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PostPosted: February 19th, 2021, 6:38 pm 
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Joined: February 15th, 2021, 5:25 pm
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Four of us are planning to descend the Dubawnt this summer (2021), Covid permitting of course (we've already had to postpone one year). On the way, we want to pay our respects at the scene of Moffatt's tragic accident. We also certainly don't want to re-enact it! So, where is this rapid, exactly, in coordinates?

I've read quite a bit about Moffatt on this site and elsewhere, but I've not seen indicated the precise location of the fatal rapid. I know it's on the east-most channel between Wharton and Marjorie Lakes, and that it has to be close to the entrance to Marjorie Lake. Notably, at the last narrows just above Marjorie lake, Google Earth shows a very distinct set of white bands. This is at 483000E, 7103500W (zone 14W)...which is 64.058N 99.348W. If you can see it on Google Earth, there's big ledges or holes. There's also fastwater indicated at this same location on the 1:50000 maps. So I'm guessing this is the fatal rapid. Does anyone else know better?

Most trips take the less problematic western channel and miss this rapid, so it doesn't appear in many reports. An exception is the 1983 Harmuth party, and they cite a "vicious ledge rapid" at this point which they say was not shown on their map (1:250000 I assume). So they were just as surprised by this rapid as Moffatt was (i.e., by JB Tyrrell's failure to note or map this rapid, as documented elsewhere on this website). Unlike Moffatt, the Harmuth party wisely portaged this surprise rapid on the left. In Moffatt's defense, however, we all know that ledge rapids can be practically invisible from above.

Ironically, the Harmuth party incorrectly located "moffatt's rapid" at the outlet of Marjorie Lake (Tyrrell's "broken canoe" rapid), which clearly contradicts the placement of the rapid above Marjorie Lake in all Moffatt literature. I've seen this erroneous location of Moffatt's rapid in some later trip reports too.

...As an aside, in preparation for our trip, I've calculated some average miles-per-day from Wholdai Lake to Baker Lake as reported by others. From fast to slow:

Bill and Lynda Layman 2001: 18.9 miles/day (no ice mentioned)
John and Kate (Australian couple) 2014: 17.2 miles/day (ice delays)
JB Tyrrell party, first descent 1893: 14.4 miles/day (ice delays)
Harmuth party 1983: 12.9 miles/day (major ice delays)
Moffatt party 1955: 7.7 miles/day (Wholdai-to-fatal rapids...no ice)

Whether or not the the Moffatt party was on schedule, they were moving very slowly. Making their movie was no doubt a big reason for the slow pace, as Pessl emphasized in his book. Had they been moving at a more typical pace, they would have capsized in the fatal rapid weeks earlier than Sept. 14th, and the outcome may have been happier.


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PostPosted: February 19th, 2021, 10:03 pm 
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Joined: March 23rd, 2006, 11:21 pm
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Location: Burns Lake, BC
...oh no! :o


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PostPosted: February 25th, 2021, 10:50 am 
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Joined: September 19th, 2003, 8:46 am
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64d 03m 29s N
99d 20m 45s W

I portaged on the right
Don't get suckered into the current.


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PostPosted: March 18th, 2021, 1:54 pm 
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Joined: February 15th, 2021, 5:25 pm
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Thank you for the confirmation...that's where I thought it was, but it's good to get your first-hand report. We probably won't take the east channel, but will paddle or hike over to the foot of this rapid from the mouth of the west channel.


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PostPosted: March 21st, 2021, 4:14 pm 
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Joined: September 19th, 2003, 8:46 am
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I have passed this way 3 times, always the west route. I was aware of the Layman's "east route", had no idea of Tyrell's maps at the time. One time a ran the Kunwak R. crossed over at Tebesjuak Lake to a series of carries tp an unnamed lake shaped like a porpoise. There was an enormous esker I had noticed when I ran the Dubawnt from Wharton Lake to a severe left-hand turn I wanted to visit. To me, it was after the left turn that the challenges began. Followed the right side. At one portage I climbed the hill, it was a short walk to the lake I mentioned earlier, maybe 100 yards.


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