Campbell River, British Columbia
Museum at Campbell River

We welcome Thelma Silkens as one of our columnists, she will be writing about Campbell River's past and present,
as she works for the local museum and will be entertaining us with stories of days gone by and current offerings by the museum.

My Trip into the Arctic Regions on the R.C.M.P. St. Roch
By William R. Hall, 1945

Bill Hall, a lifetime resident of the Campbell River area, was mate on the St. Roch during her Arctic patrol in 1945. Bill, who died in 1985, always regarded his Arctic experience as the greatest adventure of his life. The journal he kept of the trip is held in the Museum at Campbell River archives and extracts are quoted below.

Monday, June 25
We left the dock in Vancouver at 0930 this morning. An hour before sailing time a crowd of friends, reporters, photographers, and RCMP personnel were gathered to see us off. We arrived at Quathiaski Cove at 21.30, where a crowd of friends were on dock to meet us.

Monday, July 2
The Frenchman refused to get up this morning, so I had to yard him out. He is the black sheep of the ship. Breakfast being over, he had to stand watch on an empty stomach. He is not on speaking terms with anyone aboard today.

Thursday, July 5
Arrived in Dutch Harbour at noon. We were escorted in by a U.S. navy vessel. The naval base is much larger than I expected it would be. We have access to their canteens and showers etc. The ratings and officers are very good to us; in the canteen they would not let us pay for anything, but gave us cigarettes, gum and candy…The bay is full of herrings as big as our bluebacks but our nets, being made of white twine, and the water clear, makes it almost impossible to catch them.

Friday, July 6
Today is damp and misty but not cold. Two Russian ships are in to fuel up. There are some nice looking girls among their crew, but they are not allowed to go ashore. A ship in last night had a woman skipper aboard, and nearly all girls for crew. Another Russian ship came in tonight and Russian music is being played over a loudspeaker.

Sunday, July 8
We were ready to put to sea at noon yesterday but found that a dinner was planned for us aboard one of the navy ships, so the sailing was postponed until this afternoon. Dinner will be at 12 noon. The cook, Mike Keating and myself rowed up to Unalaska last night. In the tavern there we had all the beer we wanted and they would not take any money from us. We are not able to spend any money here at all.

Monday, July 9
We are in the Bering Sea, N.W. wind and heavy rain. It is getting colder as we go north. There are lots of whales around, eight and ten together. We stopped for a while and caught about ten grey cod with a hand line. Heading to pass to starboard of the Pribilof Islands. We said farewell to Dutch Harbour yesterday with much waving, picture taking and tooting of whistles. Everything is going quite well aboard.

Thursday, July 12
We anchored under King Island about 40 miles west of Nome. Thick fog. There are native huts stuck on the hillside on King Island, which is very steep. There is also a church and school. This is a wintering place and there is no one here at this time.

Friday, July 13
We are still anchored under King Island. Thick fog. Strong N.W. wind, gale force at times. This is only a small island in the Bering Sea and does not afford much shelter. The ship has a heavy roll all the time. The natives live mostly in holes in the ground or steep hillside and hunt walrus in Winter for the ivory. Last night there was no darkness. The sun just set and came up again. I guess we will have no more nights this Summer.

Wednesday, July 18
6 p.m. ran in close to shore at Wainwright, an Eskimo settlement of about three hundred people. Nine of them came out in a skin boat.

Thursday, July 19
The Eskimos came aboard at midnight last night and left at 6 a.m. As it is just as light at night as in the daytime it is all daytime with them as long as they are not sleepy. I was off watch from 4 to 8 this morning but did not get any sleep because of the banging into ice floes. There are about three thousand reindeer here and herded by natives. They are very friendly people and most of them speak fairly good English.

Friday, July 20
We had a very busy and exciting day hunting with the Eskimos. There were several large herds of walrus on the ice. We are about seventy five miles from Point Barrow. The ice is still in and we are not able to get around until an offshore wind comes to move the ice out. The ice pack is a wonderful sight.

Saturday, July 21
We had some Eskimos aboard all day helping to cut up the walrus and stow it aboard. We have twenty to twenty five tons of meat for dog feed. The Eskimos are very fond of music and are after me to play the accordian for them all the time. We filled our fresh water tanks from the ice floe the other day; it seems odd to find fresh water lakes on salt water ice. It is very cold tonight and wet fog. The temeperature here in the Summer keeps from about 28 to 38 [Farenheit] degreees. I go off watch at midnight and go on again at 4 a.m. The ice is not far off tonight so a good watch is necessary.

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