Kayaker who died on Great Slave Lake is identified

Last modified: August 9, 2019 at 5:27pm

A kayaker whose body was pulled from the NWT’s Great Slave Lake by search-and-rescue teams on Wednesday evening has been identified as Thomas Destailleur.

Destailleur, 30, came to the NWT from Toronto, the NWT’s chief coroner said by email on Friday.

He was an experienced traveller, having already cycled and kayaked from the Athabasca Glacier to the South Slave via Fort McMurray, and with previous trips to the likes of Mongolia, Indonesia, Cuba, and Iceland.


“The coroner service has ordered a post-mortem examination,” chief coroner Cathy Menard wrote. “We are continuing our ongoing investigation with the assistance of the RCMP.”

Destailleur’s kayak was spotted from the air on Wednesday after he had been reported missing earlier that day. His body was found soon after.

Destailleur had been attempting to travel from Alberta to the Arctic coast by bicycle and canoe, a Facebook page documenting his trip suggested.

He had reached Fort Resolution earlier in the week and, when he last posted online, had been heading toward Hay River.

Destailleur originally hailed from Lille, in France, francophone Ontario newspaper L’Express reported in April.


“I like to move, I’m a little nomadic,” he told the newspaper at the time as he previewed his 4,000-km trip, which was designed to promote environmentally friendly travel.

He had been considering the prospect of making a documentary about the journey once he reached his destination, Tuktoyaktuk. His plan had been to arrive in Tuk in mid-September.

The journey began when he left Fort McMurray in mid-July, reaching Fort Chipewyan a week later before describing a “very physical” day trying to navigate the Slave River. After continuing on through the rain, he told of arriving in Fort Fitzgerald – on the south side of the NWT border from Fort Smith – “soaked and exhausted.”

On reaching Fort Resolution in early August, he described wandering the community looking for somewhere to shower – then playing a game of baseball with local children in the evening.


On the evening of August 5, in his last written update, Destailleur said the weather had become increasingly windy.

“The wind is getting stronger and the waves are growing. I fight as much as I can,” he wrote, adding he had eventually ended up on the beach, “soaked and frozen.”

“I am afraid of hypothermia,” he wrote, and “hoping the wind will fall.”

The exact circumstances of his death are unclear.