View topic - The journal of Moffatt-party participant Ed Lanouette

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PostPosted: January 25th, 2019, 9:04 am 
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The evidence of participant LeFavour
regarding the rapids where Arthur Moffatt died in the afternoon of 14 September 1955.

Introduction.
The following is my transcription of the text of the third of his four articles regarding the Moffatt trip, as published in The Evening Recorder, Amsterdam NY, 29 December (1955)]. The article contains also photos and a map. I believe that his father was the editor or publisher or both of the newspaper.
I hope that I speak also for the paddling community as a whole when I thank LeFavour for providing the article and giving permission to reproduce it.

Background.
Moffatt possessed a copy of Joseph Burr Tyrrell’s book (and also that of his brother James Williams), a copy of JBT’s journal (aka his report) and copies of JBT’s maps. As well, Moffatt and JBT had corresponded.
I possess copies of the relevant portions of JBT’s book and JWT’s, all of JBT’s maps, and Moffatt’s two letters to JBT. My best efforts failed to obtain either JBT’s journal or his response to Moffatt’s first; I believe both items to contain information important to our understanding of events.

LeFavour’s entry for 13 September.
…As we sped through Wharton Lake only the occasional snow flurry fell, an incentive not a deterrent. Up to that point we had shot five caribou and by doing so had saved enough meat to see us through. Now it was not even necessary to spend time hunting. We traveled, and traveled hard.
The river between Wharton and Marjorie Lakes split up into three channels. The longest of these had been traveled by Tyrrell in his trip 60 years before and was described in his journal: there were five rapids, the first two rough but shootable, the third long and heavy requiring a portage of a mile and the last two apparently easy for they were mentioned only as “rapids”. Because this route was described we took it, being careful to look over the first two which were indeed rough. Hurrying as we were, no foolish chances were taken.

Comments begun.
The phrase three channels is explained below.
The two rough but shootable rapids are the drops of 15 and 6 feet mentioned in J B Tyrrell’s book and shown on his map, both possessed by Moffatt. They were run without incident on 13 September. The relevant JBT map. https://barrenlands.library.utoronto.ca ... one-6-1893
The portage around the long and heavy rapid was begun on 13 September and completed the next day. Its length is given by JBT as 400 yards = 18 chains (close enough).
Intermediate summary.
LeFavour’s remarks agree with those of JBT, except for the length of the portage.
Comments continued.
The first key passage is the last two apparently easy for they were mentioned only as “rapids”; it was in these two rapids that Moffatt died. The source was either the Moffatt-Tyrrell correspondence or JBT’s journal (aka his report). The source was not JBT’s book or his map, for neither documents any rapids in the reach where Moffatt died, the reach from the end of the portage to Marjorie Lake.
The second key passage is Hurrying as we were, no foolish chances were taken. A relevant assertion of the Sports Illustrated editor: …the Moffatt party races against winter on the Barren Grounds… In desperate haste, they take an ultimate chance. [SI article (1959), bottom right of p 76].

LeFavour’s entry for 14 September.
A cold breeze blew the morning of the 14th. Thankful for the chance to keep warm by walking we completed the portage around the third rapid and at noon, under the watchful eye of four wolves lounging on a nearby ridge we set off downriver. By two we had stopped to eat a lunch which included hot soup cooked on a sweet smelling dwarf birch fire. Gas was precious, and the constant gathering required to keep the fire going helped to warm our cold feet. Here too, we fished, and after 20 pounds of trout were caught we gave up for the water was freezing in the eyes of the rod. It was cold, there was no doubt about that.
At 3 p.m. we were again on the river. Gone was the wind, and we hoped to get a good way up Marjorie
Lake in the calm before dark. A mile downriver the roar of the next rapid reached our ears, a roar which had become familiar and comforting in this quiet land, a roar which in the past had promised excitement. As we coasted into the top of it all appeared to be well. You could see the bottom, the water, though white, was apparently shootable. Tyrrell had indicated by his neglect that the rapid was an easy one, and it seemed to be just that.
A flock of ptarmigan on the shore caught my eye, but soon we were past them and out in midstream. It was then that Skip and I noticed that Art and Joe in the lead canoe were having trouble. They were over! We saw the two huge waves, walls of white water which seemed almost five feet high. Pete and George had made the one, were heading for the second, and then we saw nothing but the unavoidable waves. We were into it!

Aside. The objective (to provide LeFavour’s evidence regarding the fatal rapids) having been accomplished, more out of respect for the participants, I terminate his account here.
Analysis. The key passage is … Tyrrell had indicated by his neglect that the rapid was an easy one, and it seemed to be just that.
Given that neither JBT’s book nor his map mentions these rapids, LeFavour refers here to either or both JBT’s letter and his journal.
Summary. In agreement with the evidence from other sources (in particular, the condensed version of Lanouette’s journal [SI article, pp 85-87]), this passage evinces that, in choosing to run the fatal rapids without a scout, Moffatt had only followed J B Tyrrell’s advice.

Private correspondence of 2015.
His [Tyrrell’s] journal had been accurate to that point, namely lunch time on 14 September, immediately prior to the running of the rapids where Moffatt died.

Appendix. The three channels.
Reference. The passage The river between Wharton and Marjorie Lakes split up into three channels. The longest of these had been traveled by Tyrrell in his trip 60 years before and was described in his journal…. [LeFavour’s entry for 13 September].
JBT’s map https://barrenlands.library.utoronto.ca ... one-6-1893 shows only one exit from Wharton Lake.
I lack access to the government-issue maps possessed by Moffatt, but they must have shown two exits, as documented on present-day maps
http://atlas.gc.ca/toporama/en/index.html and
http://www.mytopo.com/maps/
Moffatt followed the Tyrrell party and took the south exit. But the maps show that some water from the north exit flows into the other; this is the reason for LeFavour’s three channels.
Aside. Much later, Bill Layman and Lynda Holland took the north exit; at first glance, it is no easier than the other.

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PostPosted: January 25th, 2019, 2:33 pm 
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Last edited by david demello on April 7th, 2019, 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: January 26th, 2019, 10:47 am 
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Been reading this with interest, but this quote resonates:

There were several reports of wanting to get to Marjorie Lake before dark and it was late and in one instance " Hurrying as we were, no foolish chances were taken." turned to Hurrying as we were, foolish chances were taken.


This to me is one of the key components to group dynamics that is difficult.
The group has a certain momentum which involves being somewhere at a certain time.
I've been in this exact situation (more than once), but one time was particularly bad. We
almost made a really bad decision because the group wanted to be somewhere
and It could have ended just as badly if we had chosen to run the rapid. It was very
difficult to set aside those expectations and override others desire to run the rapid in order
to get where we were planning to go. We ended up doing a difficult portage which added an
extra day. This haunts me to this day since I almost agreed with running the rapid.


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PostPosted: January 26th, 2019, 1:57 pm 
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Perhaps a clarification.
The source of the passage Hurrying as we were, no foolish chances were taken was LeFavour's article of 1955.
The passage Hurrying as we were, foolish chances were taken is an edited version of the above.

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PostPosted: January 26th, 2019, 3:57 pm 
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Last edited by david demello on April 7th, 2019, 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: January 27th, 2019, 3:47 pm 
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The evidence.
In 1955, Arthur Moffatt set out to retrace the central portion of the 1893 Tyrrell-Tyrrell (Joseph Burr and James Williams) expedition of the Geological Survey of Canada.
That is the reach from Black Lake on the Fond du Lac River, up the Chipman River, across the height of land to the basin of the Dubawnt River, down the Dubawnt to its junction with the Thelon River, and finally down the Thelon to Baker Lake.
To guide him, Moffatt possessed the books of both brothers, and the maps and the journal of JBT; and he had corresponded with JBT.
Prior to the afternoon of 14 September, the rapids advice provided by the Tyrrells had proved reliable to the extent that the party had experienced but one swamp, not one pin and not one dump.

The question.
Should Moffatt had trusted that advice that afternoon, when he died in rapids not mentioned by either Tyrrell?

Let the reader decide.

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PostPosted: January 27th, 2019, 6:22 pm 
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The answer...no.


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PostPosted: January 27th, 2019, 6:42 pm 
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PostPosted: January 29th, 2019, 6:53 am 
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Nope, he should not have trusted anyone's report. I send out many different map sets every year, with the caution that things change, I might make an error in reporting, etc. And I have had people blame me for the trip not going as expected. One guy had his GPS set to the wrong datum field, so all my coordinates were "off", after I clearly stated I was using NAD 27. People routinely berate me for the maps of the Steel that I post, even though I clearly state that the log jam ports are approximate, and move every year, sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes five, sometimes ten. One guy blamed me for him and his girlfriend breaking up, as he thought the Steel would be a cake walk, despite my many horrendous descriptions of Diablo, etc. People often only digest what they want to when reading, disregarding information that goes against their preconceived notions.

To lay the blame entirely on Tyrrell is a rather strange claim, especially after digesting the many reports of the entire trip. As previously pointed out, all three canoes entering the rapid at the same time was of course a recipe for disaster, and yet this seems to have been their standard practice. If they weren't going to scout, at least let the lead canoe try to make it first. If I were to take students down rapids in such a fashion, it wouldn't be long before I was fired. I reiterate that from available information, Moffat has the appearance of a poor trip leader.


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PostPosted: January 29th, 2019, 7:41 am 
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Moffatt died 64 years ago. Perhaps he should not be judged by the standards of today, when we know so much more about safe procedures.

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PostPosted: January 29th, 2019, 8:13 am 
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PostPosted: January 29th, 2019, 10:07 am 
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Perhaps spray covers would have averted Moffatt's death. Who knows?
I'd welcome evidence to the contrary, but as best I know they were not used by recreational paddlers in 1955.

CCR's members on the early use of spray covers.
http://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtop ... mp;t=44587

Thum’s Dubawnt party of 1966 knew about spray decking but chose not to use same.
Che-Mun, Autumn 2005; p 18, bottom of the middle column.
http://www.canoeing.com/advanced/featur ... sriver.htm

…I made a very primitive nylon decking for part of my canoe for the 1969 trip… It was a crude affair and only partially effective. [Luste, Grinnell book (1996)]

Perhaps the Peake party (Rupert River, June 1982) did not use spray covers [cover photo, Outfit 150, Che-Mun, Autumn 2012.]

Again. Perhaps Moffatt should not be held to the standards of 64 years later.
EDIT. I changed "64 years ago" to "64 years later".

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A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



Last edited by Allan Jacobs on April 18th, 2019, 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: January 29th, 2019, 11:39 am 
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Maybe I missed it but I didn't see anyone suggest they should have been using spray covers.

Inaccurate maps aren't unique to more recent times. It seemed to have been a common theme back then.

And with regards to more recent safety measures I would think that even back then staggering canoes for runs down unknown rapids would have been pretty common. I looked it up and the phrase "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" goes back to at least the 1600's. I'm going off memory here but believe they did stagger the runs on some earlier rapids so it wasn't a foreign concept.

Again, I'm not really throwing at stones at Moffat. I think he made mistakes but so does everyone. Lots of capable people have died in the wilderness. And of course many incapable people have made it out alive. Skill is important but I believe luck also plays a large part. There are so many factors we're not even aware of that lead to every success and failure that it boggles the mind. Something as simple as having an extra cup of tea at lunch could have been the difference between life and death.

Alan


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PostPosted: January 29th, 2019, 11:56 am 
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PostPosted: January 29th, 2019, 4:03 pm 
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I was the first to mention spray covers. I was referring to the following assertion of James Murphy, made in what was alleged to be a review of Grinnell’s book (1996). Referring to Moffatt, he wrote Lack of food, proper equipment and most importantly, lack of a planned itinerary, contributed to his demise. [Che-Mun, Canoelit section. Moffatt, Myth & Mysticism. Spring 1996, pp 5&11].
I call this an assertion because Murphy provided no evidence in support for any of the three parts.
I have already addressed Murphy’s assertion regarding lack of food. Reference. http://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtop ... &start=105
I shall eventually address his assertion regarding lack of a planned itinerary, and also the corresponding assertion lack of a pragmatic plan of travel made by Andrew MacDonald in the same article. I note only that by a planned itinerary and a pragmatic plan of travel, both meant a schedule.

Murphy provided neither source nor evidence that a cause of Moffatt’s death was lack of proper equipment, and so I searched Grinnell’s book. Eventually, I identified the source to have been the following remark of George Luste.
We can try to be better prepared to deal with a similar situation. My short list would be as follows…use a water-tight snap on canoe cover… [Grinnell book, pp 297&298]
I ask the reader to note that Luste refers to parties of 1996 and later. By no means does he suggest that the Moffatt party could or should have been so equipped. In particular, spray covers, let alone the snap-on variety, were not in general use by recreational paddlers 41 years earlier.

Summary.
Like his assertion that a cause of Moffatt’s death was lack of food, Murphy’s assertion that a cause was lack of proper equipment has no basis in evidence, know to some as a basis in truth.

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A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



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