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Immigrant navigated RCMP’s St. Roch’s final Northwest Passage crossing

Tieleman made national history in 1954

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Dutch immigrant Hendrik Willem (Harry) Tieleman made national history in his adopted country Canada within a few years after arriving in 1951. The former officer in the Dutch merchant marine had joined the RCMP, patrolling the Vancouver Island coast.

An extensive search by the RCMP’s headquarters in Ottawa for a navigator three years later, tipped them off about Tieleman’s background. Constable Tieleman was ordered to report in Halifax as quickly as possible, to board the RCMP’s schooner St. Roch for its final North West voyage to Vancouver.

The St. Roch arrived home in Vancouver - where it had been built in 1928 - on October 12, 1954, to a hero’s welcome and front-page stories in the city’s newspapers. The 104-foot long, 80-ton vessel with a mere 300-horsepower engine had navigated Arctic waters with its Dutch-Canadian pilot charting the course.

Tieleman went on to become an aircraft mechanic and pilot in northern Central BC, and eventually turned entrepreneur, operating oil businesses and a restaurant. Although he started his work experience in Canada as a logger, the Leiden-born adventurer later played a key role in the Clayoquot Sound old forests preservation efforts. Tieleman also had been involved in efforts to restore the ailing St. Roch which is part of the Vancouver Maritime Museum display.

A father of three, Tieleman died earlier last May, in his 75th year.