Last week the creation of a new Polar Medal was announced by the Governor General of Canada, which will replace the Northern Medal in celebrating achievements in the North.

“The creation of the Polar Medal emphasizes the importance that our country places on strengthening our understanding of and connection to the North.” Said the Governor General in a statement released last Wednesday.

Here at the Vancouver Maritime Museum we are especially excited by the news as a representation of the RCMP Schooner St. Roch has been chosen to appear on the Medal. In fact the announcement was made 75 years after the St. Roch left on her mission to travel from the Western Arctic to the Eastern Arctic.

The original Polar Medal, or Arctic Medal as it was first named, was established in the UK in 1857 and was received by a number of expeditions around that time, such as an expedition searching for Franklin and his men. Captain Henry Larsen and the RCMP members of his crew received Polar Medals after their 1940-42 and 1944 voyages through the Northwest Passage. We are lucky enough to have Constable E.C. Hadley’s medal on display here at the Museum. He was the Wireless Operator onboard the St. Roch during the 1940-42 voyage.

The design of the new Polar Medal reflects these past medals with their octagonal shape, white ribbon and depiction of a ship in ice. Major Carl Gauthier of the Directorate of Honors and Recognition section of the Department of National Defense designed the concept for the medal:

“We wanted to keep the idea of the previous Polar Medals, but tell a Canadian story. And when thinking of a ship and Canada’s North there is only one ship that springs to mind: it had to be the St. Roch.”

When we spoke to Major Gauthier, he had just received a prototype of the medal from the mint that he said looked ‘quite spectacular’ with details such as the water and ice being beautifully rendered on the surface of the medal. The first recipients of the Polar Medal are to be announced later this year and we will make sure to keep you posted on future developments!

“I am delighted that we as a country, through the Canadian Honours System, will now publicly recognize outstanding contributions to the North, a vital part not only of our geography but of our collective identity and pride as Canadians.” - Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Read the press release here: http://ow.ly/OLlUS

Read the Prime Minister's full statement here: http://ow.ly/P9WMh