“They are very shy and wild”: Encounters between British Royal Navy explorers and Inuit dogs, 1818-1844 - Francis Lévesque & Danny Baril
10:00 AM, Saturday 5 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
Sherbrooke Pavilion (SH) - SH-3140
Between 1818 and 1844, the period during which Sir John Barrow was Second Secretary of the Admiralty, the British Government renew polar exploration by undertaking a series of fourteen expeditions in hope of finding the Open Polar Sea. Among those expeditions, ten were undertaken in what is now the Canadian Arctic, six of which by boat (Ross 1818, Parry 1819-20; 1821-23; Lyon 1824; Parry 1824-25 and Back 1836-37), four by foot (Franklin 1819-22; 1825-27; Back 1833-35; Dease 1836-39). In 1829-1833, Sir John Ross also led a private expedition. While none of those expeditions were successful in finding the Polar Sea, they were all instrumental in increasing British knowledge about the Arctic, in large part because the published journals were immensely popular. Many researchers used these journals to understand what place occupied the Arctic and its people in the British imagination. However, none documented how these expeditions and their crews perceived and used Inuit dogs. Yet, this question is interesting because most Royal Navy officers who authored the journals were part of the British nobility, a social class that was made of people who, at the very same period, were starting to consider dogs not only as working animal, but instead as pet. Using the published journals of the expeditions undertook by the British Royal Navy between 1818 and 1844, this paper explores how British explorers perceived and used Inuit dogs in order to get a better understanding the place it occupied in the British imagination.