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My search comes to an end

September 7, 2012 8:29 PM
After nearly three weeks aboard the coast guard icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier, my time is up. I have swapped places with my friend and colleague from the French side, Maxence Bilodeau, who will join the search for the Franklin expedition's lost ships.

Unless they hid them from me, no shipwrecks have been found. That certainly doesn't mean failure. The crews have charted unknown waters, making way for safe shipping in the future.

I had a blast. The combination of a big ship with a helicopter, and small boats that go fast is irresistible to the little boy inside this man. But getting a chance to see a small part of the vast Arctic was a treat, and an eye-opener.  The sunsets over the water are incredible, to be sure, but so is the land.

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We left on board a Twin Otter, the workhorse of isolated communities, a plane that will land nearly anywhere. And boy, did this crew ever prove that. They picked us up not on an airport, or a field, or even flat ground but from a short strip of hard-packed sand and pebbles on a spit that juts out from an island.

Canadians owe a debt to these planes and their pilots, who allow the North to carry on in the way that it does. They are as integral to Arctic sovereignty as any navy patrol or fighter jet flyover. The people who live in these remote communities, largely in Nunavut, deserve credit too. Life is a challenge.

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On the flight south from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut to Yellowknife, our pilots were kind enough to fly relatively low, offering some spectacular views. The experience gave me a sense of the vastness and of the tremendous amount of fresh water up here.

Now I need to shake my sea legs. All the rooms I'm in keep spinning around.

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