the first week of December the ice seemed set and safe to travel on. Scotty
McQueen wanted a change and talked Joe into walking down to the HBC Post.
There was still open water above an island in the middle of the river
where the water piled up. Dick told them to keep to the right hand bank
until well past the island and then cross to the HBC Post. Joe did not
know the area as he had only been on the station for two weeks.
was on "mids" and woke them at 6:00 a.m. and they left. I went
to bed around mid-morning and got up in the evening to the news that Joe
and Scotty were missing. They should have been at the HBC Post by mid-morning.
The HBC Factor, Leo Kotowich, on the noon radio sked reported their non-arrival
and sent out some dog teams to find them.
is a small creek/river that flows in about two miles north of the airstrip.
This was the location of Camp 8-Ball. After the MacKenzie freezes over
the water level drops and rivers entering the MacKenzie overflow the ice
layer making a potentially dangerous area for the unwary. The Indians
reported tracks going into this overflow area but none coming out. At
this time of year there is a half-light after 10:00 a.m. but this day
there was an ice fog.
hitting the overflow water McQueen said they should walk around it on
the river instead of walking the bank. This was fairly smooth ice so in
the fog they walked across the Mackenzie (about 1 mile), then with the
bank on their right side they were heading south. They had gone about
8 miles south when they passed two islands off shore. Joe knew something
was dreadfully wrong so he took charge and started retracing their route.
By this time it was mid-afternoon. The ice fog had now dissipated but
it was getting dark again. Then he spotted our rotating airway beacon,
so he knew where home was.
crossing the river the ice was very rough with pressure ridges and jumbled
floes. McQueen injured a knee and ankle and had to be helped along. When
they came opposite the airstrip McQueen told Joe it would be better if
he climbed the bank, which is about 250 feet high at this point, and walked
down the airstrip to the camp to get help.
was good plan, except they were not yet far enough along the river.
When Joe climbed the bank he found himself in the south approach
to the airport amidst a tangle of stumps and deadfalls. About this
time he got an uneasy feeling that he was being followed. Behind him
he noticed two spots of light flashing in reflection of the rotating
beacon. Now, he knew that a dog's eyes reflect amber and a wolf's reflect
green. These spots were green. He quickened his pace and eventually
reached the packed runway surface with his company following along
almost to the tarmac and drawing closer. By this time he was nearly
done in anyway after the long trek down river and back. Now he was
pushing it for his life and his strength was running out. By the time
he reached the back yard of the station building he was crawling on
his hands and knees.
It was about 8:00 p.m. and I was in the kitchen making a meal when
the door crashed open and this frost-covered apparition fell in upon
the floor. Dick Bullock and Hal Zinn rushed in from the station and
we cleared the frost off Joe's face and got his outer clothes off.
After a hot drink he told us McQueen was going to try and make it to
the beach road. Dick and Hal took off on the run with a toboggan. They
found McQueen close to the beach road, loaded him on the toboggan and
hauled him up the hill and into camp. He was badly frost-bitten, especially
his feet. He was laid up about 10 days as his sprains and frozen bits
I had once admitted to working in a kitchen at a POW camp to escape
the guard towers in the winter, dick had me do the cooking. It mostly
involved opening cans so everyone survived.