Remarkable Canadians: Adam Shoalts

It’s been a while since I last profiled a remarkable Canadian, but while it might appear this series got lost in the woods, I’ve got the perfect guy to bring it back. He’s been called one of Canada’s greatest living explorers, and he is the author of several bestselling books, including Alone Against the North and A History of Canada in Ten Maps. A historian, archaeologist, and geographer, let’s meet:



Name: Adam Shoalts

Place of Birth: Fenwick, Ontario

Profession: Explorer, Writer and Archeologist

More famously known for:

Completing a nearly 4,000 km solo journey across Canada’s Arctic. Discovering waterfalls previously unknown to humanity. His terrific book, Alone Against the North.

Is There a Memory of the Past You’ll Never Forget:

The time I saw a cougar on the coast of Vancouver Island. I was hiking back to my camp at sunset, daydreaming on the trail. I looked up there was a mountain lion about five feet away, staring at me. I can still see its eyes, I can still see it giving me the eye. I’ve always loved cougars, and here was one just starting at me. I had a camera in my pocket and was going to take a picture, but it was too dark. The cougar just kept staring at me. It wasn’t afraid, so I started screaming at it, then picked up a rock, and tried to shoo it off. It followed me back to the camp. So beautiful to look at, so elusive, they can stalk right up on you though.

Hang on, wasn’t that dangerous?

Statistically its more dangerous driving on the highway. In the grand scheme of things, the odds of an animal attacking you are quite low. I’ve spent a lot of time in polar bear and grizzly bear country, alone. I once slept in a tree because of a grizzly bear. If you use common sense and don’t do anything stupid, they generally leave you alone. The only bears you need a gun for are polar bear. Bear spray won’t cut it. But even most polar bears won’t attack, although the odds are higher. I’ve done dozens of expeditions in polar bear territory and never hurt a single animal.

What aspects of Canada do you think are under-represented?

One exciting thing from an exploration point of view is that Canadians have little idea about our Viking history. We now know Vikings were making voyages to Canada for 400 years. There’s been dozens of Norse artefacts that have turned up from Ellesmere Island to New Brunswick. But it’s not considered a Canadian story. There’s fascinating details [about Canada] in Icelandic literature. It’s not taught about much, but we’re learning more and more and identifying more Viking ruins about it all the time For example Baffin Island definitely has a second L’anse aux Meadows.

What’s the most surprising aspect about doing what you do?

People keep exploring the same rivers over and over again, but without too much effort, you can explore somewhere where very few people go. It has to do with bang for your buck and safety. Proven landscapes, easy portages. I don’t mind adventure, the tough and isolated. Speaking specifically about the wilderness canoeing community, it seems strange that people are content to do the same routes. I like being far from the beaten path.

What are you thoughts on the Future of Canada?

We absolutely have a moral obligation to protect whats left of Canada’s wilderness. Our wilderness is vanishing every year, we’re losing bio-diversity, we are going through an extinction crisis. We are losing the natural world faster than we can explore it. In Canada we are fortunate to still have vast areas of wilderness, so we have a chance to not make the same mistakes other countries have made. We have to look at nature from a global perspective. We have a moral obligation to protect this not just as Canadians, but for the whole world.

Learn more about Adam’s adventures and his excellent books by visiting his website.


Great Canadian Bucket List