Media Room – FAQ/Sample Interviews/Bullet Points etc

Welcome, and thank you for your interest in Canada’s Arctic tall ship.

Q. When and where was the ship built?

A. North Star was purpose built for two Inuvialuit fur trappers, Fred Carpenter and James Wolki in 1935. The work was done by GW Kneass of San Francisco who was considered an expert in building ships for the Arctic.

Q. Were there any other of these types of ships built?

A. There were over one hundred of these ships built during the early 1900s, many of them by Kneass but also in Vancouver, Manitoba, Halifax, Lunenburg, and Peterhead, Scotland and other places.

Q. Where did the ship first operate?

A. North Star was launched from the deck of C.T. Pedersons S.V. Patterson in Pauline Bay, Herschel Island. Her home port soon became Sachs Harbour, Banks Island. She would sail each summer during the short ice-free summer to trade the winters catch of fur for the up-coming winter supplies at Herschel Island, Aklavik, Arctic Red River, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk.

Q. What happened during the Cold War to the ship?

With the coming war and the falling price of fur the owners left Banks Island and settled in Tuktoyaktuk for a number of years. Banks Island was essentially abandoned and both the USA and Russia were eyeing it as a prime strategic place to be. The Canadian government asked Fred Carpenter to find volunteers to sail North Star back to Banks Island and to hold it and the entrance to the NW Passage “for Queen and Country”. There were so many volunteers that a second ship, Reindeer, was also filled.

Q. Who was North Star’s second owner? Sven Johannson purchased the ship from Fred Carpenter and Susie Sidney and began a refit on her on the beach at Sachs Harbour which included installing a diesel engine.

Q. What happened during the initial gas and oil boom in the Beaufort Sea? Upon arrival in Inuvik from Banks Island Sven was hailed by a group needing a ship to do survey work for the oil industry in the Beaufort Sea. Two weeks later he had outfitted North Star with bunks, a campstove, portable head and they were out to sea surveying.

Q. Why was North Star’s 2nd owner asked to survey the controversial B.C./Alaska boundary? Under Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government a dispute arose between the United States and Canada over the boundary. North Star was chartered to find the original survey marks in order to prove Canada’s ownership, in particular of two islands close to the boundary. This was done by Captain Sven Johannson and his his wife and daughter.

Q. How long have the present owners owned the ship? Sheila and Bruce Macdonald purchased North Star in 1996 and moved aboard with their two daughters. A few years later two more (foster) children joined the family.

Q. Where have they sailed with her? North Star has sailed up and down the inside passage favouring remote anchorages where the family can explore the islands. She has also been a regular participant in tall ship festivals and classic boat shows.

Q. How many people does it take to sail her? North Star of Herschel Island is a large ship with a lot of rigging. Her second owner used two masts salvaged from wrecked trading schooners to re-rig her as a fully rigged ship intending to sail her by himself or sometimes with a small crew via the trade wind routes around the world. Self steering was added and all of the yards brace to the capstan so it is possible to sail her solo. We have always found that there are enough jobs for all willing hands but she can be managed safely with two or three people.

Q. What are the pets’ names? We have always had a lot of pets aboard. Currently there are two cats, William & Abby, and one dog, Luna.