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Massey Medal

1963 Winner - Graham Westbrook Rowley

One of the last great explorers

Graham Rowley
Courtesy of Diana Rowley
When Graham Rowley first journeyed to the Arctic in 1936, the unexplored coasts of Canada’s far northern reaches were still dotted lines on a map. Holed up in an igloo, Rowley, then 23, filled in the last of these lines on a piece of Hudson’s Bay stationery, using a compass and a watch. He’d left England to join the British Canadian Arctic Expedition, a surveying team, as its archaeologist.

His archaeological work on the Inuit and Dorset people allowed him to explore Foxe Basin and Baffin Island. As a result, Rowley (left, on an Arctic expedition around 1937), who died in December 2003, had a large island and a river in the Arctic named after him.

"He was the last in a line of European explorers of Canada that began with Jacques Cartier," says friend Ted Johnson, vice-president of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. "He was energetic, thoughtful and deeply caring about the people of the North."

An RCGS Fellow, Rowley was awarded the Massey Medal in 1963 for his geographical work. As a scientist with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in the early 1970s, he created a training program for Northern scientists and developed ground and air support services for scientific groups working in the Arctic.

His book, Cold Comfort: My Love Affair with the Arctic, published in 1996, remains a testament to his lifelong passion for Canada’s North.

— Jessa Sinclair

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