Route Map to Kugluktuk (Coppermine),
This geophysical survey trip took place in July 2005. I
departed Winnipeg flying directly to Yorkton, Sask. then north to La
Ronge for a re-fuelling stop. Departing La Ronge, I was
flight planned via Buffalo Narrows, Fort McMurray and then on to
Fort Smith, NWT for fuel. From Fort Smith, the routing took me
around the east side of Great Slave Lake to Yellowknife. This
flight was completed in about 11 hours and took one day. After
preparing our survey equipment in Yellowknife, I flew to Kugluktuk
(about 3 hours) in the coming days. Yellowknife is a great
city so if you have the chance to visit there, do it.
Max Ward's Original Float
Base Yellowknife, NWT
This is where Max Ward (of WARDAIR
fame) operated his floatplane service in Old Yellowknife. This
is next door to the dock where the Midnight Sun Float Fly-In meets
every two years.
This is across the street from the
Wildcat Cafe, an old drinking hole where pilots where known to have
'crashed and burned'.
I am told that the likes of Max
Ward 'threw back a few' after a long day at work.
You get a great meal here at this
If there was ever a
place in Canada to be named as the Bush Pilot capital then
Yellowknife is the spot. It is rugged bush country and is
ideally suited for ski or float planes. The country is not
favourable to single-engine wheeled aircraft. Numerous lakes dot the
landscape and an engine failure up there means that you will be looking
for bog or swamp at the end of lake, where hopefully, there is not a
rock formation. These early pilots had tough job given
their aircraft, weather information and lack of navigation aids.
Those were tough lads indeed and I tip my hat to all of them.
Northbound and crossing the
Arctic Circle (N66° 33' 38")
The complexion of the
land changes dramatically close to the Arctic Circle. Most
noticeably is the lack of trees for it is at the point, the Tree
Line, that the odd tree may be found but only close to hillsides
facing south. Any trees that do grow are very small owing to
the harsh climate. This part of the Arctic is referred to as
the 'barrens' or 'barrenland'.
I used a VNC chart
(actually, multiple ones) for the trip using the lakes and eskers as
navigational features and a 'good old fashion' track line. Eskers
are remnants of the glacial period. They were rivers of water
running internally through the glaciers carrying till and sediment
and when the glaciers melted, this till settled on to the landscape.
Eskers can be quite large reaching as high as 40 feet above
surrounding elevation and are predominately sand and gravel.
Eskers are used a landing strips in the bush as some of them have
been eroded at the top of the formation providing an excellent
landing surface for aircraft equipped with Tundra tires.
Arctic Ocean (background)
Arctic Ocean is shown with sea ice which moved in and out with the
prevailing winds. This is the Coronation Gulf, the western
entrance to the famous NORTHWEST PASSAGE. An Innu whale
hunter sighted a surfaced Russian submarine here in recent years and
while there have been other sightings of other foreign submarines by
the local hunters, this information has largely been unreported to
the general public. You just have to ask some questions and
you will get some very interesting stories.
The polar bears move with the sea ice as their primary food source
are the seals. During the summer most of the polar bears
are hunt on the ice flows in more northerly areas such as Holman.
The greatest bear danger is presented by the Barren Grizzly in the
summer so it's a good ideal to have a gun if you are away from town.
You have to be careful around rivers as it is a source of food-but
so are you.
Bloody Falls on
the Coppermine River
This is the site of the Chipewyan
Indian massacre of the Copper Inuit during an expedition led by Samuel Hearne
in July 1771. Hearne acted on the behalf of the Hudson
Bay Company interest to locate the source of copper after an earlier
explorer returned with news of the metal being used for tools and
implements by the Inuit. This is how the Inuit become known as
the 'Copper Inuit' in this area of the western Arctic.
Bloody Falls is a
national park and is located about 7 miles up-river from the hamlet
Geophysical Survey Aircraft
This picture is taken in front of
the Kugluktuk terminal building.
Note the tail stinger. It is
a magnetometer. There is a magnetometer on each wing tip also.
The aircraft is flown over
predetermined grids at altitudes of 100 feet to 300 feet.
Track guidance is provided with differential GPS (global positioning
system). A radar altimeter provides vertical height
information above ground level. In order to create accurate
survey data, the flight must be flown at a consistent height above
the differing elevation. This is called "draping".
Survey Flight at survey altitude of 300 feet above ground
This is typical Arctic tundra or
'barrens', the range of the Barren grizzly bear, caribou and musk
ox. This is truly beautiful country but if you are not
prepared, it will cost you something. To the southwest of
where this picture was taken, a herd of 125,000 caribou were heading
Flight plans are
mandatory within the boundary of the ADIZ (Air Defence
Identification Zone) which is monitored by Arctic Radio on
126.70 Mhz. You want to make sure you have a hand-held GPS and
VHF radio and a satellite telephone if you are working up this way.
Our aircraft was equipped with a panel-mount GPS but you don't want
to rely on a alternator all the time. Spatial orientation is
key up here as the magnetic compass is somewhat erratic.
(on the right)
Hamlet of Kugluktuk
The Copper Inuit people were
extremely friendly. Their culture is an historic one and is
still well preserved as I could tell. The country is
Over to the right is a sandbar
where there is a 9 hole golf course. So, grab your clubs and
boat! The RCMP police the town and while I was there, the town
had just installed high speed internet service through the ISP
called Polar Net.
By the way, I am standing on the
left. My height is six feet to give some perspective.
|On a beautiful
Arctic Ocean beach in July
George Costanza has got 'nothing
The rock formations here have been
scraped by the fantastic pressure and friction of the last glacial
period retreat leaving long and straight elongations gouged out of
the rock. I was continually amazed at the sheer power of
The Arctic Char fishing is great.
The char are so hungry that you have to bait your hook in town
before departing in the boat.
south of Bloody Falls
This picture may be described as a
pilot's worst nightmare-CUMULUS GRANITE.
To give you some perspective as to
how high the river walls are, expand this picture and look to the
right side on top of the river wall. The darker shades are
black spruce trees (about 5-8 of them). These trees are about
7 feet in height.
The windscreen is covered in bug
impacts which causes this picture to be somewhat obscured.
July is the high bug season in the western Arctic. Mosquitos
are large, hardy and can weather the 0°
Celsius night temperatures in July. It is not uncommon to hear
of an average sized dog being carried away by a mosquito up here ...
picture was taken on the return to Coppermine after a four hour
survey flight. We followed the river back to town.
Again, the landscape is impressive-you have to experience it.