Sidney Clark Ells
This series of drawings were produced by Sidney Clark Ells to illustrate his article Alaska Highway published in the March 1944 issue of The Canadian Geographical Journal. They would be published again in his mildly eccentric book Northland Trails (Burns & MacEarchan; 1956), a collection of verses, short stories and illustrations documenting Ells’ own experiences working in the north (including his tenure as a scientist with the Federal Department of Mines) interwoven with the author’s version of the history of the region including reflections on early geology, dinosaurs, and the area's first inhabitants. While most of Ells’ illustrations for both his article and book are straightforward depictions of construction and surveying activities, the initial image of "Hannibal Crossing the Alps" is typical of the artist/author’s tendency to make unusual connections in order to further his often heroic narratives of the north country.
Sidney Clark Ells was a graduate of McGill University and a controversial figure often at odds with his superiors and colleagues. He surveyed much of the Athabasca Region and after leaving the Department of Mines, he produced a report on his studies of the oil sands for the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, a document that, while flawed, generated extensive discussion and debate among scientists, business people and politicians. The Ells River, which flows into the Athabasca River just north or Fort McMurray, was named in his honour in the 1920s.