Thursday, 18 November 2021

Reunited with my sea kayak

Reunited with my faithful Perception Chinook sea kayak after 24 years. I bought this kayak from Max Grant in Palmerston North in 1985 when I was Director of NZ Outward Bound School and used it constantly up until 1993 when I left for another 20 years working for the Red Cross, mainly in Afghanistan.. It took me across Cook Strait three times. A double-crossing with Adrian Kingi and a ten hour crossing from Raumati to Cape Jackson. It took me down the Waimakariri in the Coast to Coast, down the Wanganui in the 1st Mountains to Sea triathlon in 1987 and in many triathlons with a kayak leg. When based at Franz Josef I paddled a lot of the South Westland coastline and rivers, including the Waiho from glacier to Sea. When I left for Afghanistan in 1993 and worked for the Red Cross my daughters kept it and used it. I found my old wooden split Nimbus paddle in it. The only thing missing was the rear plastic hatch cover which I have recently found another. My daughters call my kayak 'Yum Yum Yellow' based on the tory that shares like yellow kayaks.

  Above: I loved the compass, map on my deck which made it easy to navigate. (Photo Bob Mckerrow)

Above: Adrian Kingi (left) and me on the right, after a double-crossing of Cook Straiton on 9 February 1988..

Thursday, 23 September 2021

James McKerrow, explorer and namer

During my 3 week holiday, I spent time travelling through the country that my Great Grand Father explored between 1861-63 at the head of Lae Wanaka and Wakatipu.
Above we see the Routeburn, Caples, Rock Brun, Beans Burn, the Rees and the Dart valleys he explored, surveyed and named. Photo: Bob McKerrow.
The west and east peaks of Mt. Earnslaw. Photo: Bob McKerrow. Photo: Bob McKerrow

James McKerrow was a prolific namer of features he surveyed. Over the years I have tried to climb, walk, raft or kayak, or just look and photograph the places he named..The map below conveys the extent of his work over one of the remotest parts of New Zealand

Since much of the country over which he passed was virgin, McKerrow took on himself the task of naming prominent features of the landscape. The policy employed in this work he described thus:

“ In naming of objects, those already in use in the district were always adopted, they are generally defined to a few creeks or perhaps a hill or two in the vicinity of the respective stations. The other names I either endeavoured to make descriptive or suggestive: this, in the case of the more prominent peaks, appears to me to be of much consequence to the traveller, for they become so many finger posts pointing the way. The great landmarks, Leaning Rock, Double Cone, and Black Peak, I found of much service in determining my whereabouts at the beginning of the survey; their names are legible in characters not to be mistaken”(1).

“ A great number of descriptive names were given thus: Cathedral Peaks, The Monument, the Beehive, the Crown, the Coronet, Tooth Peaks, Twin Peaks, the Minarets, Mt. Sentinel, Titan Rocks, Spire Peak, and so on and so on……

The mountain ranges were named after distinguished men in science, literature, travel and position, such as Kepler, Humbolt, Murchison,. Livingstone,, Forbes ( Professor of Natural Philosophy 60 years ago at Edinburgh, an authority on glaciers), Hunter (John, Anatomist) Sturt (Australian Explorer), Albert ( late Prince Consort)) Eglinton (Lord Lieutentant of Ireland and Lord Rector Glasgow University), Richardson (Sir John),Thomson, Hector, Garvie, Buchanan (local and well known), Goldie Hill and Bryce Burn were after my two men who were true and faithful throughout.” (2)

“ An island in Lake Manawa-pori is Poman, named in 1862 by James McKerrow, after the principal Island or “mainland” of Orkney Islands in Scotland.,” with a view to help the rhythm of the future poets, who will describe in flowing numbers the charms of beautiful Manapouri, as McKerrow prophesises…….

The Freeman was named by Mr. McKerrow in honour of Mr. Freeman Jackson, a very early runholder (3)….When Mr. James McKerrow was engaged with reconnoitring surveys during the years 1861-63, he named a number of places.” A few of these he named in the Wakatipu and Te Anau districts as follows: He gave the name Caples to one of the branches of the Greenstone, rivers….McKerrow named the Lingstone Mountains after Mr. D. Livingstine, the celebrated African explorer. David Peak(6802 ft/)in memory of Dr. Livingston’s christian name, Moffat Peak (5848 ft) , an African missionary and father-in-law of Livingstone. Eglinton River and Mountain after the Earl of Eglinton and Winton at that time Lord Lieutenanr of Ireland. Skelmorlie Peak (5933 ft.) and Larg Peak (5555 ft.)are both Ayrshire names. Mount Christina (8675 ft.) after a girl who was companion to Mrs. McKerrow in his absence. Clinto River, Te Anau, after one of the family names of the Duke of Newcastle, who was Colonial Secretary in 1863. Worsely Creek, North Fiord, Te Anau, named after the sheep farmer who drayed the boar for the surveyors from Manapouri Lake to Re Anau. Nurse Creek, after another sheep farmer, Lakes McKellar and Gunn after David McKellar and George Gunn….. Lake Fergus was named after Hon. T. Fergus in 1863. Bob’s cove was named after Bob Fortune, Mr. Rees’s boatman” (4)

“ In the Doon, Dean Hill, Bean Forrest, Afton and other Scottish names Mr. McKerrow honoured the land of his birth,(5) Mt. Pisgah was taken from the bible. It was the vantage point from which the promised land was seen.(6).

In his book, Otago Placenames (7), Mr. H. Beattie gives an exhaustive list of Mcerrow’s placenames. “ Besides J.T. Thomson, the most popular name giver in our history was probably James McKerrow”, he states. Mr. Beattie goes on to list more than 220 place names which are associated with McKerrow’s labours.

(1) Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. V, July 23,1862. P 16.

(2) Letter to Hocken.

(3) Roberts, W.H.S. Place Names and Early of Otago and Southland, P.32.

" " Maori nomenclature, Early History of Otago. P.47

(4) Roberts. P.48. Roberts does not make it absolutely clear whether or not McKerrow gives the last two names.

(5) Kilmarnock Standard, 22nd August, 1903/

(6) McKerrow’s Reminiscences.

(7) Beattie, H. Otago Place Names, Pp. 78-86.
By 1861 there were several newly established sheep stations on the south end of the lake, when James McKerrow first arrived to carry out survey work. In 1862 McKerrow surveyed the lake in a whaleboat.

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Skiing in Afghanistan

In 1976 when I first worked in Afghanistan, and again from 1993-96 when I l,ived permanently for three years, I got to trek, climb and ski extensively in the Hindu Kush. In 1997 I tried to persuade my good friends Murray and Pat Reedy, to run trips to Afghanistan as I said it contained some of the best skiing, trekking and climbing in the world. Murray and Pat run trips to the Silk Route region: Today, commercial skiing in Afghanistan may soon be a possibility. Let me tell you the story.

Mette-Sophie, a Norwegian aid worker accompanied me on one trip in January 1996 into the Hindu Kush. She was on cross country skiis and I used traditional skii's with touring bindings. Photo: Bob McKerrow

No foreigners had climbed in Afghanistan since the Soviets arrived in late 1978. I had heard about the passes and valleys strewn with land mines so it was with some trepidation I embarked from Kabul in October 1994 on what was probably the first expedition into the Hindu Kush for at least 17 years. I travelled with two British climbers, Ian Clarke and John Tinker, to the Chamar valley for an attempt on Mir Samir, a peak made famous by Eric Newby in his book, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush.

John Tinker (right) and I at on one of our camps in the Chamar valley on the way to Mir Samir. Photo: Ian Clarke

Tinker was fresh off an ascent of Everest by a new route on the north side and Clarke was head of a British Mine clearance organisation (Halo trust) in Afghanistan and was a necessary companion as the area had received large amounts of small scatterable mines, dropped from Soviet aircrafts to prevent the freedom fighters crossing the mountain passes. Our safety was dependent on his knowledge of mines and where battles had taken place. Tinker and Clarke attempted an unclimbed face on Mir Samir and got surprising high considering the unseasonably soft snow that had fallen. While the others were attempting Mir Samir, I climbed an unnamed peak around 5000 metres and looked over to the enticing mountains of Nuristan, formerly Kafirstan. As I sat on this probably unclimbed, and unnamed peak, I thought to myself " this is skiing country and what huge ptential."

. It was this trip with Clarke and Tinker that gave me the confidence to venture out on further climbing and skiing trips.

On skiis in the Hindu Kush, near the Salang Pass. Photo: Bob McKerrow

From 1993-96 when I lived in Kabul, on Friday, the only day off during the week, it was possible to climb among the various 4000 metres peaks in the Paghman range from where you get spectacular views of the Hindu Kush and Hazarajat area. Climbing 4000 metre peaks in a day made living in Kabul a joy. Also for the enthusiastic skier, a two hour drive takes you to the Salang Pass at 3,878 metres an excellent ski-mountaineering area. My good friend Ian Clarke the mine clearance expert gave  the opinion that when the area is likely to have land-mines, if it is covered with snow, and you are on skis, it is almost impossible to trigger of a mine as the body-weight is evenly distributed. Clarke did a lot of telemark skiing in the area between 1993 and 1995 in the Salang Pass are before taking up a ski-instructors job at Cadrona, near Wanaka, for the New Zealand winter of 1995.

So in 1995, I started skiiing in the Hindu Kush, not far from the Salang Pass, which was an hour and a half from Kabul. Above on skiis with the mighty Hindu Kush behind me. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Mette-Sphie on her cross country skiis in the Hindu Kush. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Good snow conditions and a wonderful mountain backdrop, the mighty Hindu Kush: Photo: Bob McKerrow

Mette Sophie skiing down from the Salang Pass. January 1996. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The author, Bob McKerrow, skiing near the Salang Pass. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Last week I came across this article in the Guardian written by Jon Boone, Tuesday 27 April 2010 and I was delighted that commercial skiing may soon become possible in the Hindu Kush at Bamiyan.

The Bamiyan valley offers 'challenging skiing' reckons its first ski tourist after some hairy moments involving avalanches. Photograph: Chad Dear

In a classroom just a few hundred metres from the towering niche that once housed a giant Buddha statue, someone has pinned up a poster detailing the attributes of a good ski guide: optimistic, articulate, patient, reliable, active, cheerful, punctual and extroverted.

Sitting around a table in the middle of the room, the 10 young men who hope to become Afghanistan's first ski guides are being taught how to avoid avalanches, and the importance of taking enough food and water on trips up the snow-capped mountains that loom over the town of Bamiyan.

They have all the poster's key attributes in spades. Indeed, it's hard to think of a more agreeable bunch of enthusiastic young men, who chatter in excellent English. The only problem is the one characteristic they all lack: the ability to ski.

Last week, they had their first taste of the rapidly melting spring snow, out on the slopes of the stunning Koh-e-Baba mountain range. Their motley collection of borrowed and secondhand skis had been carted up the lush valley on the back of a donkey. The rookie skiers had ignored the classroom guidance to layer up, and hit the slopes wearing jeans and fake designer tops. Soon they were shivering.

They had just half a dozen pairs of skis, two pairs of which were borrowed from an American couple, Chad Dear and Laurie Ashley, ski consultants who believe central Afghanistan has some of the best "outback skiing" in the world. The shortage of equipment is a problem, and the mix of Telemark and alpine skis had been partly supplemented by a few pairs of "bazaar skis", lethal wooden planks knocked up by enthusiastic local carpenters. With the bindings little more than a few leather straps and the undersurface wrapped with metal, the overall effect is terrifying, as I discovered when I tried them.

"Jon, you've never done this either!" was the crushing verdict of Abdullah Mahmood, a 25-year-old novice skier, after he had watched me flounder around for a traumatic 10 minutes during which I wondered whether, despite decades of skiing experience, the sport was finally about to claim a broken leg from me.

These are the deeply humble beginnings out of which Bamiyan, an overished but heart-stoppingly beautiful province, hopes to develop a robust ski industry. There is serious weight behind the plan to encourage winter "ecotourism" here, including the province's governor, the Aga Khan Development Network and the New Zealand government (the country has troops in the province).

Dear, a development worker from Montana, says that in a few years' time Bamiyan could boast ski-rental businesses (which will probably rely, at least to start with, on the charity of the big ski manufacturers), a nursery slope with a simple tow-lift to drag beginners to the top, and maybe even some heliskiing. To start with, it is hoped that a mix of Afghans and foreigners working in Kabul will help pump-prime a ski industry, after which Bamiyan will be ready for the world. "We hope that people in Europe and the US will put it on their five-year wish list," Dear says.

He and Ashley are currently spending several days a week exploring Bamiyan's unskied peaks, with the aim of publishing a guidebook later in the year giving adventure skiers some basic information on what the Koh-e-Baba range has to offer. And while it would be easy to be cynical about trying to establish skiing in a war zone, after spending a few days with Dear, Ashley and the would-be ski guides, I am soon swept up in their enthusiasm.

For a particular type of tourist, Bamiyan is quite a draw. But it will never appeal to those who like the chairlifts, restaurants and creature comforts of a European or American mega-resort. In Bamiyan, if you want to get to the top of slope you have to propel yourself, using Telemark skis where the ankle is free to move up and down and synthetic skins are attached to the bottom. It's the sort of old-school skiing that would have been familiar to skiers in the Alps in the 1950s: a day of gruelling ascent for perhaps just one or two runs back down to the bottom. But it's worth it, says Dear: "The terrain here is just fantastic in so many ways, and we have only been exploring the eight valleys that are closest to Bamiyan centre. There are literally thousands of opportunities for beginners and experts."

Dear thinks many tourists will elect to stay above the snowline for days, skiing over huge areas, overnighting in shelters used by farmers in the summer that could be converted into winter refuges. And it's a fair bet that Bamiyan's apres-ski scene will never boast beery Brits, downing glühwein at the bottom of the chairlifts as the sun sets over the mountains. Instead it's chai, and maybe some rice, naan and greasy meat on the roof of a farmer's house.

What Dear calls the "apres-tea" experience would be worth a holiday in itself. First of all, the scenery is extraordinary. Below the snowy peaks, farmers living in mud houses busily plough their fields with ox teams. The sense of time travel is only broken with the occasional sighting of a satellite dish, a sign that, after years of neglect, things are starting to pick up here. And that is the other benefit of skiing in Bamiyan – contributing much-needed cash to subsistence farmers in the high, isolated valleys of a poor and neglected province that could use all the help it can get. Not only were the famous giant Buddhas blown up by the Taliban in 2001; the fundamentalist militia was also responsible for massacres of the largely Hazara population (Afghanistan's most put-upon ethnic group).

Today Bamiyan is an island of security in a country where insurgency has spread like a virus, and the valley is Afghanistan's main (or rather, only) tourist attraction. Visitors don't come simply for the World Heritage site where the Buddhas used to stand, but also the lakes and extraordinary natural dams of Band-e-Amir. The young men who aspire to be ski guides already try to make ends meet by showing tourists the main sites in the summer.

But despite Bamiyan's considerable charms, the summer tourism market does not add up to much: last year its historic sites were visited by 1,560 Afghans and 756 foreigners (slightly down on 2008, probably because of disruption caused by last year's presidential election). Even those low numbers generates around $250,000 a year in the three hotels the tourist authorities have information on.

But Amir Foladi, manager of the Bamiyan ecotourism programme, wants to see that increase. He hopes that by 2015 the 116 hotel beds currently available will have increased to 1,000, creating at least 1,000 jobs. He expects 10,000 foreign visitors and 100,000 Afghans to come each year, generating around $5m for the valley, excluding income from drivers, restaurants and handicraft shops.

That's big money for Bamiyan, and it would make tourism its third major source of income, behind agriculture and mining. "It's all about getting Bamiyan ready, helping hotel owners improve their facilities, so that when we are ready to receive more tourists it will be the people of Bamiyan who benefit and not outsiders," says Foladi.

And the wind is in Bamiyan's sails, with various plans to make the valley more accessible. Currently there are two main land routes from Kabul: the slow but safe road via the Sibher Pass, which despite being only 200km [124 miles] takes a gruelling eight hours, or the relatively fast but potentially lethal four-hour road trip through Taliban territory to the south.

The Sibher Pass route, which takes travellers through some unforgettable landscapes, is currently being flattened and widened by hundreds of workers, most of whom were last week inexplicably wearing fluorescent orange Royal Mail jackets. When the road is finished and covered with asphalt, the whole journey should take less than four hours – a much more attractive proposition for weekenders from Kabul who want a few days' skiing.

The country's airlines are being lobbied to start commercial flights, which may one day land at a new airport out of town. That will replace the current dirt airstrip – among the hazards of flying into Bamiyan is livestock wandering on to the runway.

And it's just possible that Bamiyan may get its Buddhas back – although this is currently the subject of a debate among conservationists, over whether the statues should be pieced back together from recovered fragments, or rebuilt afresh. Foladi says he favours the reconstruction of one Buddha, leaving one empty niche as a permanent reminder of unhappier times.

But will Bamiyan ever become more than a summer destination, even with these improvements? Ken Adams, Bamiyan's first ever ski tourist, thinks so. A former ski industry worker in the French Alps, he is now a project manager for an NGO in Kabul. Paying just $30 a night for a hotel room, he skied for seven days in Bamiyan this spring. Despite some hairy moments involving avalanches, he reckons Bamiyan is the place for anyone who wants "some pretty challenging skiing".

"For everyone else, there is just the sheer amount of snow and a season that in a normal year should continue until late May or early June," he says.

The big unknown is whether Afghans will take up skiing in any numbers. Dear and Ashley say the locals, who are already fond of sledding on homemade yakhmolaks and other winter games, have been enthusiastic. With everything under snow for five months of the year, they could certainly do with more winter distractions, says Foladi.

And skiing is not totally unknown in Afghanistan. Afghans got involved in the sport back in the 1960s and 70s, when it was last popularised by foreigners. In those days Kabul's diplomatic classes headed for the slopes at weekends at a mini-resort close to the capital. The piste even had its own basic rope-tow and was serviced by restaurants, tea shops and even a sunbathing area for the foreigners. Various ski clubs, including one run by the ministry of education and another by Kabul University, raced against each other. With the Soviet invasion of 1979, and the national resistance that rose up to fight it, the area was soon seeded with landmines and became unusable.

Mohammad Yousuf Kargar first encountered skiing as a young boy when he saw a German employee of Siemens throwing himself down a hill in Kabul. He has kept the sport going, at least within his own family. Now the national football team coach, Kargar tested the slopes of Bamiyan for the first time this winter. But he believes Bamiyan is still too far away from Kabul to be the focus of a skiing rebirth. Instead he takes his family to the Salang, a mountain pass north of Kabul. "The government really needs to take a strong decision to redevelop the old piste outside Kabul," he says. "In the meantime I am taking my family in the Salang because I don't want this sport to die in Afghanistan."

Even though Bamiyan is so untouched by violence that it feels like another country, Dear's hope that it might be ready for foreign visitors in five years seems optimistic at a time when the Taliban insurgency continues to strengthen.

Around the time I was embarrassing myself on the wooden skis, Kandahar city was rocked by a massive vehicle bomb parked outside a hotel. I was blissfully unaware of another terrible day in Afghanistan's second city as we trudged down muddy fields towards our apres-ski lunch. Later that day, a compound housing foreign contractors was attacked by an even bigger bomb.

Adams wonders whether it might be possible to fly into Kabul airport and then transfer directly on to a Bamiyan flight – essentially isolating the province from the rest of the country as far as foreign tourists are concerned. But, as Dear says, Bamiyan can only remain a bubble for so long. "You've just got to have hope that things are going to get better in Afghanistan. If the country goes down, Bamiyan will go with it.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Cordillera Vilcabamba 1968

He hugged me then walked away from base camp as the towering peaks of the Cordillera Vilcabamba stood unmoved. That was almost 51 years ago and we have not seen each other since. Today he made contact with me.

Photo: Our route on the North Face of Mellizos in red.

For six weeks in 1968, J.E.S Lawrence was my climbing partner in the Cordillera Vilcabamba. I had just turned 20 and John was 10 years older than me and taught me so much about mountaineering as he had climbed in many of the mountain ranges of the world. He was my first mountain mentor. We did quite a few first ascents together with the most memorable being the first ascent of the North face of Mellizos.
Here is what John wrote after the climb:

"The hiss was changing now to a thunk and crash, as big stuff began to clean out our gully. The vertical sastrugi are so steep in the flutings that the sun acts as a sort of razor. When the ice blocks flew by, we would stop munching, and look at each other, and Bob would begin to mutter. We could see our red tiny tents clearly between our feet as we sat, in a kind of mockery. I thought it reminded me of being on a ship unable to make port, moored in the roads outside when you have a date and you can see the lights onshore and you wonder what she's doing.
We sat on the ledge for hours, listening to the mountain shivering, watching the detritus rolling out down the face below. At some point, a hummingbird flew close on the face beside us, beak into tiny flowers, in a brilliant display of minuscule aerobatics, then gone in a flash as if it was never there. If only we had had those wings. We began timing the space between the chunks of ice. As the sun recedes from the face, you can almost hear the ice re-gelling, as the sound volume gets turned down. I was prepared to spend the night on the ledge if necessary… we had good gear and were in good shape. But after counting two or three 3-minute silences, and no big stuff for an hour, we decided to chance it. We descended as fast as we dared, on belay, ensuring our belay stances were always out of the direct fall line. I don’t think either of us has ever moved so fast over ice, and I count it among the more purely lucky episodes in my climbing experience, but despite both of our mutual remonitions as to caution, we simply shot down, only bumped by the odd shot from above."
See Less

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Who was Diamond Jenness? A great New Zealand anthropologist.

While New Zealanders fawned over the polar exploits of Scott, Shackleton and to a lesser extent, Mawson and Amundsen, a quiet and modest New Zealander was carving a career as an explorer and anthropologist in the Arctic starting in 1913. Over a career that spanned five decades, Diamond Jenness became one of the most distinguished anthropologists in the world.
Born on 10 February 1886 in Wellington, New Zealand, Diamond Jenness graduated from Victoria College in 1908 and then earned a master’s degree in anthropology from Oxford University. In 1911, he won an appointment as Oxford Scholar to Papua New Guinea, where he studied the Northern D’Entrecasteaux for 12 months. Upon his return to New Zealand his life took an unexpected turn when the Anthropological Division of the Geological Survey of Canada invited him to the Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913–1918) to study Inuinnait (Copper Inuit) living in the Coronation Gulf region — a population that had had limited contact with Europeans up to that point.
He gained national and international acclaim for his meticulous descriptions of early post-contact Inuinnait (Copper Inuit) life in the Coronation Gulf region — research he began as a member of the 1913–1918 Canadian Arctic Expedition. In addition, Jenness was renowned for his archaeological discoveries of the ancient Dorset and Old Bering Sea cultures. He published over 100 books and articles on Inuit-state relations, ethnology, linguistics, archaeology and anthropology, including The People of the Twilight. Taken together, his publications are considered one of the most comprehensive descriptions of an Inuit group ever written.

Jenness spent the first year of the 1913-18 expedition on the Alaskan coast, learning Iñupiaq (an Inuit language) and conducting archaeological excavations on Barter Island. He travelled to Coronation Gulf in the summer of 1914 with expedition the CAE’s Southern Party, where he studied Inuinnait culture for the next two years. He learned another Inuit language, Inuinnaqtun, and acquired an extensive collection of material culture, took hundreds of photographs and made sound recordings of Inuinnait songs and oral traditions. For months Jenness lived as the adopted son of Ikpukkuaq, a respected hunter, and his wife, Higilaq, on southwest Victoria Island. As he observed and recorded his adoptive family’s seasonal movements and social activities, Jenness participated in the hunting and fishing on which their lives depended and mastered the difficult skill of travelling by dog team. The extensive observations he made of Inuinnait traditional life laid the base for his later work and defined his career. Upon his return from the Arctic in 1916, Jenness’ academic career was put on hold when he enlisted in the Canadian field artillery and served during the First World War.

After the war, Diamond Jenness returned to Canada, married Frances Eileen Bleakney and took up a position at the National Museum of Canada in 1920. He was promoted to Chief Anthropologist six years later and sought to expand the museum’s anthropological research and collections. He performed anthropological fieldwork with Indigenous groups in Northern Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, drafted legislation vital to the protection of archaeological resources in the Northwest Territories, and served as president of the Society for American Archaeology in 1937, and the American Anthropological Association in 1939. Amidst his fieldwork and administrative duties, Jenness began his remarkable series of publications, which included the popular The Life of the Copper Eskimos (1922), The People of the Twilight (1928) and The Indians of Canada (1932).
In the mid-1920s, Jenness made his most significant contributions to the discipline of archaeology. In 1924, he examined a collection of artifacts found at Cape Dorset and Coats Island in Hudson Bay. Jenness concluded that the tool technology represented a new and distinctive culture in the Eastern Arctic, which he named Dorset. Although the academic community disputed his conclusion at the time, later investigations proved it correct. In 1926, his excavations at Cape Prince of Wales and Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait resulted in his definition of the Old Bering Sea culture. Both discoveries significantly altered how scholars viewed the prehistory of the Arctic.

Second World War and Beyond
During the Second World War, Diamond Jenness served as Deputy Director of Intelligence for the Royal Canadian Air Force and chief of the Inter-Service Topographical Section of the Department of National Defence. After declining to serve as acting curator at the National Museum in 1946, Jenness organized and directed the Geographic Bureau in the Department of Mines, which collected geographic data on Canada. He retired from government service in 1948 and continued to research and publish extensively, including an economic history of Cyprus in 1962 and his five-volume work, Eskimo Administration, which explored Inuit-state relations in Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

Jenness often tried to influence government policy towards Canada’s Indigenous peoples, even serving as special consultant to the Indian Affairs Branch in the 1930s, and became even more vocal following the war. He criticized the government for the lack of education and employment opportunities it offered to Indigenous peoples across the country, particularly in the Arctic. Jenness became a vocal proponent of assimilation, the abolishment of separate “Indian” status and the liquidation of reserve lands, believing that only these actions would allow Indigenous peoples to enjoy the full benefits of Canadian citizenship — ideas that foreshadowed the infamous White Paper of 1969.

Photo: Diamond Jenness (left) and W.L. McKinley, magnetician and meteorologist, on board the Karluk, 1913. (RUDOLPH MARTIN ANDERSON / LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA 

A kind, quiet, modest man, Jenness was the recipient of five honorary degrees and was associated with many learned institutions in Canada and abroad, among them The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, whose Massey Medal he was awarded in 1962. In the fall of 1968, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, his country's highest honour. Diamond Jenness Peninsula on Victoria Island was named for him, and in 2004 NASA used his name to identify a rock on Mars explored by the rover Opportunity.

In 1990 when I was editor on the NZ Adventure Magazine, I communicated with Stuart Jenness, Diamond’s son and bought a copy of a book he wrote about his Father. In 1985 I retraced part of the trip Jenness did along the Alaskan coastline in 1913, and visited sites he explored on Barter Island. Clearly New Zealand’s greatest polar explorer who is hardly known here. Thanks to the Canadian Encyclopaedia for permission to quote from various sources.Diamond Jenness (left) and W.L. McKinley, magnetician and meteorologist, on board the Karluk, 1913.