Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 41 – Ft St John – Camp Day – Charlie Lake


The WiFi at the park where we are staying is going up and down and has been mostly down today. As it is the weekend, it may be Monday before it is up so it may be a while between posts to the blog as we may be on the road Monday depending on how long the front end alignment takes.

We have now learned that it is best to get a campground early Friday and wait out the weekend. The locals really like to camp on weekends and any Provincial Campground by a lake or river is completely full by 7:00 PM. They even pack several campers into each site.

Charlie Lake: Many solders assigned to building an inland supply route from Canada to Alaska were stationed at Ft. Saint John.

Shortly after 8 A.M. on May 14, 1942, a pontoon boat left the 341st Engineering Regiment landing on the south end of Charlie Lake to deliver equipment, supplies and personnel to Company E’s bivouac site at the north end of the lake, a distance of about 12 miles. There were seventeen men on board. Major John Turvey, in charge of the expedition, had overseen the loading of the equipment, which included a radio command car, a bulldozer, drums of oil and other supplies.

The two-bay, three-boat raft had been built the previous day under the supervision of Lt. John Langendorf, of the 74th Engineer Company. The front compartments of the pontoons were fitted with canvas covers to keep water out.

When they started out from the south end of the lake, the water was choppy, with one-foot waves. Powered by two 22 horsepower motors, the boat preceded north in increasingly rough water and stronger head winds, with waves soon reaching two to three feet.

By 11:15 A.M., the boat was about two-thirds of the way to its destination and in the middle of the lake. The men discovered that a plug had come out of the gas line of one of the motors and gasoline was draining out. They had just rounded the headland when Major Turvey ordered a turn to the west shore. As the boated started to turn, two waves hit it in succession, flooding the right pontoon, which went under, and tipping the raft at a precarious angle. Then it settled and went under, all in less than two minutes.

A mile and a half away in his cabin on the northwest shore of the lake, homesteader and trapper, Gustaf Albin Hedin watched the pontoon ferry making its way up the lake as he cooked breakfast. He checked the progress through his field glasses, returned to his stove, and then checked the lake again. This time the boat was nowhere to be seen. Instead, he saw men bobbing in the water. Within two minutes, he had launched his 14-foot rowboat. It took him 15 minutes to reach the men.

At the accident scene, he found nine men afloat. They were hindered in their own efforts to rescue themselves by their heavy winter clothing and boots. Some of them couldn’t swim. He hauled two survivors ashore, the returned to help others; even through his small boat was in danger of being swamped by the waves. Two more were rescued during the second trip, and on the third trip he saved one more man.

Gustaf Hedin received a metal from the Humane Society of Canada and was also honored by the Canadian military and the U.S. military.


Memorial to the Men That Lost Their Lives on Charlie Lake


Home on the Hill Overlooking Charlie Lake

No comments: