... The 1940 article describes a journey by canoe along the Grand Union to Birmingham and then onto Chester and Ellesmere Port via the Shropshire Union.
It is fascinating on several levels. Firstly, there is the context of wartime Britain with the USA neutral (but supportive); the title of the article is Britain Just Before the Storm. The author, Amos Burg, was British by birth and obviously retained a great deal of affection for the country of his birth.
Secondly, the canals at that time were undergoing a period of great change. The Grand Union Canal was then a recent development (its formation by merger was in 1929) and the line to Birmingham was being modernised with locks widened. As a result the pictures in the magazine are historically significant. Many are by the author, Amos Burg, who travelled with a companion using a Canadian canoe that he imported from his home in Oregon.
Using a light canoe made for some interesting transits through tunnels; he and his companion were often towed by working boats. They also had to take measures to avoid getting too close to working boats and barges near locks ...
Steve mentions the author, Amos Burg, as being 'British by birth'. I'm not sure if that's right. Amos Burg was a noted photographer, film maker, writer, and explorer, born in Oregon in 1901 to a Norwegian father of the same name, and there surely can't have been many 'Amos Burgs' working for the National Geographic as writer and photographer during this period. He lived until 1985.
Whatever, The Amos Burg Research Papers are now housed at the Oregon Historical Society, and include diaries, photos and films for most of his life, including for 1940-2, - I wonder how much material he wrote which didn't end up in the article. And I wonder if it includes film footage.
I'd heard about this 1940 article, and didn't think I'd ever get a chance to see it. Sadly Steve hasn't scanned the entire article - just a couple of photos, included in his post. But I can understand that - it's a lot of work.
One thing that's especially interesting about this article is that Amos Burg's journey must have taken place a few months before the issue date of 1940, perhaps in the summer of 1939, at the very time that Tom and Angela Rolt were taking their legendary voyage, the one described in Narrow Boat. I doubt their paths crossed, but who knows.
Where was I? Oh yes, last year I was lucky to get a copy of a National Geographic 1974 article on the English canals, which I wrote about here. (picture excerpt right). I turned the 36-page article into a PDF, and you can download it here.
There were also articles about the English canals in 1907 and 1922. There's an easier way of seeing all these National Geographic articles about the canals. You can buy the entire set of the magazines - all 120 years - on six DVDs or a single plug-in hard disk.
All this can't, of course, disguise the fact that there's not been a National Geographic story about the UK canals for over thirty-five years. To all photojournalists: the goal's open, chaps!