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Captain's Log: Welcoming Mr. Mansbridge

September 7, 2012 4:43 PM
noon-mansbridge.jpg(Bill Noon, a 31-year veteran of the Canadian Coast Guard, is a captain on the icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier as it completes its 2012 Arctic mission and offers a two-week support stint to the Parks Canada-led search for the missing ships of explorer Sir John Franklin.)

Day 15 September 6, 2012: 1410h

By now, you've probably noticed the ongoing theme of weather and logistics in my log.  In the Arctic, you can simply never forget that it will be weather that decides if, how and when you will achieve your goals.  This was as true for Franklin as it is for us, and that will certainly be true today.

Today is the day that we will welcome Peter Mansbridge and his colleagues onboard. At least, that's the plan.

But, as always, the weather is unpredictable and threatening to get worse. Since the early morning, the bridge officers have been keeping a very close watch on these 20 to 25 knot winds, and the forecasts suggest might become more intense by late afternoon. 

Simply put, the strength of these winds could affect the unique travel arrangements that we've helped them plan for months. Starting yesterday, from Toronto to Cambridge Bay, the Mansbridge team's flight plan has used standard commercial travel. But getting them from Cambridge Bay to us required far more unique arrangements. The solution? A Twin Otter with tundra tires. Yes, I said tundra tires. You won't find those just anywhere. They allow planes to land in Arctic terrain, but only if you can find a location that is flat and hard-packed, with a relatively smooth surface.

We received word that their team left about an hour ago from Cambridge Bay's airport and is now en route. The natural landing strip where the plane is headed is near M'Clintock Point, selected by by the Canadian Hydrographic Service and our highly talented helicopter pilot Dave Ferguson after reviewing Radarsat-2 Satellite imagery and Worldview-2 optical imagery provided by the Canadian Space Agency, as well as substantial air and ground reconnaissance. Dave is also our official go-between with the twin otter pilots, ensuring that they receive all aviation information necessary to make this landing safe. For our part, we moved even closer to M'Clintock Point to wait. 

Being this close was only possible because of the new charting information collected this week. From the vantage point of the bridge, I can see the landing area using my binoculars. So, now we are all keeping our fingers crossed that the weather holds so that the plane can land. Our helicopter is en route to the landing strip, and Dave has radioed information relayed from the other incoming plane. As we watch the twin otter circle the site several times assessing the landing site, I held my breath.

Day 15 September 6, 2012: 1414h

Welcome Mr. Mansbridge to CCGS Laurier and our 2012 expedition!  

After months of planning, the plan came together on schedule. On days like today, being the captain of an icebreaker is the most rewarding job in the world.  I remember telling my mom when I was a young boy that "When I grow up I want to be a sailor".  Her response is still my favourite. "That's fine Bill, but you can't do both". 

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