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A Lieutenant in the British Navy, Sir George Back accompanied Commander John Franklin on his first land expedition to the Arctic coast (1819-1822).
Shortly after leaving Fort Chipewyan on their return voyage to York Factory on Hudson Bay, Back stopped at the already well-known Athabasca tar sands, "... the wind being favourable we hoisted sail and came to Pitch Springs where we breakfasted -- they are at no great distance from the bank of the river -- consisted of a fluid -- coal pitch -- which issued from several small apertures in the earth -- it did not bubble but was in a state of rest -- though the principle one which we had inadvertently passed is said to be in a constant state of ebullition."
Watercolour over pencil on wove paper
Fort Chipewyan, Lake Athabasca