On August 23, 1903, the Neptune, the largest ship of the Newfoundland sealing fleet, sailed out of Halifax Harbour. This was the start of the Dominion Government Expedition to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Islands under the command of Geological Survey of Canada geologist Albert Low. Its mission was scientific, but more importantly, it was Canada’s first overt exercise of its authority over the Arctic islands and waters. Indeed, on August 11, 1904, expedition members raised the flag at Cape Herschel on Ellesmere Island, taking formal possession of it for the Dominion of Canada.
During the 14-month cruise, the customs and health of the Inuit were studied, and observations recorded of the weather, ice conditions, tides, and the distribution of land and marine mammals. Extensive collections of rocks, fossils, northern birds, marine invertebrates, plants, and insects were made for the Survey’s National Museum. These included samples from Lancaster Sound that are thought to be the first specimens collected from the seafloor in Canadian waters. They were recently discovered in the Survey’s fossil collection, and have yet to be examined in detail.
Low, A.P., 1906. Report of the Dominion Government Expedition to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Islands on board the D.G.S. Neptune, 1903-04; Government Printing Bureau, Ottawa.