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An Indelible Decade: Apprentic Under Sail and Arctic Constable 1908-1918

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Hilarious adventures—some of them illegal—served as a foil to E. R. Huntington’s harsh life afloat a hundred years ago.

Orphaned at the age of fourteen, Huntington was apprenticed aboard the three-masted, square-rigged ship, Cambrian Princess. In the next four years, he went around Cape Horn eight times—more than enough to be considered a “real seaman.” At eighteen, he knocked the unendurable first mate over the ship’s rail and into the harbour at Portland, Oregon, so he had to skip ship.

Ashore without money, he tried several occupations and narrowly escaped being picked up by the marshals who were after him when they discovered that the popular young saloon owner was underage.

By the time World War I began, Huntington was in Canada, where he joined the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. He spent the war years as a constable in the arctic. Fascinated by photography, he left behind an album from this era, filled with pictures that he took and developed himself under very primitive conditions. These pictures of a Spartan life bring us face to face with the north and its people, and offer insight into a disappearing lifestyle and a corner of Canadian history that might not otherwise be documented.

Fifty years later, he told his family and grandchildren of this life while a tape recorder ran beside him. Here, in his own words, Huntington shares his hardships, hopes, and the youthful hijinks that made this decade in his sometimes-grim life bearable.

Born in Shanghai, China, author Beverley Huntington Rogers and her parents left the city before the Japanese invaded, relocating to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where her mother’s family had property. There she attended a one-room school, and later graduated from Netherwood School for Girls and Dalhousie University, where she met her future husband, Douglas Rogers. He became a professor of Physics at the Royal Military College. Their three children were raised in Kingston, where Beverley also obtained an MSc from Queen’s University. They retired to Bowen Island, B.C., and between extensive travels they have become happily immersed in island life, gardening, and raising their small pack of Japanese Chins.