Major renovations were completed in early November 2017 but I expect that warts remain.
Thanks for your patience. Allan
Ancillary 5. Loose ends and the future.
For the most part, this Ancillary lists missing items that should provide more insight into the Moffatt trip.
All is neat and tidy in the accusatory literature: Moffatt was incompetent, period.
A particular example: Those guys had no business being up there. … They were a bunch of guys who didn’t know what they were doing and led by a guy with poor leadership skills. They fooled around and did a lot of crap and it finally came back to bite them. This was simply a group of novices led by someone more interested in film than travel, which squandered its time and resources and then made some tragic mistakes. … [Thum, in Mahler-Thum, 2005].
My limited experience is that documentary literature is not always neat and tidy. There are frequently poorly answered questions, questions that should have been asked but were not, sources that were missed, evidence that was missed, perhaps questionable decisions regarding which material to include and which to omit, errors in judgement, and so on.
And so I ask the reader to notify me of like items in my documentation of the Moffatt tragedy. I should welcome being notified of such and I promise to do what I can to resolve them.
At this time though, I know of no major remaining questions in the Moffatt story. To my mind, his innocence has been established beyond reasonable doubt (a necessary reversal of the customary procedure, given the volume and the quality of the accusatory literature).
But the following questions, some minor ones at first glance, have occurred to me.
Loose end 1. The Sports Illustrated article.
1. The identity of the SI editor.
2. The means by which s/he came into possession of both Moffatt’s journal for the trip, and Lanouette’s journal for 14 September.
3. More importantly, whether the editor’s selections responsibly represent the content of the journal. But I hold to my conclusion that the editor fabricated her/his case against Moffatt.
4. The background related to the following accusations, for none of which the editor provided evidence, all of which are refuted by the evidence (some of it in Moffatt’s journal itself).
(a) Food was becoming the question now. [8-9 August; p 76, top of left column].
(b) 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. [15-16 August; p 76, bottom of right column].
(c) 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. [7-9 September; p 82, top of right column.]
5. The background related to the Epilogue on page 88.
Grinnell, being quoted in the first paragraph, is clearly a source for some of the material. I believe him to be the source for most of the remainder.
In this connection, much of the material in the paragraph beginning In the aftermath is incorrect [Pessl, private correspondence].
6. The role, if any, played by Grinnell in the preparation of the SI> article. But Grinnell and the editor certainly corresponded, perhaps met in person.
Loose end 2. Accusations made prior to the publication of Grinnell’s book.
On pages 293 and 294 of Grinnell’s book (1996 edition), Luste provides the following.
Over the years, a number of unfounded versions or representations of the Moffatt accident have made their way into the canoeing literature. I’ve read statements like
“After some discussion there came a momentous decision. To save time the party would run any rapid which looked safe from the top.” and
“Everyone was rescued quickly so there should have been no problems.” or
“Increasing desperation made them run rapids without careful checking,” or
“…to speed progress they would run any rapid that looked passable from the top…” and
“On Moffatt’s trip, the canoeists surviving the mid-September swamping first picked up all the packs, then the swamped members, a fatal mistake.”
1. These representations contain too much detail for them to have been based on the Sports Illustrated article, or to have been fabricated. Did their authors have access to a trip participant or his writings?
Information (not provided by Luste) regarding authors’ names, dates and publication information (if any) would almost certainly further our understanding of the Moffatt literature, perhaps even our understanding of the tragedy.
I did what I could to access relevant material.
2. In 1996, Luste already knew accusations of reckless running of the fatal rapids to be unfounded. How did Luste know that? Given Grinnell’s redaction of Lanouette’s evidence, Grinnell is an unlikely candidate.
3. What influence, if any, did these accusations have on the Moffatt literature post 1996? I saw no mention of them.
Loose end 3. J B Tyrrell’s journal.
The evidence is conclusive that Moffatt had obtained access to JBT’s journal, aka his report.
1. I refer first to the passage Throughout Tyrrell’s journal, he speaks of seeing patches of snow well to the south and he suffered his first snow storm on August 10. [Pessl, 28 August, bottom of p 107]. I say that the evidence is conclusive because no such passage appears in J B Tyrrell’s book, as I document in Appendix 5. Pace and weather.
2. That Moffatt had access to Tyrrell’s journal (not publicly available) is evinced also by the Moffatt-Tyrrell correspondence.
Loose end 4. The Moffatt – J B Tyrrell correspondence.
With regard to the tragedy, the evidence is conclusive that Moffatt had obtained rapids information from J B Tyrrell beyond that provided in the latter’s book; I refer the reader especially to the LeFavour passage …the last two apparently easy for they were mentioned only as “rapids”.
Sources for that additional rapids information are
1. J B Tyrrell’s journal, to which Moffatt is known to have had access; I refer the reader to the passage quoted in Loose End 4.
2. The Moffatt-Tyrrell correspondence (access to which would assist also our understanding of Moffatt’s preparations for the trip). Both my efforts to access that correspondence were unsuccessful; one was correspondence with the Moffatt family, the other inspection of the J B Tyrrell files at the Thomas Fisher Library of the University of Toronto. With respect to the latter, in May 2017 I spent the better part of two days searching the J B Tyrell files at that library. Those files contain both professional and personal correspondence, not completely separated. With the kind, indeed generous and patient, assistance of the library staff, I searched the entire professional files for 1953, 1954 and 1955, plus the entire relevant personal files, but I found none of the correspondence between them. In short, I did what I could.
Next, I provide Moffatt’s two letters to J B Tyrrell (Source Pessl); my only changes were the deletion of dates, of addresses and of blank lines between paragraphs and elsewhere.
Again, I was unable to access the reply (known to have been made) to the first; I possess no evidence that JBT replied to the second.
Moffatt’s letter of 18 December 1954.
Dear Dr. Tyrrell:
At the suggestion of Dr. Lincoln Washburn, Professor of Geology at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, I am writing to tell you of my plans to follow your route from Stony Rapids on Lake Athabaska via the Dubawnt River to Chesterfield Inlet this coming summer.
Since your exploration of that route in 1893 no other canoe parties seem to have made the trip, and if we did not have your excellent report to guide us, I doubt that we should attempt it. My purpose in going is to make a film in color, for lecture purposes — and I believe with luck we shall have something unlike anything that has been done before.
You may wonder what my qualifications for making such a trip are; I list them briefly: In 1937 I paddled alone from Sioux Lookout, Ontario, to the Albany River and down it to James Bay. Since 1950 I have led parties of five young men of college age down the Albany every summer. In 1952 and ’53 I made a 3000 foot color film of the Albany trip, with which I have been lecturing, and it now seems time to attempt a more difficult and unusual trip – your route down the Dubawnt.
I plan to use two 18 foot Chestnut Prospector canoes, one paddled by Skip Pessl, a young man who has made the Albany trip with me twice and who is this year a senior at Dartmouth College; and the other paddled by myself. We have not yet selected our two bow paddlers, and in this connection Dr. Washburn thought that you might like to send along someone from your company to look the country over once again.
We expect to leave here as close to June 15 as we can and to remain on the Dubawnt until about September 1. We anticipate several difficulties we have never encountered along the Albany, first the absence of fuel and second the difficulty of crossing the frozen expanse of Dubawnt Lake – if you are able to give us any advice on coping with these two problems we shall certainly appreciate it.
Of great importance also is the fact that we must carry sufficient supplies for the entire trip – the administration of the Northwest Territories will allow us to carry only a rifle, but it is only to be used if we are in danger of starvation – which we feel is rather late in the game to begin living off the country. Nevertheless, we are prepared to travel under these conditions.
We shall, of course, attempt to take as many fish as we can, and here again we should appreciate any specific information about the kinds of fish we shall encounter, places where they may be taken, and methods used in taking them.
To revert briefly to the matter of fuel: Stefansson, in his Arctic Manual, indicates that most Arctic rivers are lined with willows and alders; but in your report and in the book of your brother, I find small mention of such a source of wood for fires. Were they indeed absent along the Dubawnt, or were they too green to burn – or is the country too generally soaked with rain to use them?
I hope you find it interesting that we will be travelling the Dubawnt this summer, and I also hope that you can give me some advice to help us complete the journey successfully. In any case, I hope I may have the pleasure of hearing from you.
Sincerely, Arthur R. Moffatt
Given that Moffatt refers to J W Tyrrell’s book, his use of report (two places) suggests a source other than J B Tyrrell’s book.
But what then is one to make of the passage tried without success to obtain copies of your report in the letter that follows? Is there a third document?
Moffatt’s letter of 14 January 1955.
Dear Dr. Tyrrell:
Thank you very much for your kind reply to my letter of December 18, in which I asked you several questions about the Dubawnt River.
I have tried without success to obtain copies of your report from Mr. Amtmann and from Dora Hood, but Mr. Amtmann referred me to Miss Wills, Librarian of the Geological Survey, who was kind enough to send me, on loan until September 30, 1955, a copy of your report.
I have written Miss Wills of the possible damage that may be done to the report on a trip by canoe down the Dubawnt, and I am waiting now to see if she really means that I should take it with me to the Barrens. I certainly hope she does – after all, it will be our only guide.
Your suggestion that we will face starvation unless we have good rifles is certainly to the point, and I wish the Administration of the Northwest Territories realised that in forbidding us to use rifles until we are in imminent danger of starvation they are putting us in a very difficult position. However, if those are the terms on which we may enter the country, we will to face them or stay home. I believe that by restricting our diet to oatmeal, hardtack, bully beef, dried potatoes and macaroni, we ought to be able to feed four men well enough for the three months we expect to be on the Barrens. I’ve eaten worse food longer and survived.
Our search for two bow paddlers is not yet over, and in asking you whether your mining company might not like to send a geologist with us who could also pull his weight in a canoe and on the portages, I was acting on the advice of Dr. Washburn, who thought your company might find it to its advantage to do some prospecting along the Dubawnt.
You may be interested to hear that I showed your letter to Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson who i asked if he might have the letter for his library, which is a now a part of the Dartmouth College Library at Hanover, New Hampshire.
I want to thank you again for your interest in my proposed trip, and I wish you a very Happy New Year.
Sincerely, Arthur R. Moffatt
Loose end 5. Luste’s comment regarding the fatal rapids.
I should like to know the source of the following Luste comment.
Art Moffatt, following Tyrrell’s notes, was not expecting the rapid in which he swamped and then died. [Grinnell book, 1996, p 284].
How did Luste know that Moffatt had possessed J B Tyrrell’s notes regarding Dubawnt rapids in general?
Not by the way, Luste was not one to make things up.
As I discuss in the Main text and in Appendix 8. Other rapids Luste’s source was neither the Sports Illustrated article nor Grinnell’s publications.
Loose end 6. The journals of the trip participants.
Those concerned willing, establish a repository to hold the journals of the participants and related material.
Moffatt’s journal is of course by far the most important item.
Given that the Sports Illustrated editor
(a) made the accusations 1, 2 and 3 described in Ancillary 1 (Accusations), and
(b) redacted the key phrase Following Tyrrell’s route from Moffatt’s journal,
it seems important to examine Moffatt’s journal for the evidence regarding his character and his judgment.
More generally, access to his journal might reveal errors (and worse) in the written record as it stands.
Perhaps most important of all, his journal should provide much insight into the character of a shamefully maligned fellow paddler.
His journal is held at the Dartmouth College library, but viewing is restricted, perhaps understandably given the actions of the Sports Illustrated editor. Only a few excerpts are publicly available at present.
As things stand, given
the actions of the Sports Illustrated editor, and
the damage (much of it willful) that so many defamers did to Moffatt’s reputation over 55 years,
should we expect to see soon Moffatt’s journal and other material important for a deeper understanding of the tragedy?
Perhaps the response to this blog will decide the matter.
Since the announcement of the opening of the blog in late September 2016, I have received only Grinnell’s one-liner.
Foreword and Forum.
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.
With the exception of quoted material, copyright to the above belongs to Allan Jacobs.