Cambridge Arctic Canada Expedition, 1961

Base Camp below Mt. Asgard

How it all happened

The Cambridge Arctic Canada Expedition visited the Cumberland Peninsular of Baffin Island during the summer of 1961, to climb mountains, explore, survey, and do research in physiology and geology. Our activities were concentrated in the area of the Pangnirtung Pass, which spans the peninsular at the Arctic Circle. The pass is used by the Eskimos (now known as the Inuit People) as a passage between settlements at Broughton Island on the Northeast side of the peninsular, and Pangnirtung to the Southwest. The area had been previously explored by the Arctic Institute Expedition of 1953, led by P.D. Baird. Our expedition came about because Bob Langford, our Fearless Leader, read an account of the Arctic Institute expedition, which included a description of the mountains of the region, some of which had been climbed by Swiss mountaineers who had accompanied the expedition. Terence Goodfellow and I had been discussing the possibility of a trip somewhere more adventurous than the Alps, and Bob's inspiration provided us with a destination. We persuaded other members of the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club to join us, and also recruited a Cambridge medical student, then doing his clinical training in London.

The Team

R.E. LANGFORD, Age 23, King's College, Regular RE Officer (Leader). 2nd year Mechanical Sciences. Alpine Club, Royal Naval Expedition to Norway 1958. i/c Glaciological survey
T.A.J. GOODFELLOW, Age 22, Gonville and Caius, (Deputy Leader). 2nd year History. 5 Alpine seasons. i/c Equipment
A.R. CROFTS, Age 21, Gonville and Caius, Scholar, 3rd year Natural Sciences (Biochemistry). i/c Food and Physiology
G.F. BONHAM-CARTER, Age 21, Magdalene. 2nd year Geology. New Zealand Alpine climbing. i/c Geology, Publicity and Film
C. W. (Bill) BARLOW, Age 20, Sidney Sussex, 1st year Economics. 2 Alpine seasons. Travel asst. and i/c Exchequer during expedition
J.W. DALE, Age 27, Selwyn and St. Bartholoaews Hospital. Final year clinical. i/c Medical

The Expedition was funded by private contributions, gifts of equipment, supplies and food from many genorous donors, and grants from the Everest Foundation, the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Medical Research Council.

A brief account of the Expedition appeared in:
Langford, Robert (1963) Cambridge Mountaineers in Baffin Island. The Geographical Magazine, Feb. issue, pp, 598-610.

Map of the summit area, Pangnirtung Pass

The map shows the general area of our activities. Mts. Asgard, Queen Elizabeth, Battle and Fleming had been climbed and named by the previous expedition. We climbed and named Mts. Friga, Turl, Midgard, Anawakaluk and Siki. The feature Ozymandius was, as might be expected, "two vaste and trunkless legs of stone", which we also named.

Panoramic view of the Mt. Asgard group

The climbing was Alpine, with the peaks rising 6,000 feet above the glaciers (which were at about 1,000 ft). When the weather was fine, the long days made for fine conditions. When the weather turned, it got cold very quickly, and we were forced to truncate several trips.

Broughton Island, en route to the Pass

We reached Broughton Island via the DEW line bases and the courtesy of the USAF. Our supply of rum was an invaluable aid in making friends with the personnel of the bases. Lamb's Navy Rum is 160 proof (80% ethanol); the DEW line men considered themselves hardened drinkers, and would (the first time round) refuse any dilution.

We stayed for several days at the Eskimo settlement at Broughton Island, waiting for the sea-ice to break up, so that we could ferry our supplies to the foot of the Pass. We had a great time getting to know the people, through the kind assistance of the school teachers at the settlement. We went on a seal hunting expedition, and learnt Eskimo dancing and games. The dancing was reminiscent of Scottish and Irish jigs and reels, and was said to be derived from steps learnt from the whalers who replenished supplies there in earlier times. One game was particularly memorable: the players would sit in a circle, legs stretched out with feet towards the center. The person who was "it" then stood in the center, and attempted to fall down (while keeping a rigid posture, with hands at sides). When he succeeded, the person he fell on became "it". The discrepancy in size between the Eskimo and the visitors might have been expected to produced an unfair advantage to the latter, but the strength and resilience of the home players was quite impressive!

On a seal hunt with the Inuit of Broughton Island

The trek in

From the foot of the pass to the saddle was some 35-40 miles, and we had to back-pack all our equipment and food this distance before we could start climbing. Since our plan was to meet the ice-breaker/supply ship at the other end of the pass, on its only autumn visit to Pangnirtung, we had to carry all our supplies up and then down the other side. We became pretty good at this, starting with loads of about 80-90 lbs, and making our final exit march carrying 120 lbs each. The ground was rough (similar to a Welsh peat bog) though we became adept at finding firm terrain for most stretches. Getting packs on was something of a struggle. Falls ("blongers") were fairly frequent, and we found an ice pick as a walking stick helped. No one got injured, but I suffered from an infected blister, and Graeme had a dose of exhaustion, both appropriately dealt with by "Dr." Dale.

Bill Barlow and Terence Goodfellow struggle with pack loading,
with Graeme Bonham-Carter looking on,
Bob Langford in background


Most of our activities were done in pairs, with Terence and I, Graeme and Bill, Bob and John forming fairly stable partnerships. On climbing days, two people always stayed at base camp in case of emergencies.

Tony Crofts on Asgard

Summit Lake and first base camp

When we got to the top of the pass, we discovered that the lake, which was shown as two lakes in the first expedition maps and more recent ariel photographs, had fused into one through collapse of the morain which had separated them. In order to get to the best climbing, and establish our base, we had to cross the lake,- 100 yds of ice-cold water. Wading proved out of the question, but we were able to construct a raft using material left by the previous expedition.

Graeme and Bill, maiden voyage

The march out

We decided to make the march out without relaying. In order to make the loads acceptable, we abandoned some supplies. Among these were our trusty Lee-Enfield .303 rifle, ammunition, and the remaining nut pemmican. The former had been advised as a precaution against polar bears. The combination provided a light interlude, in which we used the pemmican cans for target practice.
We were told terrible stories of the ferociousness of the bears, but never saw one, except marooned in an ice floe from the boat home.

View across Summit Lake

down the pass towards Pangnirtung Village
(some 40 miles away)

Physiology programme

by Tony Crofts (from the General Report of the Expedition)

The Physiology programme consisted of investigations in two fields:

Tony Crofts taking a wind speed reading on a Physiology day


The physiological programme originally planned was carried out in full, and the results obtained covered a wide range of expedition activities. Preliminary analysis of these results shows them to be of considerable interest, and it is hoped that a full analysis of the findings will be published at a later date.

Food Notes

The diet as originally planned followed closely that advised by the Medical Research Council, for Summer Sledging Rations, (MRC. Summer Sledging Ration - Mk. V 1960). Information about this ration, and about many of the items contained in it, was kindly supplied by Mr A. de Jong, Development Physicist for Horlicks Limited. Dr H.E. Lewis, of the Medical Research Council Laboratories, Hampstead, and members of the staff of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, also gave invaluable advice. To these individuals, and to the many firms who were kind enough to help by means of gifts or price reductions, I wish to extend the sincere thanks of the expedition.


     Item                   Calories/man/day   Wt./man/day(oz.)

     Milk Powder                      150	  1
     Sweets                           168         1.5
     Drinking Chocolate               154         0.5
     Instant Oats                     187         1.5
     Instant Potato Powder            78          0.5
     Soup Powder                      100         1
     Tea                               -          0.25
     Curry Powder                      -          0.05
     Salt                              -          0.4
     Sugar                            336         3
     Meat Bar or Pemmican             810         5
     Cheese                           290         2
     Instant Coffee                    50         0.25
     Drink Powder		      112         1
     Chocolate 			      656	  4
     Sultanas 			      72	  1
     Margarine                        450         2
     Plain Biscuits                   278         2
     Wholemeal Biscuits               278         2
     Marmite                           -          0.1
     Dehydrated Vegetables	       -          1
     Jam 			       32	  0.4
     Chilli Powder	)
     Pepper		)
     Herbs and spices	)   as available
     Sauces		)
     Tomato Puree
     Rice		)
     Macaroni		)  as alternatives to Potato Powder
     Spaghetti		)


     Vitamin Capsules


Item                          Total Quantity

Ostermilk                        36 lbs.
Complan                          24 lbs.
Welch's Sweets                   225 lbs.
Barley Sugar                     7 lbs.
Sharp's Sweets                   5 lbs.
Mint Cake                        10 lbs.
Fudge                             5 lbs.
Drinking Chocolate               30 lbs.
Porage Oats                      61 lbs.
Dehydrated Potatoes              21 lbs.
Soup                            150 packets
Tea                              10 lbs.
Curry Powder                      4 lbs.
Salt                             15 lbs.
HF/6 Meat Bar                    62 1/2 lbs.
Nut Pemmican                     60 lbs.
Meal Packs (Batchelors)           5 lbs.
Cheese                           60 lbs.
Coffee                            9 lbs.
Drink Powder                     28 lbs.
Chocolate                       122 lbs.
Sultanas                         30 lbs.
Margarine                        70 lbs.
Biscuits                         65 lbs.
Vita-Wheat                       21 lbs.
pumpernickel/Rye slices          25 lbs.
Marmite                          2 1/2 lbs.
Sugar                            88 lbs.
Dehydrated Vegetables            50 lbs.
Jam                               6 lbs.
Honey                             5 lbs.
Syrup                             5 lbs.
Marmalade                         5 1/2 lbs.
Rice                             28 lbs.
Spaghetti                        12 lbs.
Tomato Puree                     10 1/2 lbs.
Chilli Powder                     2 lbs.
Ovaltine, Powder                 1O lbs.
          Tablets                 3 doz. tins
Macaroni                         10 lbs.
Pepper                            2 lbs.
Sauces, various                  11 lbs.
Oxo                               1 gross cubes
Dried Egg                         5 lbs.
Dehydrated Fruit                  5 lbs.
Chewing Gum                       5 lbs. (approx.)
Navy Rum                         24 x 40 oz. bottles
Cigarettes 		       1700
Tobacco                          12 oz.


The diet as originally planned allowed 4,200 calories per man per day, and the food taken allowed for an additional 20% calorie intake per day to meet contingencies. In fact, for a number of reasons, the diet was not rigidly adhered to, and the calorie intake was probably considerably higher than that planned.

The food was packed in boxes containing approx. 25 man/days of food per box, thus allowing a 6 x 4 man/day independent ration. In fact, since the packing was not completed as planned, the boxes tended to be raided for their choice contents, so that some disorganisation arose. However, the system was largely successful, and with a little more time devoted to packing, would have been very convenient.

In view of the good weather, and the amount of load-carrying which our situation necessitated, the calorie output was probably in the region of 5,300 cals./day, for many days in succession, and food intake adjusted itself accordingly. From the point of view of variety, the diet proved quite acceptable, and by drawing on the 20% reserve, the calorie intake also proved adequate. However, a number of points deserve mention.


In view of the limitations imposed by lack of funds, and by the need for lightness, the food supplies taken by the expedition were surprisingly successful Without these restrictions, and with more time for packing etc. more variety and convenience might have been obtained within the general framework of the diet outlined, but in view of the limitations mentioned, it might be stated that the diet was completely adequate for an expedition of this nature.

Tony Crofts
Graeme Bonham-Carter