In 1895 Bernier became governor of the Québec jail, a position which gave him leisure to pursue his interest in polar navigation. He devised a plan for reaching the North Pole, a feat not yet accomplished, but at the last moment in 1904 he and his ship Arctic were pressed into government service patrolling the eastern Arctic.
On annual cruises Bernier explored the archipelago and collected customs duties from whalers and traders. In July 1909 he unveiled a plaque on Melville Island which officially claimed the Arctic Islands for Canada. After 1911 Bernier carried on private trading on Baffin Island and during WWI he commanded an Atlantic convoy ship. After the war he returned to the arctic patrol, retiring in 1925.
During his career Bernier commanded over 100 ships, crossing the Atlantic 269 times. He knew more about navigating the difficult arctic waters than any contemporary mariner. His 3 Reports on the Dominion Government Expeditions to the Arctic Islands and Hudson Strait, 1906-1910 (1910-11) are classics of Canadian arctic literature.
Author DANIEL FRANCIS
Links to Other Sites
A brief profile of Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, whose northern voyages helped Canada establish its sovereignty over vast regions of the Arctic. From the Musée maritime du Québec.
The Muskox Patrol: High Arctic Sovereignty Revisited
A 2003 article about the role of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the Canadian government’s quest to secure international recognition of its claims to sovereignty over the High Arctic islands. Includes photos of the ship “Beothic,” the Dundas Harbour RCMP Detachment, and more. From the Arctic Institute of North America.
Joseph Elzéar Bernier
An article about Joseph Elzéar Bernier, Canadian arctic explorer. From the journal "Arctic," a publication from the Arctic Institute of North America.
Ilititaa : Bernier, His Men and the Inuits
Explore the life and times of Joseph-Elzéar Bernier at this online exhibit from the Virtual Museum of Canada website.
Bernier Of The North
A profile of explorer Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, whose vogages helped establish Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic region. From the Legion Magazine.