Brentwood College Brigade
Thrilling Canoe Saga Recounted By Brentwood School Voyageurs
by Eric Maurice (this story appeared in the Victoria Daily Times on Monday August 6th, 1968)
Fourteen teenage voyageurs from Brentwood College paddled into Fort Providence, N.W.T. on July 29. They’d started out from Fort Nelson, BC, 31 days and 685 miles earlier. Provisions included 86 pounds of corned beef and sardines, 60 pounds of dates and raisins, 50 pounds of porridge and coffee and 40 pounds of insect repellent. And lots more. They even picked up 40 pounds of moose meat from an Indian along the way. It was eaten in 1 day! The team of canoeists was headed by Brentwood teacher Barry du Temple, a former Commonwealth scholarship instructor in Pakistan, and his brother Wally, from Montreal.
The Brentwood students formed two brigades with one du Temple in charge of each. Seven boys and a leader each manned two 25-foot Chestnut canvas canoes. Two boys in each canoe were cooks, two erected tents, two loaded and unloaded the boats and one boy supervised and reported any problems to the leaders. They travelled up to 10 hours and 82 miles a day. The shortest progress for a day was two miles. The voyageurs lost three full dyas oin the Nahanni River due to rain. They were so far north that it never got dark enough for a good view of the Northern Lights – there was always enough light to read by. The canoeists started by paddling down the Fort Nelson River to Nelson Forks and then followed the Liard River to Nahanni Butte. It was there that Barry du Temple decided his boys needed some experience in upstream paddling. They went 50 miles northwest to the hot springs, fighting all the way against the swift, glacial currents of the Nahanni. The trip back down to the Liard was easier, and then the two canoes continued to Fort Simpson, on the McKenzie River. This leg of the journey included shooting 35 miles of rough water at Beaver Dam rapids. On the McKenzie, they had to turn upstream again to paddle 157 miles south to Fort Providence, but after the Nahanni, the current in the broad, lazy McKenzie was a piece of cake. Three Vancouver Island boys were among the membvers of the two brigades – average 17 years. They were Dean Sawyer of Victoria, Bruce Williams of Duncan and Wally Seed of Youbou.
Canoeists riverside camps offered endless fascination to area Indians, who would drop in for coffee and pass on advice about the rivers. But free advice was sometimes a problem. The boys fell prey to “river rumours”, Barry du Temple said. In Fort Liard, a Catholic priest warned them against going up the Nahanni at high-water periods, and the du Temples had a hard time convincing their crews they could make it. In Fort Simpson, a pessimistic Mountie said it would take 12 days to complete the trip to Fort Providence, and the boys, already tired from the long trip, were despondent. Plans called for making the trip in eight days. They wound up by doing it in seven.
Wally had many adventures besides the Brentwood College Brigade, many of them with his brother Barry. The following year, the two brothers decided to travel another old fur trapper route down the Grand Canyon of the Liard River. They had many close calls running the various stretches of rapids in a canoe and were fortunate to survive to return home. See the photo gallery for News Articles and Pictures.
Sub-Arctic Navigation Co.
Wally and his two brothers, Barry & Ron, came up with the idea of starting their own guided tour company in Canada’s Northwest Territories. They designed and built a 42 foot boat and shipped it up to the NWT to begin operations. This is the same area where Wally & Barry guided the Brentwood College Brigade during the summer of 1968. The tours featured some of the most unspoiled, difficult-to-navigate areas in the NWT. Click on the picture to the right to see the photo gallery.