Main text

Major renovations were completed in February 2018 but I expect that warts remain.
Thanks for your patience. Allan

In Defence of Arthur Moffatt.

Introduction.

In 1955, Arthur Moffatt set out to document, by film, photos and journals (his and perhaps those of his companions), the barrenlands of northern Canada. I emphasise that his was not a recreational trip like that taken by most paddlers.
Perhaps because documentation was readily available, he 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).
Moffatt’s was one of first modern trips to travel the barrens; even Eric Morse’s group did not venture there until years later. It was certainly the first non-native party to travel any part of the Dubawnt River since 1893.
To guide him, Moffatt possessed JWT’s book, JBT’s book, JBT’s journal, and JBT’s maps; as well, Moffatt had corresponded with JBT.
Throughout the previous 11 weeks of the trip, Moffatt had followed the advice of J B Tyrrell, in particular that regarding rapids. That advice had proved worthy of Moffatt’s trust, as evinced by the fact that he followed it in the afternoon of 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 J B 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 of Moffatt’s death appeared first in 1959 and continued at least until 2014. Over those 55 years, that cause was asserted (in not one case was supporting evidence provided, even a reference to a source) to be one or more of the following.
Assertion 1. The Moffatt party lost sense of reality.
Reference. Appendix 1. Reality.
Assertion 2. The party took many holidays early, forcing it to take chances later in order to escape the onset of winter.
Reference. Appendix 3. Equipment.
Assertion 4. The party lacked experience; Moffatt was a poor leader.
Reference. Appendix 4. Experience.
Assertion 5. The early pace was plodding, forcing the party to take chances later.
Reference. Appendix 5. Pace and Weather.
Assertion 6. The party lacked (sic) food. The caribou were long gone.
Reference. Appendix 6. Food.
Assertion 7. The party lacked a schedule.
Reference. Appendix 7. Schedule.
Assertion 8. 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.
With two and only two exceptions, every accusation made of Moffatt and the party as a whole evaporates when exposed to the heat of that evidence.
Exception 1. The party did not carry a radio.
Response. Moffatt’s request for permission to carry one was denied [Pessl, p 13]. Further, possession of a radio would not have averted the tragedy.
Exception 2. The three spare paddles had been left behind in Stony Lake.
Response. They were delivered the very next day.
Summary. 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. Indeed, 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). And she is now providing his complete journal.
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 exceptional efforts to assist my access to Tyrrell material.
Michael Pitt provided correspondence regarding the fatal rapids.
George Grinnell (participant) corresponded frankly regarding the Epilogue of the Sports Illustrated article; and he responded 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 much of the article.
Other contents include Moffatt’s prospectus for the trip, photographs of the participants and thumbnails of them, a map of the route, 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 (with major contributions from participant Grinnell).

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 subsequent 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 these 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
Kingsley was aware of Pessl material provided in Kesselheim’s article (2012), but made only incidental reference to it.
2. Publication of participant Pessl’s article.
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.
I possess no evidence that Kingsley knew of either Pessl’s Nastawgan article (2013) or his book (2014).
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.
I possess no evidence that Pessl knew of any Kingsley publication.
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

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 were to have been the print and digital editions of the Main text were posted online
http://www.canoekayak.com/canoe/in-defense-of-arthur-moffatt/#5UIXv2RETJtWMQwt.97 ,

In Defense of Arthur Moffatt (Unabridged Version)


The subtitle of both. Allan Jacobs on why the conventional wisdom about Arthur Moffatt is wrong.
Note. 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 the Bibliography and none of the Appendices had not been published in any form, and
that I had received no reply to an earlier enquiry regarding the publication status of the remaining items,
I withdrew all items from consideration for publication.
I received no response to my withdrawal notice, but the print and the digital versions of the main text were available when last checked.

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 for viewing.

The evidentiary basis of the Moffatt 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 Moffatt 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 consists of selections from Moffatt’s journal (in cases edited significantly), plus a faithful condensation 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) I note that the later editions (those of 2005 and 2010) played no role in the Moffatt literature.
Summary.
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 until 2014, which saw the publication of Pessl’s book; but it appeared too late to influence the literature.
Much of the accusatory literature is based not on these three sources, but rather on previous items of that literature. And so these three early items of Moffatt literature were highly influential.
The next three paragraphs examine the evidentiary basis of the 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 SI editor had full access to Moffatt’s journal.

Some assertions made by the Sports Illustrated editor, and partial 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 four days before the editor’s assertion Food was becoming the question now.
Three caribou were shot after 16/17 August, the date of the assertion game grows scarce.
More generally, Moffatt’s journal (possessed in full by the editor) documents that caribou were shot (these on 5 August, 11 August, 20 August, 26 August and 5 September), for a total of five; of these, the editor mentioned only the one shot on 11 August.
As well, many ptarmigan were killed; and a plethora of other food (three species of fish, blueberries and mushrooms) was obtained from the land. The editor made next to no mention of this evidence.
Reference for Assertions 1 and 2. Appendix 6. Food.
Assertion 3a.
a week behind…schedule [SI article, upper right column on page 76; dated 8 August]
Assertion 3b.
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 1. The SI editor suggests (falsely) that the Moffatt party was following the track of the Tyrrell party (1893).
Response 2. As anyone who has paddled there knows full well, no recreational party ever had, indeed could have had, a day-by-day schedule for travel in the barrenlands. Even the Tyrrell party was unable to travel on occasion.
Reference. Appendix 7. Schedule.
Assertion 4.
provisions dwindle. [bottom right of p 76, for the period after 16/17 August].
It is no great insight that 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.
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].
Comment 1. Neither part is encumbered by the evidence of a participant; in particular, no member of the party took chances at any time, especially on the day that Moffatt died.
Comment 2. The only two dumps of the entire trip occurred in the rapids where Moffatt died.
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.
What interpretation of that phrase is possible but
first that Moffatt had obtained route advice from J B Tyrrell and
second that he was following Tyrrell’s advice?
A request. I ask that the reader reflect on the editor’s motivation for redacting that passage.
Reference. Particulars 2 and 3 of Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.
Opinion.
Given that the editor redacted this 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, in desperate haste to reach Baker Lake before the onset of winter.
Reference. Appendix 2. Holidays.
A full discussion of these and other Grinnell assertions is provided in Ancillary 1. Accusations
Conclusion. I am unable to trust any content of Grinnell’s article that is not supported by evidence from a credible source.

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 an item 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). Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.
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 Appendix 9) with Grinnell’s version of the condensation (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, namely the reach between the portage (that completed in the morning of 14 September) and Marjorie Lake?
A request. I ask that the reader reflect on Grinnell’s motivation for redacting that passage.
Reference. Appendix 9. The fatal rapids.
Given the above, I am unable to trust any content of Grinnell’s book that is not supported by evidence from a credible source.

A concern and a request.
Both the SI editor and Grinnell redacted what I consider to be important evidence regarding Moffatt’s death, and
Grinnell provided material (for example death from hypothermia) for the Appendix An Epilogue to Tragedy of the SI article.
Indeed, I possess evidence that they had met in person (or through intermediaries) during the preparation of that article.
I ask that the reader reflect on these items.

Conclusions regarding the evidentiary basis of the accusatory literature.

Perhaps testing the reader’s patience, I repeat that the only basis (the publications of the participants) of the Moffatt literature (primary and secondary alike) consists of 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.
The entire accusatory literature, primary and secondary alike, has no more substance than a house of cards.

The accusations and the evidence.

The nine Appendices (Internal URLs are provided below) hold all evidence known to me related to the corresponding primary accusations, plus some of my responses. My full responses are provided in Ancillary 1. Accusations.

The running of the fatal rapids.
Because of the overriding importance of the matter, I provide here
the primary accusations regarding the rapids where Arthur Moffatt died, and
some of the relevant evidence; the full evidence is provided in Ancillary 7. Moffatt’s Tyrrell sources, Moffatt possessed J W Tyrrell’s book, plus J B Tyrrell’s maps, his book and his journal.
JWT’s book makes no mention of the rapids where Moffatt died. Neither does JBT’s book Ancillary 3. Tyrrell excerpt or the relevant map https://barrenlands.library.utoronto.ca/content/zone-6-1893 .
But Moffatt possessed evidence regarding the rapids where he died; I describe that evidence below.
For the moment, especially in view of the Sports Illustrated editor’s assertion that the fatal rapids were run in desperate haste, I ask that the reader reflect on the following items and their significance regarding Moffatt’s death.
1. The only two dumps of the entire trip occurred in the rapids where Moffatt died.
2. On 13 September, the party ran without incident the first two rapids below Wharton Lake.
3. The next obstacle was a set of rapids that was portaged by the Tyrrell party in 1893. The Moffatt party completed the portage around those rapids in the morning of 14 September, a few hours before Moffatt’s death.

The evidence of participant LeFavour.
Referring to the reach below the portage (completed in the morning of 14 September), and so to the rapids where Moffatt died, LeFavour provided the following: the last two apparently easy for they were mentioned only as “rapids” [LeFavour article, 1955].
Aside. The only possibilities for this information are J B Tyrrell’s journal (aka his report) and his response to Moffatt’s letter of 18 December 1954.
Summary.
Moffatt knew there to be rapids below the portage, but he had cause to believe them to be easy.
Some might then conclude that he was justified in running the fatal rapids without a scout.

The evidence of Moffatt’s bowperson Lanouette.
The complete (uncondensed) journal entry of Lanouette for 14 September is provided in Ancillary 2. Lanouette excerpt.
Pages 85-87 of the Sports Illustrated article (1959) provide what I consider to be a faithful condensation of that entry. The relevant passage from that condensation:
After a fine lunch of fish chowder, we shoved off again at around 2:30. The weather was still dismal, although the wind had dropped. In a few minutes we heard and saw rapids on the horizon. 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.
At the top, the rapids looked as though they would be easy going, a few small waves, rocks—nothing serious. We didn’t even haul over to shore, as we usually did.
[SI article, p 85]
For present purposes, the important passage is the following: In a few minutes we heard and saw rapids on the horizon. 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.

Remarks.
What interpretation of this passage is possible but
first that the Moffatt party had prior information regarding rapids in the reach above Marjorie Lake, and
second that that information had proved incorrect?
To me, this passage is important because it evinces that Lanouette and Moffatt were surprised by the sudden appearance of the rapids on the horizon.
Conclusion.
J B Tyrrell had informed Moffatt, at least implicitly, that were no rapids of significance in the reach where he died.

Grinnell’s version of the relevant part of the condensation.
After a fine lunch of fish chowder, we shoved off again at around 2:30. The weather was still dismal, although the wind had dropped. In a few minutes we heard and saw rapids on the horizon. …
At the top, the rapids looked as though they would be easy going, a few small waves, rocks—nothing serious. We didn’t even haul over to shore, as we usually did.
[Grinnell book, p 202]

Comparison of the two versions.
One sees that Grinnell redacted, and replaced with an ellipsis, 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 participant Lanouette’s journal for 14 September.

A request.
I ask that the reader consider why Grinnell redacted this particular passage (and only this passage, especially the surprised comment), if not to conceal evidence that Moffatt had been incorrectly advised by J B Tyrrell.

The redaction made by the Sports Illustrated editor.
As I document elsewhere, the editor redacted the passage Following Tyrrell’s route from Moffatt’s last journal entry, that for 13 September.
A request.
I ask that the reader consider
first what interpretation of this passage is possible but that Moffatt had route information from J B Tyrrell and was following it?
second what interpretation of the redaction is possible but that the editor intended to conceal this evidence?

A coincidence?
1. The Appendix of the Sports Illustrated article (1959),
especially Grinnell’s remarks (first published 37 years later, in 1996) regarding death due to hypothermia, the traverse of Aberdeen Lake, the encounter with the Inuit family, etc,
evinces that Grinnell and the SI editor had been in written contact (at least) before the article was published.
As well, Grinnell had spoken in person with SI staff (perhaps with the editor her/himself) as the article was being prepared. [Private correspondence, 21 December 2016].
2. Both the SI editor and Grinnell redacted evidence regarding Moffatt’s decision to run the fatal rapids without a scout.

The assertions of the Sports Illustrated editor.
1. …the Moffatt party races against winter …In desperate haste, they take an ultimate chance. [Sports Illustrated, bottom of right column, p 76]
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. [Sports Illustrated, top of right column, p 82]
Comment. Given that no evidence was ever presented in support of these accusations, the paddling community could easily have rejected them out-of-hand. Unfortunately, the very opposite occurred; the accusations were accepted in toto, without written dissent as best I know.
Response to both assertions.
Who is so credulous as to believe that (only a few hours after completing that portage) Moffatt, in suddenly acquired desperate haste, chose to take the ultimate chance by running those rapids without a scout?

The secondary accusations
are believed to have been inspired by those of the SI 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 to the rapids parts of these four assertions.
I expect that most river paddlers have run rapids without scouting them. Indeed, that act is so common as to have acquired a title, namely making a blind probe. Countless parties have made blind probes and have dumped as a result; indeed, two primary accusers (Murphy and Thum) had the courage and the integrity to state that they had done so.
Conclusion.
If a dump resulting from a blind probe is proof of incompetence, then Murphy and Thum are incompetent, as are perhaps many reading this.

But Arthur Moffatt did not make a blind probe!
As documented above, he had been informed by 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 request. I ask that the reader reflect on the light that the evidence of Lanouette and LeFavour sheds on the SI editor’s assertions, repeated for the reader’s convenience.
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] and
…the Moffatt party races against winter on the Barren Grounds …In desperate haste, they take an ultimate chance. [Sports Illustrated, bottom of right column, p 76]
Given that the evidence of Lanouette was provided in the SI article itself, I ask whether the SI editor had read her/his own article.

The evidence of George Luste regarding the fatal rapids.
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 (all of whom, save the SI editor, are known to have accessed Grinnell’s book) 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 what was alleged to be a review of Grinnell’s book).

The evidence of the trip participants.
Given that (as best I know) the evidence of Pessl (and so also that of Franck) was published too late to influence the Moffatt literature, and also that the evidence of LeFavour is even now inaccessible,
it follows that the only primary evidence (that of trip participants) available to those who published regarding Moffatt’s death consisted of the following four items.

Item 1. The SI condensation of Lanouette’s journal for the day of the tragedy. [SI article, pp 85&86, 1959].
The evidence, provided in Ancillary 2. Lanouette excerpt, convinces me that the SI condensation is a faithful one.
But Grinnell redacted a key passage (provided above) from the condensation, and only his version is mentioned in the literature that followed publication of the SI article.

Item 2 consists of what are alleged to be excerpts from Moffatt’s journal, as published in the Sports Illustrated article (1959).
My best efforts failed to obtain full access to the journal.
Indeed, some items are excerpts from Moffatt’s journal, but many appear to be of the little-red-fruit variety; that is they appear to have been selected to make points detrimental to Moffatt.
Moffatt’s journal entry for 13 September was edited, perhaps to conceal possibly exculpatory evidence. I refer here to the redaction of the phrase Following Tyrrell’s route.
Asides.
1. The editor represented the track of the Tyrrell party (1893) to be the schedule of the Moffatt party.
2. Moffatt’s concerns regarding his personal supplies of cigarettes and sugar were represented as concerns of the party as a whole.
3. Evidence detrimental to the SI editor’s case against Moffatt went unmentioned, for example the shooting of five caribou (as opposed to the one mentioned by the editor).
etc.
I conclude that no trust should be placed in any content of the SI article

Items 3 and 4 are
Grinnell’s article in Canoe&Kayak, pp 18-21&56 (1988), and
Grinnell’s 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 key 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 concluded that I must trust any content of either his article or his book, unless it is confirmed by reliable sources.

Reliable sources.
I trust 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), Pessl’s book (which contains also the evidence of Franck), and the publications of (and correspondence with) Lanouette and LeFavour.

Comments regarding the accusatory literature.

From its inception in 1959 to and including 2014, the accusatory literature consists of little but assertions, opinion pieces, and rehashed versions of previous accusations. In particular, in not one instance was supporting evidence explicitly provided.
Assertions were unthinkingly accepted and promulgated, indeed embellished to Moffatt’s detriment in several instances.
The little red fruit was picked repeatedly.
The basis for some accusations lies only in the imagination of the defamer.
What I believe to be exculpatory evidence regarding some accusations lay in plain sight but went unmentioned. 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.
True assertions.
My three years of research into Moffatt’s death found only two assertions that are not refuted by the evidence.
1. The Moffatt party did not carry a radio. But his request to carry one was refused.
2. The three spare paddles were left behind in Stony Rapids, but they arrived at Black Lake the next day. And so the party had three spare paddles for the entire trip, at least up to 14 September.
Conclusion.
Perhaps testing the reader’s patience, I repeat my conclusion that the entire accusatory literature has no more substance than a house of cards.

The cause of Moffatt’s death

was none of those alleged by so many over 55 years.
1. The party had not lost…sense of reality.
Appendix 1. Reality
2. The party did not take too many holidays early in the trip, forcing it to race later in order to catchup on time.
Appendix 3. Equipment.
4. The party was not inexperienced; the leadership was not poor.
Appendix 4. Experience.
5. The early pace was not too slow; the party did not race later in order to escape the onset of winter.
Appendix 5. Pace and weather.
6. The party did not suffer from a lack of food or even a shortage thereof; in particular, the caribou were not long gone.
Appendix 6. Food.
7. No party paddling the barrenlands (even the Tyrrell party of 1893) ever had or could have had a highly prescriptive schedule such as a day-by-day one. But eleven independent sources attest the Moffatt party had a schedule for arrival in Baker Lake.
Appendix 7. Schedule.
8. The fatal rapids were not run in desperate haste; 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.

Summary.

1. After presenting every accusation known to have been made over those 55 years, I exposed each to the light of the evidence of the participants, as follows.
1. 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
first that some excerpts were edited to make points detrimental to Moffatt,
second that some items alleged/suggested to be excerpts have no evidentiary basis in his journal.
1. LeFavour’s third article (1955). I lack access to the other three.
2. Grinnell’s article (1988). I caution that the article is not to be trusted on the whole.
3. Grinnell’s book (1996). I caution that the book is not to be trusted on the whole.
4. Pessl material provided in Kesselheim’s Canoe article (2012).
5. Pessl’s Nastawgan article (2013).
6. Pessl’s book (2014), which contains also excerpts from Franck’s journal.
7. Private correspondence with participants Pessl, Lanouette and LeFavour (2014-2017).
2. Conclusion. Not one primary accusation is encumbered by a basis in any evidence known to me.
Reference. Ancillary 1. Accusations.
3. In those three years, l found only two true accusations.
(a) The party did not carry a radio.
Response. Permission to do so was refused.
(b) The three spare paddles had been left behind in Stony Rapids.
Response. They were delivered to the party the very next day.
4. 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 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.
5. 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 went unmentioned.
alternative facts made a significant contribution.
Over those 55 years, not one accuser accepted the responsibility to examine the evidence before joining the assault on Moffatt. Did a dead person, indeed a fellow paddler, not deserve better?
The result. Every person (over a score of them) who wrote about the matter 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. An American pacifist who volunteered to serve as an ambulance driver (in the British Eighth Army) at the very front of the battles in Africa and Italy has no need to prove anything to anyone.
Moffatt set out to document the barrenlands by means of film, photos and journals. Perhaps he went 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. He would never have said The real adventure pits man against nature, as alleged in the Sports Illustrated article [top of p 71]. In private correspondence, Pessl confirmed that such a comment is totally out of character for Moffatt; he referred me to the following passage from Grinnell’s book. How ridiculous to “assault a mountain”! How pretentious to plant a flag! How arrogant to stand on top for fifteen minutes and talk of “conquest!” [Grinnell book, p 19]. A similar remark was made in Grinnell’s article [lower left column, p 20]. In both instances, the context was a conversation about the then recent ascent of Everest.
Moffatt was the very antithesis of Bob Thum, who provided the following motivation for his Dubawnt trip of 1966. Moffatt is precisely why we took the trip…I thought experienced trippers could cover Tyrrell’s route safely and skillfully, which we did. [Down a Dead Man’s River, Che-Mun. Outfit 122, Autumn 2005, starting on page 4. http://www.ottertooth.com/che-mun/122/chemun122.pdf If I may, I suggest that the Thum party covered Tyrrell’s route safely and skillfully in large part because Thum knew the rapids where Moffatt died to be exceptionally dangerous. More generally, such courage, such grace, to defame a dead man.
Opinion.
I suggest
that Moffatt deserves our respect,
that he and his family did not deserve the false, often abusive, assertions made over 55 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 not the bungling, incompetent fool that so many portrayed him to be over 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 lesser 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 perhaps the most shameful chapter in the entire outdoor literature. Even John Hornby (Thelon River, 1927) was treated mildly in comparison.
Of such scholarship, diligence, grace, thought, integrity, humanity, caution, charity, courage, compassion and above all commitment to evidence, is destroyed the reputations of the defenceless innocent, here a fellow paddler.
The opinion of Stewart Coffin.
The Moffatt Expedition stands as the pioneering venture in modern recreational canoe travel through the subarctic tundra of northern Canada. [Appalachia Journal. 15 December, 1996.] Mentioned by Pessl (his page 162); thanks to him for providing a copy.

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 and provided much valuable advice. I helped him with the Wilderness and Canoeing Symposium for several years.
Luste expressed the following opinion of Moffatt’s defamers. I believe that he would have written even more scathingly of those who wrote after 1996.
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.

Edition of 10 February 2018.