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Loved by many, Merlyn was a pioneer in northern aviation, logging 25,000 hours on floats and skis until he was killed by a bear in 2005
88 backers pledged $9,000 to help bring this project to life.

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My name is Rob Kesselring. I write. My dream, my vision, is to write the biography of Meryln Carter, an uncommon bushpilot.

Merlyn flew bush planes in the Canadian North for over a half century He accumulated over 25,000 hours of flying on floats and skis in the arctic and sub-arctic wilderness before he was killed by an unprovoked charge of a bear in 2005 at the age of seventy-one. 

It will be an adventure story, and it will be much more than that. Merlyn was an uncommonly kind man and in his career of flying aboriginal hunters and trappers, prospectors, tourists, firefighters, canoeists, scientists, fish, dog teams, drums of gas, sheets of plywood, kegs of nails, boats, skidoos, tractors and pianos, he touched the hearts of many. He flew rescue missions, survived crashes, raised a family of pilots and with his wife Jean built a proud business. His story is the story of the opening of the Canadian North. It is a story that needs to be told. 

The Northwest Territories?

In the 1970’s 40,000 people lived in the Northwest Territories, a land mass that at that time was 40% the size of the continental USA (and twice the size of Alaska with less than a fifth of Alaska’s population). About a third of those people were Inuit, another third white and the other third Dene or Metis. Sometimes Merlyn would fly a couple hundred miles to a trapper’s cabin that might be marked by a greasy thumbprint on a map or to a white tent on Great Slave Lake that was a commercial fishing camp. Without GPS, accurate weather reports, or sometimes even decent maps, Merlyn would find his way. When lives were at stake, he never quit. 

I first met Merlyn over 35 years ago in the midst of an arctic expedition. He became my friend and my mentor. His lifetime spanned a remarkable period of pioneer history. The NWT has since been split in half and is growing in population and modernization. There will never be another pilot who will fly the sub-arctic by the seat of his pants, be the first to ever land on dozens of frozen lakes and to die alone, in a hand to claw, death struggle with a bear. The North has its own history and someone needs to document a culture that is fast fading away.

Merlyn, Rob Kesselring, Eugene McKay
Merlyn, Rob Kesselring, Eugene McKay

I am the right person to research and write that story. Merlyn was my friend. He saved the life of my oldest daughter (twice). I am a pilot. I lived nearby for nine years and accompanied him on countless flights. I did the eulogy at his memorial service, which was held in the hockey arena. No other space in town was big enough. 

 I have written two books about the North (“Daughter, Father, Canoe” and “River Stories”) and published 72 magazine articles. His friends and family trust me and will speak openly. My mission is not to write a quick book or to sensationalize his death. I will get everything about the man and his times right and finish this project with a book that is a great read and gives readers not only awareness of an uncommon man living an uncommon life, but knowledge about an uncommon place at an uncommon time. 

Why is backing needed for this project?

Many Canadians don’t even know where the Northwest Territories is, and Americans think it’s part of Alaska. There is not a good market for obscure biographies and publishers refuse to give me an advance. I am not writing this story to make money. I am writing it because it is a story that needs to be recorded and I am the best person to write it. Unlike my first two books, I cannot write this one sitting in my office. I need to travel thousands of highway miles to Hay River, Yellowknife, Fort Resolution, Edmonton, Vancouver, Meadow Lake, and by chartered bush planes to lodges and communities not even on the grid. His family, fellow pilots and his friends need to be carefully interviewed, their stories accurately recorded. I have wanted to write this book for several years, but I could never afford the expense of travel and afford the time away from home. The clock is ticking because each year people are dying, and stories are being lost. This project cannot be postponed any longer. 

With backing from Kickstarter, I will be able to do it right. This is a story that needs to be told. This is a book that needs to be in every public library. This is a dream that together we can make happen.

Risks and challenges

Meryln was a bushpilot, but also, a musician, magician, father, husband, friend, employer, storyteller and jack of all trades. Hunting down his family and his old friends and pilots to interview in the dark and cold of an arctic winter? It would be a big task just to distill the 71 years of this man’s life into a book of 250 pages. And distilling will not be enough.

The challenge is going to be to weave many peculiar and uncommon threads into an incredible story. A story that is as much about the time and place Merlyn lived, as about the man himself.

I get excited just thinking about this challenge.

Like many of my flights with Merlyn. Adventure and the destination, guaranteed.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $2 or more About $2.00

    Acknowledgement, unless you prefer to remain anonymous, in my blog that you believe in this project. The knowledge that you made something that needs to happen, happen!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    The above, plus a 5x7 photo of Merlyn with one of his bushplanes. Also, the satisfaction that you helped the world learn about Merlyn Carter.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    The above plus my already published book "Daughter, Father, Canoe" signed by me. Also the awareness that your generous backing is helping to assure the accuracy and completeness of this biography.

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    9 backers
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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    All the above plus a signed copy of my second book "River Stories" (two books) and my sincere gratitude.

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    10 backers
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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    All the above plus a signed copy of the Biography: "Merlyn Carter: the biography of an Uncommon Bushpilot"

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    14 backers
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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    All of the above plus a canoe trip, guided by Rob Kesselring, down Minnehaha Creek (water levels permitting) complete with picnic lunch. Meet at Burwell House in Minnetonka.

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    All the above plus acknowledgement in the biography, unless you prefer to remain anonymous, of your support for the project

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    Pledge $1,250 or more About $1,250

    All of the above plus a 4 day 3 night all-inclusive Boundary Water canoe camping bird ecology seminar (for two!) co-led by Rob Kesselring. Meet at the USFS campground at the end of the Sawbill Trail Memorial Day Weekend.

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Funding period

- (35 days)