In the early days of the Line, beards were strictly forbidden. Reasons were offered, such as "beards might increase the possibility of frostbite" and "if we had a fire, the Scott air Pack might not fit well". Of course, the real reason was a fear that if someone grew a beard he might become slovenly in his habits. Later, beards were allowed and all the fears were proven to be groundless.
But there was a constant battle on the part of most supervisors to ensure that everyone shaved, if not daily, at least often enough that they could not be accused of having a slovenly crew. A station chief at Dye Four (this would have been about 1970) was caught in a dilemma since two radicians pushed his patience concerning shaving as far as possible. Ron hadn't shaved in perhaps four days when he showed up for lunch and sat down across from the station chief. As soon as he finished eating, the chief told him, "don't argue, just go shave before you have coffee!" Ron left and returned perhaps 15 minutes later.
At the Greenland coast sites, the cafeteria was arranged so that the door was near one end and as one entered he was seen in profile by others. Ron appeared clean shaven as he came through the door and the chief called out, "Look, everybody, doesn't Ron look much better?" At that point, Ron turned and it was apparent he had shaved one half of his face. The whole place broke into laughter.
THE DANISH CALENDAR
On the DEW Line people tended to break into groups to eat meals. There was a table at which radicians ate, another at which mechanics sat, and one at which the station chief, the supply man, and overflow from the other tables ate. In Greenland, there were Danish citizens at each site and they tended to sit together at one table. On the wall next to this table someone had hung a Danish calendar which included a daily "saying". The station chief was named Jim Schow and he noticed one day that the calendar's daily "saying" included the word "scow". He was naturally curious and asked one of the Danes what it meant in English. The Dane appeared reluctant to tell him until pressed. Then he said, "It is an old Danish proverb which means "Flat bottomed people trust in luck."
. . . AND I'M THE MAYOR
At Dye Three, probably about 1968, a station chief named Herb Franke looked around the station personnel and said, "You know, this place is like a small city. And I'm the mayor."
Later that day, there signs posted all over the station saying, "Re-elect Boss Franke".
THE PHANTOM BARBER
In late 1962 or early 1963, at Dye Two (Ice Cap 1) a fellow fell asleep at the bar and woke up with half his hair cut off. By that I mean the right side of his head was practically shaved while the hair on the left side of his head was untouched. Thus began a series of events which got out of hand very quickly.
Over a period of weeks, anyone who fell asleep anywhere got half his head almost shaved. People scheduled for vacation took to sleeping in hide-away places, including the weather observation catwalk. At least once, the phantom barber let himself down through the ceiling tiles to cut the hair of one who had just a bit too much to drink. One mechanic had his head "trimmed" and was fired for getting drunk, without which it couldn't have happened! He went home with half a head of hair and a missing eyebrow on the other side.
When a radician fell and broke his leg, he was strapped into a stretcher so he could be lifted into the plane for the trip to the Sondrestrom hospital. While he waited in the "receiving area" (one of those DEWLine oddities -- it was used to ship AND receive cargo. Sort of like clicking on "Start" in Windows to shut down your computer), the phantom barber shaved half his hair and an eyebrow. Of course, he knew who did it, but the riddle remained of whether he had been the original "phantom barber" or a victim. In any case, the "phantom barber" never struck again.
A PLACE TO RELIEVE OURSELVES
The DEW East sites in Greenland (Dye-1, -2, -3, -4, and Sondrestrom Air Base) were all manned by mixed crews of American and Danish folks. All the Danes spoke English but there were still some humorous episodes.
A Danish mechanic and I were out fishing and it got a bit windy (which translates - no pun intended - into COLD!) We started back to the station and both of us need to answer a call of nature. We came over a rise and down into a low spot where there was less wind and stopped to relieve ourselves. The Dane said, "In Denmark, we have a saying, "My teeth are water-logged". Do you have such a saying in English?"
I said, "We say, "My back teeth are floating."
He said, "That's a much better translation than mine."
And this one:
CHRISTMAS MEMORIES ON THE DEWLINE
Most of us have memories of past Christmases, which stand out more than do others. Many involve our own childhood, but most probably are of our own children or grandchildren. My own most memorable Christmas involves a few close friends and co-workers, and a lot of strangers.
The Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line was a series of radar stations located across the Arctic Circle in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. These were designed to provide warning of an attack during the cold war. On Christmas, 1972 I was stationed at the easternmost of these stations on Kulusuk Island near the village of Kap Dan, Greenland.
We had prepared for Christmas Eve for weeks. Knowing that the native Greenlanders (Inuit people then called Eskimos) love fresh fruit more than Americans love chocolate, we had made arrangements for cases of apples and oranges, as well as candy, to be shipped to us. We were on edge for some time as bad weather prevented it from reaching us until Christmas Eve day.
At that time of year along the Arctic Circle, it is dark almost 24 hours per day. In addition, it was cold and windy, with lots of blowing snow. But our spirits were high as we unloaded the plane and rushed back to the radar station to prepare a Christmas sack for each child in the village.
The Greenlander children had gotten their vision of Christmas from Danish missionaries and administrators over the years and their Julemand (literally, Christmas man) did not really resemble our Santa Claus all that much. He is much slimmer and carries candelabra in each hand – he is also the "bringer of light". But after a lot of discussion, we had decided to use an American Santa Claus so we would know what we were doing. In addition, I had been chosen to "be" Santa.
We made a Santa suit by stapling red runway flag material to my parka and snow pants. My beard was made from cotton from the sick bay. Everyone had chipped in things to make it look right. Red mittens, red paint on my nose, a pipe, and other little details were discussed and included.
Before leaving for the village, we stopped by the radar control room to watch the man on duty send out the first "Santa report" to the rest of the world. As the easternmost station we were honored to send the first report of the year. We knew that through the evening, every station in the world which reports to the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) gets to celebrate Christmas in this way. Each sends a report of Santa leaving the North Pole to deliver his toys to all the children of the world. Watch the news reports on Christmas Eve to see how this tradition has changed over the years to reflect changing technology!
Everyone not on duty then loaded up in trucks to travel to the airfield, some six miles of snow covered road away. From there, the last mile to the village was on foot – except for Santa and my driver. Lacking reindeer and sleigh, I entered the village on a sled pulled by a snowmobile. Children lined the trail, waving and calling out "Julemand, Julemand!"
As I handed out sacks of fruit and candy to every child, and not a few adults, I realized that for many of these children, this visit to their village by Julemand would be a memory carried into adulthood.
So even though my teeth were chartering from the cold, I let out with as many "Ho, Ho, Ho’s" as I could manage.
Later, over coffee with the village elders, I knew that my co-workers and I had also made many adults happy. They spoke no English and I spoke no Eskimo; their eyes told me all I needed to know.
I was working at POW 2 in the 1973-75 time frame, I don't remember if I was a Radician or the Lead Radician at the time but the cooks worked a 3 split shift. When they made bread they had to come in on their off time to get it done. The real problem was the 2 hour rise time before you could bake.
I volunteered to help out and make the bread. The cooks were happy and it kept me out of the bar and trouble sometimes.
Everything didn't turn out right every time but we had the flour and equipment to do a really good job as long as you had the time. I had developed a 9 pound recipe which gave us 4 two pound loaves and 1 one pound loaf. I had a lot of help from Teddy Rusch (cook-baker) at Bar Main. The one pound loaf was always set out so if anyone was up or had the hungries they could have nice slice of fresh bread.
For some reason, once, the one pound loaf had to wait a bit so I finally stuck it in the oven. About that time one of the guys wanted to watch a movie, I said great. We ended up watching a double feature and I forgot about that one pound loaf.
About 4 or 5 hours later Jack Presnell and others presented me with this charcoal brick on a fancy platter and asked me if I wanted to try it. I donated it to feed the bears.
I still bake and have sent many a pie and sticky buns up to the floor where my wife works as a nurse. They don't get to see the mistakes!
It's difficult to anyone to imagine what things were like BEFORE satellites. At the "end of the world" mail was first priority. Then came the food and then the late-release movies we received each week. The projectionist got a lot of heat at splicing time. Really desperate souls could go to the ham shack and talk through the noise. We also had some options for cheap long-distance calls.
Imagine this.... we even shipped our best clothing down to a US cleaning & laundry service in special shipping boxes. My old friend and mythical DEWLINER, Dyrck Dewitt, came up with the shipping containers and coordination.
The years at DYE3 thing were a singular adventure. But then there was DYE4......I could tell a lot about both.
I'm not down on the experience. In fact, there are moments when I would go back -ALMOST-..! The fact is that I WENT back -several times- in nearly four years on DEWEAST sites.
If you were ever at Streator, you might remember what a sleazy place it was. The quarters were a creaky old wooden-floored hotel, and the only saving factor was some good jazz in the local joints from time to time. As I remember it, Streator was a tough gambling town, with very little to recommend it. Since I personally had my parents in Park Forest (30 mi So of Chicago) I was able to herd my broken-down '53 OLDS up to the city a few times for a break from the very intensive training routine.
The training consisted mainly of very compressed courses in WB stuff, a cursory look at the FRC, NAVAIDS and A/G radio gear and some boring indoctrination to DOT weather reporting. ...And some actually attended a Tel-Tech Control course at ATT in Chicago. But it served to shake out the weak-hearted. Of the relatively large class -some of whom were destined to duty in Canada and Alaska (DEWLINE)- our DEWEAST component resulted in 5 courageous souls who actually arrived at McGuire AFB for transport. Of those, 3 boarded the plane for Sondrestrom AFB, Greenland. WECO was still installing the gear up there, and the runup to the trip (photographs and 8mm films of the Greenland environment) resulted in some dropouts. Of the 5 on the night before the flight, 2 disappeared. Of those remaining 3, one stayed at home at R&R time, 1 left and I re-upped at EOC time (18 mo.)
At mid-point in the Radician training course at Streator Il, DEWEASTERS were shunted down to Eglin AFB, FL for training on the AN/FPS-30 Radar. It should have been a nice break, but the ride down was a real buzz. At Dothan, AL our old Southern Airways DC3 stopped on its milk-run from Atlanta to Florida. When we started to re-board, the starboard engine caught fire on starting and had to be doused. Now my training buddy and seat-side mate was a nervous type, and that episode didn't help his already bad state.
After all had calmed down, the engine restarted and we were in the air again, one of the pilots stepped through to the back for relief. Then the second guy came by on his way aft, my buddy grabbed his sleeve anxiously and asked "where are YOU going...?!" With that, the cool jock with his collar open and tie askew, took the fag out of his mouth and replied: "I'm going to get my parachute, how about that?".
What my friend didn't see was that the two pilots were crossing in the aisle. I calmed my buddy with "Well, it beats a bus ride". He just sobbed. I don't know how he reacted to his first "controlled crash" at DYE3.
Yes, I certainly did work on that great beast. It was awesome. The klystron stood about 8 ft (maybe this is an exaggeration), had it's modulator deck sitting around the cathode deep in a dieletric oil bath, and was AIR COOLED. The set was actually TWO radars, with a waveguide switch and dummy load. I think its power supply gave more than 50Kv, and it operated in several modes, -one of which shot out a "main bang" of one humongous pulse width. Av power was about 4 Kw in this mode, and with an MDS ´way down in the mud, the returns would wake the dead!....-with many secondaries at multiples of the basic prf range.
Unless I am very mistaken, there were only 6 sets ever built. Four were up on the DEWEAST project sites, one was at Bendix and the other was installed out on a range at Eglin AFB. That's where we went to train. We were there about 4 weeks, as I remember. The instructors were Bendix Engineers. Sometimes it was difficult to hear them over the noise from the bombing range nearby.
Anecdote: In those days, we had real difficulties finding a motel for lodging. This was due to the fact that we had one Black in our class. Even in NORTH Florida, nobody would rent rooms to blacks and whites, mixed. In the end, the manager of the motel implored us not to give him away to the authorities. It was 1962.
Back in 1963, when I first arrived on the dewline, I was assigned to CAM 1 where I met an exceptionally gifted hard working radician with the name of Glen Pollitt. Glen was one of the few, if not the only radician to pass dewline qualifying exams by being totally self taught and never having had a formal course in electronics, save for what was taught at Streator.
No matter what the equipment, or what the problem may have been, whenever I asked another radician anything about any of the equipment, the answer was always the same "ask Glen", and if Glen didn't have the answer, he's sure find it. I was amazed to find out he was only in the first half of his first and only contract on the dewline.
He approached me one day asking if I was interested in joining him in an experimental project he wanted to tinker around with. He had been made aware of the shortwave teletype transmissions that radio amateurs, governments, news oranization etc from around the world used. Our project would be to just redesign the filters used in the 43A1 TTY converters to amateur radio specifications of 800hz bandpass as opposed to the 70hz used on the dewline.
It took us several weeks of tinkering and testing to accomplish this task, and by using the HF receiver that sat at the console (51J ??), we would patch the signal into the modified 43A1 and get a printout on the tty .
Most of what we received were synoptic weather reports put out by different countries around the world and breaking news also being reported from around the world. Most times the signals were not that strong and we ended up with a lot of signal fading and often lost contact with the transmitting sites.
The strongest link we ever tuned into was a link between North Korea and Communist China and were pleased to find out that as the Chinese alphabet was on tty, all transmissions were in english. We tuned in for hours and hours reading all this propaganda about how great communism was as opposed to the evils the US and the Capitalistic system.
Finding this quite humorous, we started reading some of these reports/comments to various friends by using either the phone, private lines and the likes. We also put the printouts in the dining area for all to read. Someone asked us if there was any way we could patch this signal to them so they could get printouts as well and put them out for all the dewliners on their site to read. That was a fairly easy thing to do by merely plugging into the TTY broadcast channel and then that made it available to everyone on the dewline.
Various people would call us asking for more and more of this stuff (anything to break the monotony of the far north) so here we were, the eyes and ears of frontline defense transmitting communist propaganda throughout NORAD, and to Paramus and wherever else the broadcast system went to, all of this being done in the evening when most communications rooms on the dewline were empty. Most TTY's were turned of and had to be manually turned on so you had to know the signals were there if you wanted to tune in. We were careful not to ring the buzzer to trigger the machines that were in standby mode. There was no easy way for anyone to actually trace where the signal was injected into the system, so we weren't worried about getting caught.
After several months of these transmissions, averaging perhaps 10 to 12 hours or so per week, all stations received a BROADCAST twix from NORAD with the message basically saying " Whoever is transmitting unauthorized TTY transmission is to cease and desist immediately", and so we did.
An amusing but thoroughly unrelated sort of thing happened a couple of years later. Most stations had music piped into them from Thule and for awhile this one DJ would play this beautiful classical tune on a daily basis, saying he didn't know what it was but he really liked it. Then one night, half way thru the record, it was stopped, there was a pause, and then he announced he had just been informed that tune was the Russian National Anthem.
Forty years on, I still remember the DEWLine with great affection.
Considering that it was located in a barren, inhospitable region, and that it was an all-male environment, that opening sentence may sound surprising.
But I have always considered that the Line gave me back every bit as much as it took.
In fact, all it really took was 19 months of my youth. I was just turned 24 when, in April 1959, I reported to the Columbia Hotel in Streator, Illinois; and I was still only 25 when I departed Cape Dyer for postgraduate studies in the teaching of electronic engineering.
And in the meantime there had been a lot of fun, and the acquisition of a wealth of experience and a hefty bank balance.
CAVEATS I am writing this article (in 2003) for Larry Wilson because my memory has been stimulated by my coming across all the slide photos that I took on the Line. But memory is notoriously fickle, partial, and unreliable. So I will have to end the article, as Victorian invoices did, with the initials E.&O.E.
Those initials stand for ERRORS AND OMMISSIONS EXCEPTED.
Sometimes I will have to guess at the spelling of names, and maybe I will have misremembered some of the names. Sometimes I will have a clear (but possibly wrong) memory of an event but get it in the wrong location---and vice versa!. I apologise for all the unwitting errors that there may be in what follows, and to anyone who feels traduced by what I remember of him. As you read, please remember that the words come from the mere fragments of an old man's memory. The only hard facts are that there was a DEWLine and that, during my time on it, these photos were taken!
GETTING THE CONTRACT. Attending for interview at an office near Edmonton Airport, the Federal Electric Corporation representative gave me an electronics test paper to answer. No problem with that---I had just spent a year teaching the stuff at the Institute of Technology in Calgary. After he had graded it, he started to tell me about the Line. And I got a distinct impression that he wanted my application to succeed. Maybe he was below his recruitment target; who knows.
Anyway, he didn't make me do the Personality Assessment questionnaire in a race against the clock, as he was supposed to. He said I could take the questionnaire with me, answer it at leisure, and mail it back to him (being very careful and wary, as the graders compared the answers of some of the questions with the answers given to other questions to catch out pretenders). Maybe he was being helpful, or maybe he just wanted to get away early to his golf; who knows.
I spent the whole afternoon and most of the evening on that questionnaire, answering each question only after checking back on the previous ones and forward on the later ones. I came to the conclusion that, whilst I might not really be a normal and well-balanced young male, I could certainly make a good pretence of being one. Years later, it dawned on me that that was all that was required in order to be socially acceptable on the Line.
STREATOR. The 14 weeks at Streator were hard going. Unlike the group that Charles Flynn writes about in "Green Grass Fever", we were not knowledgeable, experienced technicians.
So they worked us hard and each Saturday morning there was a stiff "do or die" test---score less than 70% twice and you were out.
We lost one of our group after two weeks: 68% on the Weather Reporting course, and 68% on the Electronics Theory Revision course. There was a strong whiff of suspicion that the Streator Management had wanted one failure "pour encourager les autres". And some of us felt quite outraged as the man who was sacked, Doug Helm, would have made a very dependable radician, especially for an I-site. Doug was about 35 and quite a bit older than the rest of us. His only problem was that he was not so used to studying in Streator Success Mode (i.e. "pack-it-into-short-term-memory-and forget-it-next-week").
The result was that a core of angry young men resolved that management wasn't going to get anybody else, and each Saturday morning the seating was carefully planned so that each of the weakest was between two of the strongest and allowed to see their answers to the multiple-choice questions. Where the two strongest were giving the same answer the weak one put in that answer, too; but when the answers of the strong differed the weak one had to guess which of his stronger to follow. Sometimes the weak one got a slightly higher score than both of the stronger ones!.
We even got my room-mate through. And Don really was a struggler. His only electronics studies had been at a night class to prepare for the test for a Ham's licence and he had nil electronics experience apart from a bit of domestic radio and tv repair knowledge that he had picked up whilst doing spare-time work. Sure, he had six years with British Columbia Electric to his credit---but, if the truth had ever come out, he had been working with them as a bus driver!. After the first day of the week on Electronics Theory Revision he confessed to me that, for him, it was a bit of Revision and a lot of First Time. He had got through the test at the interview because someone in Vancouver had managed to get hold of a copy of the test paper and it was circulating amongst the Hams. I wonder how that had come about---maybe someone else was below his recruitment target; who knows.
I was glad to help Don in repayment for him introducing me to private flying. He was a private pilot and had taken me up from Streator's little aerodrome on our first weekend. And a few weeks later I managed to get their little Taylorcraft back on the grass after my first solo flight.
We finished at Streator at noon on the Friday during Calgary Stampede Week and I was determined to get home for its final Saturday. Don was in a hurry to get home, too. So we chartered a Cessna from Streator to Chicago. It scared us witless to go into Midway amongst all the big stuff. I hopped westward through the night on three red-eye flights and got to Edmonton at dawn to find that there was no flight to Calgary because it was a Saturday. In those days, it was nearly all business executives who flew between Edmonton and Calgary and they didn't work on Saturdays. And there was neither a train nor a Greyhound bus till evening. So the journey that started with my only-ever air- taxi charter ended with 200 miles of hitch-hiking. But I got to the Stampede---and could hardly keep my eyes open, even during the chuckwagon races.
CAPE DYER. If any landing that you walk away from is a good one, then we nearly had a bad one on my first arrival at DYE Lower Camp. It was a Wheeler Airlines DC 4, and a bloke called Miller landed it (first time) just slightly short of the threshold.
Unfortunately the ground level had been slightly sloping and the gravel for the runway had had to be built up quite thick there. This had resulted in a slope with a gradient of about 5 degrees in front of the threshold
. So, as the saying went, it was a down that was no touch. About 30 tons of DC 4 travelling at about 120 knots hit the slope with an almighty bang, bounced up (to 100 foot, the onlookers said) and then dropped down again with an even bigger bang. I thought that second landing would bring the oleos right up through the wings but, miraculously, there wasn't even a burst tyre.
However, bad things had been done to the structural integrity of the wings (including three fractures of the main spar, it was rumoured). So both the DC 4 and Captain Miller ceased to serve with Wheeler Airlines. Permanently for Miller, but only temporarily for the DC 4. After some repairs, a special approval for one flight with no load was obtained and a volunteer Wheeler Airlines crew came up to fly the plane gently back. By then I was on shift at DYE, and I happened to be the console operator when it left. The Captain gave me the longest, most detailed flight plan that I ever had to copy. No mere "Great Circle Route, Cape Dyer to Montreal" for him. He was going to fly exact airways, point-to-point, and was making sure that Search and Rescue knew exactly where to look for him if a wing started to droop and he had to do a wheels-up on the muskeg. And his track south from DYE was quite a zig-zag as he eased the delicate patient around and avoided any cloud that might be turbulent. Next day, I enquired at the Comm. Centre and learnt that they had made it to Dorval.
DYE MAIN Those first few weeks at DYE MAIN went well (though there was better to come). The work was varied and enjoyable and the summer weather was mostly good; so days off could be spent getting in some walking along the cliffs and to the snow and ice caves. (PHOTO Sunday Excursionists) (PHOTO Snow Tunnel) Soon the Sealift could be seen on the surveillance radar, advancing through the ice clutter. Days off were subsequently spent at the beach taking photographs and giving a hand by driving a 4X4 or a 6X6 from time to time.
TOWARDS THE I SITES Quite soon after arriving at DYE, I had indicated to the Sector Chief, Communications and Electronics that I was interested in the position of Sector Radician (I Sites) when it came available in about four months time. I had figured out that the Sector Rads got to travel about a bit, rather than being continuously on one site, and that only the I Site position was within my youthful limited experience and competence.
Also I was attracted to the I Sites as they seemed less formal than Main or Aux Sites. Their basic, year-round staffing was just four men: Station Chief, one Radician, one Mechanic and a Cook. And the basic buildings were just a short train of modules and a garage (PHOTO Modules at FOX-E). But in summer there were supplementary staff, such as storekeepers, drivers and labourers to help with the arrival of the Sealift , and maintenance workers such as painters. For summer, Jamesway huts were opened up for accommodation and dining.(PHOTO FOX-D Buildings Nov 59) and (PHOTO FOX-E from the air).
My interest in serving at I Sites was received favourably, and in September 1959 I was sent to FOX D as an I Site Radician for three months prior to becoming a Sector Radician
FLYING TO FOX D The flight to FOX D was my first in a DC 3. It seemed perfectly routine, until suddenly we were flying in a fiord and doing a descending turn between a little island and a great big cliff. But that was the only way to get into a position to do a safe landing at FOX D.
The terrain at FOX D was so undulating that the only possible airstrip that could be built had to start on the edge of the sea, slope upwards, and end a very short distance inland. Landings had to be uphill and takeoffs downhill. So both arriving and departing had to happen always at the beach end of the strip, and so both involved a U-turn in the fiord. And the fiord had an island in the middle, so the U-turn had to be done just before landing and just after takeoff. Not a place for the faint-hearted, and only permitted with a small load.(PHOTOLanding at FOX-D) (PHOTO DC-3 at FOX-D), (PHOTO Take off from FOX-D).
Frank Tilzey, the (PHOTO Station Chief) , (PHOTO Frank Tilzey) and the other half dozen personnel on site made me welcome and I soon settled in to being radician, weather reporter, ground-to-air operator, medicine man, and general helping hand.
It is the medical side that remains most prominent in my memory. Because no site would ever be without at least one radician, and because all radicians went to Streator, it had been decided that radicians should look after first-aid etc unless there was someone better qualified available. To prepare radicians for this, they were given a short course (two Saturday mornings!) at Streator and ceremoniously presented with an American Red Cross First-Aid Certificate. Nobody seemed to be concerned that this only helped us to deal with the first few minutes of a situation, and that we might have to cope for days and even weeks before "Second-Aid" could be available.
MEDICINE MAN A diabolical outbreak of influenza in Kivitoo, the Eskimo village at the old whaling station near the airstrip, was my first test. When the head man, Nauyopee (PHOTO Nauyopee, Village Elder at home ) sent a messenger to ask for help, Frank took me down there in the snowmobile and we went into the first toopik--- a one-room hut made from scrap wood and tarpaulins (PHOTO Eskimo family and their dwelling [a toopik]), (PHOTO Toopiks at Kivitoo) . Every one of its five occupants was clearly very ill, and all I had to offer was bedside manner and aspirin. Once again, the liar in me came to the fore, and I cheerfully assured them, whilst taking their temperatures and feeling their pulses, that "you are sick, you will be sick tomorrow, sick next day, then ok". Goodness knows why, but that seemed to brighten them up a bit. I put their clock right by the time on my watch, made sure the clock was fully wound up, gave each one an aspirin, and drew little pictures of the position of the clock hands at the times when they were to take their aspirins. They seemed very reassured by this clear evidence of profound medical knowledge, training, and experience. And their temperatures were all down by a full degree. Praise the Lord for his creation of the Placebo Effect.
But then I noticed that I was alone with my patients. Frank Tilzey had succumbed to the stench of old seal meat in the toopik and was throwing up his dinner by the snowmobile---though he assured everyone that it was my complete and utter bullshit to the Eskimos that had turned his stomach!
We went on to the other toopiks and ended up with about twenty patients. Over the next few days we continued putting on this same air of confidence (or pulling the same confidence trick) and gradually they all recovered.(PHOTO FOX-DPolar Bear Skin), (PHOTO Children at FOX-D)
CONSULTANT OBSTETRICIAN Then came the day when I was just starting back in the snowmobile after taking a weather observation at the airstrip and Frank called me say that a messenger had come to ask for help for the Kivitoo grandmother who acted as midwife. She was struggling with a difficult delivery. My heart dropped. What help could I be to a woman who had delivered dozens, when I hadn't even seen a childbirth, never mind being involved in a difficult one?. My mother had been a midwife before her marriage, but she was 5000 miles away, and all I could remember was that she had once said that "midwifery is just a matter of helping Nature to do what it is trying to do anyway".
But I was kept from brooding by ever-helpful colleagues. On the I Sites our only communication link with the outside world was to our neighbouring Aux Sites via the same uhf voice channel that was used for the vehicles. So the Comm Centre operators at FOX 4 and FOX 5 heard that I was getting my baptism of fire. At least their gleeful mock advice kept me fully diverted from thinking about what was to come when I got to Kivitoo.
Praise be, when I got to Kivitoo, the midwife had got the foetus to turn and present itself properly and I only had to be an approving, apparently- experienced spectator.
WHAT A BIG BOIL My next case was easy: a young Eskimo man with a boil that was four inches in diameter on his left buttock. The Doctor who was attached to FOX and DYE Sectors happened to be at FOX 5, so I could talk with him on the uhf. He thought that something that size must be a carbuncle. I wasn't disposed to argue with a professional whom I had never even met. Anyway, the treatment was the same either way---Epsom Salt poultice of magnificent size, and evacuation to DYE Lower for lancing by the doctor when he got there. There was only one problem. The patient couldn't sit down in the DC 3. We finally strapped him face down to a stretcher and tied the stretcher to the floor of the plane. And made sure that one of the other passengers had a sharp knife to cut the patient free if the plane had to be evacuated in a hurry. Later that Doctor was to agree that it truly was a boil---and a potential entrant for the Guinness Book of Records.
But then we got a tough case. It happened in mid-December, when my relief had arrived and been phased in, and I was on the manifest for the next plane to DYE Lower.
NURSING, NURSING AND STILL HAVING TO NURSE Tommy Kimmisannee, our Alaskan eskimo bulldozer driver, started on the vomiting and belly pains which are the classic symptoms of appendicitis. The weather was WOXO, so there was no chance of evacuation in the two hours of daylight that we would get that day. Obviously, Tommy couldn't stay out in his Jamesway hut, so Frank moved into the dormitory and we put Tommy in the Station Chief's bed in the Station Office/ Dining Room on the other side of the dining table from the Radician's bed.
The weather stayed WOXO day after day and all we could do was basic nursing and have anxious radio consultations via relay with Doctor Roche, who was also WOXOed over in FOX Sector. Seen from today, it was all so pathetically inadequate--- no drips, or pain killers (except morphine injections as a desperate last resort, and then only if immediate evacuation was assured) and only very weak, broad-spectrum, antibiotics. To see your patient tiring with the pain, and gradually dehydrating, is a galling experience.
Finally, after ten days, the weather lifted a little---still stormy, but with enough breaks in the cloud cover for a Dutch bush pilot to say that he would have a go at reaching FOX D. And Doctor Roche was inbound to FOX MAIN, whence a DC 4 would bring him to DYE Lower.
That was an anxious day. I drove the five miles to the strip with Tommy on his stretcher in the snowmobile, so slowly and gently that Frank, whose family were undertakers in Manchester, said he would recommend me to his father as a 'black car' driver. To our horror, more cloud came over and the patches of fog in the fiord were visibly thickening. We heard the DC 3 overhead twice, but never saw it. In the semi-darkness, and with only goose-necked oil lamps on the runway edges and one snowmobile's headlamps and rooftop spotlight on the apron, we couldn't believe that the plane's crew could find us. And we were scared stiff that Tommy couldn't stand much more being moved around.
Suddenly someone shouted "There it is", and CF-HTH came roaring out of the fog to a perfect touchdown just inside the threshold. Magnificent flying.
The door was opened by a young co-pilot who was white as a sheet. When I commented on his Captain's superb landing he just nodded dumbly.
Whilst we were loading up, we got the news that the DC 4 bringing Doc Roche had landed at DYE Lower.
With Tommy's stretcher tied down beside two passenger seats, and his body packed round with sleeping bags held in place by a cargo net, we bucketed off towards DYE Lower.
Later, I heard that DYE MAIN console had passed on a report from DYE Lower of a gust of 54 knots just as we commenced the landing circuit. No weather to be trying to land a twenty-year-old DC 3. I can still see the white knuckles of a French Canadian painter who was in the passenger seat ahead of me, as he clutched the seat frame and prayed and cursed. Was I ever glad to be on the ground and handing Tommy over to Doc Roche.
After putting Tommy on a drip, and confirming that the problem really was an inflamed appendix, Doc Roche decided to take him to Frobisher and operate there, with the help of the hospital nursing staff. The DC 4 that had come from FOX MAIN was waiting to leave for Montreal, and could land at Frobisher enroute. It had to wait a couple of hours for the gusting wind to drop sufficiently for it to go off, and by then Tommy was doing so well on his drip and sedatives that Doc Roche decided that it was best to overfly Frobisher and get him to Dorval and have Montreal General do the operation. All that went well and Tommy was back at FOX D in a month.
Old CF-HTH was known as "Heaven to Hell". But that afternoon she was hell to heaven for Tommy---and me.
MEDICAL RESEARCH A few days later I met Doc Roche again and we had time for a chat. That was the start of a great friendship and many, many more chats (especially after he discovered 5 gallons of Ethyl Alcohol in the DYE medical stores---we used to add it to orange juice for the purpose of serious medical investigation into the rate of absorption of alcohol by our livers).
CHRISTMAS AT CAPE DYER Now that I was a Sector Radician, I was really just a spare bod. We only had two I Sites and both had competent radicians who looked set for months, so there wasn't even a training requirement. But being a spare bod landed me with one sombre job.
About nine o'clock on Christmas morning, a hut which was the accommodation for one of the Eskimo workers was seen to be on fire. Several of us went out into the morning darkness, but there was nothing we could do. The fire couldn't possibly be extinguished and when the roof fell in we could see the young man's charred corpse on the bed. The Sector Office staff took over and contacted the RCMP, who said that they would send an Officer up on the plane that was to fly from Frobisher to DYE Lower that evening. The Sector Superintendent wanted to be able to give an assurance that nothing had been disturbed at the scene, so a watchman had to stand by the remains. Being spare, I was put on the job from 6 p.m. until about 10 p.m., when the Sector Office people arrived from DYE Lower with the RCMP Officer.
Fortunately, it had been a fine night, though cold. And I had seen the most amazing display of Northern Lights. I had seen some aurora borealis at FOX D, and was to see more at other times, but nothing to approach the brilliance, variety, and sheer continuity of the display during those hours whilst I sat by that young worker's body in his burnt out hut.
RE NOAH ESTATE There was a sequel to that sombre job. Forty two years later, I had finally got around to becoming acquainted with this Internet thing, and had become hooked on Googling. One evening I put in "Cape Dyer" and, amongst the 1,110 results, I spotted a reference to a page entitled "RE Noah Estate.". With a shock, I remembered that Noah had been the name of the young eskimo worker who had suffocated in his sleep as his hut filled with smoke.
The case report made fascinating reading. Noah had been one of the first Eskimos to go south for training and take up industrial work, and die and leave a considerable monetary estate. He had left over $26,000 (equivalent to about $1,000,000 today). It included $25,000 that presumably came from Death Insurance. The Department of Northern Affairs needed a legal Judgment to tell them whether Ottawa law or Eskimo custom and practice should apply, and whether Noah's wife could inherit when her marriage hadn't been (but couldn't have been) solemnized by a minister of religion. These were delicate and important issues, upon which the Judge took evidence at Broughton Island (near FOX 5) and considered long and deeply.
The Judge said: "…. The matter of Eskimo intestate succession does require further study, and much study, and immediate study …………..the Eskimos and Eskimo rights and customs should not be further ignored". And, later, "The Eskimos have no treaty……They have no Eskimo Act…" (in contrast to Canada's other indigenous people, the Indians). "This court must guard their rights, when it can, and sometimes must write upon a clean slate."
The money was to be shared equally between Noah's widow and their baby daughter. And the case became a starting point in one section of Canadian law.
QUICKLY OFF TO FOX E My time back at DYE MAIN came to an early, unexpected end. After a few days of bad weather around New Year the helicopter that served FOX E flew there with the mail, and came back with a hand-written note from George Coffey, the Station Chief at FOX E, to the Superintendent of DYE Sector and the Sector Chief for Communications and Electronics. It expressed a wish for a change of Radician at FOX E, as the man there had taken to eating nothing but a dozen eggs a day, and to spending long periods outside the Modules, practicing his imitation of a wolf howling!. George had sent the note because he didn't feel that it was a matter to be reported by the uhf radio; all sorts of people, in vehicles and in Comm. Centres, at FOX E, FOX 5, and DYE MAIN could hear what was said on the uhf. Fortunately the man concerned had previously had a lot of experience at Main and Aux Sites, so it was decided that I should go to FOX E as soon as the weather permitted and take over as Radician. Then the man there would transfer to DYE MAIN "in view of the impending shortage of radicians who were experienced in Main Site operations". That was to be the story, and the four of us who were "in the know" would stick to it. So I got my first chopper flight earlier than expected.
BY CHOPPER TO FOX E The helicopter was an Okanaghan Helicopters Sikorsky S 55 that had been fitted with big balloon floats (PHOTO Chopper at FOX-E Autumn 1960). In summer the pilot would fly to FOX E through the mountains, but in winter he always took the "sea route". The object was always to have the best chance of surviving a forced landing, and of being rescued. In winter the idea was that the chopper could settle on the sea ice and rescue could come by dog sled, or even a small bulldozer. However in summer one wouldn't want to try settling down amongst ice floes, and/or into stormy water, in an autogyro landing after an engine failure; so it was the "mountain route" that was used in summer.
The sea route gave great views of the cliffs on the west coast of Baffin Island (PHOTO Take off from FOX-E), (PHOTO Leaving FOX-E). And, after an hour's flight, there was FOX E looking "out of this world" on top of the cliffs of Durban Island. (PHOTO Aerial view of FOX-E from ENE), (PHOTO Aerial view of FOX-E from NE) , (PHOTO Aerial view of FOX-E from NE March 1960)
FIRST TIME AT FOX E I soon appreciated how much hidden concern the Radician who I was relieving was giving. But the chopper was back in a couple of days and off he went. Then began a very pleasant couple of months (PHOTO Martin Allinson with dogs at FOX-E), (PHOTO FOX-E in the autumn), even though we got our share of arctic winter weather (PHOTO Dirty weather on the sea route to FOX-E), (PHOTO Winter afternoon at FOX-E), (PHOTO FOX-E Tower & Garage on a wintery day 1960).
THE MODULES AT AN I-SITE Through the winter we lived entirely in the Modules. If necessary, we could manage for several days without anybody going outside at all. And sometimes the weather was so bad that the Station Chief would decree that we were all staying in that day. But if it was vital to go outside, say to the Garage to the Standby Generator or to the Store Building for a spare part, it could be done as we had a lifeline rigged from the Modules to the Garage, and one thence to the Store Building. With a length of rope tied round your waist, and a loop from that round the lifeline, it was impossible to get lost (although it could be quite scary, if you were caught by a whiteout).
Each module was about 16 foot by 28 foot and the five of them, joined side by side, made a building about 80 foot by 28 foot that was raised on stilts about 4 foot high.
Looking at the photograph, from left to right, there is the Generator Room (with an emergency-exit door facing the camera), then the Radar Room (with two windows), then the Station Office/ Dining Area/ Kitchen module (with two windows). To the right of the ladder is the Dormitory (with one window) and the main entrance door, and finally the Store Room (also with one window).
The ladder was provided so that the Radician could get up on the roof to climb the low mast and knock the snow and ice off the propeller and moving vane which fed his wind speed and direction meters in the corner of the Radar Room that was his "Air Traffic Control" position.
(PHOTO All iced up) , (PHOTO On the roof), (PHOTO One night's icing ).
INTERIOR ARRANGEMENTS Entering by going up the steps to the fourth module, there was a small corridor, about 12 foot long, at right angles to the main passageway that ran through the centre of each module for the whole length of the building.
The fifth module (to the right as one entered) was devoted to storage: racks of shelves for food, spare clothing and bedding etc. etc., and a big water tank. My only interest in the fifth module was the l.f.beacon transmitter that lived on the shelves there. It simply transmitted a carrier wave that carried a tone that was interrupted so as to form the two letters in morse that identified the beacon. The interruptor was simple in the extreme--- a slowly rotating disc with a circle of holes into which were fitted brass pegs (long ones for dashes and short ones for dots). When a brass peg was passing the pickup brush, the tone was transmitted. Simple but effective; and I don't remember having any trouble from those l.f. beacon transmitters, other than the occasional demise of a vacuum tube. (But the beacon antennas were a pain. As the photos show, their main element was a horizontal wire that needed frequent de-icing and sometimes one night of blowing snow would bring it down).
(PHOTO Using the bamboo pole), (PHOTO Rigger Repairs).
Turning to the left into the main passageway, one had a cage containing the 60Hz motor-400Hz generator sets and a big tank on the right and the dormitory door on the left. The big tank held the sewage, until it was time to empty it (from outside!) into the Honey Wagon. That was a transit tank on a sled, which was taken to the edge of a cliff, where the contents were disgorged through a wide hose pipe. The photo shows the brown streaks down the cliff at FOX E (in line with the tower. After use, the Honey Wagon was parked well away, and downwind!.
The dormitory contained three sets of double bunks, and was the sleeping accommodation for the Mechanic and the Cook and any winter visitors (such as the Sector Radician, and Riggers).
Through a fire door, one then entered the "living module". On the right, up a few steps, was the shower room, which also contained the lavatory. The shower room took up about a quarter of the module. The other quarter on the right was the kitchen area with water heater, stove, sink, clothes washing machine, and the Cook's table.
(PHOTO kitchen area)
On the left was an area about 16 foot by 12 foot that contained the Station Chief's bed, his desk, the dining table, and the Radician's bed (with the radar equipment alarm buzzer by his pillow).
In the next module, the Radar Room, one had the Radician's workbench, storage shelves and desk/comm. centre on the right and the radar transmitters in cabinets on the left.
(PHOTO Transmitter Cabinets), ( PHOTO Klystron), (PHOTOMaster Oscillator panel.
And the end module was the Generator Room, with two 10KW generators driven by diesel engines. During summer 1960, these were changed to 20 KW units. Fortunately the sound insulation was good and the noise of the diesels was quite acceptable, even in the Radar Room.
WINTER ON AN I SITE This was the really testing time. The four of us lived cooped up in the Modules, with no contact with one's "nearest and dearest" except letters that arrived fitfully. Our main entertainment was endless games of pool on the miniature table that, with a cover on, was also the dining table. And, on average once a week, we would be sent a movie which we projected on a small foldaway screen. No television, no radio, and any newspapers would be at least two weeks old on arrival. This was before the days of cassettes of recorded music, but we did have a record player and a few records that we played over and over. As the Radician, I was lucky in that I had the desk in the Radar Room as a place to write letters or read a book. And I was fortunate that, before my winter at FOX E, I had been at FOX D through the Autumn, and at DYE for Christmas----the others had already been at FOX E for months.
STATION CHIEFS I developed, and retain, a great respect and admiration for the four I Site Station Chiefs that I worked with. I have a photograph of Frank Tilzey that was taken at Christmas 1958, when Frank was a Mechanic at DYE Lower. (PHOTO Frank Tilzey) The only photograph of George Coffey that I can find was taken as I was leaving FOX E after my first spell there. George is on the left of the snowmobile. (PHOTO George Coffey on left) Later I knew Wally Paterson at FOX E and Earl Roberts at FOX D. The photograph of Wally Paterson shows him with sled dogs. Wally and animals had an instinctive affinity for each other; and Wally was saving so that he could own his own farm in Ontario.
(PHOTO Wally Paterson)
And here (below) is Earl Roberts, waiting to unload an incoming flight at FOX D strip. It also shows the Station (above Earl's head, at the highest point on the skyline).
The Station Chiefs carried all the responsibility for the operation of the Station, and the well-being of its personnel, as well as doing a full day's work as a Mechanic. (Nowadays I meet these modern managers with their BA's and MBA's and think "Very impressive----but you wouldn't have lasted a fortnight as an I Site Station Chief" !). To be a manager but never able to have a private word with your boss; and to have no room to yourself, but live the whole 24 hours in a room that was Station Office, and dining room, and social room, and a shared bedroom, was asking a lot. The photo above shows how close everything was. And yet all the four I-Site Station Chiefs that I knew ran thoroughly harmonious Stations. Great men.
I only knew of one of them losing his temper ; and then only the once. It was at FOX D. We had had a good blizzard during the night before and the result is shown in the Photograph The Generator Room emergency-exit door had blown open and most of the room was swimming in water and half-melted snow. The "inside" Mechanic was a young Dutchman, known as Booey. (I never did know his proper name). He always did his work, but he was well known for making it as easy as possible. On this day he simply cut a hole in the Generator Room floor, and read a magazine whilst the water drained away. Frank went ballistic. Booey got a new one, but whether it was punched, bored, or drilled and reamed, he wasn't sure!. However, it was soon all over and we knew that was the end of the matter. Frank wasn't one for keeping bad memories alive. But that Mechanic was, for ever after, known as Short-Cut Booey.
GOOD TIMES After I had been at FOX E for a couple of months, a new Radician was sent from DYE to be trained up to take over from me. I found this made a great improvement to life. With two Radicians on site each could have some whole days off, which was never possible when one was the sole Radician. In fact, a sole Radician could never be far from the Modules. And, if out, he always had to be using a vehicle so that he could be summoned back by the vehicular uhf radio, if there was an alarm from the Radar Room. But with two on site, one could happily go off in one of the bulldozers and push snow for an hour or two. Or get an Eskimo to teach him how to build an igloo. Also it eased another of the sole Radician's frustrations: chopper arrival.
CHOPPER ARRIVAL Because of the expense, the chopper only flew when there was a load that couldn't wait. And sometimes not even then, if the weather was bad. It wasn't unusual to go ten days without getting mail and movies. So when the chopper did come it added a bit of excitement to the day. Everybody but the Radician would be down at the pad "meeting and greeting" Our "baggage handlers" were equipped differently to their counterparts down South. The photograph shows our Eskimo garage-worker, Silucee, driving the small caterpillar tractor, and Camille Roy (Mechanic) riding on the sled whilst taking the outgoing load to the chopper. But the Radician had to stay in the Radar Room to do his 'air traffic control', so he didn't normally get to see even the one fresh face. But when there were two of us we could take it in turns to get a share of this welcome break in the monotony.
MANNING THE "I" SITES Filling the I Site Radician positions gave the SCCE (Sector Chief Communications and Radar) a lot of headache. I think there were 32 Radician and Comm Centre Operator positions to keep filled at FOX 4, FOX 5, DYE MAIN, and RES X1, but the SCCE reckoned that finding just the two for the I Sites gave him as much trouble as finding the other 32.
Obviously they had to be volunteers. To have someone on an I Site who didn't want to be there would make for great problems. And only a small minority of personalities would countenance the cramped conditions and the isolation entailed in I Site service. But also men who were keen on electronics, and wanted to feel they were advancing their knowledge and experience, scorned the I Sites because there was so little technical content in the work there. When once I had to strip an hv power supply in order to replace a defective transformer at the back, it was such a rare occasion that I had a photograph taken to show that I Site Radicians did do a bit more than just take their daily meter readings! And there was no job satisfaction to come from feeling that one was doing a vital job. After a few spells on a console, we all knew that the Aircraft Alarm System (for which the I Sites provided the beam) was of zero importance. In the SCCE's delicate phraseology, "The AA is as unnecessary, and useless, as the tits on a bull". (When the Line was being planned, in 1953, it had made sense to let it be known that it would be effective against low-level, as well as high-level, penetration. But the AA had been overtaken by events. Aerospace technology had developed in the direction of high-level bombers. There had been no development of low-level penetrators that could possibly carry enough fuel to bring them from Russia to populated Canada, never mind get them home again. Also the DEWLine surveillance radar was proving both effective and reliable. Any Russian submarine sitting in the Davis Strait that recorded the ground to air traffic from the consoles to our lateral DC3's, would have proved to Moscow that low level penetrators wouldn't get past without being detected. So, by 1959, it was clear that the AA System was redundant; and, in fact, it was soon to be decommissioned. "Tits on a bull" was a harsh comment, but a perfectly accurate analogy.)
The SCCE (whose surname was Cook (or Cooke), I think) had decided that the best tactic was to look at all new arrivals from Streator and, if they had the right personality, to encourage them to volunteer to try an I Site. So my volunteering to be I Site Sector Radician had been music to his ears---but he hadn't let on. To encourage potential volunteers, he would promise real support. And we discussed ways of living up to that promise. For instance, there was good Ham equipment available for any Hams to take with them, and we thought we could even wangle Heathkits for those who wanted to do some constructing. I put in to the Suggestion Scheme a request for the issue of a really good manual on nursing matters (the US Navy Manual for their medical corpsmen). We got the support of the Sector Super on that--- though I was prevailed upon to delete my remark that Streator only trained us to be corpse men!.
And, above all, we would invent excuses for the Sector Radician to have to pop in for a couple of days (and then hang around for a week waiting for a flight out) so as to give the Radician some days off. The SCCEs colleague in charge of the Mechanics, who was, I think, entitled SCOP (Sector Chief Outside Plant) was keen on this, too. He had asked me to give Frank Tilzey a hand with the station paperwork (which wasn't Frank's forte) and this had worked well; so the SCOP saw that having the extra Radician coming in for part of the time also had benefits for his people. I was to feed the SCCE photographs of the good side of I Site life, such as fishing for arctic char. But the SCCE didn't want to know, officially, about all that happened on days off---such as expeditions to Padloping, or accompanying walrus hunters!
NOMAD So it came about that the later half of my contract was spent nomadically. My main activity was to go to and fro between FOX D and FOX E (via DYE Lower and a brief look-in at DYE MAIN each time). The only exceptions were when I was "lent" to RES X1 once, and to DYE MAIN twice, to cover short vacancies caused by one of their Radicians going out on R&R. Having been a young mountaineer, I was used to packing up and moving on; so it was just a matter of taking things as they came.
HURRIED DEPARTURE One morning I had just woken up in a room at DYE MAIN and was thinking about dressing, washing, having some breakfast, and then wandering over to see if there was anything to do in the Sector Electronics Workshop, when somebody came to tell me that the SCCE was sending me over to FOX E (I can't remember why). I said I'd get over to the SCCE's office, catching a bit of breakfast on the way; only to be told "You've no time for that. The chopper is picking you up here. It's on its way up from Lower Camp now". So all that I had unpacked in that room (fortunately not much) had to be hastily thrown into a couple of holdalls---just spare clothes and my emergency-survival sleeping bag wrapped round an emergency-survival bottle of medicinal ethyl alcohof. And that is how I once came to arrive at FOX E looking like death warmed up: unshaven, with sleep still in my eyes, my belly rumbling emptily, and dressed in quilted trousers and a parka that hid my pyjamas.
THE DAVIS STRAIT TRADER The Hudson Bay Company didn't have any presence at Cape Dyer, Durban Island/Padloping, or Kivitoo. But , in the interests of supporting the lads and the eskimo-worker families at the I Sites, I did my best to make up for the absence of HBC. The FEC eskimo workers would do carvings and we would buy sealskins, foxskins, and even the occasional polar bear skin from Eskimo hunters who came to us from Padloping or Kivitoo. I was the middle-man who passed these on to people at Cape Dyer who wanted to take a souvenir home at their End Of Contract.
That way, FOX D and FOX E would acquire extra creature comforts. A typical trade would be a quite-ordinary seal skin for ten back-numbers of Playboy.
But for a really nice sealskin I would get the acquirer to leave me a full holdall of workclothes as I knew these were really appreciated by Kivitoo and Padloping residents for wearing under their furs.
And the eskimo-workers' houses got better and better equipped. I can't claim to have sold a refrigerator to an Eskimo, but I have helped one to choose one from Eaton's Mail-Order Catalogue.
RETROSPECTIONS I left the Line after finishing one contract, with just a month's extension. I felt very honoured that the Sector Superintendent, Jesse Covington, wanted me to come back and be Station Chief of FOX E: and I was quite tempted. But my wife pointed out that we had got what we set out to get---enough money to live well whilst I did a year of postgraduate studies, and a bit more besides. She was right. The money from the Line made a big difference to us for the next ten years or so.
There must be hundreds of untold stories of how savings from a period of work on the DEWLine got a young couple off to a good start, or even founded a family business. I know that I wouldn't have got my Lectureship at a good technical college without those postgraduate studies. Nor would we have then been able to buy the houseboat on the Cam, and so live in the centre of Cambridge, without the savings from the Line. And, later, that money allowed us to buy a small hill-farm in the mountains of Wales, when I went there to work at a nuclear power station.
Thankyou DEWLine for all the fun, the experience, and the little pot of gold!
With affection, Martin Allinson, August 2003, NE Thailand, (E. & O. E.)
* While I was on the DEWLine, my name was Brian Simon (my adopted name) and anyone looking for me would know me by that name. After I left the DEWLine in 1964, I changed my surname to my birth father's name and I've been known as Brian Jeffrey since then.
The events in these stories are documented to the best of my memory but 40 years may have blurred and/or embellished some of the facts a bit. These are the incidents as I chose to remember them.
It was the fall of 1961, on a quiet Arctic night. But then most Arctic nights on the DEWLine were quiet. Tom Billowich and I were half way through the midnight to 8:00 am shift at CAM Four, Pelly Bay. It was Tom's turn to man the console so I went off to do some preventative maintenance routines (PMs) on the air/ground transmitters in the transmitter room.
It was somewhere around 4:15-4:30 when all hell broke loose. We received a call from FOX Main to do an immediate minimum discernible signal (MDS) test on both beams of the FPS-19 radar system. There was no mistaking the sense of urgency. I called the console and asked Tom what was up. "There's something wrong with the radar," he told me, "We missed a target."
I hotfooted it to the Radar room and did the tests. No problem. The radar was just fine. What was going on? Back to the console room where Tom told me that both CAM Three and Five on each side of us had reported the target but we weren't painting it. I looked at the right-hand screen of the console. We were sure as hell painting it now. What gives?
I asked Tom what was going on. All he would tell me is that we missed the bogie and he was now in deep doodoo. He denied dozing off. I sent him off to do another MDS test for himself and he returned to confirm my earlier results. There was nothing wrong with the system. He really was in trouble.
There was a lot of mental and physical hand wringing on Tom's part as he continued to claim that he hadn't fallen asleep and that there just had to be something temporarily wrong with the radar.
Before the end of the shift we were informed that Tom should gather all his belongings up and be ready for pick-up later in the day and taken to Fox Main.
Tom not only gathered up his things but gathered up his thoughts as well. By the time he was being driven to the airstrip for pick-up by CF-IQD he was prepared to present a vigorous defence in an attempt to salvage the situation and his job. I shook his hand and wished him well.
Tom never got an opportunity to present his case. They took him off the lateral flight and put him directly on the southbound flight, out of the arctic, and out of a job.
Technical failure aside, there was simply no acceptable excuse for missing a target. Tom missed the bogie and, in the end, we missed Tom.
Being the only Radician on an I-Site meant that you were also the first-aid person as well. These small stations were a lonely existence for most Radicians as the rest of the station personnel usually consisted of a cook, a couple of mechanics, one or two general helpers, and an Eskimo family or two.
At CAM-D, the Eskimos lived about a half-mile away, halfway between the airstrip and the few modules that made up the station. CAM-D was nestled on the flat tundra plain between CAM Three and CAM Four and was the dividing line between the CAM and FOX Sectors. It was here that I spent several months in 1961-62.
An Eskimo woman was with child, pregnant so to speak, and was growing subtly larger with every passing month. As she usually stayed in the Eskimo quarters she was generally out-of-sight and out-of-mind. She became top-of-mind one evening when her husband brought her to the main building complaining of stomach cramps. Stomach cramps? How about labour pains? First-aid training notwithstanding, I was not prepared for this!
What to do? The first challenge was communications. The Eskimo, whose name is long forgotten, didn't speak very good English and I sure as hell didn't speak Eskimo. No one seemed to know just how long the lady had been pregnant or when, exactly, she was due to give birth.
I immediately rummaged around our limited library and found what I was looking for, the St John's Ambulance First Aid manual. I opened it to the index and looked for 'emergency childbirth.' There it was. I was saved. I quickly opened it to the emergency childbirth section and here's what it said:
1) Make patient comfortable.
2) Call a doctor.
Yikes! This I didn't need. The closest doctor was in FOX Main. I immediately got on the horn to CAM Four and had them patch me through to FOX Main where I tried to locate the doctor. Time stretched on forever as I waited for my saviour to call. Finally, a call from CAM Four. They had the doctor and were patching him through to me. He asked me how far along she was. I didn't know. He asked if she was dilated. I didn't know. Hell, I was only 21 and had never really looked at these things before!
He finally gave his advice. If it was a boy, I should tie the umbilical cord with a blue ribbon and if it was a girl I was to tie it with a pink one. I went ballistic.
I told the doctor, in no uncertain terms, that they were to send a plane, now, either to take her or me out of here. I didn't mind changing klystrons but I hadn't signed up to deliver babies.
After I calmed down they agreed to send a plane and eight hours later my Eskimo friend was on her way to FOX Main and competent medical help. I'm sure that both of us were breathing a lot easier.
Postscript to the story: She really did only have stomach cramps and gave birth to a healthy baby girl about three weeks after her evacuation.
I don't know why Albert Lemaire coveted his bottle of scotch, but he did. It was as though it was an Aztec treasure to be displayed and talked about but never to be touched by others. If Albert had simply kept his mouth shut he might have had a chance to enjoy his scotch.
Albert was a Sector Electrician and travelled from site to site doing esoteric electrical repairs that the station mechanics didn't or wouldn't do. He'd been at CAM Four about 10 days and no amount of cajoling or convincing could get him to share the pleasures of the bottle's contents. We tried buying it off him but to no avail.
It was early on an uneventful Saturday when the dastardly plot was hatched. Albert was due to leave the next day and was down at the airstrip doing his electrician thing when some of the station crew decided to liberate the scotch. We weren't gong to steal it; we were going to borrow it.
We found the bottle tucked away in Albert's bunk and, using a razor blade, carefully cut the seal around the screw top. We then transfered the contents to another bottle and refilled Albert's bottle with a scotch-looking fluid made of tea. As a final touch, we resealed the top using some clear scotch tape so the bottle would 'crack' as it was reopened sometime in the future.
That Saturday evening, when we were all sitting around the bar/lounge area, one of the guys 'discovered' some scotch behind the bar and offered it to everyone, Albert included. It was a grand evening. Everyone was getting pleasantly potted on Albert's scotch, including Albert.
The next morning, some of us, slightly the worse for wear, saw Albert off as he crawled aboard the plane for the short hop to CAM-D. We waved Albert and his bottle of tea goodbye and silently when back up to the station.
It was a couple of days later when the radio channel from CAM-D came alive with some of the bluest language I've ever heard. Apparently Albert had opened his bottle of scotch only to discover that tea doesn't taste anything like scotch. We turned the volume down and let Albert rant.
If only Albert had kept quiet about his coveted scotch.
It was a big day at CAM-D. We received a new washing machine to replace the one that had died several weeks before.
Now washing machines were no big deal unless you're without one for several weeks. By this time, some of our clothes weren't just standing up by themselves; they were walking around looking for some fresh air and begging to be washed.
We got the thing off the plane and into the back of the four-by-four for the one-mile trip to the main site. The Eskimos wanted the packing case for something so they quickly spirited the material away, never to be seen again, leaving us to manhandle the heavy, commercial-grade unit, into the building.
We squeezed the unit through the doorways and into the kitchen/eating area module where we placed it approximately where the old machine had been. We were all anxious to give it its first workout. While the cook prepared the final touches to supper, we put in our first load. A big load.
It was while we were all eating around the small table that the trouble started. All of a sudden, the machine went into its high-speed spin cycle and took off, dancing and hopping around the room. The imbalance of the wet clothes in the drum had turned this normally docile machine into a mechanical bucking bronco. After the initial surprise wore off, three of us jumped on top of the machine to try and contain it before it did too much physical damage to the facilities.
There we were, all three of us, hanging on for dear life as this killer washer tried to buck us off and trample us. It just kept on dancing and bucking for what seemed forever until it finally moved far enough that the power cord came free from the wall outlet and the machine, thankfully, calmed down.
As we surveyed the damage we realized why we had put the machine approximately where the old machine had been and not exactly where it had been. There were concrete blocks in the way. In our zeal for clean clothes, we had forgotten that the old machine had been mounted on these blocks. Now we knew what the blocks were for. They weren't to just raise up the machine as we had thought; they were to keep the machine from dancing away with our clothes.
No one said much as we unloaded the machine, mounted it on the concrete blocks, and went back to finish supper with the new washer humming gently in the background.
It was like a scene from a bad movie. There I was, not knowing what to do when King of the North in the form of an RCMP constable showed up at the door and saved the day.
It started earlier that evening. As the only Radician at CAM-D, I doubled, hesitantly, as the first-aid person. One of the Eskimos brought his 4-year old daughter up to the main modules with a crushed finger. Apparently little Emily had gotten her finger caught in a door and basically squeezed it enough that it had broke open at the top.
Albeit it small, it was a pretty nasty looking wound and, in cleaner southern clime, it might not have been too much of a problem. Having seen the Eskimo quarters, I was afraid of Emily getting an infection and losing her finger or perhaps her hand.
According to the station's St John's Ambulance First Aid manual, I was to give her a shot of penicillin. OK, but where? I had three ampoules of penicillin and a needle but no instruction as to where to inject it.
I'd always gotten my penicillin shots in the butt. However, as I was never watching when it happened, I wasn't sure exactly where in the butt to stick it. This is where King of the North came into the picture.
Now picture this. I'm located about 120 miles above the Arctic Circle, about 50-70 miles from the nearest Auxiliary site, and 250 miles from a doctor who wasn't available anyway, when there's a banging on the module's main door. In walks this RCMP constable who had just parked his dog team - yes, a dog team - in front of our building, and he wants to know if he can bed down for the night with us. Is this out of Hollywood or what?
I welcomed him with open arms because I knew that RCMP personnel have extensive medical and first-aid training. I quickly explained my mini-medical emergency to him and he took charge. He gave the shot to Emily, bandaged her finger, and calmed her down.
Another life saved in the nick of time by King of the North.
As a member of the Sector Crew responsible for looking after the air/ground radios, I didn't really have a place to call home. The members of the Sector crew were usually constantly on the move, going from one station to another across the sector, looking after their assigned group of equipment. We were usually thrown on the plane right after the movies and mail and got off the plane immediately after them.
If we had a home, it was the BOPSR Club at FOX Main. The BOPSR Club was a single leftover module that sat, all by itself, about 200 feet from the main module trains. It had electricity, a space heater, 8-10 bunks, and that's about it. Oh, it had one other thing. It had a urinal of sorts, but more about that later.
Whenever members of the sector crew were in FOX Main, they stayed in the BOPSER Club. As it was rare for the whole crew to be at FOX Main at the same time the bunks were often used by personnel coming up from the south while they waited lateral transportation to their assigned sites.
Newcomers to the Line who stayed in these less-than-posh quarters were easy prey to the old timers who, in exchange for their booze, would spin tales of life in the north.
Back to the urinal for a moment. As the module had no washroom facilities and as it was a long, cold, 200-foot walk to the main building, some enterprising soul had built an enclosed veranda-like addition through which he stuck a metal funnel so one could relieve themselves without freezing anything. The funnel had a hose that ran to a fifty-gallon drum. This wasn't a problem in the winter when everything froze very quickly but in the summer when this drum thawed out we all stayed on the road and away from the club. Not a pleasant aroma for a while.
It was the winter of 1962. I and a couple of other sector crew members were between trips and hiding out in the BOPSR Club when we were blessed with a couple of newbies fresh up from the south and bearing gifts (booze).
I rarely drink unless it's there and if it's there I drink. It was there and I drank. Every now and then, one of us would get up and go use the urinal in order to make more room for the booze. Now, I don't know about you but the more I drink, the drunker I get and the drunker I get, the sleepier I get.
On one of my trips to the urinal, I fell asleep standing up and a part of my body, which will remain nameless, came in contact with the metal funnel. Anyone who was a kid, particularly of the male variety, knows that when a part of your body, your tongue for example, comes in contact with frozen metal, you stick to it. That's what happened to me.
I awoke instantly only to find myself attached to the funnel. What to do? I tried spitting to see if the warm saliva would free me from my bounds. No luck. Finally I did what every young child does when they find their tongue stuck to the metal fence or pole, I pulled away, leaving a small part of me still attached to the metal funnel.
Fortunately, alcohol has an aesthetic property that helped dull the pain. I've always claimed that, hadn't this accident happened, I would have been a danger to all womankind (don't I wish).
Brian Webb didn't just like to drink, he liked to get smashed. This didn't usually cause a problem except on Saturday night, or more importantly Sunday morning, when he was supposed to relieve me from Radician duties.
It was a typical Saturday evening at CAM Four and the station personnel were gathered in the recreation module areas enjoying a few drinks and games of pool and cards. I had to go on duty at midnight so I was drinking pop while most of the others, including Brian, imbibed of the devil's brew.
The evening festivities went on well after I went on shift at midnight and every now and then I dropped down to the recreation module to see how things were going. What wasn't going was Brian. He wasn't going to bed. I mentioned to him that he was to relieve me in a few hours and he might want to get some sleep. My pleas fell on deaf ears and a sodden mind. I was getting annoyed.
On one of my trips to the recreation area I carried on to my sleeping quarters, which were across from Brian's. I got a tube of shaving cream from my room, went across to Brian's room, found his toothpaste and carefully transferred a slug of shaving cream from my tube into his toothpaste tube after which I went chuckling back to work.
8:00 am came but Brian didn't. Nine passed, then ten. Finally, at around 11 am a bleary-eyed, dishevelled, somewhat-still-drunk Brian appeared. As he mumbled a good morning into my face I caught the smell of booze, bad breath, and shaving cream. I asked him if he had shaved his teeth that morning. He looked at me quizzically, mumbled something, and plopped himself down in front of the radar console and I went off the bed.
It was later in the day when the final act of the play happened. I was sitting in the toilet when a now sober Brian appeared holding his toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. Oh no, I thought. This can't be happening before my eyes as I strained to see through the crack of the toilet door. It was, it was. He was going to brush his teeth!
It took a few seconds but now that he was sober, Brian could actually taste the shaving cream. It wasn't a pretty sight so I'll spare you. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Of course Brian accused me of putting shaving cream into his toothpaste tube but I denied any knowledge of it. In the end, he was never sure enough to take revenge on me.
But I was very careful about where I hid my own toothpaste until I left the site.
It was one of those rare days off that we occasionally got and Tom Billowich convinced me that we should walk the six miles down to the airstrip and do some fishing for Arctic char.
I protested the long walk but Tom said we could take a short cut via the old road and besides; the people at the airstrip could give us a drive back. So we got the station's fishing gear and off we went.
We were about half way to the airstrip when I noticed the people driving up the main road back to the station. So much for our ride back. I was starting to be an unhappy camper.
We finally got to the lake by the airstrip. Tom was the first to cast his line. It went out about 15 feet and came to an abrupt stop. That was all the line he had on his reel. Hardly long enough to reach the water. No problem. I still had my rod and reel and it looked pretty full.
I'm not a fisherman but I'm usually game to try things so I cast my line with all the vigour I'd seen other fisherman do. Out the line went and then it just kept on going. No one had attached it to the reel! Both Tom and I watched as my hook, line, and sinker went flying out over the lake to disappear forever.
It was a long, quiet, six-mile, uphill walk back to the station. I didn't talk to Tom for a few days and I've never been fishing since.
Father Vandeveld had been in the Arctic longer than I had been alive. This venerable gentleman had spent over twenty years in the Arctic, most of them at the Pelly Bay Mission. He was to give me one of my most memorable Christmases ever.
CAM Four, Pelly Bay, is located about 10-12 miles north of the Pelly Bay Mission that Father Vanderveld called home. You could always tell when people from the Mission visited the station because they only had to be in the building for a few moments before the air circulating system alerted us that either the Eskimos from the Mission had arrived or someone had left a dead seal in the entranceway.
One such visit brought with it an invitation to visit the Mission on Christmas Eve to join in the festivities. A group of 8-10 of us accepted and on the appointed day, we all climbed into the Bombardier SnowPig and drove to the Mission.
There were about 120 or so Eskimos living in and around the Mission at that time. What they had done in preparation for the occasion was to build four fairly large igloos in a square, placing them about 30 feet from each other. They then built a huge igloo using the four smaller ones as corner pieces. They completed the structure by removing the now interior walls of the four small igloos, leaving a huge 50 foot round igloo with four small alcoves.
The entire Mission, all 120 of them, were in the igloo that evening. A mass of humanity for Christmas Mass. They sang and played games. They had a piñata-like object hanging from the top of the structure and all the Eskimo children had an opportunity at being blindfolded and had a try at smacking it with a stick. When one of the children did finally hit it, all manner of treats rained down on the spectators.
As strangers and visitors, the people from CAM Four stayed in the background, observing and enjoying the simple pleasures of the event. It was a touching and moving experience.
On the return journey to the station in the snowmobile, one of the Eskimos offered me a frozen 'treat.' I thanked him and as I munched on the treat and it began to melt in my mouth, I realized that it was a piece of raw frozen fish. I don't like raw fish.
To this day, I'm not a big fan of sushi (raw fish), but whenever I have the opportunity to taste some, I'm transported back to that quiet evening many years ago and remember Christmas at the Real Pelly Bay.
No one knows just when Phil C. went crazy but crazy he went and I was designated to replace him.
People go off the deep end for many reasons, some psychological, some medical, some who knows? While I've always contended that you had to be a bit crazy to be a DEWLiner, the Federal Electric Corp took great pains to put DEWLine candidates through a series of psychological tests to weed out those who might crack under the strain of being isolated for long periods of time.
Phil was a Radician at FOX Three, Dewar Lakes, and was a likeable person. I had met Phil on a number of occasions as I travelled across FOX Sector as part of my Sector Crew duties and I liked him.
Apparently Phil didn't drop off the deep end quickly; he sort of slid into craziness slowly. It started with Phil complaining about the "little people" who were trying to get him. Other station personnel thought he was just kidding around. As the day went on, Phil's complaints got more and more persistent. Now the "little people" were coming up through holes in the floor of his room. He was beginning to see them in odd places. Towards the end, Phil took to carrying a carving knife from the kitchen to protect himself. The last straw happened when they found Phil on top of the module train chasing the "little people."
Then two things happened. They put in an urgent call for a replacement and the weather immediately closed in.
I sat in the BOPSER Club at FOX Main for four days waiting for the weather to lift. Meanwhile, at FOX Three, they had Phil tied to a stretcher and had to let him shout and scream until he would finally tire himself out and fall asleep.
On the fourth day, the weather lifted enough to allow the mail and I to be thrown onto the DC-3 for the trip to FOX Three. It was a tense group that greeted us on our arrival. Phil was there, all bundled up in his parka, busily doing something. I went over and greeted him. He looked sane but had a slight far away look to his eyes. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he was trying to get the fluid out of his lighter and that you couldn't fly with fluid in your lighter. OK Phil, whatever you say!
On the return trip to FOX Main, Phil was seated next to a military person who wasn't familiar with Phil's condition. Phil asked if he had a razor blade. The guy found one in his shaving kit and gave it to Phil who promptly tried to cut his own wrists. There was a scuffle and the razor blade was taken away from Phil and he was restrained.
About this time the weather at FOX Main closed in and the plane had to land at FOX Two to wait it out. Apparently the "little people" had followed Phil and the personnel at FOX Two were treated to a night of Phil's ranting.
They finally got to FOX Main and put Phil on the southbound trip to a hospital in Winnipeg. It turned out that Phil had tonsillitis and the infection had poisoned his system causing him to have delusions. Phil wasn't really crazy, just sick. While I'm not sure, I believe Phil ultimately returned to the line to continue his duties as a Radician.
Meanwhile, I was given Phil's old room at FOX Three and took over his duties. Having a rather strange sense of humour, I complained about the holes in the floor of my new room. No one laughed.
I am reminded and recall one instance at CAM-C Near Gjoa Haven on King William Island.
In December 1958 Les Bassinette and myself were sent from PWA Edmonton north as a repair crew at this DEWLine strip where an Anson aircraft was sitting mid-way down the strip (straddling the runway lights) damaged from a landing. The Anson had undershot the elevated airstrip collapsing the right undercarriage scrapping the right wing and right engine. We were repairing this damaged aircraft utilizing the runway lights for a power source.
On this particular evening a movie was being shown in the kitchen/dining room area of the Dewline site. We would come in to take a break, to watch the movie and warm-up.
The first reel had run out and the projectionist was changing reels when one of the moviegoers decided to go outside.
Much to his and our astonishment a large aircraft was sitting on the strip with engines running and with all the navigation lights and beacon lights on.
The station manager made a hurried call to his superiors. With no further information into the identity of this craft, he grabbed his rifle and went to investigate. We initially thought the Russians had invaded the station.
So much for radar (Dewline) advising us the proximity and landing of this aircraft, which happened to be a RCAF Fairchild C-119 (Boxcar, or Packet). from 435 Sqn out of Edmonton AB
They were enroute from Edmonton to Hall Beach (only 200 miles off course) when the runway lights beckoned to them for this unscheduled stop at our small strip. Normally these runway lights would have been off.
Not only did they goof their navigation, (with a navigator on board) besides the normal crew (pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and navigator) they had an additional safety check pilot.
In the back were a maintenance crew of six a spare engine and tools to change an engine in another RCAF C-119 at Hall Beach.
The poor Captain was assisted into the dining room area and was shaking uncontrollably from this close encounter.
He pulled off a landing on an unexpected short runway at night in the wrong place.The runway length was 2850 feet by 100 feet wide.
They almost went off the end, which would have put them down in a gully.
Only the nose wheel went off, as they were using maximum reverse power, (props in reverse pitch) to keep it on the runway.
All evening night and morning the ground crew ran the aircraft to burn off extra fuel, keep the engines warm and operational for their departure.
The safety pilot closely consulted the aircraft operational manuals; he calculated they could make it off with a reduced load and all their personnel by the next day during the limited daylight hours.
They off loaded all their tools and unessential materials, keeping the spare engine on board and loaded up the crews for take-off.
The safety pilot took command; the original designated pilot was still too distraught for him to continue to operate.
One engine was developing full power with water/glycol injection; the other engine could not do this performance, as this feature was unserviceable.
Needless to say we were all watching and on the alert for their take-off and its consequences on this short runway.
A light wind was blowing from the NW right down the runway
The A/c was backed to the very SE end of the runway
The a/c was at "full power" when the brakes were released and down the runway they proceeded.
It looked like it was agonizing slow acceleration, the snow was blowing aft of the props in a blizzard type condition. From our viewpoint all we could see were the vertical fins moving down the runway right to the end, where the gully starts to fall away from the airstrip. This is the point where the rotation began for the take-off, resulting in the fins lowering and disappearing. Snow billowed up in a huge cloud like formation, for a moment we thought they did not make it!
Engine power was still being heard and was being maintained. Finally the aircraft rose from the surrounding gully hills to proceed eastbound to Hall Beach. Whew! This looked very exciting from our perspective; I wonder what it was like onboard!
We went down to the airstrip to examine the take-off point at the runway end, and sure enough the main wheels left their marks 30 feet down into this gully before actual lift-off.
I often wonder about that crew, their circumstances resulting from this event.
Research indicates the RCAF Squadron was 435 out of Edmonton. Perhaps someone will come forward to tell the rest of the story.
revised 22 Nov 05
The year was 1962 around August at Byron Bay (Pin 4), a Dewline Site, on Victoria Island. It was north of the Arctic Circle at the junction of Coronation Gulf and Dease Strait. The sea was already turning to ice slush prior to freeze up. The day was overcast and cold.
Rod Roome, a Radician and I, Steve Shewchuk, a Lead Radician, borrowed one of the resurrected constructions jeeps and drove down to the beach. As we approached the beach we notice that the Arctic Foxes were present. Their fur had already almost all white in preparation for winter. We saw a Fox with an iron Leg hold trap on his front leg.
Rod and I decided we would help this fox out. The problem was how to catch the fox. So first we tried to catch the fox by running after him. Needles to say we were both winded very quickly as the sly fox could still run quite well with the trap on his leg. So we went back to the jeep and chased the fox until he stopped running. It was his turn to be tuckered out. I got out of the jeep and approached the fox, but he wasn't having any of this thereby running into the slushy water and swam out about one hundred feet. We waited for about five minutes but he would not come back to shore. We decided to wait inside the Jeep.
About 10 minutes later the Fox swam ashore and the chase with the Jeep was on again until the poor Fox could run no longer. This time I approached the Fox from the shore to keep him from going back into the icy water. The Fox was had enough of running and bared his teeth prepared for battle. My plan was to try and grab the Fox by the scruff of his neck which I did manage to do, but my thumb wound up in his mouth as well. Fortunately I was wearing the Arctic Gloves so his bite did no damage to my thumb. After removing my thumb from the Fox's mouth I held him up by the scruff of his neck while Rod released the trap and removed it from his leg.
With the trap removed I then put the Fox back down on the ground. He looked up once and was off in a flash running at full speed without so much as a thank you.
I was on the Bar Main Console one windy night when I get a frantic call Lee Lavengood* at Bar-1. He had just been 'buzzed' by an airplane and asked me to see where it was.
No airplane was on the Radar. He later called back telling an unlikely story about a radician giving a bad altimeter setting to a Norseman, which crashed. Ever since, when conditions were the same as the night of the crash, the Norseman would buzz the site.
I was soon permanently assigned to Bar-1 and sure enough, the same thing happened to me. The plane flew so low it shook the building!
It sure ruined my night when neither Bar-Main or Bar-2 could see anything around my site.
I had been happily listening to a Smothers Brothers comedy on the radio. Bar-1 had a Collins 51J that dated back to construction days atop the console and it was connected to an outside antenna.
Then it flew past again. I went outside to look for it while it made a third pass. After all wood and fabric planes don't show up very well on Radar.
There was nothing to be seen, but the radio antenna was vibrating like a tuning fork, and the insulator was mounted to a beam that passed directly under the console. Mystery solved!
I related the story to the sites on either side, explaining that I didn't see anything, but had been told about the ghost plane that occasionally buzzed the site. Let them find out for themselves if they were ever assigned to Bar-1!
*Lee was the sector Radar expert, more famous for a beautiful painting on velvet entitled "sunrise on a new day" which depicted a seascape and off to the right was a rise with a bare tree. Then you noticed that a man was hanging by the neck from the bottom limb.
I wonder if he was the originator of the "ghost plane" story.
Bar Main and Bar 1 1960-62, AGE-X 62-64
I was going out on leave from Dewar Lakes to Winnipeg via Fox Main and did a shift on the console at Fox Main and finished on a Sunday morning.
I met Dave Whitelaw, a Scotsman, in the hallway of the operations building and, in his Scottish accent, which I will try to imitate, said "There's a beeerrr doon here". I thought that he was talking about having a "beer" with him at the bar. There used to be a bit of a get together on Saturday nights. I said no thanks Dave as I didn't feel like having a drink at that time of the morning.
"Naw, naw!!" he said. "There's a BEEERR doon here." Being of Scottish descent myself I realised he meant a BEAR! I couldn't believe it! So I asked where the bear was. He said that the chef had told him a bear was trying to break into the kitchen. I went down to investigate and I saw that the double glazed window had been broken and there was blood on the glass. I still had not seen the bear. The chef had thrown a haunch of meat to the bear to distract him.
I decided that this was a very dangerous situation so I made a PA announcement advising staff not to go outside as a very hungry bear was roaming around. I then called the station chief and told him of the situation. He told me he would have to shoot the bear and under the circumstances this was legally allowed.
I still had not seen the bear and so I started looking out of the windows to see if I could spot him. To no avail, I did not see him.
Throwing caution to the wind I decided that I would open a door to have a better look.
Well did I get a surprise. Standing in the door way on his hind legs and at least 7 feet tall was the bear. I think he got a surprise too. I shut the door in a hurry and that was the last I saw of the bear. I was told later he was quite young..
The station chief had then cornered the bear under the building and that is where it was shot. The meat was given to the Eskimos.
I heard later on that the skin ended up by adorning the bar area. I also heard that there was some trouble about the skin being used in that way but I heard no more about that.
I do not think any other Australian would have had such an experience. When I tell the story at home here people are really astonished, but sometimes I think they do not believe me so I do not tell the story very often.