Canadian Explorers
Canadian Explorers

Canada's greatest explorers 2015


Louie Kamookak


Photo credit: Tyrone Burke/Canadian Geographic

Inuit historian

Expertise: Paleontology, archeology, Society, Education

By Nick Walker

Louie Kamookak’s great-grandmother Hummahuk used to tell him stories and legends as they travelled the Arctic region around Gjoa Haven together. It was only during a classroom history lesson a few years later, however, that he realized some of the matriarch’s stories, including one of a white-man’s grave on King William Island’s north coast, matched the tale of Sir John Franklin’s catastrophic expedition. That spurred the Gjoa Haven historian and teacher into a hunt for the British explorer that has lasted more than 40 years, and would see him sitting with Inuit elders while they poured out their oral histories; locating known graves and discovering artifacts and remains strewn across the land; and comparing findings to journals from many Franklin search parties. In the first years of the federal government’s renewed search for HMS Erebus and Terror, Kamookak acted as a consultant, recommending that the search be focused on what turned out to be the correct area. Thanks to his help, Erebus was found in 2014, but that doesn’t mean Kamookak’s search is over. His next task? Finding Franklin’s grave.


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