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‘Nobody likes him’: Historian says Arctic explorer Robert M’Clure overlooked

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He double-crossed his boss. He berated his sailors. Robert M’Clure, who advertised himself as the first through the Northwest Passage, is not remembered in history as a very nice person.

But in the September issue of Arctic Journal, Arctic historian Janice Cavell advocates for M’Clure — sometimes spelled as McClure — to receive a bit more recognition for his work charting the North.

“People wrote him off,” Cavell, an adjunct professor of history at Carleton University, told CBC.

Cavell hopes M’Clure’s role in charting new information about the North will add nuance to the way Canadians think about history.

“There’s a tendency to want heroes,” said Cavell.

“When you come to someone like M’Clure — nobody likes him. It would be impossible to make a hero out of him, and so there’s a bit of a tendency to look away from his achievements.”

Cavell thinks if people separated achievements from the character, people may see M’Clure in a different light.

Who found what first?

The very question of who “discovered” the Northwest Passage is rooted in expansionist history.

Inuit occupation once extended throughout the archipelago, and they still lived on Baffin, Victoria and King William islands in the 19th century.

In this file photo, a Parks Canada archeologist dives on the wreck of HMS Investigator in 2011. (Parks Canada)

Bernadette Dean, an Inuit traditional knowledge keeper in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, who has collaborated with the Smithsonian, says her people knew many features of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and used its waterways for a long time.

She added she’s seen markers in Inuktut (dialects of the Inuit languages) and sod house ruins on a High Arctic island.

“It tells me our ancestors lived and walked on the land,” said Dean.

But British explorers were looking for something else — throughways for their ships.

The British government offered up to 20,000 pounds for the first shipping company to find and sail through a northern channel from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean, also offering rewards for portions of the Passage.

Sir John Franklin is known for his disastrous attempt to find the Northwest Passage. He ended up dying near a Nunavut island in 1847. None of his men survived.

That’s where Sir Robert M’Clure comes in. M’Clure and his senior officer, John Collinson, went on an expedition from the West to search for Franklin. Each on their own separate ships, they set out in 1850.

HMS Investigator, left, is trapped in ice with HMS Enterprise in a painting by Lt. W.H. Brown of the Royal Navy. The ship was eventually abandoned and its crew rescued by a Royal Navy sledge team a few years later. ((National Maritime Museum))

But M’Clure quickly shook off his boss and sailed ahead to the Arctic with his crew.

He went up the Prince of Wales Strait and travelled on foot up to the entrance, and confirmed that it did connect with Viscount Melville Sound — but his boat couldn’t get through.

So, “after wintering there he did a very daring thing,” said Cavell, who has published two books on Arctic history.

M’Clure went around Banks Island to a strait that would later be named after him. He sought refuge in a nearby bay that he would later name Bay of Mercy (now Mercy Bay).

“They thought they would die there,” Cavell said. After nearly three years in the Arctic, the group was found in the spring of 1853 by another expedition that had come in from the east.

M’Clure did not appreciate their offer to save him.

“He didn’t want to leave, even though his men were in very, very bad shape,” said Cavell. “He was quite callous to his men.”

M’Clure was convinced to abandon his ship, HMS Investigator. The ship was later found in 2010 by archeologists’ sonar scan of the bay where his men took refuge. Divers found artifacts from the ship the following year.

M’Clure goes to Parliament

When M’Clure finally got back to England, he told the British Parliament that because his men had sledged through the Arctic and were rescued, they should be considered the first to travel the Northwest Passage fully.

A parliamentary committee agreed, saying that his men had “completed a last link in a chain of discovery.”

While M’Clure did not sail through his entire voyage, he found new waterways other British explorers had not, Cavell said.

But M’Clure’s legacy would quickly be tainted.

Franklin’s widow pushed back, saying her late husband made key discoveries that he was not alive to be honoured for, and that he had discovered a Northwest Passage before he died.

Now, Franklin is famous — sometimes infamous — for his failed attempt. But today, few remember the ambitious Robert M’Clure who put M’Clure Strait on the map.

M’Clure unappreciated?​

Cavell suggests that because of M’Clure’s dodgy character, he was “a little overlooked” despite his accomplishments.

But Arctic exploration historian John McCannon is not so sure.

“There’s always a limit to how many people and events can be crammed into the popular understanding of any historical topic, and dozens of polar explorers who were important in the 19th century have faded from public awareness,” said McCannon, associate professor of history at Southern New Hampshire University, in an email.

“M’Clure doesn’t stand out as having been unusually disrespected by historians, either in terms of being neglected or overly criticized,” said McCannon. 

“That’s the sort of debate and reassessment that historians routinely put important people [through] —​ whether they’re explorers, generals, kings, or what have you.”

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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