Whiterock E-mail
Written by Michael LeBlanc   
Camping, Watercolour on card, 26.4 x 32.4 cm :: Collection of Francis Chapman
Almost immediately after arriving back in Toronto after his war work, Eric set out on a canoe trip in the northern Ontario wilderness. He began to plan this trip during his last months overseas, and his starting point was Whiterock Lake, in what is now Killarney Wilderness Area. Fall was the prime season for sketching and painting: the bright foliage, moderate temperatures, lower angle of the sun, and lack of black flies or mosquitoes made this season, above others, the ideal one for artistic appreciation.

Franklin had introduced in Eric a love for this area, and his return became a daydream for him during the grim, grey days of the war. Harry Somers had just been discharged from the service, and as neither was engaged in more profitable work, they went together. It became for both men an intense and life-enriching experience.

Some time later, Eric prepared a hand-lettered book that was published with commentary by Robert Stacey in the “Northward Journal.” Eric prefaced it as “an account and record of an experimental trip by canoe for two weeks in lakes in the Manitoulin N. district – north of Georgian Bay, Ont.” Eric compiled “Whiterock” as a guide and record for two young friends, the Chapman brothers (Francis and Christopher) who he had met through their father, the noted architect Alfred Chapman. Eric introduced the boys to the tiny village of Killarney and the extraordinary red granite and white quartzite of La Cloche beyond. They responded to Eric’s enthusiasm, and began to explore the region on their own.

The reader of “Whiterock” will quickly discover that Eric preferred to travel heavy, and in the words of historian Robert Stacey, he packed the “cumbersome impediments necessary to the preparation of the elaborate gourmet meals which he felt were indispensable to the proper spiritual and Epicurean appreciation for a landscape lovely, in his eyes, almost beyond belief.”

Eric’s account begins with a list of hardware, starting with the requisite tent and poles, but also listing mess kit units (two of each), and artist supplies: “7 sketch panels, panel holders, sketch box – oils, water colours, turpentine, dozen rags, toilet paper, ‘Duco’ household cement.” It isn’t clear from the account whether the toilet paper was required for artistic (or purely biological) reasons.

Next came “Food Supply.” Eric was never one to willingly make compromises with food, even when roughing it in the bush. His list starts with “Beardmore Dehydrates:” 1 pint carrots…28 cents, 1 pint beets…35 cents, 1 pint spinach…33 cents, and so on. Coffee, bread, potatoes and honey were among the standard stocked items, along with more exotic camping fare, such as 5 kipper snack…50 cents, 1 anchovy paste…24 cents, and 2 pounds baker’s chocolate…$1.08 (not eaten).

The “Bill of Fare” looks like a resort menu, with “Blueberries added as found” at the top. Each day has breakfast lunch and supper planned. The menu for Thursday August 29 was:

Breakfast: oranges • omelette • bacon • bread • marmalade • coffee.
Lunch: sea biscuits • cheese • prunes • apricots • raisins • chocolate.
Supper: soup • welsh rarebit • apples raisins • cake • coffee.


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Nothing Uninteresting

The Work and Life of Eric Aldwinckle

By Michael B. LeBlanc

Print Book, 186 Pages

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…The shorts were enormous. You must think I have a corporation. A safety pin (when I can find one) fixes that up.

-Eric Aldwinckle, letter to his mother, 1945