Celebrated Canadian news anchor Peter Mansbridge has announced a new memoir, set to hit shelves October 5. Off the Record reveals, with humour and heart, the life and career of one of Canada’s most trusted journalists. Canadian Geographic caught up with the former host of The National earlier this year to ask him for another mini memoir – this time about his most memorable Canadian experience. His recollections of sailing through the Northwest Passage can be found in the July/August print edition of the magazine, available on newsstands now.
My job has taken me across the whole country, from big cities to small towns. But the area that excites me the most is the Arctic, specifically the Northwest Passage. A lot of people think of the Arctic as a barren wasteland of tundra and ice, but it’s spectacular in its beauty. There are mountains, vast bodies of water and an abundance of wildlife like seals, walruses and bird life. When you are one of the lucky few who get to travel to that part of our country, you want to tell other people about it.
I have always been fascinated by the mystery surrounding the voyage of the Franklin expedition. In the summer of 2006, before the successful searches to find the two ships [in 2014 and 2016], I was sailing through the Northwest Passage on a Canadian icebreaker. “Northwest Passage” by Stan Rogers was playing from the loudspeakers. We were frozen in that moment, looking out at what we were witnessing, listening to Stan’s words about the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea. At that point, we still didn’t know what happened to the ships and crew or how far they got.
The Northwest Passage never fails to take my breath away — its history, the centuries that European explorers spent looking for it and how Canada as we know it probably wouldn’t have existed without it. Being aware of what’s happening in the North is so important, and we must listen to our Inuit brothers and sisters because they have been ready to teach us for centuries. Ninety per cent of Canada lives in the big cities or small communities in southern Canada. Unless we go on a road trip, this small part of Canada dominates our understanding of our country. And yet there’s so much more to Canada, both physically and culturally. The Arctic really does change your perception of who we are as a country. When I am there, I feel truly Canadian. Our North is such an inspiring force.