Dempster Highway - Inspector William Dempster

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
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Flag of United States  , Northwest Territories
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

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The
Dempster Highway

Inspector William John Duncan Dempster

(1896 - 1964)

The Dempster Highway is named after Inspector William John Duncan Dempster (1876 -1964) of the Northwest Mounted Police (now the RCMP).

Inspector Dempster's career in the Yukon spanned 37 years, from 1897 to 1934.
Four of those years were spent patrolling the vast 475 kilometer stretch of territory between Dawson City and Fort McPherson by dogsled. It was a trip he made 10 times and deservedly earned him the title of "Iron Man of the Trail".

You can read a brief version of his
story at: http://www.yukoninfo.com/dempster/thename.htm

His name received national attention in connection with the Lost Patrol (1910 -1911). No, it would be more to the point to say that his name became legendary as a result of his involvement in the "Lost Patrol".

It is a gripping story that comes close to a tear-jerker.

http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic39-2-190.pdf

When Dempster died in 1964 at the age of 88, he knew that
the new road to be built between Dawson City and Inuvik would be named in his honour. This was the perfect ending for a man who was the most widely known and respected policeman in the North.

In retrospect, why did we not learn about Inspector Dempster
in our high school history books?

I am fascinated by the immensity of the North, sled dogs
(blog to come), and the challenges which are presented by the severe terrain
and climate. The story of Inspector Dempster is particularly gripping when
viewed in the context of the turn of the 20th century. Given the
limited navigational technology and lack of sophisticated clothing, his
adventures were all the more remarkable.

As indicated at: http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic39-2-190.pdf
the purpose of Fitzgerald's dogsled expedition to Fort McPherson was to deliver mail and establish Canadian sovereignty in the north.

It would appear that in today's context, the "establishing sovereignty issue" has not progressed a whole lot.

On last night's CBC - THE NATIONAL, it was reported that due to lac of functioning Aurora patrol aircraft, Canada will not be making its annual aerial sweep through the northern arctic to reinforce Canadian sovereignty.

The Aurora aircraft issue has become relevant since our neighbors Russia,
Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the U.S. do not recognize the vast Arctic borders which Canada claims as being sovereign Canadian territory.

Lack of money was cited as the cause for not having the
aircraft in flying condition.  It was also pointed out that huge sums of money were being spent in the Canadian war effort in Afghanistan.

If that wasn't bad enough, one only has to look at the sad
state of Canada's submarine fleet which was to have been a main means of establishing sovereignty in the Far North.

HMCS Chicoutimi still hasn't been repaired after catching fire on its maiden voyage from Great Britain in 2004 with the loss of one life. HMCS Windsor and Victoria are undergoing maintenance and will not be back in service until 2010. HMCS Corner Brook will be back at sea in the coming months. (Source: Globe and Mail - Nov.18, 2007)

 I can only say that Fitzgerald's efforts at establishing Canadian
northern sovereignty with his dogsled team are starting to look golden.

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Epilogue:



November 19, 2007

Speaking of Afghanistan, I regret to end this blog on a negative note.

To date, 74 Canadian soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan,
mainly to IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).   The IEDs have become the weapon of choice for the Taliban insurgents. The explosives have a nasty habit of tearing apart the armored vehicles which Canadian troops use to move about in the
Kandahar region.  Buried into the road bed, they are detonated remotely and therefore almost always hit their target with devastating effects.
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