Needle to the North


208 pages
ISBN 0-88750-457-4





Edited by William C. James
Reviewed by Gerry Meek

Gerry Meek was a librarian in Thunder Bay, Ontario.


In 1938, a scientific expedition set out into the subarctic region of Quebec in search of a new species of fresh-water seal, known by the Inuit of Hudson Bay as “kaseaga.” Included among the members of this expedition were a small number of native guides and two scientists from the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburg, one of which, Arthur C. Twomey, wrote this account of their journey and hardships in search of their elusive quarry. The story that emerges is a compelling one that quickly grasps and retains the reader’s attention. As the search progresses, the reader very quickly begins to appreciate the difficulties of travel and exploration in an area “bigger than Texas,” which is “guarded by wind, snow and natural violence of every sort.” Especially rich are the details of the land, its natural history, and its people and their changing way of life. Equally impressive are the evocative descriptions of the intense cold, loneliness, isolation, and the very uncertainty and harshness of life itself in the Canadian north. In the final analysis, what the author has provided is far more than just a simple, straight-forward account of a scientific expedition. What emerges is a detailed and fascinating portrait of a land and its people and a way of life as it existed at a particular moment in time.

Originally published in 1942 as part of a larger work, this volume has been happily reprinted here with a well-written and specially prepared introduction by William C. James. Largely unread, except by a very few specialists, at the time of its initial publication, this reprint edition deserves and should attract a wide audience.


Twomey, Arthur C., “Needle to the North,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,