Author: R. Bruce Macdonald
Publisher: Friesen Press
ISBN: 978-1-460205570

It was around this time that we truly began to recognize the historic significance of the ship. We had not just purchased a boat, but a floating museum and living treasure of the Canadian Arctic fur trade,” R. Bruce Macdonald writes in his book, North Star of Herschel Island.

At four hundred and ninety-six pages, this paperback targets those interested in the history, travels, and ownership of a Canadian tall Arctic ship used for fur trading in the mid-twentieth century. With black and white photographs that are sometimes grainy, the book containing twenty-seven chapters includes a foreword, end notes, bibliography, appendix listing other schooners, and extensive index.

Written by the vessel’s third owner, the documentary encompasses the building of the fifty-seven foot schooner in San Francisco in 1935, her voyages to the Arctic, and her current day status berthed in Victoria, Canada.

The large boat was shipped to the Arctic aboard a trading ship and purchased by Fred Carpenter and James Wolkie, fur trappers in Inuit, for the pricey sum of twenty-three thousand dollars. From 1936 to 1961, the traders mainly used her for transporting polar bear and fox pelts along with dogs, sleds, supplies, and travelers to far away outposts.

Known as the “Queen of the Banksland Fleet,” the well-known boat received the attention of Queen Elizabeth II and assisted in starting the Sachs Harbour community while making four trips to the Arctic.

Being beached for six years, Sven Johansson acquired her in 1969 for a mere two thousand dollars and refurbished her rudder and hull, also drastically changing her to a three-masted square rigger. The ship participated in seismic surveys and oil deposit exploring and was commissioned for a UK expedition to Kodiak Island. Under Johanssen, she became an educational floating base for over eight hundred school children, occasionally going to sea to look for “sea-monkies.”

When the Macdonalds bought the rigged boat in 1996, they further restored her and currently live aboard with two daughters and two foster children. Although she is no longer a working trading vessel, she is considered a museum to the Arctic past, giving tours and participating in ship festivals.

As a fascinating, detailed read containing over one hundred sources, the biography shows the love of her owners for almost eighty years along with the people, culture, and memories that surround the only 1930s Canadian trapper schooner afloat today from the frigid lands of the Arctic. 

Thanks to the author for furnishing this complimentary book in exchange for a review of the reader’s honest opinion.

Follow Here To Purchase North Star of Herschel Island - The last Canadian Arctic fur trading ship.