B Reconnaissance 1961 A
Learning about Airborne Support
At last we were approaching the site selected for our base camp. The atmosphere in the cockpit was tense. Frank Ross, the pilot of our chartered Wheeler Airlines single-engine de Havilland Otter, was quietly cursing the deteriorating weather ahead. As a rank novice at this game, I felt nervous anticipation mounting as we gradually had to creep below the lowering cloud base. So it was with immense relief when, at 8:55 p.m. on June 15, 1961, Frank gently touched the plane’s skis down into the mush of melting snow on the still ice-covered expanse of water I later named Rimrock Lake. We had reached latitude 71°41' N, some forty kilometres north of the Barnes Ice Cap, after a speedy journey by air from Ottawa. Only the day before, we had flown from Montreal, via Fort Chimo and Frobisher, to the DEW Line site at Longstaff Bluff (Fox-2). Now we would find out if the preparations of the previous winter in Ottawa, nearly three thousand kilometres to the south, had been adequate. This was my first major venture with the Geographical Branch, Ottawa—an examination of the landscape, glacial history, and glaciology of the interior of this little-known Arctic island.
Peter Hill, a junior member of the Geographical Branch staff, and John Andrews, who had spent the 1959–1960 academic year with me as a graduate assistant at the McGill Sub-Arctic Research Lab in central Labrador-Ungava, made up the “northern party.” Peter, although he had no previous field experience, while an undergraduate at McMaster University had developed an enthusiasm for the Arctic from attending lectures by Dr. Hugh Thompson.1 John was my obvious first choice as summer graduate student assistant because of his highly relevant experience on the Labrador coast the previous year and his 1959–1960 winter at the McGill Lab. Dr. Victor (Vic) Sim, also of the Geographical Branch staff, who had experience in the Canadian Arctic, and his summer graduate assistant, Claude Lamothe, constituted the “southern party.” They were to work across the waist of Baffin Island south of the Barnes Ice Cap from bases at the DEW Line stations of Longstaff Bluff (Fox-2) and Dewar Lakes (Fox-3). We had planned a three-month reconnaissance to be followed by a series of larger parties in successive years if this first summer proved successful.
Frank taxied through the wet snow and standing water as close to the southern shore of the lake as he thought wise; a moat of open water seemed to follow the lake’s entire perimeter and we were concerned that the thick lake ice might be afloat. Frank and I off-loaded two 45-gallon drums of aviation fuel, tents, and an assortment of crates containing food. Within fifteen minutes, we were taxiing for takeoff in rapidly deteriorating weather, returning to Longstaff Bluff for the second load, which would include John and Peter and the rest of the equipment. But that second trip was not to be. Fog was rapidly enveloping the Foxe Basin coast. An optimistic start to the season in terms of reaching our chosen base camp was to be set back several days.
Air photo studies and origins of the Baffin project
The notion of a venture into the interior of north-central Baffin Island had been maturing in my mind for several years. During the 1956–1957 winter, I had been a member of a small research team of AINA, working under contract with the Canadian Hydrographic Service. Our task had been to produce a manuscript for a new edition of the Pilot of Arctic Canada (Canadian Hydrographic Service, 1959). The work included extensive air photo interpretation of all the Canadian Arctic coastal characteristics. I had been allotted Baffin Island (amongst other areas) by our team leader, retired Royal Navy Captain R. M. Southern.2 In light of my strong personal interest in the history of glaciation, this tempted me to make occasional photographic excursions inland from the coastline, while dodging the disciplinary eye of Capt. Southern.
In the process, I spotted three sets of intriguing features on the air photos. The first was a massive set of glacial moraines extending more than eight hundred kilometres; they were situated inland of, and parallel to, the heads of the fiords that cut through the coastal belt of mountains forming the northeastern section of the island. Moraine offshoots streamed down the steep slopes and along the sides of many of the fiords.
The second feature was a pattern of light- and dark-toned areas that extended from the northeastern mountain rim across the inland plateau north of the Barnes Ice Cap; the area lies far to the north of the Arctic treeline, and the pattern could not easily be explained by assuming that it represented different types of vegetation. It appeared to be related to a combination of topography and direction of the prevailing wind. (Fig. 2) From the confines of the National Air Photo Library, I had speculated that the pattern was related to the deposition of wind-blown snow or sand and that it decidedly warranted investigation. One strikingly regular feature of the light-toned area was the linear coincidence with what appeared to be the shoreline of a former ice-dammed lake that extended more than eighty kilometres.
The third set of conspicuous features, north of the Barnes Ice Cap, was a series of hundreds of small linear forms trending perpendicular to the major valleys; they appeared to be confined below the shoreline of the former ice-dammed lake. (Fig. 3) These landforms, when added to the other two sets of features, appeared to offer great potential for preliminary field investigation that was literally staring me in the face, through my stereoscope.
These somewhat incidental interpretations remained intriguing, fixed in the back of my mind, along with a question: How on earth can I get there to take a look? The thoughts kept resurfacing during my three years (1957–1960) as field director of the McGill Lab3 located on the edge of the new iron ore mining town of Schefferville and close to the geographic centre of the Labrador-Ungava peninsula.
During my time at the McGill Lab, I had begun to formulate a long-term study of the glacial history of the peninsula (Ives, 1960b, 2010). I speculated on the relevance of the tentative air photo interpretation in Baffin Island to an understanding that was arising from the lab’s field program in Labrador-Ungava. During the Abisko Symposium of the 1960 International Geographical Congress in northern Scandinavia, I discussed with Professor Gunnar Hoppe, the symposium leader, the apparently similar pattern of glacial features in all three areas. More than ever, I was convinced of the value of familiarization with the recent research by Swedish and Norwegian scholars.
I entered Canadian government service in September 1960, following my visit to Sweden and Norway, and moved to Ottawa with my family. My duties at the Geographical Branch involved much more, of course, than preparations for a series of expeditions to Baffin Island. In practice, Dr. Nicholson wanted me to assist him in a total reassessment of the aims and structure of the branch. This was set in motion shortly after my arrival. However, I did have sufficient time for a reconnaissance-level air photo interpretation of almost all of Baffin Island. I followed up by reading all the scientific literature and finding that it was by no means extensive.
And so the winter of 1960–1961 passed quickly. The Geographical Branch had moved into an impressive new building during the previous spring and summer, adjacent to the GSC and the Surveys and Mapping Branch, which included the National Air Photo Library. I was well placed to spend time inspecting recently acquired air photos of Baffin Island. And with a view to the larger objectives of the planned long-term field research, I encouraged both George Falconer and Benoit Robitaille of the regular branch staff, who were accompanying government icebreakers down the coast of Baffin Island, to make spot landings wherever possible. This was to check for the existence of raised marine features and the marine limit down the entire east coast.
The first half of the battle: Getting there
Now, after the winter’s preparation, we were on the threshold of our new enterprise. Peter Hill and Claude Lamothe had preceded John Andrews and me by six days to make sure that all the equipment and food, sent in advance, had been safely transferred to Fox-2. Vic Sim had left two days before us, taking a direct flight from Montreal to Hall Beach (site of Fox-Main station) on the Melville Peninsula and thence eastward along the DEW Line across Foxe Basin to Fox-2. I had chosen the alternative route via Frobisher Bay (Iqaluit) so that we could pick up our chartered ski-equipped Otter there, fly directly to Fox-2, meet up with the rest of our party, and, we hoped, continue in two or three Otter-loads to Rimrock Lake, about two hundred kilometres farther north. These were highly optimistic logistical plans that came off with remarkable precision, that is, until the second and subsequent loads between Fox-2 and Rimrock Lake.
We were firmly stuck at Fox-2 waiting for the weather. June 16 was a day of fog and cold light rain, forcing us to enjoy the luxuries that the DEW Line provided to their otherwise isolated station crew: table tennis, eight-ball pool, the latest movies on reel-to-reel projectors, and excellent food, plus outstanding camaraderie with the establishment. The station chief proved to be a larger-than-life character. Lou Riccaboni (a former RAF Battle of Britain Spitfire Wing Commander with a handlebar moustache) expressed great interest in our plans and promised full support, saying he would provide his personal attention and would relay our proposed weekly radio messages from our remote field bases to Ottawa.
Another day of light rain and fog followed, with the temperature reaching 5°C. Our pilot, Frank Ross, was becoming decidedly edgy, anticipating landing with skis on the waterlogged snow of our ice-bound lake. When the fog lifted the following morning and the cloud base had risen to about one thousand metres, he was anxious to “give it a try.” John and I, with as much extra equipment as could be packed into the Otter, were down on the airstrip (we were using combination wheel-skis) and belted into our seats by mid-morning. Soon we were flying low over the almost totally snowbound land along the western edge of the Barnes Ice Cap. The farther north we progressed, the lower the cloud base until, toward the north end of the ice cap, we could barely make out the general lie of the land. Farther north in the direction we thought would take us to Rimrock Lake, Frank circled for about twenty minutes in an almost complete whiteout, hardly catching even a glimpse of the ground. We abandoned hope of a landing and returned to Fox-2.
After another day of forced rest we finally reached our base camp. The morning of June 19 provided clear weather but with a wretched stiff crosswind. With the progression of the rapid melt, I began to worry that I would have to plead with Ottawa for extra funding to charter a helicopter—a very expensive recourse. Vic Sim arrived in the early afternoon, after several days’ delay at Hall Beach. Now the entire party was together at Fox-2. Our meeting with Vic was brief, however, as the wind had dropped and Frank was more than anxious to complete his mission to Rimrock Lake and head back to Frobisher Bay.
Frank circled the lake with apprehension. He had anticipated a lot of standing water, but he made a run in toward the shore and reached a spot within a few metres of our cache. Fortunately—and to our surprise—most of the snow had melted, and the standing water had almost entirely drained off. At five o’clock we were hastily unloading. Twenty minutes later, John and I watched the Otter take off again and head back to Fox-2 to pick up Peter and our final load. John and I began a wet-footed slog to take as much of our equipment as possible off the ice and onto a small rocky point at the southeast corner of the lake, a distance of about three hundred metres (Map 3).
The entire area around the lake appeared to be mantled with a thick layer of angular boulders, nearly completely snow-covered and with some of the worst possible terrain for walking. The prospects for a reasonable campsite appeared grim. We searched diligently but failed to find a spot where we could pitch even one of our small mountain tents without laborious effort.
The Otter reappeared at 8:30 p.m. Peter and our remaining equipment were quickly off-loaded. Frank helped us set up the radio antenna and establish our first Fox-2 contact with station chief Lou Riccaboni. Lou’s voice nearly split my eardrums, so clear was the radio contact: “Fox-2 receiving you loud and clear. Wizard prang, old chap, all’s well and I will relay your weekly message to Ottawa every successive Friday following our sked. Good luck. Over and out.” And so our fine scheduled radio contact continued for the next two Fridays—at “0300 hours zulu” (meaning Greenwich Mean Time in DEW Line lingo).
To our surprise, from July 7 until August 4 there was a month-long total radio blackout. We later learned that the branch head office and my family, come what may, had continued to receive the weekly message from Fox-2 as if I had sent it: “Party all well—Ives.” In this way, Lou had forestalled any unnecessary rescue mission! Because my previous years of fieldwork in Labrador-Ungava had placed my wife and me in isolation without even radio contact with the outside world for much longer periods, I was not perturbed about the radio blackout, nor was John. For Peter, however, on his first Arctic “wilderness” experience, the period of prolonged radio blackout without explanation proved very unnerving. I learned this only later, for there was little indication of his concern at the time. When radio contact was eventually restored, we were told that a period of heavy sunspot activity had disrupted radio communications in a wide area around the North Magnetic Pole.
The Rimrock Lake experience
As we settled into our camp at Rimrock, the infinite silence of the Arctic descended upon us, and there was a pronounced sense of aloneness. A pause for coffee after the Otter’s departing roar had faded far to the south gave us our first chance to contemplate our solitude. We gazed upon a predominantly white landscape. Gently rolling hills were set around the seemingly immense expanse of ice-covered water that was Rimrock Lake. Steep faces of the larger boulders closest to us projected darkly through the snow. On the more distant hills, dark outcrops of steeply sloping rock provided some relief to the all-pervading whiteness that persisted for twenty-four hours a day. A narrow moat of open water traced the margins of the lake for as far as we could see. Fortunately, this moat was superimposed on still-thick lake ice attached to the shore, so we had no problem in getting ourselves and our equipment off the lake. Our only discomforts were wet thighs and very cold toes. In the low sun, we could easily make out the apparently horizontal former lake shoreline above the present lake level approximately five hundred metres asl, as determined from the Otter’s altimeter. We could rest assured that there was something for our investigative curiosity in the wild landscape of boulders, snow, and water.
It was time to set up a tent and roll out sleeping bags on this mattress of boulders. The big tent (a so-called Jutland building with a light metal frame supporting a strong canvas cover) was pitched and camp cots set up on the uneven floor. With these preparations completed, we turned our attention to dragging more of our essential equipment off the lake ice. We had realized that this would be a problem on our first Otter landing and so had asked Frank, our pilot, to pick up two large wooden floats, promised by Lou over the radio from Fox-2. They served a dual purpose—as crude sledges and as a floor for our main tent. Pulling the loaded sledges was very hard going at first, but as midnight approached and the surface began to freeze, it became much easier. So we worked like stevedores until after three in the morning when we collapsed into our sleeping bags for a very rocky “night” of sound sleep.
We awoke late morning to an empty blue sky and a blinding white landscape. The day was spent dragging equipment off the lake and filling canvas buckets with gravel and mud dug out from scattered frost boils that had broken through the boulder field around the campsite. This finer material was used to fill spaces between the boulders that composed our tent floor. The improvement was noticeable once our improvised sleds were converted to tent flooring.
These activities continued for another day. Finally, we wrestled the five forty-five-gallon drums of aviation fuel to the edge of the lake and lashed them together with a length of thick rope that was looped around a large boulder in the hope that this would prevent their escape into open water when the lake ice broke up. By late afternoon on June 21, our base camp was quite liveable. But forty-eight hours of constant sunshine had melted off much of the snowy mantle and, regrettably, had caused uncomfortable sunburn under chins and in nostrils, where we had neglected to apply adequate sunblock.
For the time being, we were restricted to the general vicinity of Rimrock Lake. That would be the situation at least until our chartered Cessna from Bradley Air Services arrived from Ottawa. But was the Cessna actually on its way? We had no way of knowing. We had been without radio contact with Fox-2 for a whole month prior to August 4. On that day we had learned, to our dismay, that the Cessna seemed to have just disappeared somewhere between Ottawa and Baffin Island. Meanwhile, Rimrock Lake had been showing sufficient open water even by July 30 to permit a floatplane to land, so the unaccountable silence and long delay were hard to understand. We had completed a significant amount of fieldwork in the area around Rimrock Lake that was accessible by foot, but with the delay of the floatplane we were losing precious time for inspection of the more distant sites essential to our reconnaissance.
During the early period following establishment of the base camp, our mobility had been severely limited. Snow on top of angular boulders was not only uncomfortable but dangerous for day hiking and backpacking. This was the only time in my life during which I suffered from blistered insteps—the price of constantly balancing on the sharp crests of boulders for long distances. Despite this early difficulty, we identified and precisely surveyed a prominent former lake shoreline 505 metres asl4 and slightly above the level of Rimrock Lake.
With our new automatic Zeiss telescopic level, we established three survey points on sections of the lake shoreline so that they formed the corners of an equilateral triangle with sides fifteen kilometres long. (Map 4) The result showed fairly conclusively that the shoreline of the former glacial lake was horizontal and thus had drained away in the not too distant past. In other words, no detectable isostatic tilt had occurred, implying that the lake had drained hundreds rather than thousands of years ago. I named the feature Glacial Lake Lewis, also for Vaughan Lewis. (Fig. 5) Furthermore, as the snow continued to disappear, and as sunny skies alternated with rain and fog, it became apparent, as I had suspected the previous winter from review of the air photos, that the Glacial Lake Lewis shoreline would be the focal object of our studies. There was a distinct division between large sections of the dark-toned areas (above it) and uninterrupted light-toned areas (below). The explanation became obvious once it was possible to examine the phenomenon on the ground. It resulted from the size (diameter) and degree of cover of rock lichens (principally Rhizocarpon geographicum species). Below the shoreline, the lichen cover was minimal and the individual lichen diameters were no more than a few millimetres, thus giving a very light appearance due to the large proportion of exposed fresh rock surface. However, above the shoreline there was an irregular spread of light- and dark-toned areas, and their distribution appeared to have been influenced by a prevailing northwest wind that had caused wind-drift of snow due to the topography. We could easily imagine great drifts of snow on the lee side of hills and ridges that had persisted through entire summers during some period in the past. Extensive areas of the interior plateau and the slopes of the Baffin Island coastal mountains had been blanketed by thin patches of permanent ice and snow comprising more than half of the total land area.
The next questions were these: At what time had the thin snow and ice cover been formed? And for how long had this period of near-glacierization persisted? The margins of lichen-free areas were studied closely. Numerous counts of the size of individual lichen diameters and their total number, as well as the percentage of lichen cover, were made at numerous sites on each side of this prominent shoreline. I hypothesized that north-central Baffin Island had been on the threshold of “instantaneous glacierization” some two to four hundred years ago (Ives, 1962). Consultation the following winter with Dr. Roland Beschel, the leading lichenologist, would help confirm this interpretation. (Fig. 6)
As walking conditions improved with the now rapid snowmelt, we were able to progress farther and farther afield from base camp. We established light overnight camps up to twenty kilometres to the east, and our small rubber dinghy enabled us to cross the Rimrock River below base camp and examine a long stretch of the north shore of the Isortoq River to our south. We traced other former lake shorelines with glacial lateral deposits at even higher levels, and a series of abandoned lake spillways was located through which these former lakes must have drained. The former drainage pattern led mainly westward, into the upper valley of the Freshney River5 and thence into Foxe Basin. (Fig. 7) Concurrently, we began a detailed study of the fabric of the loose material that comprised the multiple ridges below the Glacial Lake Lewis shoreline. The study was limited by the presence of frozen ground (permafrost) at quite shallow depths. The ridges have since become known as “cross-valley moraines” (Andrews, 1963). (Fig. 8)
To this point, we had at least partially explained the three sets of features that I had originally stumbled across while working on the Arctic Pilot during the 1956–1957 winter in Ottawa. The light- and dark-toned pattern had been produced by differential growth of rock lichens due to different time periods since their emergence from beneath permanent snow, ice, and lake cover. The cross-valley moraines were probably formed by a process of subglacial debris being squeezed up into the basal crevasses beneath the snout of glaciers flowing into ice-dammed lakes. While we had not been able to visit the major moraine system, which would become known as the Cockburn Moraines, we realized that it would be of major importance for unravelling the history of retreat of the last great ice sheet. To attempt ground investigation this year would require a fully operational Cessna while there was still time for more distant fieldwork, before the onset of snowstorms and temperatures low enough to freeze the lakes for another long Baffin winter.
On the exigencies of Arctic bush plane charter
This was the first time in my career that I had had the resources to control use of a bush plane on floats. It was an exciting prospect considering the unexplored interior of Baffin Island and the impressive mountain and fiord landscape along its northeastern rim. However, the long delay and uncertainty of the missing Cessna’s whereabouts was causing a high degree of frustration.
During a desultory attempt on August 4 at 8:00 a.m. to contact Fox-2 by radio, after the month-long silence, we were suddenly startled by a response. All three of us sitting on the edge of Rimrock Lake leapt off the ground in excitement as Vic Sim’s voice came through loud and clear: “Jack, the Cessna has reached Frobisher and is awaiting improvement in the weather for clearance to proceed northward, but we are socked in.” Overwhelming disappointment returned, and the waiting game resumed. A strong southeast wind with intermittent rain and snow had dispatched the remaining lake ice to the northern end of Rimrock Lake, leaving plenty of open water for the Cessna to splash down and so reach us, but a faint radio call in the early evening indicated that the Cessna was still at Frobisher.
The weather rapidly improved all through the day of August 5. We had excellent radio contact with Vic at noon and were delighted to receive an enthusiastic account of the progress of his own fieldwork. I suggested that he and Claude Lamothe visit us as soon as the Cessna was available. By suppertime our weather was clear and sunny. We had packed and were ready for our first planned airborne camp move—to Flitaway Lake6 and the north end of the Barnes Ice Cap.
The morning of August 6 was also perfect for flying, and we had another clear radio contact with Vic. But his news was even more disheartening: apparently the earlier information that the Cessna was at Frobisher was false, and its whereabouts were unknown. Frustrated in our original plans, we spent the day hiking along the main lake shoreline, albeit adding a wealth of minute detail to our notebooks. The walk back to camp in a wind freshening to fifty to sixty kilometres per hour was arduous, and we had to proceed carefully over the unstable boulders so as to avoid broken or sprained ankles.
The first definite but still dismal news of the Cessna reached us on August 8. Vic had phoned Keith Fraser at the Geographical Branch in Ottawa and learned that the Cessna was in fact grounded at Wakeham Bay in northern Quebec. The connection with Keith had been very poor, so Vic was not sure whether the Cessna’s delay was due to mechanical failure or poor weather. But wait! Another radio message was received on August 9 from Vic, reporting mechanical trouble at Wakeham Bay and telling us that a new propeller was being shipped from Ottawa to Fort Chimo. With this truly disappointing news, I asked Vic to enquire about the possible charter of a light aircraft from Wheeler Airlines at Frobisher Bay. However, fog and snow enshrouded us the following day, with visibility ranging from zero to about four hundred metres. Then at 5:00 p.m. came the unexpected news by radio that the Cessna had landed unannounced at Fox-2 mid-afternoon and should arrive at our Rimrock camp in about seventy-five minutes. Would this finally be the day?
We prepared once again for immediate camp transfer and, believe it or not, by 6:30 p.m. we were shaking hands with Vic, Claude, and our newly arrived pilot, Robbie Levesque—the first fresh faces we had seen in seven weeks. Robbie, the cheerful and very youthful pilot, was more than a little abashed over the course of events. He was trying hard to make up for our disappointment with enthusiasm, although it was apparent that he was not at ease with his surroundings. Nonetheless, he proposed to fly immediately with a full load of equipment to Flitaway Lake, some forty kilometres away, and then return for us on subsequent flights. I had a deep-seated premonition that I should insist on accompanying him.
We had requested a pilot also qualified as an aircraft mechanic or engineer as part of the original charter contract. Robbie had no training as a mechanic, and furthermore, no previous bush or Arctic flying experience. He had brought a mechanic with him, Dave McEwen. However, for Dave to fly along in the Cessna on each trip would mean a severely reduced Cessna payload. So on his own initiative, Robbie made arrangements for Dave to remain at Fox-2. The downside was that not only would this setup deprive us of his services for most of the time, but his accommodation fees charged by the DEW Line would make a good-sized dent in our budget.
More disturbing observations now surfaced. It was apparent that the Cessna’s engine was leaking oil and the port pontoon was taking on an uncomfortable amount of water. The starter motor was functioning only intermittently—this meant that, on occasion, the engine could not be started by the pilot from the cockpit but instead with the assistance of some courageous soul standing on the narrow front tip of a pontoon and “swinging” the propeller while balancing just above very cold water. So the process began; after several swings of the prop until the engine eventually fired, I had to crawl along the pontoon with head down so as not to be decapitated by the now accelerating prop and climb into the co-pilot’s seat. A further problem was that the Cessna’s radio was not at all reliable, a feature that came to haunt us later on. This was certainly an unexpected and shaky beginning for my first aircraft charter, but much worse was in store.
At last we were gaining speed across Rimrock Lake and Robbie steadied the Cessna for takeoff. It was very fortunate that the lake extended about five kilometres north to south, as our engine seemed to be significantly underpowered. I seriously thought we would reach the far end—and an abrupt, rocky conclusion to life—before Robbie would manage to get the pontoons off the water. But he literally pulled it off, and there followed an unforgettable low-level flight across such an incredible array of glacial landforms that my earlier frustration was replaced instantly by exhilaration.
Now we were circling Flitaway Lake. (Fig. 9) Robbie thought it rather a small body of water, but there was no other. After quick discussion, a sudden aura of confidence pervaded the cockpit and we decided to put down. There would be no trouble in landing; the test would be on the takeoff.7 After a perfect landing, Robbie shut down the engine and leapt out onto the pontoon, looped a rope around a strut, and readied to jump ashore. I assumed that he was pushing hard to make up for the lost time, but the arrival strategy was planned. The plane’s forward motion would carry him close enough to the shoreline for a jump into the water, and with a couple of splashes forward he would be on dry land, holding the plane by the rope.
The lake was opaque—hardly a surprise to me, considering that it was an ice-dammed lake. I tensed when I realized what Robbie was proposing to do. I called out, “Be careful, Robbie! There may be buried ice and melt-holes.” Robbie called back, “It’s shallow … not to worry!” as he jumped off the pontoon. Then, with a great splash, he disappeared, completely submerged beneath the surface of the pea soup “shallows.”
Obviously Robbie had never enrolled in Physical Geography 101. He was wearing waterproof waders that went up to his waist. In desperation, I leapt out of the cockpit and threw myself onto the pontoon. Straddling it, I managed to grab one of his shoulder straps as his head and shoulders popped out of the water. I then learned the weight of a man with waterlogged waders who needed to be pulled onto a pontoon rather quickly. The water was as cold as fresh water can ever be. By the time I had him draped over the pontoon, the breeze had pushed us back, well out from the shore. Robbie was turning blue but assuring me he could hold on while I tried to restart the engine. Mindful of our earlier experience with starting the Cessna, my heightened anxiety returned; there was no way I could swing the prop on the outside and open the throttle at the same time from inside the cabin, while Robbie, dripping wet and shaking, was in absolutely no condition to assist. Somehow, with much fumbling, I succeeded in starting the engine, this time directly from the pilot’s seat. With a huge sigh of relief, I opened the throttle and the Cessna surged toward the shore, thrust its pontoons in the dry sand, and stalled, fortunately hard and fast. But it was not quite over for us. Without wasting any time I had to remove Robbie from his waders, pitch a tent, light a primus stove, and pull him with me into a sleeping bag. We had been on the edge of disaster in our first few hours of airborne geographic exploration, but had risen to the challenge.
Robbie warmed up quickly. I squeezed out of the sleeping bag and made us both mugs of hot instant coffee. He recovered rapidly, asked me not to mention his dunking to the others, and was quickly airborne and on his way back to Rimrock Lake to pick up the rest of the crew, together with more food and equipment—two fifteen-minute flights each way. And although he had to use every available metre of surface water, he took off without a hitch. Nevertheless, when we considered that we would shortly need to refuel, yet another problem surfaced. The original charter document had stipulated that the Cessna must bring with it from Ottawa two empty ten-gallon fuel drums for use in refuelling on remote lakes. When I brought this to Robbie’s attention, his face fell and he had to confess that he had never been informed of that requirement. Now that he was with us and understood that we would have to do all our refuelling directly, and somewhat inefficiently, from the forty-five-gallon drums cached at Rimrock Lake, losing the flexibility of extended sorties using the smaller drums, he realized the problem. He also eventually had to explain to the others why he was soaking wet. I could hardly suppress my laughter. Despite the much too adventurous beginning of our aircraft charter, by late evening all six of us were well fed and tucked into sleeping bags by the peaceful margin of Flitaway Lake, with the ice cap grandly reflected on its calm surface.
Flitaway Lake: To flit or not to flit?
During preparations in Ottawa the previous winter, I had realized that the place we came to name Flitaway Lake would become a focal point in subsequent operations, should the 1961 reconnaissance justify the long series of expeditions to north-central Baffin Island that I hoped to organize. We were, therefore, quite concerned about the lake’s stability. The abandoned high shorelines that surrounded the lake indicated that its level had been falling for some time, and the overflow channels down the side of the Lewis Glacier, apparent on the air photos, gave a good indication of where the water was going. As a potential site for the projected 1962 base camp, its rate of lowering was critical. One of our immediate objectives, therefore, was to determine whether or not we had made a safe choice.
After breakfast the next morning, our first priority was a return to Rimrock Lake for refuelling. Leaving the others to reconnoitre the surrounding area, especially to find access onto the Lewis Glacier and to test the ice drill, Vic and I took off with Robbie. We planned an extensive reconnaissance as far west as the lower Rowley River and the coast of Steensby Inlet, Foxe Basin. As we were buckling our seat belts for takeoff, Robbie explained that he had paced the length of the lake before breakfast and found it was slightly less than minimum specifications for takeoff of a Cessna on pontoons. The specs, I thought, were obviously intended to apply to a Cessna that would meet general flight regulations. Yet it was apparent, from our experience so far, that our Cessna was conspicuously lacking in performance. So it was very fortunate that Flitaway Lake had gentle approaches with no steep slopes close by and that wind conditions remained favourable when needed—a fairly strong breeze along the length of the lake, into which the plane could take off and land.
We lunched at Rimrock Lake after refuelling. As the engine once again did not respond to Robbie’s efforts from the cockpit, Vic did the honours with the propeller; at least he could swim, although gamefully he explained that he was probably just as subject to cardiac arrest as I was. We failed to make radio contact with Fox-2 to register our flight plan and so had to depend on the preliminary plan we had filed during our earlier 8:00 a.m. sked from our base radio, now at Flitaway.
From Rimrock Lake, Robbie flew south along the course of the Freshney River to its confluence with the Isortoq River and followed it as far as the lower end of Isortoq Lake before turning north toward the lower Rowley River. Along the way we located extensive moraine systems in the lower Isortoq valley that we thought were associated with what appeared to be an extensive marine limit (that is, a formerly higher sea level) where Isortoq Fiord entered Grant-Suttie Bay. Vic and I agreed that he and Claude should attempt to examine the area on the ground after John, Peter, and I were established close to Steensby Inlet on the lower Rowley River. This major river emerges from an impressive gorge, and its lower course runs through a series of lakes before finally entering Steensby Inlet. My immediate objective was to locate a suitable campsite for the next phase of our summer’s fieldwork.
We found a perfect sand-girt embayment on the upper part of a lake that we later named Separation Lake.8 It was ideal for floatplane operations and looked like a good campsite, so Robbie put down and we had a relaxed second lunch by the plane. In deteriorating weather, we then took off and followed the Rowley River down to the coast; from there we flew to the lower end of Isortoq Lake and up the Isortoq River back to Flitaway. We landed without incident.
During our absence, John had discovered that an essential piece of the ice drill must have disappeared in transit from Ottawa. Vic promised to test the resources of the Fox-2 machine shop to see if a new handle could be quickly improvised. Then Robbie, with Vic and Claude, took off in the Cessna for the amenities of the DEW Line while John, Peter, and I—the original “Rimrock Three”—enjoyed a quiet evening watching the cloud base gradually drop to lake level. Light snow completed the ethereal sense of Arctic gloom as we readied for sleep.
The 8:00 a.m. radio sked with Fox-2 on August 12 revealed that the Cessna had not arrived there from Flitaway the previous evening and that its current whereabouts were unknown. Then followed the ominous request from Lou for details of the flight: time of departure; names of passengers; estimated fuel range; and our own latitude and longitude. We arranged a further radio sked for noon. Lou, the station chief, would determine whether and when to call for a search and rescue mission, though I did alert him that, as the Cessna’s radio was likely inoperable, the lack of contact with the plane might not be as serious as it seemed.
Regardless of the nerve-wracking uncertainty, I decided to do a day’s fieldwork with John, leaving Peter to monitor the radio. We took a long, brisk walk down the side of the glacier and along the meltwater outflow (Lewis River) to its confluence with the Striding River. The weather all around us was threatening—squalls, heavy cumulus clouds, scattered rain. We were blessed by a local enclave of high pressure generated by the ice cap and spent most of our day in sunshine. Our route took us through an abundance of glacial features that emphasized the good choice of field area.
Halfway back to camp, we were relieved to see our Cessna pass low over us, heading in the direction of Flitaway Lake with no apparent problem. We reached camp at 7:15 p.m. and learned the details of yet another escapade. Peter told us that the previous evening Robbie had been forced by fog to land on a lake barely thirty kilometres short of Fox-2. Later, in a partial clearing of the fog, they had made it a further fifteen kilometres—but this proved to be a mistake. While the first forced landing had brought them down on water with a reasonable lakeshore for tethering overnight, on the second lake they had been obliged to spend a very uncomfortable night in the plane, tied to a large rock in the middle of the lake and praying for continued calm conditions. They had reached Fox-2 late the next morning, just in time to alert Peter on the noon radio sked that they were all safe.
Lou Riccaboni and another DEW Line staff member had accompanied Robbie to Flitaway “for the ride.” They had brought with them a very quickly improvised new handle for our ice drill, as well as the first mail from Ottawa that we had received since our departure on June 14 and some much appreciated fresh bread with real butter. Once again, the Cessna’s radio had failed, so Robbie had been unable to inform Fox-2 of his position the evening before. Thus passed another day of unwelcome excitement. We settled down to a night of light snow with the temperature barely above freezing.
We continued to familiarize ourselves with the immediate surroundings of Flitaway Lake and the northwestern margins of the Barnes Ice Cap until the evening of August 15. The glaciological potential of the immediate area was assessed; four holes about 150 centimetres deep were drilled, and stakes for ice movement measurements were inserted for resurvey the following year. Cairns were built at carefully measured distances from the northern ice cap margin for future determination of change in conditions.9
That evening, Robbie arrived on schedule, landing the Cessna at seven o’clock and taxiing to our camp with what was now well-practised skill. I climbed on board with a tent and minimum equipment and food. We flew directly along the Lewis Glacier, followed the Isortoq River to Isortoq Lake, and then swung across country toward Separation Lake, landing smoothly like experienced veterans. A quick turnaround and Robbie was airborne once more by 8:30 p.m., returning to Flitaway to fetch John and Peter to join me. I pitched the Arctic Guinea tent and prepared a site for the Mount Logan tent in anticipation of the Cessna’s pending arrival. Then I sat down to wait patiently, nonetheless watching with apprehension as clouds formed on the surrounding hilltops.
Around 11:00 p.m. on August 15, I turned in, tired of waiting and hopeful that this would not turn out to be another minor (or major) catastrophe. I must have fallen asleep instantly—my youthful response to tension! It seemed almost immediately that a plane was approaching. A few minutes later, the Cessna landed, through deepening twilight but fortunately with enough of a breeze to cause ripples on the water, so Robbie could gauge how far he was above the lake’s surface as he came in to land. (Pilots hate totally calm lake water, which can bring on a special kind of vertigo and a potentially serious failure of depth perception.) A hearty welcome, a quick brew of coffee while the Logan was being pitched, and we were all in our sleeping bags by 2:00 a.m. As “summer” was nearly over, we were beginning to experience a few hours of darkness.
Over breakfast, we discussed the previous evening’s near disaster. Robbie had picked up John and Peter plus all the necessary equipment from Flitaway. He had then flown to Rimrock to refuel. A stiff northerly wind made refuelling rather difficult, as it kept pounding the Cessna on the rocks, causing the need for constant pushing off. When the Cessna’s tanks were full and all were ready for takeoff, the engine refused to start—a dead battery, or the generator refusing to cooperate. After a lengthy struggle, Robbie managed to connect directly to a spare battery that he had wisely picked up from Fox-2 and that saved the day.
We continued to discuss our Cessna problems until it was time for Robbie to make his way back to Fox-2 to assist Vic. We all recognized that the Cessna was likely being flown in defiance of a number of government regulations. The real danger was that it would make an unscheduled landing and then be unable to start. Without a functioning radio, it would be stranded in a location not known to the DEW Line personnel. To bring this danger home even more forcibly, we had another struggle with the starter motor and had to resort to the spare battery again.
Robbie was airborne by eleven o’clock that morning, and John, Peter, and I set out to reconnoitre the new territory. We had walked scarcely three kilometres when we spotted the Cessna heading back to our camp, so we hastily returned. This time it was due not to an aircraft malfunction but to the thick fog shrouding Fox-2 and preventing the use of our usual lake landing spot. Yet another day of fieldwork was at risk of being wasted. In such situations, flexibility in field operation can salvage precious time; that day, I decided to take advantage of the Cessna’s presence to make an aerial reconnaissance of the Steensby Inlet coast and the downstream section of the Rowley River. John and Peter, meanwhile, set off on foot to take a look at the hill country to the northeast of the lake.
It took ninety minutes to start the plane, reminding me once again of the precariousness of our situation. Nevertheless, the low-level aerial views along the Steensby Inlet coastline were both impressive and helpful. In very good light, I took many photographs of the large moraine system to the southwest of the camp and of the beautifully formed flights of raised marine beaches along the Steensby Inlet coast. (Fig. 10) Not surprisingly, though, Robbie was reluctant to land for fear of being unable to restart the Cessna’s engine—and of having no juice to power his radio, either.
Robbie returned me to camp and went on his way to support Vic south of the Barnes Ice Cap for the next several days. This gave us four days of peaceful isolation that facilitated long walks in all directions. Apart from garbled radio mutterings in the evenings, we were completely and thankfully cut off from the outside world for a while. Yet, as we were soon to discover, our logistical support was about to reach another dead end.
Further airborne drama
It was a very poor radio contact late on August 20 that jerked us back from that peaceful solitude into the real world of aircraft operations in the Far North. While initially the news was not at all clear, we gathered that the Cessna had finally become inoperable, leaving Vic and Claude marooned somewhere between the Barnes Ice Cap and Fox-2.
As there was nothing we could do to relieve the drama developing to our south, we managed another fine day of fieldwork. However, as we headed back to camp, we saw a helicopter heading in the same direction. We arrived to find Vic and Harold, the helicopter pilot, awaiting us. The helicopter was on charter to a gravity survey team of the Dominion Observatory working south of the Barnes Ice Cap. From Vic we quickly learned of the sad necessity of its appearance so far off course.
Here’s what had happened. The previous day, Robbie had transferred Vic and Claude from Generator Lake to Flint Lake, had returned to Fox-2 to refuel, and was then set to head back to Flint Lake, pick the men up, and take them north along the Foxe Basin coast. Unfortunately, the Cessna chose that moment to enter another of its infamous sulks. It was reluctant to lift off the lake’s surface; indeed, a dangerous crash into the barrier of large boulders that fringed the lake appeared unavoidable. At the last minute, Robbie somehow managed to leapfrog the line of boulders and plop down on the far side, landing heavily in a tundra marsh. This last ditch attempt to save our air contingent had one snag—a large boulder in the marsh promptly tore off one pontoon and severely holed the other. Robbie, fortunately, was not injured, but Vic and Claude were on Flint Lake with neither food nor tent, and the rest of us in the great northern unknown were not yet even aware of the drama.
Fox-2 station chief Lou, meanwhile, had alerted our Dominion Observatory friends conducting the gravity survey south of the Barnes Ice Cap—hence the helicopter “rescue.” In the meantime, Robbie had telegrammed his HQ at Bradley Air Services in Ottawa:
Extensive damage to floats, Cessna HLR near Longstaff Bluff, NWT during aborted take-off. Nil injuries. Require replacement aircraft on floats to complete contract. Full report to follow. Please advise your decision soonest.
Vic indicated that it would take seven to ten days for a replacement aircraft to reach Fox-2. Thus a change in plans was essential. We quickly worked out a flexible scheme that would cover “all eventualities”—assuming such is ever possible. The helicopter would fly John and me to a lake close to the Steensby Inlet coast with all the scant food we could muster, including two bars of chocolate generously offered by Harold, the helicopter pilot. Harold would then return south with Vic and Peter. By separating from Peter, our slim rations would last somewhat longer. Next, Vic and Peter would join Claude, and from there they would work up the Foxe Basin coast toward Grant-Suttie Bay by canoe and foot. John and I would continue our fieldwork while awaiting the new plane from Ottawa. If an emergency arose, the Dominion Observatory team would send their chartered Norseman floatplane to pull us out.
These arrangements, though hastily assembled, left me with John in a comfortable camp within easy walking distance of the coast and the distinctive flights of uplifted marine beaches that were one of our major objectives of the summer. As it turned out, we were granted a week of excellent conditions for fieldwork and were able to dismiss all thoughts of the Cessna and radio disruptions for a while. I was confident that we would complete the vital parts of our planned fieldwork and that we would be “rescued” one way or another. I did not have much faith that we would ever see a replacement Cessna, in light of this summer’s experience, but if we could squeeze in three or four days of floatplane support, we would be able to inspect the Cockburn Moraines and the fiord heads far to the east.
But all was not well. Unknown to us, the final disaster of the air odyssey was unfolding far to the south. It was only when we made our ultimate return to Fox-2 that we learned from Robbie’s telegram that a Cessna had been promptly dispatched from Ottawa by the good Mr. Bradley of Bradley Air Services. However, it had been dispatched to the North with a rather serious flaw, to say the least. Having no replacement pontoon-equipped Cessna, the company had transferred the pontoons from a Piper Cub to a Cessna that, until then, had been equipped only with wheels. Even I would have assumed that a Piper Cub was appreciably smaller than a Cessna and that, consequently, its pontoons would likely be smaller. This proved to be true, and it spelled trouble.
The Cessna was flown along the Ottawa River to Montreal, then along the St. Lawrence via Quebec City to Sept-Îles. From there, it followed the railway north to Schefferville and onward to Fort Chimo, where the last refuelling was completed. What followed should have been an easy tourist-style flight up the west coast of Ungava Bay to the settlement of Payne Bay. Now for the excitement. The pilot made a perfect landing on a calm sea and taxied in toward the jetty. While negotiating the final turn, to come alongside its anticipated mooring, the centrifugal force of the turn unbalanced the aircraft on its undersized pontoons. It capsized—and sank. Fortunately, the pilot could swim. When news of this latest and final mishap reached station chief Lou, the Dominion Observatory geophysicists were called in. An hour or so after receiving the call, Greg Lamb landed his Norseman on what we had come to call Windless Lake and taxied in to our camp to give us the amazing news. While this tale of woe and incompetence was unfolding far to the south, John and I, totally oblivious to it all, had enjoyed a week of carefree fieldwork.
Final days of Baffin ’61: Fieldwork at Windless Lake
The Windless Lake camp proved a perfect location for what became the final reconnaissance work of 1961. We were encamped about two kilometres from the sea, at a site accessible by a short pass through the coastal hills. The hill crests dropped quite steeply, from heights of up to two hundred metres to a narrow coastal fringe. A virtually unbroken line of subparallel raised beaches bordered the coast as far as we could see in both directions. We quickly set to work with two surveying altimeters to determine the height of the upper marine limit, which was very distinct in this area. There was an almost straight-line division between hummocky glacial moraine above and sand and gravel beaches below. We were able to extract from the raised beaches small samples of marine mollusc shells for possible radiocarbon dating. This was very time consuming because of the scarcity and small size of the shell fragments, but it was worthwhile—we later obtained a time sequence of uplift of the land and an estimate of the date when the postglacial sea entered this northeast corner of Foxe Basin.
We extended the reconnaissance onto the delta of the Rowley River and inland to include a complete circuit of Windless Lake. We also walked down the outlet stream of the lake southwestward to the sea, where we met the only local people we had seen during our entire summer on Baffin Island. Two families of Inuit had anchored their umiaks in the small estuary. The older males were spearing Arctic char in the almost still waters of the stream, and we were very impressed by their skill. (Fig. 11) They rarely missed a target, and a pile of char accumulated on the shore. A youth in a small boat was manipulating a net and adding to the catch. The women and several children either remained afloat or milled around on the edge of the stream. They seemed quite shocked by our sudden appearance but were very curious and friendly. Even collectively they were able to muster only a few words of English, although we understood that they were on their annual autumn fishing and hunting trip from Igloolik, on the far side of Foxe Basin. The only incident was when John—presumably because of his dark, hairy face—frightened one of the small boys into a panic of screaming, an event that added to the laughter and conviviality all round. The umiaks were already well loaded with seal, fish, hare, and foxes. One of the men offered me a spear that I eventually took home with me as a gift for Tony, my young son who was not yet six months old. As a parting gesture, they invited us into one of the umiaks so that we were able to cross the stream dry-shod. After a hearty farewell, we continued to walk northward along the coast and eventually back to camp.
Our levelling of the marine shorelines recorded a maximum height of ninety-six metres asl10 and we collected two samples of seashells from heights of fifty-five metres and twenty-two metres, respectively. To these we were able to add three other samples collected by Vic farther south, enough to demonstrate the progressive uplift of the coast over the last 6,700 years. The field data and the radiocarbon ages would also indicate when the sea had invaded this part of the coast following the eastward withdrawal of the remnant continental ice sheet.
With an abundance of good weather and excellent walking conditions, compared with the torturous boulder fields of the Rimrock Lake area, time passed very quickly. Our only local companions were Arctic hare, all white and startlingly conspicuous against the darker terrain.11 On the evening of August 28, preparations for our evening meal were interrupted by the shattering noise of an aircraft that was obviously intent on landing on Windless Lake. And so the Lamb Airways Norseman piloted by Greg Lamb arrived. It carried as its passenger Angus Hamilton, leader of the Dominion Observatory’s geophysical party.
We discussed our prospects with Angus. As it seemed unlikely that Bradley Air Services would ever reach us with a replacement Cessna, and considering our distance from his base camp, Angus recommended that we be evacuated to Dewar Lakes (Fox-3). If a replacement Cessna were to reach us, we could easily fly from Dewar Lakes to examine sections of the Cockburn Moraines. This proposal by Angus was eminently reasonable, and considering the lateness of the season, I gratefully agreed.
We hastily broke up the camp, loaded everything into the Norseman, and took off with a great roar into the gathering dusk. We flew along the entire length of the Barnes Ice Cap and landed at Dewar Lakes in the moonlight. The impressive base camp, by the lake, sat below the hilltop on which stood the Fox-3 DEW Line station, about three kilometres distant.
In comparison to the lightweight dried food we had been eating for nine weeks, breakfast the next morning was a delicious treat: hot fresh bread with butter, toast, fried eggs, bacon, sausages, oranges, real coffee, and above all, convivial fresh faces and an enthusiastic sharing of experiences. The Dominion Observatory standard of field living was certainly higher than ours—although we prided ourselves on needing far less time for meals.12 After breakfast, Angus offered me use of the Norseman in the tidying up and evacuation of our Rimrock Lake base camp. I gratefully accepted and flew the two hundred kilometres northward with Greg Lamb and Roy, his engineer. We quickly loaded all the valuables, cached the surplus food and fuel for another year, and readied to take off.
We headed directly for the Barnes Ice Cap. Greg had kindly offered to fly me along its entire 145 kilometres of crestline, this time in full light. This gave me an excellent overview of the entire ice cap, valuable for future research plans. We landed at the geophysicists’ base camp in calm conditions and settled down to another evening with our generous hosts.
The next two days brought low temperatures and intermittent snow. The ground began to turn white. I was able to talk by phone with Robbie at Fox-2; there was still no news of a replacement Cessna. Already the lakes were beginning to freeze—even the large Dewar Lakes had ice around their margins. It was mid-afternoon on September 2 before reasonable weather at both Fox-2 and Fox-3 allowed Greg to undertake the forty-minute flight to get us away. As we passed low over the rolling hills we could see that many of the smaller lakes had already frozen, and the land was white. Even the lake below the Fox-2 station that we had used throughout the open-water season was frozen, forcing us to land on salt water in Piling Bay close under the radar station.
Unfortunately, we had landed shortly after high tide and had to struggle in very cold water to unload while keeping the Norseman afloat. We thought Greg would be able to take off if we pushed the Norseman farther out each time its pontoons began to touch the rocks below. But he also needed to refuel, and the rate of tidal lowering eventually caught the plane and firmly grounded it. That left Greg and Roy with an eight-hour wait for a return of the sea, which would restore their takeoff space.
As we were all struggling unsuccessfully to refuel the Norseman, Lou Riccaboni drove a truck down to the coast to personally take us and our equipment back up to the warm accommodation of Fox-2. We were to share a hut with Robbie and Dave McEwen, the mechanic, whom we were meeting for the first time. It was Lou who told us that, a couple of hours earlier, Robbie had learned by telegram the full details of how our replacement Cessna had met its watery demise. That removed any further question of continuing with the fieldwork. All that remained of the 1961 “summer” was to join up with Vic, Claude, and Peter and for us all to head south to warmer climes.13
The next day, Vic, Claude, and Peter walked in—very tired but contented, despite having to cache their canoe and heavier equipment and to walk the final fourteen kilometres from the base of Baird Peninsula. From that point onward, our travel was straightforward: a DEW Line lateral flight to Fox-Main, and commercial flights from Hall Beach airport via Montreal to Ottawa. It was 2:00 a.m. on September 7 when I knocked on the front door of our home in Ottawa to awaken Pauline to let me in. Peter and John had stayed in Montreal. Peter preferred sleep to another plane flight. And John had a special interest in meeting Martha, a McGill graduate student whom he was to marry two years later. The only real dent in my enthusiasm for the summer’s experience came from my concern for our Cessna pilot, Robbie Levesque. He must have had very bad feelings about the series of misadventures, which had occurred through no fault of his own. He remained a cheerful and sturdy colleague throughout and performed admirably under very trying circumstances.
Evaluating aircraft operations
The first requirement on our return south after three months in north-central Baffin Island was relaxation with families and friends. As assistant director of the branch, I faced a backlog of work—one of the penalties of aspiring to lead field expeditions while undertaking the duties of a relatively senior administrative position. Dr. Nicholson proved very supportive, however. Dr. van Steenburgh, Director-General of Scientific Services, Mines, and Technical Surveys, requested a personal account. He seemed pleased with both the results I was able to relate and the way the rather challenging airborne support problems had been handled. He showed great interest and confirmed that I should develop long-term plans and keep him informed.
As for the airborne support, its successes and its problems and near disasters, it was agreed that the operation had been a valuable learning experience. Aircraft charters by government agencies were subject to an open bidding system, and Bradley Air Services, the winning contractor, had tendered the lowest bid. I was assured that next year’s selection of air support services would be much more tightly controlled and that I would be personally involved in the process.
Vic and Peter reported for duty after short leaves, and both were a great help in sorting out and storing the equipment we had brought back. Vic prepared a detailed field report. John remained in Montreal, while Claude returned to his university studies. So ended the 1961 Baffin reconnaissance. In retrospect, it was remarkable that we had achieved nearly all of our original objectives, certainly enough to go forward for what proved to be the next six years.