A straightforward biography of the first Englishman to explore northern Canada.
Toronto-based McGoogan (Fatal Passage, 2002, etc.) presents his hero as a determined adventurer. Samuel Hearne (1745–92) became a midshipman in the Royal Navy at age 12, receiving his naval training under Captain Samuel Hood, who also served as mentor to Horatio Nelson. A disciple of Voltaire, Hearne found his suspicion of authority strengthened as he witnessed naval floggings and executions. After seeing action against France in the Seven Years War, he returned to London. In 1766, he joined the Hudson’s Bay Company and was assigned to Prince of Wales Fort, the company’s northernmost outpost. From this base he was sent to search the far west for rich veins of copper ore reported by natives who traded at the fort. He also aspired to settle the question of the long-hoped-for Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific. Accompanying Matonabee, a leader of the Dene, Hearne traveled about 3,500 miles across some of the most difficult terrain in the world. McGoogan credits him with being perhaps the first Arctic explorer to adopt the natives’ methods, almost a necessity for Europeans attempting to live off the land in the frozen north. Neither the copper nor the Northwest Passage panned out; worse, Matonabee’s warriors massacred a group of Inuit near what is now known as Bloody Fall. McGoogan attempts to provide a cultural context for this and other shocking acts by the tribespeople, but the overall effect is to emphasize even more the rigors of Hearne’s journey. He later became governor of Prince of Wales Fort and was captured by French warships supporting the American Revolution. In failing health, he returned for his final years to London, where he published his journals and met the young Coleridge.
A gripping tale of genuine adventures, very well told.