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  • August 4, 1997

    Geoffrey Peake, Chief Guide of the Hide Away Canoe Club (HACC) writes:

    GEOFF PEAKE  Tonight we are another 20 kilometers down the river, camped beside an impressive gorge. My thoughts today were focused on Dillon Wallace and
     Clifford Easton, and their tortuous journey down this river in much different circumstances than ours.
     When Mina Hubbard and Dillon Wallace, each with their respective expeditions down the George, set out the literally camped across from each other off on the Naskapi River. For some reason, Wallace decided to have his group follow the arduous native route which climbed rather steeply out of the Naskapi River valley, following a chain of lakes on the plateau, to meet up again with the Naskapi just before Lake Michikamau. Why he did this is not clear. He claimed to be taking a more exploratory route rather than "hiding in the river valley" as he felt Mina Hubbard's party did. Perhaps the idea of travelling together with her group up the long climb to Michikamau was just too unpleasant. Whatever the reason, by going via Seal Lake he guaranteed that he would not be the first to George River Post.
     Losing over a month in that journey, they did not reach Lake Resolution until September 20th. A combination of illness and inability to find the outlet from the Lake, they wasted 6 days in a vain search for the river. When they finally did find the river at last, the weather turned savage as the first grip of winter laid hold to the land. For 2 days they were struck by a foul gale that dropped several inches of snow on the ground. Finally on September 29th, disaster struck.
     Easton wrote in his journal "Everything covered with ice; rocks along shore and water in bay. Water froze as it fell, both of us in the boat and outfit covered with frozen spray." Entering a short, steep rapid, the canoe struck broadside on a rock and capsized. Their gear was not lashed in and much of it was lost--including their rifles, axes, and pots and pans. They floundered about in the icy water in a vain attempt to recover their gear before it all disappeared. When they came ashore Wallace knew he had to light a fire or they both would perish. Easton writes "No feeling in any part of my body and fast losing consciousness. Managed to crawl and hobble through rapid to shore." With no wood on shore, Wallace and Easton paddle across the small bay with their hands (they had lost their paddles). Wallace, with trembling hands barely able to light the matches. By luck, the fire lit and they were brought back slowly from brink of death.
     Today, as we passed that same rapid (one that we ran without mishap)
      I tried to imagine Wallace and Easton on the bank, fear and desperation in their eyes, praying that the fire would light. We had brought a large magnet with us and Tom trolled the rapids while I steered the canoe in a vain attempt that we might hook onto one of their cherished rifles that lay, 92 years later, somewhere beneath our boats. After an hour, we moved on--we had our own rapids to run and the thought of them always creates a sense of anxiety until the day is over.
     Tomorrow we will head down a much different river--nearly double in size as the Whitegull river flows in from the East. One final note--if you are a CBC listener to Summerside, listen for us Tuesday in the first hour--via satellite phone.

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