Arctic Cargo: A History of Marine Transportation in Canada’s North
Marquis Book Printing, 2016
The Arctic is a neglected topic for Canada, in many ways. It’s isolated geographically, culturally, and economically. Canadians are taught about the First Nations cultures that live there, but aside from that it is rather romanticized. Whether it’s the Franklin Expedition, and the many other efforts to find the Northwest Passage, The St Roch, or Farley Mowat’s stories, or Peter C Newman’s histories of the North, it is a land more of narrative than of reality.
With global warming, it is accepted that the North will become very important to Canada’s relationship with the world as it becomes much more accessible by sea. The reality is that for much of the North, shipping has been the most viable way for goods to get to communities. Author Christopher Wright is an engineer by training, but has spent many years involved with shipping companies. He was first involved with shipping to the Arctic in 1973, and has many years of experience since. He brings that experience and detail-oriented approach to this book.
Arctic Cargo is a history of shipping and cargo transport in Canada’s North. It is not a narrative history, in the style of Pierre Berton or Peter C Newman. It examines all kinds of activities, from defence and deterrence, to resource extraction, to support of communities. In addition to being well written, it is full of data, tables and illustrations. The sheer volume of information is very impressive.
The publisher and printer have done an excellent job. Softcover, it has a pleasing weight to it. It is well structured and laid out. It has three different indices — a general one, a place index, and one for ships. It is well conceived and executed.
Clearly, there is a lot more to talk about when it comes to Canada’s Arctic history. This is a very good book. It is highly recommended for academic audience, especially for maritime and arctic history. That said, anybody who is interested in maritime history, Canada’s North, shipping or history of the merchant marine will enjoy this book as well.