Alan Innes-Taylor was a real gentleman. And for me, as a young radio reporter in the '60s, he was an invaluable source of historical knowledge about the Yukon.
Whenever I wanted to know something about the river boats, or dog teams, or Mounties or wilderness survival, I turned to Innes-Taylor for the answers.
He was born in England in 1900 and emigrated, with his family, to the United States in 1906. A few years later, the family moved to Ontario. Young Alan served as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps during World War I.
In 1919, at age 19, he moved to the Yukon and, in 1920, he joined the RCMP. He once told me that during his five-year stint with the Mounties, he never arrested anyone. Crime, he said, didn’t happen very often.
In his late twenties he began a long association with Yukon River boats, first serving as a purser on the sternwheeler Whitehorse.
He once estimated that he had logged almost 26 thousand miles on Yukon river boats. He knew their captains well and often told funny stories about how various locations on the river got unofficial names, such as “Scatterass Bat.” I’ll let you use your imagination on that one.
In 1929, he worked with the Treadwell Yukon Mining Company at Keno. In 1930, Innes-Taylor’s northern knowledge would serve him well, half a world away from the Yukon.
He was invited to be the dog driver on an American expedition to the South Pole led by Admiral Richard Byrd. It was a journey of exploration to a largely unknown land, on foot, by dog team and by aircraft, as Byrd would become the first to fly over the South Pole.
On a second expedition in 1933, Innes-Taylor was promoted to chief of field operations.
He spent the next two years in the Antarctic and became renowned for his knowledge of the little-known continent. When it was over, he was invited on lecture tours throughout North America.
During World War II, he worked for the United States War Shipping Administration and was commissioned as a Captain in the United States Army Air Corps stationed in Greenland, where he taught Arctic survival.
From 1950 to 1953, Alan was recalled to the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and commanded the Military Air Transport Command Survival School in Idaho.
Such was his world stature in things northern, that he also trained international commercial airline flight crews of Air France, KLM and SAS in Arctic survival.
For Scandinavian Airlines he wrote the highly acclaimed survival manual “This is the Arctic.” He also introduced special survival gear such as exposure suits and multi-person sleeping bags.
After the 1960’s, he spent most of his time in the Yukon where he made important contributions in recording the Yukon’s history, while working to set up the Yukon Archives.
He also wrote and recorded a radio series called “The Rivers of the Yukon”, describing his fascinating trips to Yukon historic sites.
Yet, whenever I met or talked with Alan Innes-Taylor, he was modest about his incredible lifetime of achievements which earned him two American Congressional Medals for his work on the Byrd Antarctic expedition, a Carnegie life-saving medal, and a member of the Order of Canada.
For all his world travels, his home was the Yukon, where he died in 1983.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
He kept expecting to reach a bald hill - or butte - but again and again, the river took him away from his elusive geographic feature.
He wrote: " a conspicuous bald butte could be seen directly in front of our raft no less than seven times. I called it a Tantalus Butte, and was glad enough to see it disappear from sight".
Tantalus was a son of the Greek God, Zeus.
The Northern Tutchone people had a less heavenly name for the hill. To them, it was known as Gun Tthi, or worm hill.
Legend has it that a giant worm lived in the hill. If people made too much noise while travelling on the river, the worm would cause a bid wind that would swamp their boats.
In 1887, the famous Canadian geographer, George Dawson, reported that coal outcrops in the area provided a source of fuel for prospectors and trappers.
At the turn of the century, Captain Miller, who operated the steamer Reindeer, discovered a coal deposit six miles from the Five Finger rapids.
A Dawson City newspaper reported that: "The mine is located right beside the river and Captain Miller has already built a wharf 115 feet long. The quality of the coal is very good and fit for general use. He will soon be able to get out about twenty tons a day. He certainly has a bonanza as coal, in that section of the Yukon, will be a godsend to steamers and railroads".
However, it turned out that the coal was of poor quality, with a high ash content. The White Pass railway, which was expected to become a major buyer, brought its coal from Vancouver by ship instead.
In 1903, Captain Miller sold the mine to the Fiver Fingers Coal Company and then opened the Hidden Treasure coal mine just above Carmacks.
By 1906, the mine, now called the Tantalus Coal Mine, produced just over five thousand tons. In 1907, production rose to ten thousand tons per year.
Although the quality was better here than at the Five Fingers deposit, the few steamboats that tried to use it soon resumed burning wood.
After 1918, production at the Tantalus mine dropped to a few hundred tons per year, primarily for use by homes and businesses in Dawson City.
In 1922, the mine was closed and thus began a series of openings and closings from 1938 to 1967, including mining coal for heating the plant at the United Keno Hill mines in the Mayo area.
In 1970, the Anvil Mining Corporation re-opened the Tantalus mine, using the coal at their Faro lead-zinc mine for heating.
In the mid-1970s, production peaked at about eighteen thousand tons per year. The Tantalus Coal Mine shut down for the final time in 1982, when the mine at Faro closed.
Tantalus Butte is an important part of Yukon history. George Carmack built a trading post at the foot of the Butte in 1893, with the idea of developing the coal seam. Three years later he and his two partners discovered gold on Bonanza Creek, and his dream of a coal mine obviously lost its glitter.
His flirtation with coal mining is commemorated today, however, in the community named Carmacks, the town that grew up near his trading post and the Tantalus Butte coal deposit.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
The lot in life for Oblate Priests who made the long journey from France to the Canadian north was to provide spiritual guidance in very isolated communities. It was no different for Father Jean Mouchet who arrived in Canada from France in 1946 to serve at Telegraph Creek.
Ten years later, he was posted to Old Crow. By 1982, when he left the community, he had become the driving force in a special program that made world class skiers out of an unlikely group of people.
Father Mouchet had developed a love for cross-country skiing while serving with the French Ski Corps during the Second World War.
In Old Crow, the physical fitness of the people astonished him. He realized that breaking trail on snowshoes all day with a dog team is an activity that develops strength and endurance.
In 1959, a team of Norwegian physiologists visited Old Crow and discovered what Mouchet already knew. Many people in Old Crow had the physique and endurance of Olympic athletes. Throughout the 1960s, however, the lifestyle changed. Snow mobiles replaced the dog sled and modern amenities meant they spent less time on the trap lines.
Because of these changes, he could see their self-esteem drop, and so he decided to use cross-country skiing to see if he could reverse the trend among the young people.
By 1967, with the support of the Yukon Territorial Government, he founded something called T.E.S.T., the Territorial experimental ski training program.
He later travelled to Whitehorse and Inuvik to set up the same program. The benefits of the T.E.S.T. program were quick and dramatic. Two skiers from Old Crow, and two from Inuvik, qualified for the Canadian National Cross Country Ski Team.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
In Sydney we toured the beautiful harbour, went out in the countryside, a winery tour, and visited friends who we met in French classes in Grenoble and others who had visited Whitehorse. The picture is of the Sydney Opera House.
We flew to Hobart in Tasmania & then toured mine mills & went underground in mines located in Northern Tasmania. We also stayed overnight in an old town similar to Dawson City named Zeehan. Then to Melbourne as guest of the Cominco owned Australian company, Aberfoyle.
This picture is of two attractive Papua New Guinea women. The one with the beads signifies she is a widow. We spent 10 days visiting with Dr. Aubrey & Peg Tanner. Dr. Tanner is on an overseas volunteer program and has stayed 3 years as surgeon in Pae, northern part of PNG.
While there we drove to the highland, walked through an abandoned dredge of the Dawson City type, went to a hospital where a week before the staff had treated 60 "warriors" for spear and bow and arrow wounds as a result of tribal warfare. If in driving the narrow bush roads you were to hit a child or a pig your life would be in danger. Two black Papua New Guinea doctors hit a child recently & when they stopped to treat the child they were both hacked to death. It's called "pay back"
Papua New Guinea has 700 languages, 1/3 of world's total.
After flying in 15 airplanes & staying in 15 different hotels we arrived home via Honolulu.
Peg Tanner, Rolf & Marg Hougen, Dr. Aubrey Tanner taken in their home in Papua New Guinea.
|January 7, 1982||Hudson Bay and Smelting Company Ltd. announces it will stop exploration and development on its Tom lead-zinc deposit in the Macmillan Pass in April.|
|January 8, 1982
→ December 24, 1982
|In the beginning of 1982, the U.S. Congress officially stopped the Shakwak Highway project (January 8, 1982). In December (December 24, 1982), however, the U.S. Congress approves a bill which would allow the State of Alaska to re-start the Shakwak Highway project - if the state is still interested.|
|January 12, 1982||It is announced that Whitehorse radio station CKRW will become part of the Cancom satellite service and be available nation wide.|
|January 12, 1982||Ed and Irene Whitehouse are chosen as Mr. and Mrs. Yukon 1982.|
|January 12, 1982||Plans for a $12 million hotel-office complex in downtown Whitehorse are called off because of the lagging economy. Territorial Gold Placer puts the lot up for sale but no one wants it.|
|January 15, 1982||Atomic Energy of Canada researchers are developing a small nuclear reactor for community heating in remote northern towns - to cut dependency on diesel.|
|February 3, 1982||A $1 million accident cripples operation at the Cassiar Resources asbestos mine in northern B.C.|
|February 4, 1982
→ February 5, 1982
|Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation decides to cut the size of its staff in Faro by 10% and eliminate its housing construction program (February 4, 1982). The United Keno Hill mine in Elsa and the Whitehorse Copper mine in Whitehorse announce hiring freezes one day later (February 5, 1982).|
|February 4, 1982||Cancom has officially become available in January with 4 Canadian television channels.|
|February 17, 1982||The White Pass company headquarters moves into the White Pass building.|
|February 18, 1982||Whitehorse cable station WHTV is formally granted a satellite licence. WHTV can now carry the 4 stations provided by Cancom and the 2 FM radio stations.|
|March 2, 1982||William John Bromley, captain of the S.S. Klondike for 7 years, dies at the age of 81.|
|March 3, 1982||One-third of the United Keno Hill Mine's Elsa workers are told they will loose their jobs in two weeks because the company lost nearly $13.7 million in 1981.|
|March 4, 1982||Bob Cousins receives the Commissioner's Award for his service club and charity work over several decades.|
|March 4, 1982
→ November 29, 1982
|1982 was a successful year for Yukon cross-country skier Monique Waterreus. In March she receives the Comissioner's Award (March 4, 1982) and wins the the overall NorAm championships in cross-country skiing. In November Waterreus becomes a member of the national cross-country ski team for the World Cup races (November 29, 1982.)|
|March 15, 1982
→ September 21, 1982
|The Northern Native Broadcasting Society receives a 239,000 $ grant to set up a satellite radio service for Yukon native communities (March 15, 1982). The start of the satellite service is delayed at the end of the year due to bureaucratical barriers (November 29, 1982(.|
|March 16, 1982||The federal government announces a loan to the Northern Canada Power Commission of up to $58 million to start construction immediately on the 4th turbine at the Whitehorse Rapid Power plant.|
|March 24, 1982||Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation announces it will shut down its lead-zinc-silver mine for 3 weeks during the summer.|
|March 30, 1982||Alan Innes-Taylor receives the first-level Commissioner's Award.|
|April 5, 1982||A Foothills Pipe Lines study suggests to lay the proposed gas line from Alaska under Kluane Lake. According to the study, this is the shortest and also the cheapest way.|
|April 13, 1982||Whitehorse radio station CKRW begins broadcasting on the FM dial, retaining its position on the AM band.|
|April 14, 1982||Whitehorse Copper mine announces its shutdown at the end of 1982.|
|April 22, 1982
→ June 8, 1982
|Government leader Chris Pearson announces the dissolution of the legislature and calls territorial elections for June 7, 1982 (April 22, 1982). The Conservative Party with Chris Pearson wins these elections (June 8, 1982).|
|May 3, 1982||The Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline has been delayed again with construction starting in 1986.|
|May 10, 1982||Coleen Emery of Whitehorse receives the highest level of Commissioner's Award for 17 years work with mentally retarded youths.|
|May 12, 1982
→ June 4, 1982
→ June 28, 1982
→ July 9, 1982
→ September 8, 1982
→ September 16, 1982
→ November 15, 1982
→ December 8, 1982
→ December 10, 1982
|Lead, zinc, copper, gold and silver reached rock bottom on the world market, causing a difficult year for the Yukon's economy: Cyprus Anvil shuts down the lead-zinc in Faro, first for the summer (June 4, 1982), then until October (July 9, 1982), then until spring 1983 (September 8, 1982). In November it loses its most important customer, a Tokyo-based smelting firm (November 15, 1982). Watson Lake's largest employer Cattermole Timber Ltd. closes for the summer (May 12, 1982). United-Keno Hill shuts down its silver-lead mine in Elsa indefinitely by the end of July (June 28, 1982). At the end of the year Dome Petroleum announces it does not want to re-open the Cyprus Anvil mine in Faro (December 8, 1982). White Pass railway closes for the winter (September 16, 1982). The Whitehorse Copper mine closes for good at the end of the year (December 10, 1982). Anvil lays off close to 700 people and hundreds of other Yukoners lost jobs in related industries. 1982 also set a bankruptcy record.|
|May 13, 1982||A massive ice jam on the Klondike River near Dawson City closes the Klondike Highway and forces about 75 people from their homes.|
|May 31, 1982||For the first time since 1964 Old '73 steams to Carcross.|
|May 31, 1982||White Pass announces to lay off over 100 White Pass and Yukon Route employees in the next few days as a result of the Cyprus Anvil shutdown|
|June 15, 1982||Dawson's Downtown Hotel officially re-opens, replacing the one that burned down in 1980.|
|June 18, 1982||Dawson City sees its first armed robbery since 1902. The 1982 robbery took place at the Claim 33 souvenir shop on Bonanza creek.|
|June 21, 1982||Governor General Edward Schreyer visits Whitehorse to officiate at a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the Alaska Highway.|
|July 6, 1982||Princess Anne visits Whitehorse. She meets political figures and toures the MacBride Museum and the Old Log Church.|
|July 15, 1982||Atlin miner Ted Sandor finds a 28-ounce gold nugget.|
|August 2, 1982||The Yukon sees one of the worst fire seasons on record leading to the closure of the Alaska Highway between Watson Lake and Coal Creek, B.C.|
|August 27, 1982||The Anik D satellite used for Cancom services, is transported into space.|
|September 2, 1982||White River Johnny or "Little John" dies at the age of 98.|
|September 2, 1982||The Canada Custom Post in Beaver Creek moves out of the town center.|
|September 7, 1982||Whitehorse Copper mine offers some of its old mine diggings to the Yukon government as historical site.|
|September 17, 1982||The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, John Munro, visits the Territory.|
|October 29, 1982||Porter Creek Junior High opens.|
|November 1, 1982||An unoccupied area of the Hillcrest subdivision is suggested as a site for the new Kwanlin Dun village. The Indian group had previously approved a site across the Yukon river.|
|November 10, 1982||A new Atlin paper, the Atlin Claim, is issued. The monthly paper revives the name used by the town's first newspaper, an 1899 weekly started the year after the Atlin goldrush.|
|November 19, 1982||Gulf Canada Resources Inc. receives permission from the federal government to conduct seabed testing at Stokes Point and two other locations on the Yukon's Beaufort Sea cost.|
|November 26, 1982||The Yukon government spend at least $50,000 to kill wolves, including the use of poison. Wolves have reduced the number of moose to such a grave extent that the government considers cutrailing the moose hunting season.|
|December 3, 1982||Donald Sumanik Sr., the man who brought the cross-country World Cup to Whitehorse dies at the age of 45 - presumably of a heart attack.|
|December 10, 1982||Hougen's Ltd. announces it will close its department store in Faro January 15, 1983 - another victim of the uncertain future of the Cyprus Anvil mine.|
|December 15, 1982||Long-time Yukoner Alec Berry dies at the age of 86. He was the Mayo MLA from 1952 to 1955.|
|December 15, 1982||Yukon MP Erik Nielsen marks his 25th anniversairy as the Yukon MP. Nielsen was first elected to the House of Commons on December 16, 1957.|
|December 17, 1982||A major land claim subagreement is reached in Ottawa: Yukon Indians will get $183 million from the federal government over 20 years.|
|December 22, 1982||For the first time in many years, communities along the Alaska Highway north of Whitehorse will have their own physician.|
|December 22, 1982||Canada Tungsten mine in Tungsten, NWT announces the mine will close indefinitely on January 21, 1983.|