Voyage to the Eastern Arctic

My time at Research Assistant Banting House National Historic Site is quickly coming to a close, but I still have a few more projects to share with you before I pass the torch! This week I’ve been able to get back into doing research for a book that we hope to publish next year for the 100th anniversary of Banting’s ground-breaking idea. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, the book will focus on our collection of Banting’s paintings while featuring diary entries, reviews, and historical references that discuss them. Lately, I’ve been reading Banting’s notes about his trip to the Eastern Arctic in 1927, in order to search for any references to paintings that we may have in our collection. I’ve really enjoyed this task, as it’s allowed me to learn a little more about Banting’s travels, his paintings, and his everyday thoughts.

“A Trip to the Eastern Arctic” by F. G. Banting, 1927

According to Banting, his journey began on July 7th, 1927, when he got a wire asking if he would like to go on an arctic expedition. Arrangements were soon made for him to join, and he set off on July 16th on a steamship called the Beothic. A.Y. Jackson, a member of Canada’s Group of Seven and a friend of Banting’s was on the voyage as well, and together they spent much of their time sketching and painting the beautiful scenes they saw. Already on July 18th, Banting writes “saw our first icebergs after breakfast – fog lifted about 10.00, numerous icebergs. Alex and I did pencil drawings of many of the larger ones”.

S.S. Beothic at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland taken between 1819 and 1940. Photograph from the Maritime History Archive.

Not much later, Banting writes about a hike that rewarded them with a gorgeous view. He writes, “A little waterfall had worn the cliff away leaving a more gentle slope. At this place we climbed to the plateau, which was covered with sharp, jagged, broken rock on which not even moss could grow. After crossing a mile or so we looked down upon Fram’s Foird which was brilliantly illuminated by the midnight sun. Words fail to describe the majesty and beauty of the scene which met our gaze. Mr. Jackson and I lost no time in getting out our paint boxes.” This is not the first time that Banting became fascinated with the beauty of the midnight sun, as in June of 1926, he painted a work titled “The Midnight Sun, Yukon”. The painting is now in the collection at Banting House and will hopefully make an appearance in our publication!

midnight sun
The midnight sun in Canada’s Arctic tundra. This view is similar to what Banting may have seen while on his voyage. Photograph from

Banting’s writings about his journey to the Arctic continue until his return home and are full of great references to his love of sketching and painting. Make sure to stay tuned for more information about this upcoming publication and other ways that Banting House will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of Banting’s idea!


This post was written by Jenna Philbrick, Graduate research Assistant at Banting House NHSC. Jenna is currently completing her M.A. in Public History at Western University.

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