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Expeditions

2001 Arctic Land Expedition

Back to the Future
George Back was a 23-year-old midshipman when he joined John Franklin's first expedition down the Coppermine River to the Arctic Ocean in 1819. A skilled artist, Back filled two sketchbooks during the journey. One of his watercolours portrays the crewmen dragging canoes across Point Lake, still frozen in June 1821.

One hundred and eighty years after Back rendered that scene, Paul vanPeenen, a photographer from Maple Ridge, B.C., retraced Franklin and Back's route, pulling his canoe across the same lake. VanPeenen’s expedition, supported by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, aimed to chronicle the extent of change in the landscapes Back painted in the 19th century.

Armed with copies of Back’s work, vanPeenen found and photographed a number of the vistas Back had painted, such as the Rocky Defile Rapids. Despite the growing encroachment of industry over the fragile northern environment, vanPeenen says, “It was nice to see that part of the landscape has been left alone.”

— Monique Roy-Sole

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