Johnny Bourassa



To Orwell Today,

Hi Jackie Jura,

Well, Johnny Bourassa was my uncle too and I always used to hear the stories about him and Uncle Bunny! Even though Johnny's disappearance happened 8 years before my arrival (born in 1959) his legend was told.

But it wasn't until recently, while re-reading your ORWELL TODAY research, that I realized something about the note he left for those who found his plane.

Johnny Note

Departed From Here Wednesday, May 23rd [1951], 14:30 Hrs [2:30pm]

To whom it may concern,

I have gone to the south-west end of this lake, and from there I intend to walk a north-westerly direction. I believe that will take me to Great Slave Lake, somewhere near Reliance. I have a good two weeks ration that could be stretched to three weeks. I hope to be somewhere before then. Please be on the lookout for a smoke signal as I will endeavour to flag any aircraft down that should be flying overhead. A lift will be appreciated.

Why this aircraft happens to be sitting here: took off from Bathurst for Yellowknife without any maps and no time-piece. The clock on the instrument panel would not function (I have made it function since, as I have it with me now). I flew under overcast for some time, holding 180-185 magnetic on the compass (I found the compass very inconsistent). Then I broke out into sunshine, scattered cumulus clouds and rain showers.


I mis-identified Aylmer and Clinton-Colden, took them for Contwoto and de Gras. I must have passed well east of the east end of Great Slave Lake. By the time I realized my error I was too low in gas to do much but find a suitable landing. I fractured the starboard leg when beaching the aircraft.

Bourassa Plane

I was traveling at a fast clip traversing bad ice and she swung just as I cut the engine. She straddled the boulder. I meant her to be on the left hand side [of the lake]. There was quite a cross-breeze blowing. I am leaving my bedroll behind. Please take it back to Yellowknife as I have some personal stuff wrapped in it. In the meantime I hope to be either in Reliance or Stark Lake before long.

So sorry this happened,
Johnny Bourassa

~ end quoting letter found in plane ~

Johnny said he mistakenly identified Aylmer and Clinton-Colden lakes for Contwoto and Lac de Gras lakes. This is where, as you would say, a 'godcidence' occurred. Here's how:

Forty years later Johnny Bourassas's nephew, John D (son of our maternal aunt who gave you the newspaper clipping of Johnny's beached plane) -- was the person responsible for the discovery of diamonds in kimberlite pipe at Contwoto Lake.

Through the early 90s John D, through his companies, staked and explored at least two million square kilometers between Contwoto and Mackay lakes.


The Contwoto Lake discovery later became Canada's third diamond mine -- Jericho -- which closed during hard times but is being re-opened in 2013. John D also discovered diamonds near Mackay Lake -- now Gahcho Kue Mine -- scheduled to begin operations in 2015.

Hard to believe that this inhospitable place could have hidden such treasures and as science and geo-technology developed these hidden gems showed themselves.

Well, back to the godcidence!

Amazingly -- during John D's massive search for diamonds and within the thousands of bulk mineral samples analyzed in the laboratories -- he never found a trace of Johnny Bourassa. Not that he was looking -- but the only bigger search for anything in the North-West Territories -- other than the search for Johnny Bourassa -- was the massive search for more diamonds after the initial Ekati discovery at Lac de Gras. And John D, nephew of Johnny Bourassa, was a leader in that search too.

Johnny Bourassa and his nephew John D were true adventurers and explorers -- a generation apart -- with different reasons to be around Lac de Gras and Contwoto lakes. Both men were searching for something precious and valuable -- one for life; the other for diamonds.


PS - I'm looking forward to Canadian aviation history being made when Johnny Bourassa's great nephew -- John -- receives his wings next month. He'll be a 4th generation RCAF pilot following his paternal great-grandfather, grandfather, father and two maternal great uncles before him.

Greetings Mike,

Wow, that's an amazing discovery -- truly godcidental -- that Johnny Bourassa mentions, in his note, the names of lakes -- Contwoto and Lac De Gras -- that would figure so importantly not only in his life -- but in the life of his nephew forty years later.

It must have been a terrifying shocker when Johnny came out of the clouds and realized he WASN'T over Contwoto and Lac De Gras -- which would have meant he was on course heading south to massive Great Slave Lake -- but instead he was EAST of those lakes and his course would take him down to a little lake in the middle of nowhere.


I found a map of the view from space showing Johnny's departure point -- Bathurst Inlet -- and his planned destination point -- Yellowknife -- and his actual destination point -- Wholdaia Lake (marked as Bellanca crash site).


I also found a map of Lac de Gras from the air -- about what it would have looked like to Johnny, minus the Ekati Diamond Mine pits there now -- and there are lakes as far as the eye can see going off in in all directions -- all looking the same as each other -- like puddles after rain.

It's a wonder Johnny could tell the difference at all, flying as he was with no maps or proper compass, they having been left in his usual Norseman plane (the Bellanca he was flying being someone else's) -- but that's another story.

Johnny did good getting the plane safely down -- I love how he talks about it being a "she" -- and he stayed with her for five days -- from May 18th to the 23rd. By then I guess he realized how unlikely it would be that anyone would find him there and so he started walking, making a bee-line to Reliance -- a symbolic word, a symbolic destination, but ultimately didn't live up to its name.


And, as you say, a massive search was undertaken -- from the air and on the ground -- but the area where Johnny was lost was too big and too unknown -- he could have been anywhere in any direction. No one would ever have thought of looking at Wholdaia Lake.

And, as it turned out, Johnny's plane wasn't found until 118 days later -- on September 15, 1951 -- and all there was was a note saying "would appreciate a lift". But Johnny has never been found.

But now I've got an idea. I think we'll find Johnny Bourassa -- like a diamond in the rough -- in kimberlite pipe under a lake -- like at Contwoto and Lac de Gras. Let's stake a claim at Wholdaia -- we could strike it rich!!

All the best,
Jackie Jura


PS - I've added this photo of Uncle Bunny (RCAF Flight Lieutenant Raymond Bourassa) to the IN MEMORY OF LOUIS BOURASSA article describing Raymond's involvement in a NWT search for a missing plane in 1963, twelve years after the search for his brother Johnny.

PPS - I just discovered another Johnny Bourassa godcidence: this one about a Memorial ceremony held in England last spring to honour the WW-II Lancaster Bomber crews. That article follows an earlier one about one of Johnny's Lancaster crew members -- 88-year-old Donald Beaumont -- who died last year in England. Beaumont flew 43 missions with Johnny Bourassa and describes the most dangerous one of all -- the bombing of Nuremberg, Germany on March 30, 1944 which subsequently became known as "Black Thursday" because on that mission 98 aircraft went down, 565 airmen were killed and 61 airmen were captured as prisoners of war. Johnny's plane miraculously made it back to England but they ran out of gas on the way and had to land her as a glider.

Here's a list of all Johnny Bourassa's WW-II flights -- notice "Nuremberg, 7 1/2 hours, March 30, 1944" is there:

Johnny's Flights 1

Johnny's Flights 2

Now it turns out that the family who bought one of the three surviving WW-II Lancasters -- which were on display at the aforementioned Memorial ceremony -- did so in memory of their fighter-pilot brother -- Christopher Panton -- who lost his life during that Nuremberg Raid in March 1944. So their brother, on that day, was flying with Johnny Bourassa in a Lancaster identical to the one they now own. Here it is:

LancasterAirfieldNow Bourassa Plane

And there beside the Lancaster -- seven years later -- is Johnny Bourassa's Bellanca. He landed her like a glider too -- but hey, that's what wings are for!

Tributes paid to RAF war hero, Spenborough England, Guardian, Apr 19, 2011
An RAF war hero whose crew survived 43 bombing missions across occupied land and into Germany has died. Second World War veteran Donald Beaumont, 88, flew with the 635 squadron, known as the Pathfinders - and was awarded a medal by the King for his courage and devotion to duty. He was born in Cleckheaton in 1922 and grew up with his parents Allen and Florence, and sisters Jean and Freda. After school he worked as a welder for a short time before deciding to enlist in the RAF. He trained as a wireless operator at Elvington Airfield, York, and was enlisted to elite bombing command the Pathfinders.


His son Nick said: "The lifespan of an aircraft was three flights and Flying Officer John Bourassa and his squadron flew 43 missions without losing a single man - which was completely unheard of". Mr Beaumont was flying on March 30 and 31, 1944, later dubbed Black Thursday after 98 aircraft were missing, 565 airmen were killed in action and 61 airmen were captured as prisoners of war. Nick said: "On their way back from Nuremberg, having being hit by enemy flak, Dad persuaded the skipper, Johnny Bourassa, to change course to avoid further enemy fire, but this meant using more fuel. Their fuel ran out over the Wash in East Anglia. Bourassa somehow managed to glide the massive Lancaster in to land, the under carriage and wings shot to bits. Having witnessed a lot of aircraft shot down, you would think they would be terrified of going out again - but within days they were back." He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross but was serving abroad and did not meet King George VI. However he was later invited to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.... He died on March 31 and the author of a book written about the 635 Pathfinders Squadron, Christopher Coverdale, gave a eulogy at his funeral at Dewsbury Crematorium.

A modern-day mission: Lancaster bomber crew prepares for action 70 years on in remarkable set of airfield pictures
Daily Mail, Mar 23, 2012
These photos were not taken 70 years ago, but this week at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre - the former Lancaster bomber base at RAF East Kirkby. Admirers of the war-time planes stepped back in time to relive the sights, sounds and smells of the famous bomber... They dressed up in original uniforms and sat in the cockpit of 'Just Jane', one of only three Lancasters left in the world capable of flying. It comes as the long overdue RAF Bomber Command Memorial is just weeks away from being unveiled in Green Park, London in honour of the 55,573 airmen who died.... The monument near Buckingham Palace will recognise the extraordinary sacrifice, courage and dedication of the young men who lost their lives. Forty four per cent of the 125,000 men who served in the Command were killed in action....

'Just Jane' was built at Longbridge near Birmingham, in April 1945, by Austin Motors. Given the serial number NX611, she was due to join the RAF's Tiger Force in the Far East - but after Japan's early surrender, the plane was put in storage.... Public appearances were few, and brief, due to the costs involved - and in 1972, she was put up for auction in Blackpool. After failing to reach the reserve price, she was eventually bought by the Rt Hon Lord Lilford - who sold her on to brothers Fred and Harold Panton in 1983. They kept 'Just Jane' in an old airfield they had acquired in East Kirkby. The Pantons, from Lincolnshire, had lost their fighter pilot brother Christopher on the Nuremburg Raid in March 1944....

In 1993, restoration work began on the plane's engines, thanks to the efforts of two ex-RAF engineers. Work was later carried on the propeller blades - and local contractors checked all the wiring. Further tweaks were made on the motor, magnetos, fuel booster pump, ignition harness, throttle controls and fuel jettison system. Finally, after several hundred man hours, the engine was ready, at a cost of £7,000.... The men of Bomber Command suffered 10 per cent of all the casualties in the war. Few of the thousands of bombers, who came from all over the world including the Commonwealth, are still alive. Night after night, the bombers climbed into their cramped and freezing aircraft [the Mosquito/Wellington/Halifax/Bristol-Blenheim/Lancaster] to strike at Germany’s cities and factories – the odds on them surviving enemy jets and anti-aircraft guns growing longer with each raid....

NOT JUST GERMANY GUILTY (...During the '70s I worked as an auslander arbeiter [foreign worker] in Germany for the United States Army in Europe (USAREUR) and felt no animosity from Germans toward myself (during WW-II my uncle had actually been an RCAF pilot and earned medals for bombing Germany) and I held no animosity toward Germans for shooting down the plane my grandfather was piloting in WW-I. He lived in a prisoner-of-war camp for a year or so. He used to show us the shrapnel in his legs when we were kids. I wasn't even born during WWI and WWII but I'd learned, by the time I lived in Germany, that there are two sides to every story (and every war). I've made it a point in my life to learn as much as I can about both sides. You'd be amazed about how much of what we've been taught about history is in fact nothing but a pile of lies, similar to what Orwell described in 1984 as falsification of the past by the Ministry of Truth. The evil perpetraitors of most wars and other dastardly deeds are the responsibility of the group Orwell refers to as The Brotherhood and they hold allegience to no nation. ~ Jackie Jura)

POSTWAR ATROCITIES TO GERMANY, by George Orwell, Tribune, March 31, 1944 & January 17, 1947

Lancaster Pathfinders were target marking squadrons in RAF Bomber Command during World War II. They located and marked targets with flares, which a main bomber force could aim at, increasing the accuracy of their bombing. The Pathfinders were normally the first to receive new blind bombing aids like Gee, Oboe and the H2S radar. The early Pathfinder Force (PFF) squadrons was expanded to become a group, No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group in January 1943. The initial Pathfinder Force was five squadrons, while No. 8 Group ultimately grew to a strength of 19 squadrons. While the majority of Pathfinder squadrons and personnel were from the Royal Air Force, the group also included many from the air forces of other Commonwealth countries....

DiamondLacDeGras Canadian diamond fetches record $6-million price, CBC, Feb 16, 2011
A huge rough diamond, billed as the most significant find in the 13-year history of Canada's Ekati mine, was auctioned off in Belgium this week for more than $6 million. The 78-carat diamond from BHP Billiton's Ekati mine at Lac de Gras, Northwest Territories was sold in Antwerp on Monday, Valentine's Day. The company would not disclose the buyer of the diamond, called the "Ekati Spirit". BHP Billiton invited a select group of about 70 buyers to the sale of the diamond, which was found in October 2010. "The diamond is a breathtaking example of the stunning gem-quality diamonds produced at Ekati and potentially the most valuable stone in the mine's 13-year history," BHP said in a news release. The diamond, which measures 21 by 18 by 13 millimetres, is not the largest to come from the mine, however. Two years ago, a 182-carat diamond was found, but it lacked the clarity, carats and colour of the one sold Monday. A pear-shaped, 10.22-carat gem from Ekati had held the Canadian record of $1.2 million at auction.

The Gahcho Kue Diamond Project, Wikipedia
The Gahcho Kue mine is is located on the Canadian tundra in the Northwest Territories. It is situated at Kennady Lake in the Akaitcho Treaty 8 Territory AK claim block, which is 85 km (53 mi) southeast of the Snap Lake Diamond Mine Project and approximately 280 km (170 mi) east northeast of Yellowknife. The site is served by an ice runway, Gahcho Kue Aerodrome, and a spur of the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road from Lupin Mine.... The Gahcho Kué Diamond Project is a 49%/51% joint-venture between Mountain Province Diamonds Inc. and De Beers Canada Inc. Mountain Province claims 49% and De Beers claims 51%. The project consists of the Gahcho Kue kimberlite pipes, which lie underneath Kennady Lake. There are also several unexplored kimberlite occurrences scattered over several kilometres. In 1993, Canamera Geological [John D] began sampling and surveying the area for Mountain Province Mining Joint Venture (now Mountain Province Diamonds). Exploration began in the area with a camp being set up in 1995. In 1997, Monopros, now De Beers Canada, took over the camp when they joined the Mountain Province Mining Joint Venture. In 1998 De Beers began sampling the kimberlite to evaluate the four Gahcho Kué pipes. More drilling followed and the positive results led to the decision to proceed...

The Diavik Diamond Mine is located on a 20 square kilometre island in Lac de Gras, approximately 300 kilometres by air northeast of Yellowknife, the capital of Canada's Northwest Territories...

Diamonds in the Rough, Northwest Territory Mining History
...As the old mines approached the end of their lives, modern-day prospectors continued their search for future mines to replace them. In 1989, Chuck Fipke reached Lac de Gras deep in the sub-arctic after a decade long search for diamonds. Since 1982, Fipke had been sampling the till and overburden from the Mackenzie Mountains east to the heart of the Canadian Shield, in order to isolate the kimberlite source of indicator minerals, a bread crumb trail that he believed would lead him to a fortune in diamonds. The previous generation of prospectors and geologists had passed over this ground and deemed it literally ‘barren’. But Fipke was resolute, and the work continued. Finally they hit ‘paydirt’, washing down high quality diamonds from the sands at Lac de Gras. The find sparked the largest staking rush in Canadian history in 1992. In 1998, Fipke’s original diamond claims began production as BHP Billiton’s Ekati Mine; Rio Tinto and Harry Winston-owned Diavik Mine followed in 2003, Tahera’s Jericho Mine in 2006, and De Beers’ Snap Lake in 2007. Another diamond mine, Gahcho Kue is on the horizon. Several other precious metal, base metal, and diamond projects are also under development in both the NWT and Nunavut in the new millennium...

Contwoyto Lake, Wikipedia
Contwoyto Lake is a lake in the Kitikmeot Region of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, located near the border with the Northwest Territories. With a total area of 1,034 km2 (399 sq mi), it is the territories' tenth largest lake. Lupin Mine is located near Contwoyto Lake. The lake is also the terminus of the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road from Tibbitt Lake in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut's only currently existing road access to the rest of Canada. In 2005, there was a proposal put forward to extend the winter road to a possible port at Bathurst Inlet...

...The Mackenzie River Ice Road is only one of many similar Canadian ice roads; the longest one in the country (and the world) is the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road, which extends 370 miles from north of Yellowknife into the neighboring territory of Nunavut and allows trucks to service several diamond mines along the way....

The Jericho Diamond Mine, Wikipedia
.The Jericho Diamond Mine was developed, opened and operated by Tahera Diamond Corporation. The company was provided with CAN $35 million loan by Tiffany & Co. to assist in construction of the site, as part of a marketing alliance. The mine produced diamonds from 2006 to February 2008, and was Tahera's only mining operation. The company reported financial losses in 2007 due to operational difficulties, the high value of the Canadian dollar, high oil prices, and the short operating season of the Tibbitt to Contwoyto ice road in 2006. Tahera filed for protection from creditors in January 2008, and the mine stopped recovering diamonds once existing ore stockpiles ran out, one month later. There is no registered airport at the site so all heavy equipment had to be brought in by the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road. Due to the remoteness of the site the mine was part of the impetus for a proposal to build a port near the community of Bathurst Inlet with a road to both Diavik Diamond Mine and Ekati Diamond Mine....

The EKATI Diamond Mine, Wikipedia
The EKATI diamond mine is Canada's first surface and underground diamond mine. It is located 310 kilometres (190 mi) north-east of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and about 200 kilometres (120 mi) south of the Arctic circle, near Lac de Gras.... Diamonds at the EKATI site are found in 45 to 62 million year old kimberlite pipes of the Lac de Gras kimberlite field, most of which lie underneath shallow lakes....

DiamondMine Ekati Diamond Mine, Lac de Gras, North-West Territories, Canada

KimberliteRockDiamond Kimberlite, Wikipedia
Kimberlite is a type of potassic volcanic rock best known for sometimes containing diamonds. It is named after the town of Kimberley in South Africa, where the discovery of an 83.5-carat (16.7 g) diamond in 1871 spawned a diamond rush, eventually creating the Big Hole. Kimberlite occurs in the Earth's crust in vertical structures known as kimberlite pipes. Kimberlite pipes are the most important source of mined diamonds today. The consensus on kimberlites is that they are formed deep within the mantle. Formation occurs at depths between 150 and 450 kilometres (93 and 280 mi), from anomalously enriched exotic mantle compositions, and are erupted rapidly and violently, often with considerable carbon dioxide and other volatile components. It is this depth of melting and generation which makes kimberlites prone to hosting diamond xenocrysts.... Kimberlites occur as carrot-shaped, vertical intrusions termed 'pipes'. This classic carrot shape is formed due to a complex intrusive process of kimberlitic magma which inherits a large proportion of both CO2 and H2O in the system, which produces a deep explosive boiling stage that causes a significant amount of vertical flaring.... Kimberlites are the most important source of primary diamonds. Many kimberlite pipes also produce rich alluvial or eluvial diamond placer deposits. Only about 1 in 200 kimberlite pipes contain gem-quality diamonds...

How Diamonds Work (...Kimberlite pipes are created as magma flows through deep fractures in the Earth. The magma inside the kimberlite pipes acts like an elevator, pushing the diamonds and other rocks and minerals through the mantle and crust in just a few hours. These eruptions were short, but many times more powerful than volcanic eruptions that happen today. The magma in these eruptions originated at depths three times deeper than the magma source for volcanoes like Mount St. Helens, according to the American Museum of Natural History. The magma eventually cooled inside these kimberlite pipes, leaving behind conical veins of kimberlite rock that contain diamonds. Kimberlite is a bluish rock that diamond miners look for when seeking out new diamond deposits. The surface area of diamond-bearing kimberlite pipes ranges from 2 to 146 hectares (5 to 361 acres)....

Diamonds in the Rough: Jewels Beneath the Earth's Surface (A diamond is a crystal which is composed of the element, carbon. In nature, diamond crystals display a crystal habit, but often the crystal shape has been rounded or abraided during emplacement. Diamonds typically occur in a rock called Kimberlite...With the discovery of diamonds in Nunavut, Canada, in the early 1990's, a new area was heralded into mineral exploration and mining history. The result of the staking rush and diamond discoveries has been a widespread interest in diamonds by the prospecting and geological community which has led to active exploration for the elusive gem throughout Canada, and specifically, the Canadian Shield....)

A Compass can tell you which direction you are going, this is known as your heading. A compass can also tell you the direction an object is from you. Those directions are known as bearings. Once bearings of objects are known, you can use a map or a chart to find out where you are. You can then figure out which direction you want to go and use the compass to make sure you follow that heading. A compass works by using a magnetized needle that orients itself with the earth's natural magnetic field to point in the direction of magnetic north. The bearing or heading is then read from numbers on the compass to indicate directions such as north, south, east, or west. The numbers that are on a compass represent degrees of a circle. The degrees are numbered from 0° to 360°, clockwise around the circle, with 0° and 360° being the same thing. 0° (and by default 360°) represents north; 90° represents east; 180° represents south; 270° represents west. If your heading, the direction you are going, is toward the east, you are said to be on a heading of 90°. Likewise if your heading is toward the west, you are said to be on a heading of 270°....


BourassaMemoryAlbum Searching for Johnny Bourassa (compilation of articles and photos)


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~