Northern Charting - The Hudson Bay Route
Staff Commander J. G. Boulton, R.N.
When the first Canadian expedition to
Hudson Bay was planned in 1884, a Committee of the House of Commons sought the
advice and recommendations of Captain J. G. Boulton, then an Acting Staff
Commander, Royal Navy. He had done some preliminary exploration, or
reconnassaince on the Labrador and in Ungava Bay. As an exploratory survey of the
route, he recommended the following:
Dominion Government hire a steamer - one of the St. John's Newfoundland
steamers, always at hand. Her captain should be one of the St. John's sealing
captains, well experienced in ice navigation. He should have the selection of
his crew. For a pilot, the Government could apply to the Hudson's Bay Company
for a man who had been in their service. Perhaps one of the mates of the two
vessels, "Ocean Nymph" and "Prince of Wales", which go to
York Factory now. The British Admiralty should be applied to for a surveyor.
There should be six or seven small parties taken out in the vessel, to be landed
at points in the Straits, left all winter and picked up in the spring. These
parties should consist of a Canadian gentleman in charge, with some slight
knowledge of how to make a local survey and the use of instruments, with a
couple of men, one of whom should be an English-speaking Eskimo, who, I think,
could be picked up at York Factory."
(Boulton was not acquainted with Hudson Bay
itself. On the west coast Eskimos were not found south of Churchill).
would make about twenty in all the parties. The Admiralty surveyor would have
charge of the Expedition, select the localities for the landing parties, direct
the course of the vessel through the Strait, subject to the information of the
sailing master in all matters relating to ice, because the gentleman from the
Admiralty might not be acquainted with the ice, and, if a surveyor, the chances
are he is not. It
would be necessary to have a vessel large enough to carry coal to take her to
York Factory and back.
"The vessel should leave St. John's on the 5th of July, proceed to York Factory, the surveyor making a running survey and taking a line of soundings across the Bay. The vessel might visit Churchill, which probably would be a most suitable place for a terminal - the west harbour of Churchill - as well as York Factory.
vessel should then return to the Strait. (Parties) should be landed, with
material for building a hut, a year's provisions, a small boat, and a few
reference to the return of the vessel to
The government adopted Boulton's scheme,
almost in its entire detail. The Job Brothers sealing steamer
"Neptune" was chartered for three months and the expedition of 1885-86
was carried out in charge of Lieut. R. Gordon, R.N., of
Six parties, were landed, between the
This Part of Boulton's plan did. not work
out. Because the landings were made where there were anchorages in bays or
inlets, the visions of observers were limited. It was reported, by Charles R.
Tuttle, one of the observers, who wrote an exhaustive report of the expeditions,
that, "The only successful method of proving the length of time Hudson
Straits are navigable is by navigating those waters."
It is notable that the Canadian
Hydrographic Service's expeditions and exploratory surveys of later years, 1910
to 1914, and others after the war, were along the lines of Boulton's
recommendations and Gordon's "
See "OUR NORTH LAND", by Charles R. Tuttle, 1885, copy in Northern