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Through the Yukon — The Legacy of Hugh Bostock
The Yukon, with its subarctic climate and extensive periods of darkness,
is one of Canada's least populated regions. Its harsh physical conditions
have served as an effective deterrent to exploration, study and development.
Yet these conditions did not prevent Dr. Hugh Samuel Bostock, one of NRCan's
most dedicated geologists, from pursuing his research. Between 1924 and
1954, Dr. Bostock of the Geological Survey of Canada undertook travels
in the Yukon by foot, canoe and packhorse, gathering data that would become
the foundation for geological mapping of the territory.
Childhood and Education
Hugh Bostock's inclination toward geology began at a young age. During
summers at his family's ranch and evenings spent reading nature stories
by Ernest Thompson Seton, he grew to love his surrounding landscape. His
formal education included degrees in both mining engineering and geology.
He studied at the Royal Military College in Kingston, at McGill in Montreal
and universities in Wisconsin.
Research and Field Studies
Initially stationed in southern British Columbia, Bostock received an
appointment in 1931 that would reveal his true passion. He was selected
to head an exploration in the Yukon, where he grew to relish the very
conditions that had intimidated others before him. Bostock found the Yukon's
"climate invigorating and its wilderness enchanting." Most importantly,
he developed a deep appreciation for the inhabitants, who inspired him
with their honesty and sense of kinship.
The twenty-five field seasons Bostock spent studying the Yukon's landscape
produced detailed descriptions of the territory's geology, as well as
its mineral and economic resources. He recorded a day-by-day account of
his journey between 1924 and 1954 in "Pack Horse Tracks," an
autobiographical account that focuses on many of the intricacies of his
Awards and Recognition
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society awarded Bostock the Massey Medal
in 1965 for his outstanding fieldwork. Bostock was also the recipient
of the Geological Association of Canada's Astrolabe Award in 1988, in
recognition of his lifetime achievements. Bostock's greatest honour occurred
posthumously on October 24, 1994, when the Yukon government announced
that his name would grace the McQuestern Valley mountain that he had spent
fifteen years studying — in memory of his persistence and unwavering
- 1931 – Bostock was chosen to head an exploration in the
- 1965 – Awarded the Massey Medal for outstanding work in
the field, and his description of the geology, and mineral and economic
resources of the Yukon Territory.
- 1979 – Published "Pack Horse Tracks," a day-by-day
account of his research from 1924 to 1954.
- 1988 – Received the Geological Association of Canada's
Astrolabe Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements.
- 1994 – The Yukon Government named the highest mountain
in the McQuestern Valley (an area he studied for 15 years) after Bostock.
Yukon River above the junction with the Pelly River. The river valley
contains many well-timbered islands but the hillsides are relatively
barren. Yukon Territory, 1932. Photographed by Hugh Bostock.