The Fort McPherson graves for Fitzgerald, Carter, Kinney and Taylor.

Starting in 1904, it had become a yearly tradition for the Royal Northwest Mounted Police to make a 750 km dog-sled trip from Dawson City, Yukon to Fort McPherson in the N.W.T. However, in 1910, the Commissioner of the Force asked that it be trekked in the reverse — Fort McPherson to Dawson City — which had never been done before. So on the 21st of December 1910 a team headed by Inspector F.J. Fitzgerald left Fort McPherson. Accompanying him on this trip were Constable Richard O'Hara Taylor, Constable George Francis Kinney, Special Constable Sam Carter and Esau George, a local First Nation guide.

Discharging the local guide between the Peel and Yukon Rivers proved to have fatal repercussions and one of several lapses in judgement by Fitzgerald. Only Carter had done the route once before but in the usual Dawson - McPherson direction. They carried food for just 30 days on a trip that would last 25 if all went well. By the 12th of January they became lost having moving too far up the Little Wind River. They spent many fruitless days in waist-deep snow and -50°C. temperatures wandering up and down streams looking for the one needed to cross the Wind-Hart divide. By day 47, they had used up all of their food, eaten all 15 sled-dogs and leather traces, finally sucumming to hypothermia and starvation on the trail back to Fort McPherson.

It was not until some 6 weeks after the patrol's expected arrival that a relief team went out to find the "lost patrol". Team leader, Corporal William John Dempster, ex-Constable Frederick Turner, Constable Jerry Fyfe, and Charles Stewart, a Métis guide from Fort McPherson left Dawson on February 28, 1911. On March 21, the frozen bodies of the Lost Patrol were found approximately 40km from Fort McPherson. Their bodies were taken into Fort McPherson and buried along side each other under a large concrete tomb.

Like many "offical" versions that shed blame, the RCMP official version laid most of the blame on Special Constable Carter. However, in reality, it was the fault of the patrol's leader, Inspector Fitzgerald. Inspector Fitzergald had spent many years in the Arctic, was familiar with winter travel, and was in total charge of the patrol. He was therefore responsible for the amount and types of food taken and the numbers of dogs and sleds. His discharge of the local guide at a crucial time and the time wasted heading up dead ends before trying to get back to Fort McPherson sealed their fate.

The patrol's route from Fort McPherson to Dawson should have been: start at Fort McPherson, travel southward on the Peel River until it connects with the Trail River, follow Trail River, portage until you reach Wind River, follow Wind River and Forrest Creek past Waugh Creek, West Hart River and Blackstone River, follow Twelvemile River until the Yukon River, and finally, follow the Yukon River until reaching Dawson.

Click here to go back to the Dempster slide show.
Click here to get back to the main page