Doreen Larsen Riedel
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  • © Copyright Doreen Larsen Riedel (
  • Размещен: 13/11/2007, изменен: 08/01/2011. 15k. Статистика.
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  • Аннотация:
    Дочь известного капитана-полярника Генри Ларсена (его имя носит канадский ледокол), написала воспоминания о своём отце после туристического путешествия на пассажирском судне "Академик Иоффе" летом 2007 года.

  • Henry of the "Big Ship"

    On October 11, 1942 a 104 foot schooner, belonging to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was escorted without fanfare, through the antisubmarine net of mines into Halifax harbor in Nova Scotia. Under its captain Sgt. Henry Larsen, the St Roch had left Vancouver BC in June 1940. This is the voyage that Henry Asbjorn Larsen is best known for. That trip alone would have placed the ship and her crew in the annals not only of Canadian history but also of global maritime history.

    The St Roch eventually became the first ship to circumnavigate North America, and did so in both directions. She was built as an Arctic supply ship for the RCMP at Burrard Dry Dock of North Vancouver in 1927-28. Built of Douglas fir, she was a wooden ship -104 feet three inches long, with a beam of 24 feet 9 inches and a draft of 13 feet when fully loaded so she could sail in shallow water. The outer hull was sheathed in Australian Ironbark. In 1940 she had a 6 cylinder 135 HP diesel engine comparable to a modern car. She was designed with a rounded hull to resist the crushing pressure of the ice, but it caused her to "buck and heave like a bronco". She could hold a crew of 13 but rarely were there more than 9 often 7 or 8

    Henry Larsen described St Roch as the most uncomfortable ship he had ever been on. When she first sailed there were numerous problems in design. Some of these were not corrected until the 1944 trip westward. The anchor windlass and deck winch were antiquated and hand operated. They way they were hooked up he described as being like a Rube Goldberg contraption and they gave a lot of trouble. It took all hands to get the anchor up and it was an "outright dangerous" activity. They could raise the mainsail but not lower it because of the location of the boom over the roof of the pilot house. There was a motor launch and a regulation life boat, but no small skiff suitable for hunting, carting on a sled or getting quickly out if someone fell overboard. So Larsen built one out of sail canvas and spare mast hoops, which were of no use since they couldnt use the main sail anyway.

    The men hunted for fish and seal to feed their dogs and supply fresh meat for themselves. They had to collect all the water they required from nearby lakes in the form of large ice blocks or from pools of fresh water on the sea ice. Gillen, the advisor to the RCMP and captain on the first part of the maiden voyage, had ordered the thirty or so tons of coal loaded loose and they had to sack it and unload it and re-sack it and re-load it several times when they ran aground. There were no batteries so there was no electrical power when she was not running.The only compass was in the wheelhouse but it couldnt be used for taking bearings for pilotage along the coast.One could hardly see over the bow of the ship so Larsen spent many hours in the crows nest - where one could only stand.

    Larsen sailed in Arctic waters from 1928 until the St Roch was retired from Arctic service in 1948. He made 10 voyages and on just three voyages the ship did not winter in the North. The longest stretch was more than four years. He spent 11 winters in the Arctic.

    These voyages were undertaken largely through uncharted waters, without the benefits of sonar, aerial ice reconnaissance, regular radio contact and relying on navigation methods dating back hundreds of years.

    According to Larsen, one of the purposes of the St Roch was to demonstrate Canadas sovereignty over the Canadian Arctic. But for various economic and other restraints, her activities were limited to the western Arctic until the historic wartime trip though to Halifax. The eastward route essentially reversed the shallow route taken by Amundsen in 1903-7, but passed through Bellot Strait rather than continuing northward around Somerset Island

    Little is known of Larsens origin and background except that he was Norwegian, born in 1899 on the island of Herfol to Severina Olava Olsen.Herfol is at the end of a chain of the Hvaler islands extending from Fredrikstad towards the Swedish coast. Unlike Nansen, Sverdrup or Amundsen families who were wealthy and well educated, Larsens family had occupied a small peninsula called Anholmen as far back an the mid 1600's and made a marginal living by fishing and farming. Henry Larsen was orphaned as an infant and brought up by relatives in Sweden until the age of 6 or 7 when he returned to Herfol to attend school. At that time, news of Amundsens successful transit through the NW Passage was a major topic of conversation among the Hvaler people. Amundsens family had originally come from the Hvaler Islands. The exciting story made quite an impression on him even as a little boy and as a mature man Amundsens exploits meant a lot to him. Henry Larsen read a lot about polar exploration, geography, and even about the North-west Mounted Police as a boy.

    At about 14 he went to sea with two uncles on the Anna a ship almost identical to Amundsens Gjoa, carrying fish, lumber and cobblestones between Norway, Denmark and Sweden. By 15 he was restless and signed on as an ordinary seaman on a barque the Baunen headed for the US, Caribbean, South America and back to Europe. He sailed on other barques like the Indian Girl , to South America and the US carrying linseed and coal.At 18 he was shipwrecked off the coast of South Carolina when the barque, the General Gordon was driven ashore in a gale and was split apart by the swelling of their cargo of maize. Ending up in New York he signed on to his first steamer the Vinstra sailing to South Africa, the East Indies and home. By then he had four years experience before the mast and was able to enter the Oslo Nautical School in September 1919. Adolph Lindstrom who had served as cook on the Fram and Gjoa expeditions under was an instructor at the school and Sverdrup visited while he was there. Following graduation in 1920 as a navigator, qualified to take any ship anywhere in the world, Larsen completed his military service in the Norwegian Navy. Times were very tough and he and a friend, like many young men, were desperate for a job so they joined the Bruno, a ship of the Fred Olsen line, as strike breakers. Later as 4th mate, the Theodore Roosevelt took him to Seattle, Vancouver and the Orient.

    In 1922 in Seattle he met Amundsen who was arranging passage for his pilot, Oscar Omdahl, back to Norway. Omdahl had been a guest of the Hudson Bay Company on the trip out of the North, but on Norwegian ships there were no free rides and Omdahl had to work as an oiler on the Roosevelt and bunk with the crew. Larsen offered some storage space in his cabin to Omdahl and their long discussions stirred up his interest in the Arctic again. The following year, Larsen read in the newspaper that a Danish trader, Christian Klengenberg, who had been going into the western Arctic since 1905, was in Seattle with his ship, the Maid of Orleans. Larsen saw his chance, resigned his post of now 3rd mate and headed for Seattle. Klengenberg needed a navigator because in spite of all his sea experience he lacked his navigation papersand could no longer sail in Canadian waters. Henry Larsen made two voyages as a navigator with Klengenberg, into the western Arctic (1924-5 and 1927). From Klengenbergs half Inuit sons and son-in-law, Ikey Bolt, he learned how to hunt, handle sled dogs and survive in the Arctic like a native.

    At Herschel Island he met members of the RCMP and learned that the force was to build a supply vessel (the St Roch) to service their Arctic detachments since commercial vessels did not provide a satisfactory service.

    On returning to Vancouver Larsen applied for Canadian naturalization and for admission to the RCMP. Although he was the most junior member of the St Roch crew, Larsen was appointed captain during the 1928 maiden voyage into the Arctic because of his experience and Arctic navigation skills. Even by that stage his skills were known in west coast marine circles. His basic training consisted of learning how to ride a horse in Stanley Park and having a Sergeant Paton show him a bit about drill, to salute, march and most importantly, about his uniform.

    The St Roch served as a floating detachment. While frozen in, the St Roch was under the command of a Sergeant. So initially Larsen was the most junior member and yet while at sea, the most senior. The crew was generally made up of RCMP men assigned as they would be to a land detachment, so few had any maritime experience. Even on the NWP voyage half the crew had never been on a boat before. However, Larsen said that was the way he liked it. He could train these men without established ideas about how shipboard things should be done, and he paid tribute to them as the best crew one could wish for with their discipline and comradeship, typical of the members of the force. Henry Larsen has been described as the most outstanding of Arctic navigators who could read the ice like no other .

    Larsen made several requests to proceed through the North West passage during years when ice conditions appeared conducive to success. For example in 1936-37 when Sir James MacBrien toured the North he asked if he could proceed through, only to be reminded they were RCMP officers and not explorers. It wasnt until World War II that the "Great Assignment" was ordered. In 1940 they had a secret war-time mission - to head through the NW Passage into the eastern Arctic as part of a 250 man Canadian force to secure the cryolite mines of Greenland. Denmark was under Nazi occupation. Cryolite was necessary for the production of aluminum needed for the allied war effort. However the Americans intervened and secured the mines for their own use. It wasnt until after Henry Larsen died that the 25 year restriction on public disclosure of confidential documents expired so he took the story of the Greenland mission to his grave. Subsequently historian Sheila Grant, of Trent University, and others traced this story which is told in the film Mission NWPassage .

    A second objective of that voyage was to cement Canadas sovereignty claims to the Arctic Archipelago. The 7,500 mile trip through the Northwest Passage was intended to last 90 days. Nineteen forty to 1942 were the worst years for ice conditions Larsen ever experienced. The first winter 1940 they were frozen in at Walker Bay on Victoria island. He had intended on the west to east transit to take the route through the uncharted Prince of Wales Strait but they were diverted back from Holman Island to the mainland (Tuktoyaktuk). On their return the Prince of Wales strait was ice packed and Larsen, hoping to still get out that year, decided to follow Amundsens shallow route. In some places those waters are as shallow as two fathoms and that close to the Magnetic Pole, their compass spun uselessly. They met solid ice pushing down towards them from McClintock Channel and Franklin Strait . Luckily in early September 1941 they ended up in Pasley Bay. By August 1942 they had to chance an escape. Their supplies were low and there was no game in the area. On Aug 4 they moved out of Paisley Bay but were locked in, drifting back and forth for 20 days. Then on Aug 24 they got a small lead. By August 29 they were adjacent to Bellot Strait, a passage 18 mi long and Ґ -1 mi wide between Peel Strait and Prince Regent Inlet. They got to the middle but were locked in with solid ice ahead, and behind the ice came in like a maelstrom. Three times they prepared to abandon ship, though one of the crew (Hadley) later said he didnt know where they would go, the cliffs are high. Another ( Farrar) described seeing a huge whale crushed to death by the ice right near them. Larsen said that if they hadnt got through they would have been their yet.

    During 1944 east to west passage Larsen used the previously uncharted, deepwater route through Lancaster Sound and Prince of Wales Strait, a route that he had intended to use eastward in 1940. This route was subsequently followed by large naval (HMC Labrador - 1954) and commercial ships as well as American submarines (1946 - Sea Dragon).

    . In 1949 Larsen was appointed Commanding Officer of "G" Division which then included NWT, Yukon, what is now Nunivut, the northern regions of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. That is over half of Canada. But exactly what was the function of the RCMP in the Arctic in the days up until the late 1950's ? They carried out the jobs of nearly all the other government departments and the list is several pages long.

    Henry Larsen was devoted to the Arctic and its people. One of his goals was the better selection and training of men serving at Arctic RCMP detachments. He initiated a training program conducted at the Charles Campsell Hospital to prepare them for understanding the native people,for managing emergency medical care and so on. He also implemented measures to improve police housing and equipment (previously at remote locations they had to build their own furniture even) and update and simplify their accounting practices. He also did everything in his power to improve the lot of the Inuit people. It was said that he knew every Eskimo between Alaska and Cambridge Bay and he was referred to by them as "Henry with the Big Ship". I well remember him spending his wifes housekeeping money to buy sewing equipment and fabric for the Eskimo women so they would not be embarrassed at the exposure of their raggedness to the view of the southerners flocking to the Arctic starting in the 50's. He just said their need was greater.


    He and the crew were awarded the coveted Polar Medal and later he received the bar , Pacific and Atlantic Stars, the 1939-44 War medal; He was appointed a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society (1944); awarded the First Massey Medal of the Canadian Geographic Society ;he was elected a member of the Explorers Club, and received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Waterloo Lutheran University. After his death Larsen Sound at the juncture of Franklin Strait and McClintock Channel was named in his honor, as was a public school in Orleans ON, and a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker.

    What is less known is his scientific contributions to the knowledge of the salinity and of the invertebrate fauna of the western Arctic Ocean, and his skill as a small ship designer and modeler.

    On retiring in 1961 he expressed his gratitude to Canada, and the honor he felt in having come as an unknown Norwegian seaman and leaving the RCMP as a Superintendent, and having had the duty assigned to him of carrying the Canadian Blue Ensign both ways through the Northwest passage for the first time in history.

    Dad\version for Captain. wpd

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  • © Copyright Doreen Larsen Riedel (
  • Обновлено: 08/01/2011. 15k. Статистика.
  • Очерк: История
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