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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Franklin beach named for Arctic hero - some history

Summer beach haven named for Arctic hero
Blast from the Past

Franklin Beach has been a summer haven for suffering urbanites since the late 1800s. The water is warm and inviting, the breeze off the lake refreshing and the view spectacular.

It's ironic, therefore, that this summer playground should be named in honour of a tragedy in the frigid cold of the Arctic.

Few people realize that Franklin Beach was named in memory of Sir John Franklin, after he and his crew went missing in the numbingly cold waters of Canada in 1845.

The story of Georgina's connection to this ill-fated adventurer reveals several little-known facets of local lore.

Sir John Franklin was born in 1786 and entered the Royal Navy at age 14. A natural explorer, he served under his cousin Matthew Flinders on an 1801-03 coastal survey of Australia and was second in command of an Arctic cruise in 1818. During his first journey into Canada's north in 1818-21, Franklin's party surveyed the western shores of Hudson's Bay to the Arctic Ocean.

It was during this exploration a life-long obsession with finding the near-legendary Northwest Passage to the Pacific took root. It was an obsession that led to great acclaim, but would eventually lead to his demise.

All that was years away and far from Franklin's mind when he set out on a second expedition in 1825. The initial leg in this journey saw he and his men journey up the Holland River and enter Cook's Bay near the southwest corner of Georgina.

From there, they rowed in batteauxs (large rowboats) to Barrie, over the Nine-Mile Portage the Nottawasaga River, and then out into Lake Huron. From here, they headed north on an epic adventure.

Sir John Franklin's second Arctic expedition proved even more successful than the first. He and his men surveyed 1,260 miles of northwestern North America's coastline, from the Mackenzie River to Point Beechey in Alaska.

In so doing, he proved the existence of the Northwest Passage. For his achievement Franklin would be knighted.

Encouraged by these successes, Sir John planned a maritime crossing of the Northwest Passage to determine its feasibility as a trade route to the Orient.

If it was indeed navigable, months could be shaved off the voyage between Europe and Asia.

It was 20 years before he could get the necessary backing, but in May of 1845 he set sail with two ships. Nothing more was ever heard from him. Mr. Franklin and his crew perished in the Arctic.

Franklin was a national hero at the time and his latest voyage caught the public's imagination. People in Britain and Canada were shaken by the tragedy. It was during this period of mourning Franklin Beach was named, a sort of monument to the fallen explorer.

But beyond his having passed through Cook's Bay in 1825, there was another connection between Sir John Franklin and Georgina.

It seems there may have been some familiarity between Susan Sibbald, of Sibbald's Point and Eildon Hall fame, and the Franklins.

When Mrs. Sibbald sought donations from friends in England for construction of St. James Anglican Church (adjacent to present day Sibbald Point Provincial Park), among those who responded was the widow of Sir John.

She presented church trustees with a bell to commemorate her husband's crossing of Lake Simcoe 30 years earlier.

That bell is still there.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Ice fishing season ends Tuesday March 15

Ice fishing season ends Tuesday
Fish, with exception of pan-fry perch, weren't biting this year

Ice conditions were great but the fishing was slow this year, hut operators reported last week as the season draws to a close.

All fish huts have to be off the ice Tuesday in conjunction with the final day of lake trout and whitefish angling.

The hard water action is expected to continue with perch which, in contrast to the big fish, have been biting in large numbers in some locations.

Last week's Canadian Ice Fishing Championship saw more than 4,000 of the panfish hauled out offshore of Virginia Beach.

All were live released.

American anglers have been coming in increased numbers in recent years to target the tasty panfish: Lake Simcoe is regarded as one of the best perch fisheries in North America.

The lake also hosts one of the largest ice fishing derbies on the continent, drawing up to 4,000 anglers for the one-day event each year in Keswick and hosted by Todd Million of the nationally syndicated show Full Contact Fishing.

Greg Haines of Bonnie Boats said business was off slightly this year.

"The fishing was a little slow. We were marking plenty of fish so we know they're there, but they weren't biting for some reason."

Mr. Haines, who has huts in deep water off Jackson's Point, said the situation was the same all around Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching.

"I've heard even up at (Lake) Nipissing it was their worst season in years," he said.

"I don't know why."

The Ministry of Natural Resources warned ice anglers they are responsible for removing their huts.

The March 15 deadline is set to prevent huts from freezing into the ice, making them difficult to remove.

Owners who abandon their huts or leave them on public property could be fined or liable for removal costs.

Anglers and other recreational users are reminded to clean up and remove garbage.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Officers rescued sailor

Officers rescued sailor
Two York Regional Police marine unit officers are being hailed as heroes for their rescue of an elderly sailor lost on the storm-tossed waters of Lake Simcoe last October. Sgt. Greg Williams and Const. Debra Stevens were presented with commendations by Chief Armand LaBarge at a recent police services board meeting. The officers navigated waves in excess of two metres to locate the unidentified man, who had been adrift in his sailboat for about six hours. Wearing only shorts and a jacket, he suffered hypothermia and was given first aid when found by the officers. Chief LaBarge attributed the rescue to the "heroic efforts and fierce determination" of the officers who refused to give up their search, although confronted by hazardous waves and high winds.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Police equipment missing

Police equipment missing
The York Regional Police marine unit wants help finding police equipment missing since Sunday. A thermal eye imaging camera was lost on Lake Simcoe. Other equipment that went missing at the time was found about two miles north of Willow Beach. Both pieces, which are not marked, were in carrying cases - one black and one yellow. The cases are marked with York Regional Police identification. The equipment is vital to the marine unit's search and rescue capabilities, police said. Anyone who may have found it should contact police immediately or turn it in at the Georgina station at 3527 Baseline Rd.