5. Brocher Navigates North-West Passage

Article from the Fraserburgh Herald, January 11, 1938.

Brocher Navigates North-West Passage
A Fraserburgh man has had the honour of being the first to penetrate the Bellot Straight, a part of the Northwest Passage, by ship. The feat is a historical one as, for hundreds of years, explorers have tried to accomplish the feat of traversing the passage from end to end. Mr Ernest J. Gall, who is a captain of the Hudson's Bay Company vessel Aklavik, travelled from port to port with supplies. He was accompanied on these trips by his wife, an American Lady, whom he married five years ago. Mrs Gall, in order that the ship might run as lightly as possible, undertook the charge of the engines when the trip through the Northwest Passage was contemplated. But tragedy swiftly followed. As the Aklavik was moving from Cambridge Bay another schooner appeared with supplies, which the Aklavik had to take north. Mr Gall sent down the signal to “slow ahead”. There was no response. He signalled again, and still no notice was taken. Mr Gall rushed below to find his wife lying dead as the result of a heart attack. As far as her husband knew she had never been previously ill. In spite of this Mr Gall did not turn back. There was too much at stake. An Eskimo girl took his wife’s place in the engine room. Mrs Gall was buried on the desolate shore of Cambridge Bay.

The Aklavik had an exciting trip. She was often threatened by ice and on one occasion the engine failed in a swift current. The vessel was in danger of being swept on a rocky shore but; in the nick of time repairs were accomplished. The rest of the journey, however, had to be made at half speed. After leaving the Bellot Straight they met the 2,500 ton Nascopie (the Aklavik was 30 tons). The crews were greatly excited and celebrated in fitting fashion.

Mr Gall has been employed in the far North for 15 years, never leaving the Arctic Circle. He went to Hudson’s Bay shortly after leaving school and was a trapper on his own for two years. He also engaged in looking for minerals. In North Canada he is known as Scottie. Both Mr Gall’s parents are dead; his father was a well known here however, being stationmaster of Fraserburgh for some years.

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