepted the responsibility to examine the evidence before joining the assault on a defenceless person.
Did a dead person, a fellow paddler, not deserve better?

Assessment of the evidence.
Given that (as best I know) the evidence of Pessl (and so that of Franck) was published too late to influence the Moffatt literature, it follows that the only primary evidence (that of the trip participants) available to those who published on the Moffatt trip and his death consisted of four items.
Item 1
is the SI condensation of Lanouette’s journal for the day of the tragedy. [SI article, pp 85&86, 1959].
Assessment.
The evidence convinces me that the condensation is a faithful one.
Reference. Ancillary 2. Lanouette excerpt.
But the Moffatt literature that followed publication of the SI article makes no mention of the full condensation. Only Grinnell’s edited version (provided in Item 4) of the condensation is mentioned in that literature.
Item 2.
Excerpts from Moffatt journal. [Sports Illustrated article (1959)].
Assessment.
Given first that the SI editor redacted the phrase Following Tyrrell’s route from Moffatt’s last journal entry (that of 13 September), and second that I lack full access to Moffatt’s journal,
I decided that I am unable to trust any content of SI article unless it is confirmed by a trustworthy source.
Items 3 and 4
are Grinnell’s article in Canoe&Kayak, pp 18-21&56 (1988),
and his book A Death on the Barrens, Northern Books (1996). The editions of 2005 and 2010 appear not to figure in the literature.
Assessment.
Given especially that Grinnell (in his book) redacted the passage
This surprised us. Art had figured we had already shot the last two rapids into Marjorie Lake. Actually, what we had gone down were only riffles, and what lay ahead was the real beginning of the first rapids from his otherwise complete version of the SI condensation of Lanouette’s journal for 14 September, I decided that I am unable to trust any content of either his article or his book.
Reference for all four items.
Ancillary 1. Accusations.
Sources considered to be reliable
include the publications of the Tyrrell brothers, J B Tyrrell’s maps, Moffatt’s letters to J B Tyrrell, excerpts from Moffatt’s journal (but only as provided by Pessl, explicitly not those provided in the SI article), and Pessl’s book (which contains also the evidence of Franck).
Conclusion.
Given that the only primary sources used in all the Moffatt literature were the SI article, Grinnell’s article and Grinnell’s book, and
given that the evidence convinces me that none of those three sources is reliable, in the first instance,
it is perhaps reasonable for me to conclude the entire accusatory part of the Moffatt literature has no more substance than a house of cards, in the first instance.

Closing comments.
For 55 years, every Moffatt accuser asserted the cause of his death to be one or more of those discussed in the Appendices.
Not one accuser provided evidence in support of her/his assertion; it seems necessary to point out that an assertion by a previous accuser is not evidence, to most of us anyway.
Few of those accusations possessed any support in evidence when they were made. Many of them fly in the face of easily available contrary evidence to the contrary. And every one of them is refuted by the evidence in toto, save only that the Moffatt party did not carry a radio (because it was forbidden to do so).
Over those 55 years, every person (perhaps a score of them) who wrote about the tragedy got wrong the cause of Moffatt’s death.

Personal reflections.
Moffatt did not paddle the Dubawnt in order to build his self-esteem by proving himself to himself or to anyone else. A volunteer pacifist who served in the war for years as an ambulance driver at the very front of the battles has no need to prove anything to anyone.
Moffatt set out to document the barrenlands by means of film, photos and journals. Perhaps he took the trip also to experience the barrens, to immerse himself in it, to understand it at least in part, to appreciate it. Perhaps he had hoped to establish himself as a wilderness writer. Perhaps he already had the idea of protecting the barrens. Perhaps he took the trip in part out of respect for the wilderness.
Moffatt was the very antithesis of the conquer-the-wilderness types, the ego-trippers, the self-promoters, the peak-baggers, the river-baggers, in short all those go into the wild with something to prove. [Grinnell article, p 20, left column; Grinnell book, pp 18-19].
And so Moffatt was the very antithesis of the Dubawnt paddler of 1966, who made that trip solely in order to show up a dead man, as evinced by his Moffatt is precisely why we took the trip…I thought experienced trippers could cover Tyrrell’s route safely and skillfully, which we did.
Such courage, such grace!
Summary.
I suggest that Moffatt deserves our respect. Most certainly he and his family did not deserve the false, often abusive, assertions made over so many years by so many.

Suggestions.
1. Those wishing to learn more about the trip and the tragedy might begin with Pessl’s book.
Pessl, Fred (Skip). Barren Grounds. The Story of the Tragic Moffatt Canoe Trip. Dartmouth College Press (2014).
2. With all primary accusations shown to have no basis in any evidence, the way is clear for a new chapter in the Moffatt literature, namely an extended appreciation of him. Such would be rather late (he died sixty years ago), but perhaps someone will take on the job.
3. Perhaps multiple retractions are in order.

A little about Arthur Moffatt, the person.
The evidence convinces me that Moffatt was the very opposite of the bungling, incompetent fool that his many accusers so successfully portrayed him to be for 55 years.
From the little that I know of him, he was a thoughtful, decent, responsible, indeed admirable, being.
(a) Arthur Moffatt was born in 1919, the son of a stable worker on a Long Island estate. At 17, he’d paddled the Albany River in Northern Ontario alone, 500 miles from Sioux Lookout to Hudson’s Bay. He attended Dartmouth College—his father’s employer paid his tuition—and immediately after graduating in 1941 (Grinnell’s article gives 1939), he joined the American Field Service, a volunteer ambulance corps attached to the British Eighth Army. A committed pacifist, Moffatt witnessed some of the bloodiest campaigns of World War II, but never carried a weapon. [Pessl, as reported by Kesselheim, Alan. Canoe & Kayak, May 2012, starting on p 46.]
(b) … he joined the British Eighth Army in Africa, which is notable for two reasons: one, Moffatt was an American not British, and, two, he was a pacifist. For six years, he carried dead and wounded back from the front. On both adventures (the first was his solo trip on the Albany River in 1938) he said he had been scared to death, but after the war he had only felt the stupidity of it all. [Grinnell article, p 18]
(c) During the Second World War, as a professed pacifist from America and a volunteer with the American Field Service, a Quaker organization, Art had been allowed by the British High Command to carry no weapons, just the wounded and dying soldiers back from the front… [Grinnell book, p 15].
(d) He was a quietly principled man who from an early age lived as best he could, consistent with his principles. … He was a pacifist and volunteered for the American Field service as an ambulance driver, serving in Africa and Italy during World War II. [Pessl book, p 165]
Why did he choose the Dubawnt River?
He had …the grand concept of retracing J. B. Tyrrell’s epic 1893 journey down the Dubawnt River, creating a film documentary about the journey and sharing that experience in print with the wilderness adventure community. [Pessl, p 165]

In what respects are we the poorer for Moffatt’s passing?
An appreciation of Arthur Moffatt.
Even after these many years, I grieve Art Moffatt’s death. He was more than my mentor; he was perhaps a second father even though he was only fourteen years older than I. His pacifism, his principled lifestyle, and his view of the world, natural and international, opened my mind, challenged my thoughts, and gave me insight and courage to pursue my own dreams.
I wonder what would have been the future had he survived the Dubawnt and fully developed professionally as an outdoor writer and voice for wild spaces, indigenous peoples, habitat protection, and restraint in Arctic resources development. I believe his impact on our awareness and understanding of the Barrens would have been profound. How might we have better valued the vastness and uniqueness of that ecosystem? How different our understanding and vision of the far north might be today had our Dubawnt adventure ended in celebration instead of tragedy?
Certainly, we would be better informed, perhaps more compassionate in causes of peace, and probably more courageous in advocating to protect and conserve our northern heritage.
[Pessl, p 178].

Comments.
The Moffatt family lost a husband and a father.
The survivors lost their leader, their mentor, their companion, their friend.
The false, abusive accusations of the 55 years that followed likely inflicted much pain on both family and survivors, all of whom no doubt already suffered considerably from the loss. I express one last time my thanks to Pessl, Lanouette and LeFavour.

Opinions.
The Moffatt story is a candidate for the most shameful chapter in the entire outdoor literature. Even John Hornby (Thelon River, 1927) was treated mildly in comparison with Moffatt.
That matter aside: Of such scholarship, diligence, thought, integrity, common humanity, caution, charity, courage, compassion and above all commitment to evidence, is destroyed the reputations of the defenceless innocent; and here it was a fellow paddler.

The last word.
George Luste and I were professional colleagues for forty years. I regarded him as a friend.
He got me started with serious tripping. He provided much valuable advice. He recommended the upper Thelon for my first barrenlands trip; as a result, I got hooked on travel there.
I helped him with the Wilderness and Canoeing Symposium for several years.
He wrote the following regarding some Moffatt accusers pre-1996. I believe that he would have written more scathingly of those who followed.
Let him have the last word.
It seems as if a liberal amount of imagination has been invoked by these writers to change the facts so they fit their preoccupations and desires for culpability. [Grinnell book, 1996, p 294]

Internal URLs.

Foreword and Forum.
Main text.
Appendix 1. Reality.
Appendix 3. Equipment.
Appendix 4. Experience.
Appendix 5. Pace and weather.
Appendix 6. Food.
Appendix 7. Schedule.
Appendix 8. Rapids in general.
Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.
Ancillary 1. Accusations.
Ancillary 2. Lanouette excerpt.
Ancillary 3. Tyrrell excerpt.
Ancillary 4. Distances.
Ancillary 5. Loose ends and the future.
Ancillary 6. Addenda.
Ancillary 7. Moffatt’s Tyrrell sources.
Ancillary 8. Evidence regarding the tragedy.
Bibliography.

Notice.
With the exception of quoted material, copyright to the above belongs to Allan Jacobs.