A Franklin Find

The December 2014 edition of Canadian Geographic is dedicated to the discovery of the HMS Erebus, one of Sir John Franklin’s two ships, on the ocean floor in the Arctic this September by a team of Canadian archaeologists.

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On May 19, 1845, Sir John Franklin and 128 sailors and explorers left London in two sailing vessels, the Erebus and the Terror, with the goal of crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Northwest Passage. They were never to return. By 1850, the first rescue missions set out from Britain, the United States and the Canadian colonies in attempts to find the Franklin expedition or to solve the mystery of their disappearance. Although the first successful passage of the Canadian Arctic by ship occurred early in the twentieth century it wasn’t until the twenty-first century that one of the lost Franklin ships was found.

Much of Canada’s history revolves around big and small voyages of discovery, beginning with the first Europeans crossing the Atlantic. From the time of the early settlement in the St-Lawrence valley to the present, subsequent European explorers pushed ever further into the Canadian wilderness, as they followed the rivers and lakes across the country. Obviously, these European explorers did not really discover anything…they simply retraced routes that the Inuit and other First Nations had travelled for centuries.

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Nevertheless, the December edition of the Canadian Geographic is fascinating as it analyzes the find of the HMS Erebus from many different perspectives. It describes the contribution of archaeological evidence, modern technology and Inuit oral traditions in the successful of the ship this September. It compares the historical impact on Canadians, on Americans and on the British of the Franklin expedition and its aftermath, and the modern impact on all of us. It is well worth a read, although it leaves one with just as many questions after reading the edition from cover to cover as when one started.

Since 1925, campers at Camp Nominingue have travelled the lakes and rivers of the Petite nation, the Rouge and the Outaouais river systems and their headwaters, living adventures and testing themselves against those who travelled the routes before them. F.M. Van Wagner chose the site of the Camp because of its location in prime canoe trip country. He felt that every Canadian should have the opportunity to travel the historical paths of Canada – its lakes and rivers, by canoe! Each summer, 85% of the campers that arrive at Camp follow in the tradition of earlier campers who paddled these waters. Today, 20% of the campers at Nominingue arrive from outside of Canada to live this truly Canadian experience.

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J. R. Warren, who was a camper and counsellor at Nominingue from 1939 through 1949, described what he felt about these canoe trips.

I became Radisson and Des Groseillers, and all the explorers who wandered far and wide throughout North America searching for whatever it was that beckoned them. Every time I climbed into the canoe, I was off on an expedition of untold danger and indescribable hardship – the intrepid explorer shining light into the black hole of the still undiscovered New World. Every time I set foot on a portage, I was a coureur des bois off to Rupert’s Land in the quest of the wealth of limitless furs.

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I know that my imagination has wandered this way on canoe trips as I paddled across a never-ending lake or hiked a trail with a canoe on my shoulders. One doesn’t need to be the first to experience the excitement of discovery nor the thrill of having met the challenge of the wild! These are daily occurrences on a canoe trip…

Passion, Connection & Creativity

After being silent for two years, I decided that the Quebec Camps Association Conference was a good time to begin blogging once again!

The opening speaker at the conference was Jean-Pierre Brunelle, a physical education professor at the University of Sherbrooke. The topic of his talk was “Arousing Passion”. He spoke about the growing concern regarding youth becoming more sedentary and he identified passion as the key element in getting people to participate in physical activities.IMG_4938

Each year, the ACQ aims to invite one special guest from the wider camp world. This year, Jim Cain was that special guest. He is the author of 10 books on team-building, teamwork and teamplay. I attended two sessions with Jim. The focus of the sessions was community building through various games, especially games relying on a minimal number of props. Each of the games that Jim taught us included, among its multiple purposes, the development of connections between people.

The closing speaker was Jean David who works currently for the Carnaval de Québec, but who spent 15 years as marketing director of the Cirque du Soleil. One focus of his presentation concerned the importance of creativity. Within a company, the only limitation that exists is that which we put on our own imagination and dreams. Pursuing this thought, he identified creativity as the frequently forgotten essential element when governments speak about the great issues that confront society – health, economy, education and the environment. His take is that, with creativity, solutions to problems in every sector become possible. Without creativity, there is little hope for change.IMG_4968

I left the conference with new ideas and new energy, with the certainty that Nominingue has all the elements in place to make a summer camp experience come alive for the boys that attend. Whether it is a game of pony express on the first evening of camp or Western Night or the Tribal Games, or the wide variety of instructional activities from nature study to climbing to woodworking to archery to lacrosse, there are so many opportunities to get kids active and moving, and to experience activities that arouse their passion.

Camp Nominingue is a place of connection – between the campers and the counsellors and between the campers. The small tent group of 5 campers and a counsellor, and for most of the younger boys a junior counsellor as well, ensures that there is a comfortable community of friends and adults for each camper to rely on. Nothing works better than a canoe trip, an experience that most campers experience at Nominingue, where age-appropriate challenge and adventure are encouraged, to build team spirit, trust and confidence in a small group. At the end of each month, the tribal games and voyageur games expand the connections of the campers to include both older and younger campers, as each camper’s community expands to include maybe the whole camp.

Camp Nominingue has been in operation since 1925. Campers have been enjoying a program that works for boys for 90 years. It would be very easy to continue doing the same activities and take the same approach that was used last year or 40 years ago. Each summer, approximately 70 counsellors and 100-200 campers attend Nominingue at any one time. Our goal must be to listen to staff both new and old, to give campers opportunities to express their ideas and opinions, to identify new ideas, to provide the support required to implement such ideas, to be open to taking a risk, and to take on new challenges to ensure that Nominingue stays relevant and exciting for the next 90 summers!

I thank Jean-Pierre Brunelle, Jim Cain and Jean David for reminding us about some of the key goals that we must set for ourselves at Nominingue and at camps across Quebec.