Pursuing Justice in the Arctic | History | Smithsonian
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Pursuing Justice in the Arctic

Pursuing Justice in the Arctic

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In 1912, two murders were committed at Bathurst Inlet, due north of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan in the Arctic Circle. What had happened? Who was responsible? The government of Canada authorized an expenditure of $70,656 to send a special police patrol to investigate, and thus began an epic tale of Mounties pursuing their man.

The first patrol was led by Inspector W. J. Beyts. For two years he and his men battled the unfriendly Arctic in an effort to reach Bathurst Inlet, until Beyts, exhausted and sick with chronic pleurisy and bronchitis, was relieved of his command. His replacement was Inspector Francis H. French, and the misfortune that had dogged Beyts soon began to dog the new patrol. Surviving wolf attacks and snow blindness, and living on raw caribou meat, the party finally made it to Bathurst Inlet. There they investigated the murders and closed the case. But now they had to get back to civilization. The ordeal of their return made the trip to Bathurst Inlet seem like a Sunday school picnic. "The temperature never rose higher than ten degrees below zero," writes Lawrence Millman. "Their clothing was more or less continually frozen. Likewise their boots. Likewise their bedding. Yet these skin-clad specks of humanity continued to creep over the vast spaces of the Arctic."

This saga of survival in the Arctic, "an eager grave for the gallant and not-so-gallant alike," notes Millman, is a testament to Mountie perseverance . . . and an absorbing yarn.

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