Monday, April 6, 2009

Dangerous River

In the summer of 1927, R.M. Patterson decided to explore an empty section of the map in northern Canada, through which the South Nahanni River runs. In 1953, he wrote the book Dangerous River about his year long adventure. It’s a fascinating tail of exploration among the characters living on the edge of the known world among almost unimaginable hardship.

I cannot imagine loading everything that you would need for an entire year into a canoe and setting forth alone into the wilderness. When I go on week long canoe trips, with a number of friends, many people think I’m living on the edge, but even I can’t imagine a year alone in the wilderness.

R.M. Patterson wrote about his journey many years later, in 1953, using as source material the journals he kept. He met people on his trip, build a cabin where he lived for the winter, almost perished from cold or snow or the river several times, but none of those dangers are the most remarkable thing in the book for me.

The most remarkable thing is his matter of fact attitude towards his extraordinary adventure. Here’s how he describes his decision to go:

I had had a run of luck lately, and I could afford to make this journey this very summer if I wished. The homestead would be safe; my nearest neighbour would keep an eye on it for me, and the horsed could run out on the range.

No more deliberation was necessary for R.M. Patterson. He was ready to travel unmapped lands and be gone for an entire year.

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