Dogsleds, 'informality' and a dip under the ice for Prince Charles

Forty-five years ago, Prince Charles was ready to dive right in and experience all that Canada's North had to offer.

Royal heir's 11-day visit in 1975 saw Charles travel to Canada's North

Prince Charles in Resolute Bay in 1975

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46 years ago
Prince Charles visited Resolute Bay in 1975 and went for a dive under the ice. 1:40

Forty-five years ago, Prince Charles was ready to dive right in and experience all that Canada's North had to offer.

And during a visit to the region in April 1975, he donned a diving suit to do just that.

The 26-year-old heir to the throne went under the ice for a half-hour dive with Joseph MacInnis, a physician and researcher, in Resolute Bay, in present-day Nunavut.

"There had been a lot of talk about the dangers of this dive — the water so cold that a minute's exposure could cause paralysis, the hazards of possible equipment failure," reporter Trina McQueen told CBC News viewers, giving them a glimpse of the prince's brief undersea adventure.

"But, in fact, everything went swimmingly."

Not so easy?

Prince Charles went for a dive under the ice, along with Joseph MacInnis, a physician and diver, during a visit to Canada in April 1975. (CBC)

According to McQueen, the prince admitted it was "harder work than I thought." 

The 11-day royal visit that took the Prince of Wales to the North occurred during a break he'd been granted by the British navy.

His Canadian visit started on April 20, 1975, when he landed in Ottawa. Charles spent three days in the capital region before heading to the North.

It was a time when royal visits received a healthy level of media attention, as did people who did or did not interact with the prince.

Eating local

'A real taste of the North'

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46 years ago
Prince Charles tries seal liver in Frobisher Bay in 1975. 1:04

While in the capital region, Charles sampled maple taffy during a visit to a sugar bush in Chelsea, Que.

But up north, he tried raw seal liver, which was served to him by a child at an elementary school in Frobisher Bay (now known as Iqaluit).

"Do you eat it raw?" the prince asked, confirming that was, in fact, the way it was served.

"Prince Charles survived," said McQueen, who had also been reporting on Charles's visit to Frobisher Bay.

McQueen noted a doctor travelling with the prince had made inquiries to confirm the seal liver would be safe for him to eat.

"He was assured that seal liver is full of vitamins," she said.

'A very thin line' 

A visit to the Con Mine near Yellowknife was just one of the many activities that was part of Prince Charles's itinerary during his 1975 Canadian tour. (Doug Ball/The Canadian Press)

By the time Charles wrapped up his trip, he had packed a lot of activities into his itinerary — including the aforementioned dive, snowmobile and dogsledding trips and a visit to a Yellowknife-area goldmine.

After participating in the second dogsled ride of his highly scheduled trip, the prince was asked about the looser, more informal way the world was then interacting with the royals at that point.

During a 1975 visit to Canada, Prince Charles is seen responding to a CBC reporter's question about the formal rules of royal protocol and how that applied to his own life. (CBC)

"You see the difference between formality and informality is a very thin line," Charles said.

He argued that it wasn't a schedule that created formality, but how the people involved chose to act.

"If you look at the book, you think this is horribly formal — you do this then, you know, at such and such a time. But, in fact, you can make it as informal at all as you like, depending on how you behave."

No royal relaxation

Wearing a parka trimmed with wolverine fur and a rabbit fur hat, Prince Charles laughs while watching an ice house building competition in Frobisher Bay on April 25, 1975. (Doug Ball/The Canadian Press)

The prince admitted, however, that he might seek a different scheduling of activities if he wasn't under strict time constraints.

"If I had a month, it would be much more, enjoyable ... because I could come and spend longer doing these sort of things," said Charles.

"But as you can imagine, with only a short time away from the navy, I can only do limited things and in that way, it makes it more formal, possibly."

Charles departed his Canadian tour from Winnipeg on April 30, 1975.