|North Star of Herschel Island is the last of the sailing Arctic fur trading ships. She is the only fully rigged ship in Canada, meaning that she crosses squaresails on each of her three masts. Sails can be handled from on deck and it is possible for the ship to be sailed single-handedly. North Star was built in 1935 in San Francisco at the Geo. W. Kneass shipyard and shipped to the Arctic aboard the 600 ton trading ship Patterson. She had originally been built for two Inuit fox trappers. She was used from 1935 to 1961 for transport of the winter’s catch of fur to market in early August and for transportation of supplies from Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk to Sachs Harbour on Banks Island in late August and early September when ice conditions permitted sea navigation. Except for three winters frozen in the ice, each fall North Star was hauled onto the beach and launched the following spring using three purchase tackle and hand winched by the whole village over skids of freshly killed seals. During the Cold War the Canadian government under Prime Minister Diefenbaker tasked the ship with holding Banks Island near the western entrance to the NW Passage, ‘for Queen and Country’ in order to assert Canada’s sovereignty in this area.North Star was left on the beach in 1961 when cargo flights took over the transportation and remained on the beach until 1968. She was purchased by her second owner in 1967 and refit for navigation in the Beaufort Sea. From 1968 until 1973 she was used for scientific investigations in the Arctic Ocean. Subsequent voyages included a charter by the Canadian government under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to survey the British Columbia Alaska boundary. Other trips included ecological adventures, sail training and a Cambridge University scientific voyage to search for mermaids. North Star has been the home of her present owners for the last 21 years who have logged thousand of miles on the west coast of Canada and the USA. She is available as a way of educating people about Arctic history such as for school group tours and historical societies. She sometimes participates in classic and wooden boat shows. The ship is rigged, ready and capable of sailing anywhere in the world.
North Star of Herschel Island, c/o Heritage Harbour 1905 Ogden Avenue, Vancouver, B.C., V6J 1A3