From Facebook posts in Greenstone History PLUS . . .
WEDNESDAY NIGHT W. TWEED MISSING
Flying from Round Lake to Twin Lakes near Longlac — Heavy Smoke Hampers Searchers, Sudbury Warehouse Razed — New Fires Reported in Nipigon Area
LONGLAC, Aug. 14. –PiIot Bill Tweed, of the Ontario Forestry Branch at Twin Lakes, has been missing since 9 p.m. Wednesday, when he left Round Lake, on the LongIac-Nakina cut-off, enroute to Twin Lakes(1). Reports from Bawk(2) are that a motor was heard in the distance and it suddenly stopped. At the time it was thought it was an outboard motor, but reports are that there was not any motor travelling at the time. Forestry planes and the Nipigon Airways have been sent out to search. No trace of the pilot has been found. Owing to heavy smoke today visibility is very poor for any search work.
Pilot Tweed had just come into the Forestry Service this year but had much experience with planes. It is said that he might have flown to the north and passed his destination without knowing it. At the time the pilot was returning home, it was getting late in the evening3. Making it more difficult to fly, it has been very smoky this last few days, due to the presence of fires which are at present burning steadily. Today Mr. Billington, of the Ontario Forestry Branch, has been out to look for Tweed, while planes are searching north of Nakina.
FIRES IN NIPIGON AREA
One hundred pumps, half-a-million feet of hose and more than 900 men are being used by the Ontario Forestry Branch at present in fighting forest fires in Thunder Bay district, Fred J. Dawson, district forester, said today. Most of the equipment and men is concentrated In the Nipigon area where several new fires were spotted and reported to branch headquarters yesterday. In the Western section of the district the situation was unchanged, from yesterday, except that some of the fires had been brought under control releasing a number of men for duty in the East end.
Over 15,000 feet of hose scorched or otherwise damaged by fire, has been repaired at the branch’s vulcanizing plant which has been operating night and day for some time. The general situation today, Mr.Dawson said, was unchanged from yesterday, with officials and fire fighters praying for rain to fall while they continue the ceaseless battle against the flaming despoiler of the forest. “There’s no use of talking about it,”Mr. Dawson said. “Until we get rain the situatIon is hopeless. We no sooner get one bad fire out than another or more than one springs up to take its place. It’s been like that for days now and the boys are wearied almost to death. Never in all the hlstory of fire fightlng has there ever been such a situation as has existed In Ontario since the first of May.”
In stating that the Ontario Government had decided to close the townships of Marks, Sackville, Adrian and Aldina because of the fire risk, Mr. Dawson said the ban against aII traffic into the four townships would remain until the end of the fire season, October l5. Hope of the department lies today in the thought that the Fall season with its rains is not so far away, Mr. Dawson said.
TORONTO. Aug. l4 -Destruction of their Sudbury warehouse by fire today added to the worries of Ontario Forestry Branch officials already faced with 150 odd forest fires raging at scattered points in the province . . .
Following published on Saturday August 15, 1936 in the Port Arthur News-Chronicle . . .
PILOT TWEED STILL MISSING
Three Planes and Provincial Police Join in Search Near Long Lac
Three Ontario Forestry Department airplanes, one from Sault Ste Marie, are today participating in the search for Pilot Bill Tweed of the department, missing since Wednesday morning, when he left Round Lake, on the Longlac -Nakina cut-off, to fly to Twin Lakes, near Bawk, it was stated today by Fred J. Dawson, district forester. A search maintained since reports were sent out that Pilot Tweed had disappeared disclosed no clue of the airman. This morning Mr. Dawson requested Port Arthur headquarters of the Ontario Provincial Police to assist in the search for Pilot Tweed and tomorrow Constable Nix, of Geraldton, and Constable James Higgins of Sioux Lookout will proceed to Bawk to organize a ground search. Constable Higgins is familiar with the general bush surroundings of the district where the pilot is believed lost4.
Ontario Forestry Branch officials today did not care to hazard a conclusive opinion as to what happened. They said Tweed’s machine5 might have been in a forced landing in some out-of-the-way spot in the bush and that he might have been injured. On the other hand, the plane might have crashed and taken fire.
Mr. Dawson said no new bush fires have been reported since yesterday in the Thunder Bay district. Reports were reaching headquarters that rain had fallen in some of the fire zones and there were indications that a heavy rain might visit the Lakehead over the week-end.
This 1953 map is compiled from information and aerial photographs from 1946. Note the vast roadless area north of the TransCanada Highway No. 11, which linked Geraldton and Longlac to Hearst in 1943. Logging roads are just starting to penetrate the bush in this era. The whistlestop of Bawk (upper right part of the map) shows three structures associated with this location on the railway. Map “Longlac, Ontario”, Sheet 42 E/NE, National Topographic Series, Department of National Defence.
1 The description of the flight path is sketchy. The destination, Twin Lakes Air Base, is clear. Twin Lakes refers to Upper and Lower Twin Lakes, located six miles east of Nakina. Between Nakina and Twin Lakes was the longest road in the district, and in 1936 one had to fly 35 miles south and west to Geraldton to find more roads, associated with the Little Long Lac gold camp. The district between Nakina, Geraldton, and Longlac was otherwise roadless terrain. The air base, for Ontario Forestry Branch (OFB) float planes, was located on the southwest shore of Lower Twin Lake. The OFB patrolled for forest fires and ferried firefighters and equipment to outbreaks.
2 Bawk was a whistlestop on the Nakina Cut-off, the Canadian National Railways line between Longlac and Nakina. It would have had a section house for railway workers maintaining the tracks and, judging by reports in this article, possibly a firetower for spotting fires. Bawk had telegraphic communication with both Nakina and Longlac.
3 The Port Arthur News-Chronicle (PANC) would have used Fred J. Dawson, Thunder Bay District Forester, based in Port Arthur, for its primary source. The reporter for PANC most likely had a very hazy idea of the geography outside the city, which would account for the sketchy description of the flight path. In addition, maps were not readily available and showed wide expanses of unsurveyed territory. Maps from that era also fail to identify a “Round Lake”. The details “passed his destination” and “very smoky” confirm that the pilot took his cues from compass and landscape features rather than radio directional beacon signals, which the Nakina airport could provide. The time given in the August 14th report is very likely accurate, the plane’s motor stopping at 9:00 p.m. Wednesday evening. The time given in the August 15th report, “Wednesday morning”, is questionable. This report has no dateline (i.e., date and place) to provide some attribution, and was likely a rewrite job by newspaper staff.
4 Constables Nix and Higgins would travel by train to Bawk. Once leaving the tracks and plunging into the bush, one’s familiarity with “the general bush surroundings” counted for naught in finding one’s way. However, one’s knowledge of bushcraft would be useful if one had a destination in mind.
5 William “Bill” Tweed was flying a DH60 Moth, Canadian registration number G-CAOX.
Geoffrey de Havilland, founder of the de Havilland Aircraft Co. of Britain, designed the DH 60 Moth. In 1928, the Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS), based in Sault Ste. Marie, began to acquire a fleet of the Moths. They were a versatile aircraft which could be equipped with wheels, skis, or floats. The OPAS was phasing out the old HS-2L flying boats used by the Ontario Forestry Branch.
Originally fitted with 100 h.p. Gipsy engines, they were upgraded to 120 h.p. The biplane measured 23 feet long with a wing span of 30 feet and a cruising speed of 85 mph. It had two open cockpits: the pilot sat is the aft cockpit, the passenger in the fore; they could communicate with a speaking tube. The fuselage had a metal-and-wood frame covered with fabric.
In the 1930s, the Gipsy Moths, as they were commonly called, were the most popular aircraft in Canada. They broke all kinds of records for altitude, endurance, speed, and maintenance-free operation. They became the favourite of long-distance fliers.
The Canadian Museum of Flight.
A de Havilland DH60 Moth in flight. Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre
Following published on Tuesday August 18, 1936 in the Port Arthur News-Chronicle . . .
TWEED HAS A FRACTURED LEG
Lost Pilot Suffered Five Days of Agony ̶ Head Injured Too
By Canadian Press
NAKINA, Ont., Aug. I8. –At the little Red Cross hospital in thls town cut out of the tall forests of Northwestern Ontario, Pilot Bill Tweed rested today and looked back over five days of agony ̶ five days through which, with a broken leg, broken arm and head lacerations, he lay beside his wrecked plane and waited for the rescue which time and again came so close but didn’t reach him until yesterday1.
Map section from information and photographs compiled in 1946. Map “Longlac, Ontario”, Sheet 42 E/NE, National Topographic Series, 1953, Department of National Defence, with annotations by author.
Too exhausted to tell of hls experiences, the flier was brought to safety after a fellow-pilot had discovered his whereabouts and a ground crew had spent hours hacking their way through dense bush to reach him.
Whether he had food or water during those five long days remains to be told. Residents here, however, think he might have been able to reach emergency supplies in his plane, or crawled painfully through the bush to a nearby stream.
Three planes scoured the territory by air while the ground crews searched for the spot of humanity in the vast ranges of the timber country – and all the time he lay there, just eight miles from Nakina2 and a short flight from his base at Twin Lakes.
Pilot Jim Westway, drawn to the spot by a signal fire, sighted the missing man yesterday afternoon. Beyond dropping a small supply of food, he could do nothing to relieve Tweed immediately for dense forests and the absence of nearby lakes made it impossible to land his seaplane.
Westway streaked back to his base to set a crew of groundmen on the trail, a trail that after hours of weary cutting through the forest, led to an exhausted flier and a completely demolished plane.
Tweedpilot Lake in Google Earth view.
Following published on Wednesday August 19, 1936 in the Port Arthur News-Chronicle . . .
RAIN REVIVED PILOT FROM DAYS OF UNCONSCIOUSNESS
By Canadian Press
NAKINA, Ont., Aug. 19. -Bill Tweed, Ontario Alr Service flyer missing five days in the Northern Ontario bush was unconscious from Wednesday night when he crashed until Saturday, when he was revived by rain, it was learned here today. The pilot is in the Red Cross hospital with a broken left leg and arm.
Fully conscious when found yesterday by a ground crew that hacked its way3 eight miles through the bush from here to a small clearing where he had crashed. Tweed could not speak above a whisper. He has no clear recollec-tion of what happened after the crash until rain, falling on his face, brought him back to consciousness Saturday night.
When he found hlmself lying on the ground with first-aid kit, emergency rations and a big red blanket beside him. Nearby was one of the seat cushions from the airplane.
Except for a few spoonsfuls caught in the hollow of the cushion, the lost man was without water. There was some in one of the pontoons of the plane not four feet away but he was unable to reach it. When the rescue party arrived, he directed them to the water.
Tweed had concentrated beef and raisins. He was afraid to eat the raisins, though, because he thought they would make him thirsty. Some morphine tablets from the first-aid kit were used to ease the pain of the leg, broken just below the hip, and the arm that was broken above the wrist. Hospital authorities said the wound had begun to heal and there was no danger of poisoning.
Tweed regarded the scantiness of his diet as something of a boon for his rescuers. On the way out he told members of the party he had been on a diet for the last few days, so he would not be so heavy to carry.
The plane crashed into a large spruce tree, breaking it into three pieces. The top brushy part of the tree fell over the craft, completely hiding it from above.
Tweed spent Sunday night trying to collect a few chunks of rotten wood and moss to light signal fires. He built a fire in an eight-inch funnel that fell from the airplane because he was afraid to light a fire on the ground. He feared the blaze might spread and he could not escape.
Several times Sunday he had seen searching planes but was unable to signal them4.
It was something of flier’s luck that helped Pilot Jim Westaway sight the missing man Monday.
Had he been half an hour later in his flight over the small clearing where Tweed lay beside the plane he might never have discovered his fellow pilot. A light wind sprang up and it would have dispersed the smoke signal.
The plane is a complete wreck, piled in a space ten feet square. The safety belt was torn from the sockets and Tweed was hurled from the rear cockpit through the instrument panel and into the front cockpit5. Fuselage and support were torn as if slashed by an axe.
Map composite of sections of NTS Nakina 42L and NTS Longlac 42E, with labels added, showing Tweedpilot Lake and Bawk.
The broken bones had to be set by Dr. T.H. McKillip before the injured man could be moved. It was necessary to travel three-quarters of a mile to obtain water for the plaster casts. Tweed uttered no complaint during the trip out to Nakina, although he was severely jolted over the rough trail6.
He is resting comfortably in hospital here and unless complications set in he will not be moved. His wife and daughter Shirley have come to Nakina, where they are staying with a fire ranger’s family.7
1 Scouring maps for a “Round Lake”, this author found no such lake between the north and south east-west lines of the CNR. By happenstance, his eyes lit on a tiny lake named Tweedpilot Lake. What were the odds? Tweedpilot Lake is located south of Nakina and west of Bawk, the whistlestop on the Nakina Cut-off.
2 Tweedpilot Lake is not eight miles from Nakina. Tweedpilot Lake is thirteen miles from Nakina. However, Tweedpilot Lake is approximately six miles by air from Bawk (which is 15 miles from Nakina). So, eight miles is a fair approximation of the distance from Tweedpilot Lake to Bawk by a rough trail. Again, the newspaper reports are confused about the geography.
3 “Hacked” is an accurate description of how the searchers made their way through the bush. They used axes. Bucksaws would have been ineffective. Chainsaws had not been invented yet.
4 The grid pattern used by planes strongly suggests that they had narrowed the area in which to search. They certainly were not searching in the area of Bawk and the Nakina Cut-off. Only the signal fire alerted them to the crash location. Northerners can imagine how far even a smoky fire can be seen. Answer: not far.
5 Note that there is no suggestion that there was a passenger in the fore cockpit. This evidence is important in light of later official reports.
6 The trail would indeed be rough and just wide enough to carry a stretcher through. The ground route from Bawk would have taken the searchers around the north end of Burrows Lake and across the creek that empties into the lake (now called Murky Creek). The author has canoed this creek, and can imagine how searchers had to ford this waterway. They most certainly got their feet wet.
7 Questions remain about Pilot Tweed’s flight plan. Why was Tweed flying to Round Lake? Where was Round Lake? What caused the air crash? There was indeed a probe into the crash Would the probe answer these questions?
A DH60 Moth in the air. Photo Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.
Following published on Thursday August 20, 1936 in the The Globe . . .
PROBE ORDERED INTO AIR CRASH
Wreckage of Forestry Plane Guarded1
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Aug. 19 ,(CP) ̶ Director George Ponsford of the Ontario Alr Service, said tonight he had asked the Department of Civil Aviation at Ottawa to investigate the crash of the Moth airplane which left Pilot Bill Tweed marooned five days in the bush near Twin Lakes.
Inspector J. Shields of Ottawa, he said, has been appointed to carry out the investigation2, and now may be on his way to Nakina, Canadian National Railways divisional point, 200 miles northeast of Port Arthur, near where the crash occurred.
SufferIng a broken leg and a fractured arm, Tweed, found Mondav. about eight miles from Nakina, is still in hospital there.
A guard has been placed over the wrecked plane, which will not be touched until Inspector Shields examines it. A. Simard, Air Service engineer, has already gone to Nakina to dismantle the machine and salvage undamaged parts once the inspection is completed.
1 It is unclear why the wreckage would guarded, being miles from anywhere, and any unauthorized person salvaging parts would be detected by train crews.
2 A report of the investigation cannot be accessed at the present time when archives are locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, snippets of information have surfaced. Here is a semi-official report from the non-profit Aviation Safety Network < Incident de Havilland DH.60X Moth G-CAOX, 12 Aug 1936 (aviation-safety.net) > . I have submitted corrections to be reviewed. Note the reference to a charter flight.
Here is a report from the Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives < Crash of a De Havilland DH.60X Moth near Nakina | Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives (baaa-acro.com) > . The Bureau was founded by a historian based in Geneva, Switzerland, and may be classed as a semi-official site. The report on G-CAOX is also rife with errors, but adds that the flight was a non-scheduled revenue flight. No source is cited for the data. One egregious error is “the pilot [attempted] an emergency landing in a wheat field”. There is no wheat field within 200 miles of Nakina.
Given that official reports (i.e., news items) and semi-official reports teem with errors, we may never know the real story. Even archived reports have errors. It is the historian’s job to make whatever sense he can with the materials (i.e., the facts) he has. It is tempting to take the Farley Mowat approach. The late Farley Mowat was an historian and a storyteller. However, he never let the facts (as much as we can determine they are facts) get in the way of a good story. His approach was to tell not so much what happened as what should have happened. Please forgive this author for the following story à la Farley Mowat.
3 Suppose the first Port Arthur News-Chronicle news report of August 14 had another minor error. We already suspect that the reporter was geographically challenged. Could he have also been geometrically challenged? Could he, in his haste to transcribe the word flow of Fred Dawson, the busy Thunder Bay District Forester ̶ could he have written “round” instead of “square”? Could this “Round Lake” really be a “Square Lake”? In 1936 there was a Square Lake in Thunder Bay District. It was later named Wilkinson Lake.
An almost straight line can be drawn from Wilkinson Lake to the Twin Lakes Air Base. It would pass over Tweedpilot Lake, the site of the crash. The pilot, navigating by topographic features, would be guided by prominent and/or distinctive lakes. At 1,000 feet, he would see Onaman Lake, a huge body of water, and keep it constantly on his left. He would easily recognize large lakes such as Atigogama, Treptow, Greta, and Burrows, and fly by them on his left or right side.
What reason would he have to take a passenger to Wilkinson Lake, drop him off, and fly back to Twin Lakes? In the summer of 1936, Penelton was exploring a big gold strike at Square Lake. This is largely detailed in The Wilkinson Lake Strike < bit.ly/2MW5QoF >. Like all prospectors, he had sold an option on his claims. He had a relationship with the option holder. Here’s what should’ve happened:
“Tom,” he said.
“Yes,” they said. “What’s up?”
John Penelton was smoking thoughtfully on the bench outside the door of their log cabin. He knocked the dottle out of his pipe.
“We got to make a trip,” Penelton said. “To the railway.”
He could spare Tom and Mike on the diamond-drilling crews for a day. He had to see Cecil.
“Got to talk to Waite,” he said. “We need more money. More supplies.”
They left Square Lake in a 15-foot Chestnut canoe. They paddled south down the creek to the Sturgeon River and turned east to head upriver. At each portage, a passenger relieved one of the paddlers. At the falls just before Partridge Lake, they pulled ashore, walked to the tracks near the bridge. Tom dropped Penelton’s packsack on the ballast.
“Okay, boys,” said Penelton. “I’m off to the Big Smoke. Shouldn’t take more than a few days. I’ll bring you back a treat. You’ll see me when you see me.”
“Boss,” said Tom, “think of us when yer quaffing a draft at the Walker House.”
“And don’t get tangled up in them clean sheets at the King Eddy,” said Mike.
They smiled, waved, trudged down the path.
A couple hours later, he flagged down No. 80. In Toronto he met J.H.C. Waite. It was a satisfactory meeting. More than one meeting, actually. He enjoyed the draft beer. He enjoyed the clean sheets. For three nights, actually. He caught the train to Nakina. He had wired ahead to charter a flight.
At Nakina station, he hitched a ride the six miles to Twin Lakes Air Base. Pilot Bill Tweed met him on the dock. His plane’s number was splashed in big black letters on the fuselage: G-CAOX. Penelton stowed his packsack under his feet in the forward cockpit and adjusted his goggles. The take-off was uneventful.
It was a beautiful day. Just some smoke from small scattered bush fires. Far to the west, to his right, he scanned the big body of water on the horizon. He got Tweed’s attention on the speaking tube:
“That’s Red Paint!” he shouted. He pointed west.
Tweed nodded quizzically.
“Red Paint Lake,” he explained. “Now they call it Onaman.”
Tweed nodded and smiled.
Penelton didn’t know the names of the lakes they flew by. But he recognized Atigogama Lake. Site of the Dik-Dik mine, discovered by Tom Johnson. And then the Gipsy Moth was descending. Descending to Square Lake. Soon he was home. And the Moth flew homeward.
As the light faded, the drilling crews straggled in and congregated at the cabin. Suppertime. Eager eyes probed at Penelton’s packsack.
After a meal of beans and bacon, bread and coffee, Penelton opened the sack. He pulled out a lard pail. Opened it. Revealed dainty iced cakes. Licorice sticks. Rummaged deeper in the sack and pulled out a bottle of Seagram’s.
A fitting end to a day’s work.
Pilot Tweed would be home by now. Probably enjoying a bottled beer, cooled in the lake.
This is not, repeat, not what happened. It’s what should’ve happened.
P.S. In the fall of 2020, a company took an option of the Hercules-Elmhirst claims, which included Penelton’s original claims. Again, today, 87 years after the original find, another mining exploration group is hopeful to find a mine. Maybe 87th time lucky.
A post in Aviation Safety Network, riddled with misinformation.
A DH60 Moth on a lake. Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.
Canadian Vickers Vedette II flying boat G-CYYF near Orient Bay ca 1930. Library & Archives Canada MIKAN no. 3650434.
Following published on Wednesday August 19, 1936 in the Port Arthur News-Chronicle . . .
PLANE STUCK ON SANDBAR
Pilot Joe Heaven is Found Safe After Being Missing From Macdiarmid1
Fear that a second accident such as that in which Pilot Bill Tweed of the Ontario Air Service suffered serious injuries last week had been met by Pilot Joe Heaven was proven groundless today.
Unreported after he had left Orient Bay2 early Monday afternoon, two planes left Port Arthur today to begin a search of the wild country east of Lake Nipigon for the missing flyer.
Later in the day Heaven was found on a small lake twenty-two miles east of Macdiarmid, with his plane stuck on a sandbar. He had landed on the lake with supplies for a fire-fighting gang.
Heavy smoke and fog which blanketed the area yesterday prevented the searching planes setting out at that time. It had been thought at first Heaven might have landed on some out-of-the-way lake because of adverse flying conditions.3
1 While a ground party was rescuing Bill Tweed, south of Nakina, another drama was unfolding near Macdiarmid.
2 The Orient Bay base was the Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS) base in Thunder Bay District closest to Port Arthur as well as to Nakina. It was located on the southwest shore of Pijitawabik Bay of Lake Nipigon, across from Macdiarmid and the CNR’s Nipigon Lodge (soon renamed Royal Windsor Lodge).
3 Joe Heaven, pilot, flew out of Orient Bay. There was only one seaplane assigned there, a Canadian Vickers Vedette, registration no. CF-OAB.
The Canadian Vickers Vedette, like its predecessor, the HS-2L, was a bi-plane. All remaining OPAS HS-2Ls (H-boats) were taken out of service in 1932. The Vedette, also equipped with a push propellor, was designed by Canadian conditions and suitable for forest survey (i.e., aerial photographs) and fire protection.
In 1936, the OPAS had two seaplanes operating from the Twin Lakes base, the Moth (with its tragic history) and a Buhl. The Buhl Airsedan was also a type of bi-plane. However, rather than open cockpits, it had an enclosed cabin. OPAS bought the rights to manufacture Buhls and built four planes in 1935-37 for fire spotting. They were equipped with Canadian Vickers floats (pontoons).
Ontario Provincial Air Service Buhl CA-6M Airsedan CF-OAQ. Canada Dept. of National Defence / Library & Archives Canada PA-063271.