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Sillem's Island



... but nobody waved back!
Close to Canada's Eastern seabord, at about the latitude of Greenland, there is an island bearing the name of Sillem. Who might be the Sillem it was named after?

Gerrit Sillem, from the Netherlands, who lives with his wife in Canada tried to find out about it in the 1980s. At first he turned to the secretariat of Geographic Names of Energy, Mines and Resources Canada. The answer was that it was probably a whaler captain named John Burnet Walker who named the island when he passed by the Baffin Bay archipelago in 1877. Gerrit was advised to ask for more information from the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University. There he learned that Walker originated from the city of Dundee, north of Edinburgh, and that two logbooks of his travels in 1871 and 1872 were preserved, but not that of 1877. It was recommended to contact a Dr Ross who had done research on whaling in the Hudson Bay in the 19th century. Gerrit Sillem's letter was not answered. Now, 24 years later, due to a renewed interest in the origin of the island`s name, Gerrit sought and found Dr. Ross's email address on the Internet, and this is what Dr Ross answered:  
Dear Mr. Sillem,  
I see after going through my correspondence records that you asked me about the origin of the name Sillem Island in a letter of 10 July 1983. Perhaps I never replied, or perhaps you failed to receive my reply:
1) I assume you have checked with the Board on Geographic Names on Booth Street in Ottawa; they have files on place-name origins. If you haven't contacted them you'll probably have to give them exact locational informatiion. Sillem Island is at  70-56 N, 71-43 W.
2) It would help if you told me where you got the information about J.B.Walker and the date 1877.
3) According to my list of whaling voyages, Walker took the Dundee ship Erik to the Davis Strait fisher in 1877.
4) A book about that season mentions the Erik here and there. It is by Mackintosh, Dr. 1884. A Whaling Cruise in the Arctic Regions. ( London: Hamilton, Adam). I don't recall anything about Sillem Island or Scott Inlet, but a more thorough search might be productive.
5) As the Erik (or Eric) was a Dundee whaler you might fiind out something from the Central Library, or the Whaling Museum, in Dundee, if you provide as many details as possible.
6) I presume that Sillem was one of the crew, conceivably a crewman who died and was buried there.
7)  If  there is a marked grave on the island, there might be a record of the inscription  at the Archeology Survey of Canada.   
8) I have checked my notes on the Dundee Year Books, but they were not published, I believe, before 1878.
9) As far as I know, the logbook of the Active in 1877 has not survived. 
10) I'll keep the matter in mind in case I run across something. Send me your postal address--is it still 106 Dalgleish Bay NW, Calgary T3A 1K8?
Gil Ross 


If you use Google to search for the term >sillem island< you will find a little bit of information about this little rocky island (s. Sillem Island is part of the Baffin Island group. Researchers estimate its age at two billion years. A number of fjords cut through the island. Many of them have not been navigated by foreigners yet. Sillem Island can be circum-navigated. Visitors have been enthusiastic about its wild beauty. The highest peek is 1.590 meters high. More than ten rock faces are said to me more than 1.200 meters high. Ship based travellers have reported seeing bird colonies, polar bears and indigenous people (Inuits): a grandfather and his grandson, from a distance.

It was Dr. Ing. Helwig Sillem who told us about the island. His commentary: "I've flown above it - but nobody waved back!"


A group of adventurers on skis has uploaded a series of photos to the Internet (see picture and link below). 



see also


©  Copyright 2012  Martin Sillem  -  Last update: 28 August 2007