Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Friday, December 25, 2009

Charting Rankin Inlet 1954 and 1955

When the winds blew strong

After many weeks of meticulous work we had charted much of the inner part of the inlet in great detail. Now the MV Theron could leave the inner anchorage with complete safety as opposed to the perilous entrance between the hidden rocks we had been forced to undergo to find shelter amongst the islands upon our first arrival.

So to facilitate the work of extending our triangulation network and long lines of launch soundings seawards our mother vessel Theron moved east about thirty miles and anchored in the unprotected open seaway. With the ship anchored off Marble Island in such an exposed position, during the two or three gales which came with autumn, our launches would be hoisted aboard, secured onto their cradles and then we would steam eastwards directly into the storm-tossed open waters of Hudson Bay for six hours or more. Then with hove to lights shining brightly to guard against the remote off chance of some other unscheduled stray vessel also wandering that lonely expanse of sea, the Theron, with stopped engines, would be left to its own devices, to drift, and swing whichever whichway wind and wave decided.

All day and all night, maybe for two or three days, the vessel would wallow and lurch, twist and turn, roll and pitch, unchecked and unheeded. Yet, as far as I know, no one was ever seasick on the Theron.

While the ship swung around and danced to its lively tune some of us would recalculate and plot triangulation positions observed, others would play cards, yarn together or catch up on their sleep. And for exercise, Barrie Macdonald and I would pace in age-old naval fashion, back and forth across the width of the heaving upper bridge deck for an hour or more, conversing of everything and nothing. At mealtimes, Barrie would give us regular and original state-of-the-sea reports. He would float a cracker in his slopping soup bowl and note how long it took to capsize.

When the blow eased we would finally get under way again, heading west and with all eyes looking for the first glimpse of the coastline. Then, under an overcast sky, we would argue as to whether we needed to go north or south to find Marble Island and the Inlet. And so resume our work.

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