Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Cold Burial: A True Story of Endurance and Disaster

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Cold Burial: A True Story of Endurance and Disaster

Article excerpt

Clive Powell-Williams, Cold Burial: A True Story of Endurance and Disaster (London: Penguin, 2002), 265pp. Paper. £7.99. ISBN 0-1402-8225-4.

Never has a book affected me with such a sense of avuncular indignation. Jack Hornby, a reckless, quixotic 5'4" Englishman full of the bravado and heroic posturing characteristic of the late Edwardian era, prided himself on his skills as an explorer of the Canadian barrens. Regaling his family in Nantwich and North Wales with tales of wintering at Great Slave Lake and a 1924 expedition to investigate geophysical conditions and wildlife, this 'chaplinesque . . . prototype dropout' (p. 4) became an object of hero worship to his cousin's son, Edgar Christian. In 1926 Jack took the lad on an ill-fated trek to the Thelon River region of the Northwest Territories. The book is derived mainly from Edgar's diary, discovered with the dead bodies by a passing team of prospectors in 1928, and later deposited in Edgar's school, Dover College. The diary is quoted extensively, revealing an excited but callow youth: 'I did not look forward to a meal of Hard Tack biscuits and Pemican and tea without milk until I had been Paddling a Laden Canoe for 5 hours and then by Jove I was ready for any damn thing and thoroughly enjoyed it.' The early excited descriptions of bald eagles making noises 'just like a farm cart with unoiled wheels', bacon and eggs over the camp fire and portaging gradually fade as hunger bites into Edgar's consciousness. …

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