26. The Canoe (1874)

The Canoe

The Geological Survey of Canada relied on the canoe for its early explorations in the north. For example, between1884 and 1905, Albert Low carried out nine gruelling field seasons, totalling more than 1450 days, travelling by canoe through the northern Quebec and Labrador wilderness. He is still held in awe by the modern-day canoeing community.

Birch-bark canoes of several designs, such as the Montagnais with its marked rocker for easier turning, were often used by the Survey. First Nations crew would typically paddle – their other field duties included setting up camp, hunting, and cooking. The geologists sat in the middle of the canoe where they could work.

The Algonkian design canoe and its successors, the durable 16- to19-foot varnished cedar strip or wood and canvas canoes by the Peterborough or Chestnut companies, were early workhorses. They typically weighed around 120 pounds and could carry 1,000 pounds of gear and three people. The 25-foot Rabaska canoe, which required four paddlers, was often used at the outset of long expeditions to carry extra supplies. Although the bush plane has now replaced the canoe for transportation, the Survey still uses lightweight aluminum canoes for geological fieldwork in some areas.

The Canoe

Category: Fieldwork

Decade: 1870s


Finkelstein, M. and Stone, J., 2004. Paddling the boreal forest – Rediscovering A. P. Low; Dundurn Press, 336 p.

Waugh, F.W., 1919. Canadian aboriginal canoes; Canadian Field Naturalist, v. 33, no. 2, p. 23–33.

Hodgins, B. and Hoyle, G., 1994. Canoeing north into the unknown — A record of canoe travel: 1874-1974; Natural History Press, Toronto, 278 p.

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