Time Machine Vol. 16

This week the Historica Canada Time Machine sees two births, two deaths, two arrivals, and an inquiry.

29 September 1668 – The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Nonsuch anchored in the waters of James Bay. The vessel had sailed from London in June. Its cargo was “wampumpeage,” small shell beads used for barter in the fur trade. The Nonsuch returned to England in October 1669 full of pelts, proving that the colonial project was a worthwhile investment. A replica of the Nonsuch was built in 1968. It is considered the most accurate reconstruction of a 17th-centuryship.

30 September 1973 – Inuit photographer, historian and artist Peter Pitseolak died at Kinngait, Nunavut. Pitseolak spent most of his life in traditional camps during a time when life in the North was undergoing immense change. He used photography to document a way of life that was disappearing. It is said that Pitseolak’s meeting with Nanook of the North director Robert Flaherty inspired his interest in photography.

1 October 1946 – Acclaimed poet and editor Sharon Thesen was born at Tisdale, Saskatchewan. Thesen moved with her family to B.C. in 1952. Her works include the highly-regarded The Good Bacteria (2006) and A Pair of Scissors (2001). She was the editor of the literary and visual arts magazine The Capilano Review. Her poetry is known for its wit and moments of sharp emotional consciousness.


2 October 1883 – Physicist Robert Boyle was born at Carbonear, N.L. Educated at McGill University (receiving the school’s first PhD in physics), Boyle moved to the University of Alberta and then on to the National Research Council of Canada. Much of Boyle’s work dealt with the development of sonar technology. Though he received little credit at the time, Boyle helped create the first practical means of underwater submarine detection during the First World War.


3 October 1738 – Fur trader and explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye and his sons established Fort La Reine on the Assiniboine River, in present-day Portage la Prairie, MB. The La Vérendrye family explored much of the Canadian West, establishing forts and trading posts along the way. Pierre would go as far as North Dakota, while two of his sons became the first Frenchmen to see and describe the Rocky Mountains.


4 October 1993 – The Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada was announced. Headed by Justice Horace Krever, the commission was to report on the tainted blood tragedy, the largest public health disaster in Canadian history. In the late 1970s and 1980s, blood transfusions infected 2,000 Canadians with HIV. Another 30,000 were infected with Hepatitis C between 1986 and 1990. The commission’s 50 recommendations resulted in the establishment of Canadian Blood Services.


5 October 1813 – The great Shawnee chief Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames, near present-day Thamesville, ON. Also known as the Battle of Moraviantown, the clash of British, American and Aboriginal fighters was the first conclusive U.S. victory (on land) during the War of 1812. Tecumseh’s death critically weakened the Aboriginal confederacy he led and championed, opening more of the Old Northwest —known today as the Midwest — to settlement.

Image: Portage la Prairie, 2013. Jimmy Emerson, Flickr/cc.