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S.R. Gage

Oakville (Ont.), Mosaic Press, 1990. 152pp, paper, ISBN 0-89962-4384) (paper), $12.95, ISBN 0-88962-439-9 (cloth), $19.95. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by R. Wieler.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II made the defence of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest coast a priority for military planners in both the United States and Canada. In 1942 two massive projects to improve that defensive system were begun. One was the construction of the Alaska Highway, and the other was the build­ing of a road and oil pipeline from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories.

S.R. Gage, an experienced backpacker and naturalist, decided to tell the obscure story of the construction of the Canol Road oil pipeline by combining a journal of his twenty-one-day walk along the road in the summer of 1989 with a well-documented account of the actual construction from 1942 to 1944. This approach provides an intriguing picture of the barrens of the Canadian North for those concerned with the ecosystem, as well as an interesting account of the methods used by military and construction planners in northern projects.

Gage provides an amusing, insightful journal of his walk along the 200-mile road. He carried a "backpacker's bear repellent kit" - a bell, boat horn, and pepper spray can-in case of an attack by grizzlies, and enough supplies for two ten-day jaunts. The remains of the construction project on the trail- abandoned trucks, pieces of pipeline, camp sites and cabooses - give the author the opportunity to flash back in his book to the days of the actual building boom. More than forty photographs help to highlight his story.

The book is well researched and is documented with extensive footnotes and bibliography. Gage also includes comments on lessons that might be learned for future northern develop­ment. The book is useful at the high school level in Canadian studies, history and geography courses.

R. Wieler, Glenlawn Collegiate, Winni­peg, Man.
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