Friday, June 11, 2010

Samuel Hearne and Climate Change

Yes, that's right. Samuel Hearne (1745 – 1792).

He's is a figure from early Canadian history. He worked for the Hudson's Bay Company in its early years and explored a vast swath of what eventually became Canada's northern territories, making three trips altogether. The conditions in which he traveled are described here:
"Hearne “became accustomed to eating caribou stomachs and raw musk ox,” but he refused to eat “lice and warbles.” Following the lead of his experienced guide, he learned to stay with the herds of buffalo and caribou for a steady supply of food. Braving the elements was another test. Snowstorms in July, heavy rain, and no dry clothes or warm building in which to recuperate added to the misery. Hearne was also caught in a bloody battle between the Chippewa and the Inuit, a massacre that mentally scarred him for the rest of his life."
Like most journals kept by men in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company, his are preserved to this day and contain a wealth of information beyond those details which pertain to his immediate mission, that being locating copper deposits rumoured to be in the high north. Those notes include descriptions of the native peoples as well as observations about the environment, including weather and vegetation, as the above quote so amply illustrates. This makes them a rich source for historians and for climate scientists alike.

Climatologist, Tim Ball, has referred to Hearne's journals in an article in the most recent edition of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy's electronic newsletter. In the article he quotes this little gem (in italics) and inserts a comment (regular font) at the end:
""I have observed during my several journeys in those parts that all the way to the north of Seal River the edge of the wood is faced with old withered stumps, and trees which have been flown (sic) down by the wind….Those blasted trees are found in some parts extend to a distance of twenty miles from the living woods, and detached patches of them are much farther off; which is proof that the cold has been increasing in these parts for some ages. Indeed some of the older Northern Indians have assured me that they have heard their fathers and grandfathers say, they remembered the greatest part of those places where the trees are now blasted and dead, in a flourishing state." Retreat of the tree line is appropriate for the cooling trend from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age."
But, but, but....this is one of those periods that the warm-mongers want us to believe didn't happen. 

This is what I like about original historical documents. What motive did that pesky Samuel Hearne have in being a "denialist", for God's sake?

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