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Introduction and History
|Hubbard, Wallace and Elson started their trip in 1903
from in front of the Hudsonís Bay post at North West River. The Hudsonís
Bay post is still there and is now preserved as a museum. It has
memorabilia from the Hubbard and Wallace trip, as well as from the fur
Hubbard and Wallace wanted to be the first whites to travel across the interior of Labrador. They planned to canoe the length of Grand Lake, go up the large Naskaupi River to Lake Michikamau in the centre of Labrador (the lake now transformed into the Smallwood Reservoir feeding the Churchill Falls hydroelectric station), and then travel north, crossing into Quebec, and head down the George River to its outlet on Ungava Bay. The total distance would be approximately 1000 kilometres.
Hubbard was a writer for a publication in New York City, specializing in the outdoors, and his friend, Dillon Wallace, was a lawyer. George Elson, of mixed Cree-Scottish ancestry, had been contracted by Hubbard and Wallace. He was an expert in wilderness travel and canoeing, but came from Missanabie, a village and Hudson's Bay Post located east of the northern part of Lake Superior in Ontario, and had never been to Labrador before.
The expedition went wrong from the beginning. They accidentally travelled up the Susan River, which also runs into the end of Grand Lake, after mistaking it for the Naskaupi River. The tiny Susan River is filled with boulders and rapids and was a huge challenge for a heavily loaded canoe. After struggling on for several months, they still had not reached Lake Michikamau. Winter was approaching and they were forced to turn back and try to retrace their route to Grand Lake and North West River. By this time they were very low on food.
When they reached the beginning the Susan River, having abandoned their canoe on the Beaver River, the third river running into the end of Grand Lake, although they did not know this either, Hubbard was too weak to continue. The decision was made for Elson to continue on foot to Grand Lake, a distance of some sixty-five kilometres, where it was hoped he would find trappers arriving for the winter season. Wallace was to travel with him to the spot where they had discarded some flour on their way in, in an attempt to lighten their load. Wallace would take it back to Hubbard, who would be left in the groupís tent. The tent had been erected in front of a boulder to reflect the heat of their campfire.
It was snowing as Elson and Wallace left. They found the flour and Elson continued down the Susan while Wallace attempted to return to the tent. Elson finally made it to Grand Lake after a titanic seven-day struggle through the snow, where he indeed found a trapper and his family who had arrived for the trapping season. A team of trappers set out up the Susan and located Wallace in the snow, who had not been able to find Hubbard and the tent. He was just barely alive. They next found the tent, but it was too late for Hubbard, who had died. (Go to Page 3)