Stan Rogers: Northwest Passage (1981)
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Published on Feb 4, 2013
This video is dedicated to all who have journeyed north and west (and south and east) "to find there but the road back home again"
Stan Rogers: Stanley Allison "Stan" Rogers (1949--1983) is one of Canada's most highly regarded and fondly remembered folk singers and songwriters. Rogers was noted for his rich, baritone voice and his finely crafted, traditional-sounding songs which were frequently inspired by Canadian history and the daily lives of working people, especially those from the fishing villages of the Maritime provinces and, later, the farms of the Canadian prairies and Great Lakes. Rogers died in a fire aboard Air Canada Flight 797 on the ground at the Greater Cincinnati Airport at the age of 33. His influence on Canadian folk music has been deep and lasting.
The "Northwest Passage" written and performed by Rogers, appears on an album of the same name released by in 1981. The song is considered one of the classic songs in Canadian music history. In the 2005 "CBC Radio One" series "50 Tracks: The Canadian Version", "Northwest Passage" ranked fourth, behind only Neil Young's "Heart of Gold"; Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had $1,000,000"; and Ian and Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds". When CBC's Peter Gzowski asked Canadians to pick an alternate national anthem to "Oh Canada", "Northwest Passage" was the overwhelming choice. Former Canadian Governor General Adrienne Clarkson quoted the song both in her first official address and in her speech at the dedication of the new Canadian embassy in Berlin.
Franklin Expedition: In 1845, a two-ship expedition led by Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) sailed to the Canadian Arctic to chart the last unknown swaths of the Northwest Passage. Confidence was high, given there was less than 500 km (310 mi) of unexplored Arctic mainland coast by then. When the ships failed to return, search parties explored the Canadian Arctic, resulting in a thorough charting of the region along with a possible passage. Many artifacts from the expedition were found over the next century and a half, including notes that the ships were ice-locked in 1846 near King William Island, about half way through the passage, unable to break free. Franklin died in 1847 and Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier took over command. In 1848, the expedition abandoned ships and tried to escape south across the tundra by sledge. Although some of the crew may not have died until the early 1850s, no evidence has ever been found of any survivors.
Starvation, exposure and scurvy all contributed to the deaths. In 1981, an anthropologist from the University of Alberta examined remains from sites associated with the expedition. Examination of tissue and bone from the frozen bodies of three seamen exhumed from the permafrost of Beechey Island revealed high concentrations of lead in all three bodies (the expedition carried 8,000 tins of food sealed with a lead-based solder). Further research has suggested botulism also caused deaths among crew members. Evidence also confirms that cannibalism was a last resort for some of the crew. Included in this video is a map and summary slide of the known and surmised routes of the Franklin Expedition and locations where remains (as indicators of the crews' escape route) have been discovered. Note that Stan Rogers' "brave Kelso" refers to Henry Kelsey (1667-1724), the first recorded European to have explored the Canada's Great Plains.
Northwest Passage Lyrics:
Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.
Westward from the Davis Strait 'tis there 'twas said to lie
The sea route to the Orient for which so many died;
Seeking gold and glory, leaving weathered, broken bones
And a long-forgotten lonely cairn of stones.
Three centuries thereafter, I take passage overland
In the footsteps of brave Kelso, where his "sea of flowers" began
Watching cities rise before me, then behind me sink again
This tardiest explorer, driving hard across the plain.
And through the night, behind the wheel, the mileage clicking west
I think upon Mackenzie, David Thompson and the rest
Who cracked the mountain ramparts and did show a path for me
To race the roaring Fraser to the sea.
How then am I so different from the first men through this way?
Like them, I left a settled life, I threw it all away.
To seek a Northwest Passage at the call of many men
To find there but the road back home again.
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