In the spring of 1927 John "Jack" Hornby starved to death in an isolated cabin on the Thelon River. Hornby's eccentric nature coupled with his extraordinary survival skills had made him a living northern legend. His death by starvation was a surprise to some northerners but not to others.
Born in 1880 into a wealthy British family Hornby attended the finest of private schools excelling at cricket and rugby. In 1904 he came to Canada to visit a cousin living in Onoway, a village just a short distance outside of Edmonton.
In 1908 he met a wealthy British adventurer named Cosmo Melvill, who asked him to accompany him on a muskox and caribou hunting trip to Great Bear Lake. They also established a small trading post on a bay on the east shore of Great Bear Lake and traded mostly with the Sahtu Dene. During the next three or four years Hornby spent a great deal of time with these Dene living off the land.
For several years he lived by himself in a cabin on Great Bear Lake then for a while lived in a cave on Crystal Island in Artillery Lake, north east of Great Slave Lake.
His final undoing came in 1927 when, in the company of his 18 year-old cousin, Edgar Christian, and friend, Harold Adelard, Hornby travelled northeast of Great Slave Lake to the Thelon River to spend the winter hunting and trapping. It's rumoured the only food they took along was a bag of flour and a little tea.
During the winter, when the animals were scarce, Jack Hornby's legendary bush skills failed him and all three men starved to death.