Reminiscences: Arctic Geography Forty Years Ago

  • J. Lewis Robinson
Keywords: Boundaries, Economic geology, Geography, History, Human geography, Sea ice, Canadian Arctic


Nearly 40 years ago, in 1948, the writer presented a paper entitled "Some Problems of Arctic Geography in Canada" to the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. He noted that geographers were just then appearing in Canada and in so doing were encountering the challenge of describing the North. Evaluation and forecasting were difficult. Local geographers were expected to help politicians assess the value of the arctic region in the Canadian economy. Physical geographers had a good deal to do in describing the arctic environment, including the landforms of the mountainous islands and the central lowlands. In the summer of 1947 new information on sea ice from Canadian and American air and sea expeditions gave the first overall picture of sea-ice conditions in the Canadian Arctic. In 1948, economic geographers were to be concerned with the distribution and utilization of natural resources. Experts concerned with administration were to consider administrative division of the North into an Eastern and Western Arctic, along with a third region, the far northern Arctic Islands. Changes in the lives of Canadian Eskimo had already taken place as "civilization advanced into the Arctic." In the field of human geography, "a geographer had a natural laboratory in the Canadian Arctic" where "the environment offered little, the choices were few, the utilization was direct." Forty years later, the author still believes that the Arctic will play only a minor role in the future development of Canada.

Key words: development, geography, Arctic, division, sea ice, civilization