Léon Pilon
Nile River Voyageur
Map of the Expedition's Route of 1884-85
During the attempt to reach Khartoum in time to rescue General Charles "Chinese" Gordon from the siege of the Mahdi, the Canadian voyageurs ascended more than 1400 miles of dangerous river.  Not only were the many cataracts and rapids serious challenges to naviagtion, but the underwater obstacles were always hidden from view by the sediments being carried by the waters of the Nile.  Sixteen of the Canadian voyageurs would die in Egypt; some by drowning, some fell victim to diseases such as smallpox and typhoid fever.  Leon Pilon and William O'Rourke, both from Ottawa, accidentally fell off a train taking them from Assiout to Cairo and eventually back to Canada.  They were both crushed beneath the wheels of the train, so close to the ship that would take them home.  One of them was said to have carried a half crown coin in his boot which was used to pay for his burial in the European cemetery at Assiout.