B Initiatives and Growth A
in Baffin Operations, 1963–1964
Shortly after my return to Ottawa from Baffin Island in September 1963, I was invited by Dr. van Steenburgh for a personal consultation. I knew it would relate to his surprise message to me at Fox-2 about Norman Nicholson’s sabbatical leave. He asked if I would be willing to serve as acting director of the branch until Norman’s position became clear, although he sensed a strong possibility that the director’s move to the University of Western Ontario would be permanent. He explained that accepting this position would limit my Baffin Island field activity and involve a considerable increase in responsibility, both national and international. He expressed regret for my youthfulness and lack of experience with upper levels of the civil service. The Geographical Branch, Dr. Van said, had been in an equivocal situation ever since its creation in 1947 and several sources within the government even opposed its continued existence. On the contrary, he believed that such an institution was of considerable value, and he would do all he could to support it, but he warned me that he would turn sixty-five—the compulsory retirement age—in less than three years. Assuming that Norman remained in academia, I would have limited time in which to build an institution strong enough to withstand the pressures for its dismemberment. In effect, my acceptance of his offer, he said, might leave me in an ambiguous position, perhaps for as long as a year. Yet, despite the considerable challenges I would experience, Dr. Van thought I was the most suitable candidate immediately available; assuming the decision would be a difficult one for me, he offered me a week to think it over.
I replied that I would give him an answer immediately if he could grant a single condition. This produced both a grin and a quizzical expression. I asked if I could interpret the term “acting” to mean that I was free to act. He laughed heartily and replied that I was already living up to his expectations. I thanked him for his confidence, shook his hand, and staggered back to my office in a daze. Once there, anxious that my uncharacteristically nervous reaction would be too conspicuous, I told Lil Murray, my secretary, that I felt unwell and would take the rest of the day off—a hard ploy to pull considering that I hadn’t missed a single day since my initial appointment. And I certainly couldn’t fail to notice her bemused expression as I left. I hurried home across the park at Dow’s Lake and broke the news to Pauline.
I thus began the 1963–1964 winter in a quandary: How to continue the expansion of the Baffin Island project while at the same time accelerating my efforts to develop and strengthen the Geographical Branch as a whole? This was exacerbated, of course, by the question of how much of any “progress” could be retained in the event that Dr. Nicholson should return. Also, as acting director I would inherit a number of serious responsibilities. These included the positions of chair of the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names,1 secretary of the National Committee of the International Geographical Union (IGU),2 government representative to the Pan-American Institute of Geography and History (Organization of American States), and sundry civil service interdepartmental committees. Dr. van Steenburgh further insisted that I must represent the Geographical Branch at the International Geographical Congress, scheduled for August 1964 in London. This alone would probably rule out working on Baffin Island the next summer.
In addition to the international and interdepartmental responsibilities, I hoped to reorganize the publication of the Geographical Bulletin, the centrepiece of the branch’s publication system, by converting it to a peer-reviewed quarterly journal. I wanted to work with Gerry Fremlin, the branch’s senior expert on atlases, who was determined to reorient and rejuvenate the National Atlas program. Yet another concern was the creation of a national advisory committee on geographical research that ought to strengthen the extra-departmental relations of the branch, particularly with the universities. Ideally, it would have representatives from universities, government, and industry, with funding adequate to provide research grants for academic geographers. And during the alternate Monday morning meetings in Dr. van Steenburgh’s office with the other five departmental branch directors, there was always the prospect of new initiatives and additional responsibilities.
This situation, together with the management of a staff now approaching a hundred persons, would require a delicate balancing act between Ottawa-based duties and Baffin Island fieldwork. Nevertheless, the winter proved not only challenging but enjoyable, although I felt a great sense of relief on April 16, 1964, when Dr. van Steenburgh informed me that Dr. Nicholson had submitted a written resignation and would remain on the faculty at the University of Western Ontario. He asked if I still would like a permanent appointment as director; if so, he would make a formal announcement forthwith. I did not hesitate. While my relationship with Norman had been a very complex one, and I had not received a word from him all winter, he had already made a significant contribution to the development of my career.
A bridge too far?
During the 1963–1964 winter, my main objectives were achieved or their subsequent realization assured. The transformation of the Geographical Bulletin was well underway. The legal and administrative work for the national advisory committee on geographical research was completed, and it was formally established by governmental Order in Council on April 14, 1965. And coincident with the use of a diagrammatic form of Champlain’s astrolabe for the cover of the Geographical Bulletin, a large metal shield was designed and mounted in a prominent location high on the wall above Booth Street. (Fig. 21) This had required the express support of Dr. van Steenburgh. A new addition to the branch’s atlas program was approved and work was already in progress. Reorganization of the Geographical Branch was well underway, and I was delighted to realize that most of the staff were enthusiastic.
This great feeling of progress, however, was somewhat offset by an invitation to a private meeting with Dr. James (Jim) Harrison, GSC director, immediately after receiving the news that Dr. Nicholson had resigned. Dr. Harrison observed that I had been presented with a great opportunity that could also solve the problem of overlap between the GSC Pleistocene Geology Section and my commitments to geomorphology and glaciology. He explained that he could arrange for the amalgamation of both groups to form a new “Division of Quaternary Geology” and that he had sounded out the senior geologists who would be involved and they would welcome me as division chief.3 Furthermore, because several of the Geographical Branch’s economic geographers had resigned for academic appointments, the vacated positions could be used to recruit additional scientists for the proposed new geological division. He insisted that I was not a geographer but a geologist; what was more, the chance to become a division chief in the GSC was surely the opportunity of a lifetime, especially for someone in the relatively early stages of his career. He topped this off with a personal commitment to support my future plans for Baffin Island.
Dr. Harrison volunteered that he had discussed his proposition with Dr. Van, who had said he would leave the decision to me. Jim was paying me a considerable compliment and was very disappointed when I refused. I tried to explain that I could not regard myself as a geologist, and in any event, such a move was politically impossible for me as it would be regarded as a betrayal by all Canadian academic geographers. My rejoinder that the Pleistocene geologists were welcome to move into the Geographical Branch produced a friendly chuckle, with the admonition that they would never want to be called geographers. The game was tied. Despite this “merger and acquisition” attempt, and repeated ideological clashes in ensuing years, however, my relationship with Jim Harrison remained convivial throughout my time as director, and for decades after I left the civil service.4 Nonetheless, this meeting did not bode well for the survival of a geographical entity within the federal bureaucracy. At the time, I convinced myself that the Geographical Branch would pull through, although I had not yet come to appreciate the full significance of Dr. Van’s statement about his pending retirement. Meanwhile, because I considered that the confidence and enthusiasm of branch personnel were essential to the branch’s continued existence, I decided to take on the additional psychological burden of keeping my worst fears to myself.
Preparations for the 1964 Baffin Island field program
By mid-winter, it was already time to prepare for the next summer’s fieldwork in Baffin Island. The scale of operations was to be further expanded, and I accepted that I would not be able to go myself. An experienced field researcher was needed, therefore, to take on the role of expedition leader and perhaps, eventually, to take my place as chief of the Division of Physical Geography.
The outstanding choice for expedition leader was Dr. Olav H. Løken. He was then associate professor of geography at Queen’s University, in Kingston. He had had experience in the Antarctic during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) (1957–1958) and we had worked well together during the 1958–1959 winter at the McGill Sub-Arctic Research Lab. Also, he had completed three seasons of excellent fieldwork in the Torngat Mountains, a place always close to my heart. I pinned my hopes on his finding the opportunity for research in Baffin Island a stimulating extension to his Labrador work. The first step was straightforward: would he consider one of the branch summer positions intended for university faculty, which would enable him to begin his own research in the eastern fiords of Baffin, as well as accepting overall leadership responsibility? His agreement was very welcome; after my confirmation as branch director in April, I was able to suggest that Olav consider replacing me as division chief on a permanent basis.
Concurrent with Olav’s growing involvement, John Andrews had requested a year’s leave so that he could begin his doctoral studies. The University of Nottingham (U.K.) and the supervision of Dr. Cuchlaine King was a natural choice.5 I encouraged John to apply for a National Research Council scholarship, which he was awarded and which I was able to supplement with a year’s leave from the branch on half salary. This gave him the equivalent of a full salary at a time when Canada’s academic and research pay scales were higher than those in the United Kingdom. John’s year at Nottingham would also strengthen the link with Cuchlaine and, given his three successful field seasons in Baffin Island, he would be able to complete his doctorate within a single academic year.
Representing the Geographical Branch at the IGU London conference
From April onwards, my pace of life accelerated. Brian Sagar, with six assistants, left for Fox-2 and the Barnes Ice Cap on May 10, 1964. Olav Løken set out in the same direction on June 15. Olav organized what became a major change of focus, emphasizing research in the mountains and fiords of the northeast, which would be supported by a new, well-equipped permanent base camp to be built at the head of Inugsuin Fiord. In the meantime, on Dr. Van’s insistence, I made plans to represent the Geographical Branch at the International Geographical Congress in London. The very influential contacts that I made there proved a great help to my later career, although that was far beyond the reach of my imagination at the time (Ives, 2013).
In London, I was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed as an “up-and-coming” geographer by several senior British geographers whose names had been familiar from my undergraduate days, in the early 1950s. For instance, Lord Dudley Stamp introduced me to Dr. Alice Coleman, director of the Land Use Survey of Britain, and I was later able to invite her to spend a sabbatical year at the Geographical Branch in Ottawa. Another contact that turned out to be even more important was my reunion with Roger Barry, one of the 1957–1958 winter team at the McGill Lab, who was then teaching at Southampton University; consequently, he spent his 1966–1967 sabbatical leave as a guest of the Geographical Branch. Dudley Stamp also introduced me to Professor Carl Troll from Bonn, West Germany, the outgoing president of the IGU, and to Soviet academician Innokentiy Gerasimov, the society’s president-elect.6 Gerasimov and Troll were later very influential in my election as chair of the IGU Commission on High-Altitude Geoecology.
Hilda Richardson, secretary-general of the British Glaciological Society (which in 1977 became the International Glaciological Society), organized a party for all attending glaciologists in the grounds of the London Zoo. Amid seemingly unlimited quantities of white wine and conviviality—as well as many curious four-footed, feathered, and web-footed friends—we talked well into the night and established many new liaisons. On reflection following my return to Ottawa, I came to understand what Dr. Van had been thinking when he insisted I go to the London congress. The benefits were many and continued to unfold throughout my entire career (Ives, 2013).
1964 Baffin Island summer fieldwork
In many ways, the 1964 season marked a major turning point in the Baffin Island project. Initially, due to a shortage of time, Olav Løken could be employed only in a summer faculty position. However, it was assumed that his new leadership appointment with the branch would become permanent, so his formal application documents were filed in Ottawa to be processed while he was in the North. Nevertheless, he assumed the key leadership role from the moment he left Ottawa. Although the overall aims of the Baffin project remained unchanged, the onset of the 1964 season saw its emphasis shift strongly toward the eastern mountains and fiords.
Olav selected an ideal site for a permanent base, at the head of Inugsuin Fiord. It was centrally located for operations within the fiords and along the outer coast, both north and south from Clyde Inlet, as well as for the Barnes Ice Cap. Fox-3 (Mid-Baffin, or Dewar Lakes), rather than Fox-2, became the closest DEW Line station to Inugsuin Fiord and thus now served as our main logistical hub. It also provided good access, along with Fox-2, to areas farther west that would come under study in future years. By this time, the Baffin Island project seemed to be sufficiently well entrenched that a “permanent” base camp at the head of Inugsuin Fiord was eminently reasonable.
The designation of the years 1965–1975 as the International Hydrological Decade (IHD), another United Nations (UNESCO) attempt to augment international scientific cooperation, provided an impetus for glaciological studies. It justified another increase in both our budget and our staff, necessary if Canada was to play an effective role in the glaciological aspects of hydrology. Dr. Van supported an enlarged research program on the assumption that snow and ice were, without doubt, essential elements of the hydrological cycle, especially in a northern country such as Canada. The additional resources facilitated expansion of the work on the Barnes Ice Cap and the Lewis Glacier as well as preparations to expand the glaciological program into the eastern mountains and fiords.
Olav consequently began to plan a glaciological transect across the eastern Canadian Arctic at middle-high latitudes through the heart of our Baffin field area; this would complement Fritz Müller’s work on Axel Heiberg Island, now in its fifth year, as well as the Arctic Institute’s work on Devon Island and in the Yukon. On Gunnar Østrem’s urging, Olav and I were also encouraged to argue that any national program must include a transect across Canada’s western mountains: the Rockies and Coast Ranges from Alberta to Vancouver Island. There should also be a firm commitment to produce a national glacier inventory. These additional components to the Baffin Island undertakings became important elements of Gunnar Østrem’s responsibilities as head of the Glaciology Section of the Division of Physical Geography the following year.
Brian Sagar’s ice cap group left Ottawa in mid-May by commercial flight and flew from Sept-Îles by chartered DC-3 on ski-wheels direct to Fox-2. The DC-3 was retained to deliver supplies to the site of the new Inugsuin base camp as well as to the field parties at the north end of the Barnes Ice Cap. A Beaver on ski-wheels reached Fox-2 on May 24, the day before the DC-3’s charter ended and it was due to head south.
This was the second season that Chris Bridge was Brian’s assistant on the ice cap. Chris was to play a prominent role later in the summer. Dave Harrison, Mike Church, and Bill Rannie, by now “old hands,” reached Fox-2 on May 28. Jim Peterson, Martin Barnett, and Tim Fielding—graduates of the McGill Sub-Arctic Research Lab who had obtained their first wilderness experience in Labrador-Ungava, with Ed Smith and Bruce Smithson—arrived on June 10, along with newcomers D. B. Fish and B. Trnavskis. Olav, with Pat Webber and his botanist assistant, John Morse, arrived on June 15. The remaining assistants included Angus Cherrington, D. J. Perraton, and Peter Hall, bringing the total to eighteen, plus the aircrew.
Once again, the scale of operations had grown and, although the planning for complicated field logistics had been fine-tuned over previous years, a remarkably cool season somewhat crimped the anticipated scale of the results. Nevertheless, significant advances were made in terms of linking sections of the Cockburn Moraine formation to isostatic changes in sea level during the later phases of the “last” ice age. Olav was enthusiastic about the potential for future work in the fiords and along the outer Baffin Bay coast.
Toward a permanent base camp at Inugsuin Fiord
Construction of the new base camp at the head of Inugsuin Fiord got underway in late May. Two large double-walled tents were erected with wooden frames. A small A-frame hut, prefabricated in Ottawa to Gunnar’s specifications, consisted of tongue-in-groove boards and was easily put together in the field. The department’s equipment store managed to escape Gunnar’s eagle eye, however, mysteriously producing a structure that was much higher than the design he had drawn up. While it provided welcome extra storage space under the unexpectedly high peaked roof, heavy guy-wires were needed to counteract the structure’s increased wind resistance. To ensure extreme tent anchorage, the Atlas Copco portable pneumatic drill was used to drill holes through large boulders, for grounding the guys. Two boats were added to the growing mass of equipment: a six-metre aluminum vessel and a four-metre rubber boat, both with 10-horsepower outboard motors. The boats were also equipped with oars and were of great value for crossing the fiord once the ice had dispersed sufficiently.
This year, Brian moved from his usual base on the crest of the Barnes Ice Cap to its northern margin. Here he was within easy walking distance of the Flitaway Lake and Lewis River camps where Gunnar was instructing the student assistants to measure the discharge of the very turbulent Lewis River in addition to setting up an expanded stake network on the glacier with which to record the rate of ice melt. Brian’s group, whenever they had time to spare, provided additional help for what was a very labour-intensive undertaking. Brian also extended the micro-meteorological network from the ice cap up the slope of the nearby hill. And once the meteorological instruments were functioning, he arranged for daily radio transfer of weather data to Frobisher via the Clyde River station, a practice that was much appreciated by the Department of Transport and the DEW Line. Chris Bridge, now well trained and familiar with the “met” instrumentation, took full responsibility for the ice cap work for the rest of the season, giving Brian a chance to return to Ottawa for the joyful event of his marriage to Norma.
Before the field parties left Ottawa for Baffin Island, it had been suggested that an attempt should be made to record some of the operations on colour movie film. To this purpose, when it was discovered that one of the students recruited as a Baffin field assistant, Angus Cherrington, was a semi-professional photographer with some experience with cine-photography, the plan was put into effect. A Bell and Howell 16mm cine-camera was purchased and Angus was asked to shoot some footage of the expedition insofar as his glaciological commitments permitted. Once the film had been developed and we had screened the results in Ottawa the following fall, it was seen to be so impressive that I regretted Angus had not been appointed solely as expedition movie photographer. There are always lessons to be learned.
A small glacier situated on the opposite side of Inugsuin Fiord from base camp had been identified from air photographs as a possibility for intensive study as part of our planned contribution to the IHD program. Olav made a field inspection early in the season and confirmed that it was a good choice; it was later officially named Decade Glacier. Ablation stakes were installed up to a height of 888 metres asl and, for the period from August 1 to 24, net ablation ranging from 325 millimetres to 40 millimetres was recorded along the vertical profile. Bill Rannie was flown over from the Lewis River camp to reconnoitre the glacier’s meltwater stream for possible hydrological studies and site selection for automatic gauging stations. A large number of glacier photographs were taken throughout the nearer fiords and mountains, to be added to the branch’s glacier inventory. Olav made a special flight to the area around Sam Ford Fiord and Walker Arm to extend this undertaking.
Interpretation of the relationships between late ice age glacier retreat and changing sea level was greatly enhanced by Olav’s identification of a large complex beach deposit at the head of Inugsuin Fiord. He studied the stratigraphy through almost one thousand metres of silt, sand, gravel, and pebble layers, tracing many of the specific strata to their respective former sea levels, from which seashells were collected for radiocarbon dating (Løken, 1965). This was the first systematic study of glacier moraine/sea level relationships in the eastern Canadian Arctic, and it provided a vital base for more extensive studies in following years.
Plant ecology and vegetation benchmarking
Pat Webber, assisted by John Morse, completed his second season with the Geographical Branch operation. His work had already shown the value of both interdisciplinary studies and government-university collaboration. It had deepened our understanding of lichenometry and resulted in publication, with John Andrews, of several academic papers on this topic as well as the application and refinement of Roland Beschel’s pioneering studies. Pat had also added to the knowledge of the plant ecology and plant geography of the region, which became the topic of his doctoral dissertation at Queen’s University some time later. In particular, he had greatly expanded the known range of many plant species, including Carex gynocrates, C. glacialis, Woodsia alpina, and Puccinella andersonii. Some of these were found more than two hundred and as much as seven hundred kilometres beyond their previously known limits (see chapter 11).
One of the most remarkable of Pat’s achievements, for the time, was the somewhat inadvertent establishment of a huge permanent vegetation benchmark for longterm determination of the effects of climate change on plant growth and species composition. He had set up almost a hundred permanently marked vegetation quadrats at varying distances from the 1963 northwestern margins of the Barnes Ice Cap, from which he archived an extensive data bank. It was inadvertent because Pat was pursuing hypotheses about the nature of the Arctic plant community per se rather than about plant succession on ageing surfaces or under a changing climate regime. It proved possible to revisit most of the quadrat sites and repeat the original observations up to, and even beyond, fifty years later. To this were added summer climate data. By the time of the Fourth International Polar Year (2007–2009), it proved possible to relate an increase in number of plant species, percentage of ground cover, and enhanced plant growth to the influence of a warming climate in combination with lapsed time since the various sites were exposed following retreat of the margins of the ice cap. This important result is discussed in greater detail in the concluding chapter of this book (P. J. Webber, personal communication, October 2010).
The 1964 season proved to be very successful, despite the unusually cool weather, which restricted aircraft operations. There was one potentially serious incident: once again a Beaver on pontoons hit a floating piece of ice while taking off from Flitaway Lake, on August 10. The pontoons were so badly punctured that the plane sank on landing at Fox-2. However, no one was injured, and the readily accessible DEW Line heavy equipment ensured that the Beaver was back in operation within two days.
This incident greatly reinforced the early awareness of the need for helicopters. On their return to Ottawa, Olav and Brian raised with me the question of whether the approaching IHD program would justify the necessary increase in budget. I decided that the occasion was ripe for once again approaching Dr. Van. This proved successful, and a large increase in budget was approved to allow for helicopter operations to coincide with the start of the IHD program the following year.
During the early summer of 1964, an entire building—fifteen metres by five metres—for the Inugsuin base camp was prefabricated in Ottawa in time for it to be loaded onto the government icebreaker CCGS John A. Macdonald in Montreal. It consisted of three rooms: a dining room with fully equipped kitchen, a laboratory-library–reading room, and a sleeping room with six double bunks. Very firmly constructed, it was wired for electricity to be provided by a field generator. The John A. was able to sail up the entire length of Inugsuin Fiord during early September, after resupplying the small settlement of Clyde River. All the material was unloaded within a few paces of the pre-selected construction site. There were also two more prefabricated A-frame huts, one destined to be lifted by helicopter the following summer, together with freeze-dried food and aviation fuel, to a point high on the Decade Glacier. These buildings and helicopter support would provide an unprecedented facility upon which to substantially enlarge our field operations. The main building at the head of the fiord stood up to the severe weather of fall and winter for many years and was used by Inuit spring hunting parties from Clyde River for decades after it had fulfilled its primary function.
Winning the struggle for gender equality in the Arctic
As I witnessed the incorporation of more than a dozen university undergraduates and graduates into Geographical Branch summer work in the Arctic, I became increasingly concerned that women students were still entirely prohibited. This contrasted with my earlier experience in a university environment. Women had worked out as well as men in isolated field situations in Labrador-Ungava, though they all had been wives (Ives, 2010). Perhaps more relevant, women had made contributions fully equal to those of men with me on the University of Nottingham expeditions to southeast Iceland in 1953 and 1954.
I broached the topic with Bob Code, departmental director of personnel, and Jim Harrison regarding the GSC’s policy, questioning the reasons for denying field experience to women. Jim expressed strong opposition, explaining that the GSC would never allow women on field surveys. His main point was that it would pose “family-related” problems. Women whose geologist husbands were frequently away from home, for three months or more at a time, were single-handedly running the household and taking care of children; some wives, at least, would not tolerate mixed field parties—so went the argument. The inclusion of women geology students would also greatly complicate logistics.
Bob Code took a different tack. He first insisted that women simply were not physically strong enough to operate effectively under rugged field conditions, often in extreme isolation. I countered this from personal experience: Pauline, my wife, had been with me for three long summers in central and northeastern Labrador-Ungava, as had Inger Marie Løken with Olav, and my undergraduate tutor Dr. Cuchlaine King, along with two Cambridge University undergraduate women, had squarely matched the men in performance in Iceland under physically demanding conditions. Next, Bob put forward those old fallback arguments: field toilet facilities and our dependency on overnight stays at DEW Line stations would place any woman at risk of harassment, or at least embarrassment. I again countered with my 1958 experience at the isolated Department of Transport (DOT) weather station on Indian House Lake in central Labrador-Ungava. Up there, the five permanent male staff, who were alone for up to six months at a time, put on white shirts and ties and decorated their dinner table with white linen in response to an unplanned visit of a mixed group that I had arranged from Schefferville.
Eventually, I related that Cuchlaine King had achieved international recognition for her publications in geomorphology and glaciology, including major textbooks, and that she had the experience to make an important contribution to the Baffin Island project. At this point, it was finally agreed that an exception could be made in her case. Adroitly seizing the advantage, I followed up by insisting that it would be totally “improper” if she did not have two women students as tent companions and field assistants.
And so the barrier was breached, initially as an exception for Cuchlaine. From then on, recruitment of women for summer field party positions became an annual event, but only within the Geographical Branch.7 Cuchlaine arrived in Ottawa in mid-May 1965 and with her usual enthusiasm began to prepare for flying north in late June.
The struggle with the higher powers I have just related, however, had been made the more difficult because of an earlier tragic event involving the loss of two women graduate students in the Arctic. In 1960, Anne-Marie Krüger, a McGill graduate student and colleague of mine, was trying to arrange for independent fieldwork along the northern shore of Great Bear Lake, in the Northwest Territories. To augment her limited financial resources based on an AINA grant, her research supervisor, Professor J. Brian Bird, and Mike Marsden, director of the AINA Montreal office, had been able to persuade Dr. Nicholson to provide additional support. This was accomplished by seconding one of the graduate women who had been recruited for summer employment at the branch, Joan Goodfellow, to accompany Anne-Marie as field assistant. This arrangement had also justified provision of federal financial support, although Joan’s participation was classified as fieldwork undertaken through the Arctic Institute rather than the Geographical Branch. Both drowned in a canoe accident. Joan’s father was a Member of Parliament and the episode had even been raised on the Hill, where there was general opposition to the notion of women working in the Arctic.8
Branch expansion from an unexpected source
The 1964–1965 winter also saw the creation of a new toponymy (place name) division within the branch, composed of several geographers from the regular staff and the former Surveys and Mapping Branch toponymy support staff. The latter’s responsibility had been to provide assistance to the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names. Since the establishment of the Geographical Branch in 1947, its director had served as chair of this national naming committee, whose members were appointed by each of the provinces, the Yukon and Northwest Territories (as a prerogative of the federal Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources), and several other federal units, including Surveys and Mapping and the Geological Survey. The new arrangement appeared as a useful rationalization, and Dr. J. Keith Fraser of the Geographical Branch became chief of the toponymy division. It added a significant place-name research arm. Considering the size of Canada, and especially its vast Arctic and Subarctic territories, processing the hundreds of new names that were submitted every year was heavy work. Each had to be scrutinized for correct derivation and its accordance with the quite formidable “rules of nomenclature.” For instance, names of living persons were strictly proscribed, with very rare exceptions.9
Yet another step forward: A peer-reviewed quarterly publication
Another of my initiatives, as mentioned earlier, was the conversion of the Geographical Bulletin from its old format as an in-house occasional publication to a peer-reviewed quarterly. This involved a total redesign—including a new cover featuring Champlain’s astrolabe10—as well as setting up the international editorial review board and producing four issues a year tied to a strict schedule. The senior departmental editor, friend, advisor, and cynic Doug Shenstone, assured me that the proposed production schedule would never be met within the chaotic federal government bureaucracy. He was very nearly correct, as the third issue of 1965, our first year, was perforce numbered “3 and 4.”
I certainly did not regard these accumulating responsibilities as unfortunate distractions from the main objective: Baffin Island. For these and the many other tasks of branch director, a certain high degree of stamina was required. But there were also fascinating distractions—some, of course, being merely coffee-break accounts. One of my favourites was a toponymic conundrum. A time-honoured and somewhat sarcastic place name proposed by a Royal Navy captain during the golden age of the Empire’s penetration of the Canadian North could not be fitted onto a modern map. Should the very verbose name be “edited” or eliminated? It was, after all, “The Sons of the Clergy of the Episcopal Church of Scotland Islands.”11
And so the 1965 Baffin Island field season approached. It seemed we were at the crest of a wave: we had the powerful support of Dr. Van, a rapidly expanding Glaciology Section, a quarterly journal, prospects for a politically important national advisory committee on geographical research, the stirrings of enthusiasm throughout the organization, a breakthrough for women in Arctic fieldwork, growing international and national recognition, and above all, a greatly expanded Baffin Island operation—interdisciplinary, international in tone, and finally anticipating full helicopter support.