received this fascinating letter and photo from Bryan Greene a
subscriber from St John’s Newfoundland.
“I read with interest Stewart Coffin’s account of his trip
down the Naskaupi River in 1968, published in Chemun Outfit
114. I have spent some time on the Naskaupi over the past
ten years and enjoyed Stewart’s description of the river
before the Upper Churchill hydro development and dam at Orma
Lake. It must have been truly a majestic river then. Stewart
is correct in saying that the Orma dam has decreased the flow
considerably. But the river is still eminently canoeable,
still home to the caribou and geese that Mina Hubbard
encountered in 1905. I just wish I had the opportunity to see
it in 1968.
“My visits to the Naskaupi were essentially to retrace the
Labrador Portion of Mina Hubbard’s and Dillon Wallace’s trips
in preparation for a forthcoming edition of Mina’s 1905 diary.
I found Mina’s diary very easy to follow in the field, her
descriptions so detailed that her long portage routes around
the lower and upper gorges of the Naskaupi, and even her
campsites are easily located. George Elson’s diary is less
detailed (George had less time to write!), but he sometimes
provides a helpful description. I used the diaries from the
Wallace expedition (Wallace’s, Easton’s and Stanton’s) mainly
to help locate the old Innu portage route from the mouth of
the Red Wine River to Seal Lake and the Innu route around Maid
Marion Falls and the rapids below it. Wallace tried to follow
those ancient portage routes rather than stick to the river,
as Mina did, but he found they were overgrown and hard to
find. They are still hard to find in thickly wooded areas but
there are well-beaten paths in the many areas of lichen
woodland north of Nipshish Lake.
“Mina recorded in her
diary for July 17, 1905 that she and George built a cairn on a
hill above their campsite on Dorothy Lake to mark their first
view of Seal Lake and the end of the long struggle up the
lower Naskaupi. I was pleasantly surprised to find that cairn
(a rather substantial affair as you can see) still in place
after nearly a century in a very exposed location.
“My trips on the Naskaupi gave left me with one over-riding
impression of awe at the skill and stamina that enabled Mina’s
men to not only complete the trip in 1905 but to do it with
grace and panache. Following Mina and George on the Naskaupi
certainly makes one feel that it is not only the river that
has diminished, that we are indeed “the dwindled sons of a
race of supermen” as Stone and Finkelstein quote in their
article on A.P. Low in Outfit 111.
“I enjoy Che-Mun very much. Congratulations on a fine
also heard from Lawrence Millman, who knew Elliott
Merrick and contributed some years ago to Che-Mun. He was a
friend of the late Elliott Merrick.
You may remember me from Che-Muns past.
Recently, I was browsing through a bunch of issues at Jack
Gregg's house and I thought, what a splendid little
publication -- I'd like to renew my acquaintance with it as
well as its editor. So, first of all, here's a contribution in
the form of a prose poem for some future issue:
GLACIAL ERRATIC NEAR OKAK BAY
For Elliott Merrick
All alone it stands, headpiece of the world, far
from the teeming fellowship of moraine, rubble, or till. A
palimpsest of grey-green lichen adds scurflike skin to its
patina of bad weather. Its neck is joined to the cold Labrador
firmament by a harmony so slight as to seem non-existent and
yet so strong that nothing could break it, not even Atik-wapeo,
the Caribou God. No other landmark graces these barrens,
twenty miles wide from eyelid to eyelid, except this granite
boulder balanced on scoured rock, deposited here by the last
Ice Age. Pariah and bulwark, it is an example of how to hold
on to the austere bounteous earth.
Hold on, vagabond, or you'll perish.
“A couple of other things. The Lyons Press in the
US has reprinted The Lure of the Labrador Wild by
with an introduction by yours truly; it is the first title in
an Arctic reprint series edited also by yours truly. Could you
kindly mention this reprint of Lure in Che-Mun?”
George Elson's and Mina Hubbard's
1905 cairn still standing.