Ken Burton’s photo (left) of a polar bear sniffing the air and trying to determine if he was food. In the Arctic, he was told by an Inuit elder, “You don’t hunt polar bear, polar bear hunts you!” His book, Canada’s Arctic: A Guide to Adventure Through the Northwest Passage, contains need-to-know information regarding travel through the Northwest Passage, maps, historic notes, and antidotes.

Local skipper who circumnavigated North America publishes book on Canada’s Arctic

Ken Burton's Canada's Arctic A Guide to Adventure Through the Northwest Passage is on sale now

Chilliwack’s Ken Burton says he has spent decades walking through doorways opened by the universe to see what opportunities are on the other side. And while it doesn’t always work out, Burton says it’s offered him a life full of adventure.

Captain Ken Burton (Jeff Topham)

“I often joke with people and tell them I got into the wrong line for being fingerprinted, and was sent to RCMP training in Regina,” said Burton with a smile.

Even though he started out working as a photojournalist, Burton became a Mountie with the goal of ending up in their lab. However, before being able to transfer, he had to complete two years as an officer wherever needed, which ended up being on the water.

“I was a career member of the RCMP and worked all my service along the coast of British Columbia,” Burton explained. “And for a good deal of that time, I was a skipper on various coastal patrol boats that ran up and down (our) coast.”

His experiences on Pacific waters led him to skipper the RCMP’s St. Roch II during its recreation of the St. Roch’s original voyage – the first vessel to sail around the continent – more than 70 years ago.

The trip, which circled North America via the Northwest Passage and the Panama Canal, took 169 days and covered 24,000 nautical miles. “I tell people it took me a long time to turn left after that,” joked Burton, who skippered the 20-metre aluminum boat through some incredibly choppy waters. “Leave Vancouver, turn left, turn left, turn left again.”

A muskox photographed by Burton during a northern expedition.

After retiring from the RCMP, Burton spent some time as the executive director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum, which houses the original, wooden St. Roch schooner. And from there, it was only a hop, skip, and jump to becoming an expedition guide.

While patrolling the Pacific for the RCMP, Burton says he was able to create an impressive mental catalogue of our coastal waters and beyond.

“We went into every bay and inlet that we could find and through the Arctic as well,” said Burton. “So I spent a lot of time learning, understanding, and really comprehending our coastline and getting to know … where people were hunting, where people were fishing, where the historic sites were.

“I … came to realize that was some pretty valuable knowledge I was able to leave the RCMP with, and when I began to interact with the expedition tour companies it was well , ‘If you go here, there’s an abandoned Hudson’s Bay post,’ or (whatever).”

And now Burton’s published a book containing much of the knowledge he was able to glean from his career.

Canada’s Arctic: A Guide to Adventure Through the Northwest Passage gives (readers) the latitude and longitude of places that – if you’re going through the Northwest Passage – are the must see (places to visit).

“(The book) tells a bit of the story, and an accurate story, about what happened at that site, why it’s such a significant location, whether it’s a story about Sir John Franklin, a story about the Inuit, a story about the RCMP in the high Arctic, or the Hudson’s Bay Company.”

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The book, which Burton wrote last year, is 224 pages long and contains hundreds of high-resolution colour photographs he’s taken over the years. It also contains need-to-know information regarding travel through the Northwest Passage, maps, historic notes, and antidotes.

Travelling from Unalaska, USA, through the Bering Sea, into the Northwest Passage, through Nunavut, into Baffin Bay, and by western Greenland, Burton provides an all-encompassing guide to northern expeditions that is sure to beckon to those with adventurous souls.

Canada’s Arctic: A Guide to Adventure Through the Northwest Passage sells for $49.95, and is now available at bookstores, marine stores, and specialty outlets.


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