Nearly 100 years after an Island-born sailor vanished on an Arctic expedition, a team of scientists are setting out to retrace his steps, hoping to solve the mystery.
P.E.I.-born Capt. Peter Bernard was among a group of nearly two dozen scientists and crew who departed on the 1913-18 expedition aboard the Karluk to map uncharted portions of the high Arctic.
Like many journeys to the north in the early years of high Arctic exploration, the Karluk was no match for the harsh conditions. The doomed expedition saw more than half of the members die, including Bernard in 1917.
David Gray, an Ottawa-based scientist and historian, and a team of scientists are organizing a centennial tribute to retrace part of the expedition’s past and find out more about what happened to Bernard.
Site never properly documented
“That site has never been properly documented. So, there's a lot of old artifacts on the ground, parts of the ship and some of these are eroding into the sea because of wave action, high tide and lack of ice,” said Gray.
Gray said his crew is keen to find any clues about the man from Nail Pond, P.E.I., and they’re excited to mark 100 years since the launch of Canada's first Arctic expedition.
“It was an expedition that provided the baseline, the foundation, for everything we know about the Arctic — both in terms of natural history and human history and Peter Bernard was a significant part of that expedition,” he said.
For four years Beulah Costain has been researching the mystery behind Bernard’s disappearance and his nephew, Joseph Bernard, who survived the expedition.
“It's an interesting story, I love it,” she said.
Some calling for monument
She said she’s frustrated that this part of P.E.I.'s history isn't recognized.
“We know about Captain Cook and we know about Columbus and we know about Jacques Cartier and it's time we knew about Joseph and [Peter] Bernard,” she said.
Costain wants a monument remembering Bernard erected in his hometown of Nail Pond.
She said the first step is to win the hearts of Islanders with the story of their lost sailor.
“That's exactly why we should care, because it's 100 years and we haven't done anything to recognize them,” she said.
Costain estimates that the monument will cost about $15,000.