The first installment:
Imagine if you will traveling for many hours northward and never leave the country. Few countries in the world can make that statement; Canada is able to say this unabashedly. We flew over lush deep forests that slowly turned into the vast Boreal Forest and soon endless miles of the Tundra. Our journey started at the forty-ninth parallel and now we landed in Resolute Bay at the seventy-ninth parallel. The first thing that struck me was not the bareness of the land, rather seeing dog sleds stacked like cord wood along a low-lying building. Welcome to the far north and culture shock that came to this city boy. You might ask, how did a city man end up three hundred and seventy miles from the North Pole?

My friend Ted and I had recently completed a scuba course in ice diving. This won’t be a dissertation on the perils and joys of this particular aspect of scuba diving. Sufficed to say it’s quite dangerous even with all the safeguards in place.
One of us gets this great idea; lets’ go up to the Arctic and scuba dive. Between our two pea brains we hadn’t a clue what this would entail. Let me enumerate just a few things we hadn’t thought about.
• No place to get air for the scuba tanks
• No hospital nearby
• No hotel
• No supermarket to buy supplies on as needed basis

I could go on but I think you realize this harebrained idea had no merit other than plump up our egos. Nevertheless the idea was intriguing, we started making inquiries regarding the arctic and scuba diving. There was a dearth of information actually nothing of value to us and scuba diving in a hostile environment.

Serendipity intervened one fateful day. We had attended a scuba show aside from the equipment being touted as the best ever there were movies and speakers. One of the speakers was a fellow named Dr Joseph MacInnis who had done some diving in the High Canadian Arctic. We cornered the good doctor and in the ensuing months we learned what it is like to scuba dive in the desert a cold brutal hostile environment. He had a film to complete and if we were willing to take his cinematographer with us we all win. Ted and I would have the adventure of a lifetime. Originally it was just four of us, Ted, Rick and unnamed person and me.

Rick Mason is a professional cinema photographer and worked at CTV a Canadian broadcasting organization. He had been in the Arctic before and when he spoke about the High Arctic, his eyes danced and his voice carried an awe of reverence about this unspoiled land. I got to know Rick a little before we ventured into the High Arctic. This was important for him and I since he and I would be doing most of the diving and filming. My job was holding the big underwater lights for him.

My father had retired at age fifty-five and heard all about this incredible adventure. My mother came to us and asked if we would take my dad,” he would be thrilled.” said my mother. We told my dad he could come but he needed us to teach him how to scuba dive. Our fourth person was the man who taught Ted and I how to dive, his name was Tim. Soon we added two more people, my nineteen year old brother David and my fourteen year old son Warren.

We met weekly practicing diving, determining what was required for an expedition. Firstly we needed permission from the Federal Government this was granted with a certificate for Explorers and Adventures. Here is a partial list of what was required.
• All our food for a minimum of twenty days. Mostly freeze-dried
• Fuel for the Zodiac
• Fuel for cooking
• A mess Tent
• Each person had his own tent
• Sleeping bags designed for the Arctic
• Heavy woolen sweaters
• Dry suits for scuba diving and wet suits for scuba diving.
• A portable compressor to fill scuba tanks
• Cameras, underwater lights, tripods
• First aid kit for almost every conceivable problem
• Garbage bags we had to pack all waste out of the campsite, except human waste
• All our regulators and tanks, including replacements, and spare parts
• A Stove top for cooking
• Fishing poles and lines
• Arctic underwear for diving in frigid waters
• Some fresh fruit like lemons and limes
• Toilet paper
• A powerful rifle to kill Polar Bears if needed
And the list goes on.

In our weekly meetings we also went over safety procedures, water readiness, read up on hypothermia. The excitement in us older people was palpable. Ted was required to find a replacement for himself while he was gone. I was fortunate enough to have an assistant. My dad enjoyed learning how to scuba dive, Tim was a great teacher and motivator. Back when Ted and I first learned to dive much of the course was designed along the navy’s system of military readiness in mind and body. The course was rigorous. Today’s classes when I taught were finally designed for the recreational diver. The physical fitness aspects wasn’t nearly as strenuous nor were some of the testing required such as treading water in your bathing suit with the temperature in the forty degree range.

Ted and I did a great deal of diving the winter before we took off for the Arctic. I must tell you that one of the maxims of scuba diving is never panic. Sometimes that is easier to say than accomplish. I have to wear a mask that is fitted with lenses for my eyesight. My regular mask has them inside and this new full face mask was fitted with them. Ted and I drove northward to one of the many rivers in Ontario. We knew this one river had a very deep hole going to the depth of about one hundred and twenty feet. We swam out to the site dropped the anchored line to the bottom checked that our dive flag was upright and held onto the line and began our decent. Soon the sunlight diminished and we were in almost total blackness when it happened. I heard this strange cracking and rupturing of glass, underwater at this time of the year is silent except for the air being exhaled. A few moments later, frigid water starting flowing into the mask. All scuba divers are trained to dive without their mask on. I reached out to Ted; however he saw this happening before I even knew it and had already had his free arm on my arm and was guiding me on the line to the surface. We could do this since we hadn’t stopped at any depth. I had my eyes closed for fear of getting glass in my eyes. I had to rely solely on Ted. This is one of the principles of diving, never dive alone. The following Monday I was at the dive shop with this destroyed mask, the firm was professional, and everything was replaced. At no cost to me.

Our team decided that we would take plastic jugs and a very long length of rope with jugs tied every twenty or so feet. The reason for this is if someone got disoriented or caught in a swift current we could send this rope out and the victim could grab on and be hauled back to the zodiac or shore. Several organizations were anxious to help us with equipment, including Nikon. I know they loaned us a telephoto lens that was so long it had its own tripod and I believe the Nikon F1 I used in an underwater case. The Nikonos 1 which I owned is specially designed for underwater use; however the Nikon F1 housed had better optics than the underwater camera. I ended up using both on the expedition.

Much of what we required was shipped north in advance of us leaving Toronto, yet we were still eight hundred pounds overweight at the airport. We assembled at my dry-cleaning plant at five AM and arrived at the airport promptly at six in the morning. Upon reflection our flight path was like Indiana Jones airplane trips on the silver screen. We flew from Toronto north-east to Montreal, switched from Air Canada to Nordair then onto Frobisher Bay to refuel and discharge and add passengers to the long flight to Resolute. Our flight would be the first flight into this outpost in ten days due to weather conditions.

One of the passengers on board told Rick that a pod of two thousand Narwhals was seen on its migratory path through the Arctic Ocean heading to our destination. All of us were elated at the prospect of seeing these magnificent creatures the “Unicorns of the Ocean” up close and of course to dive amongst them, while filming or taking photographs.

We had chartered a flight from Resolute to Klucktoo Bay. This bay is three hundred and thirty-one miles south-east of Resolute this is area is known as part of the Narwhal migration path. The location is one hundred and twenty miles from the nearest village and that would be Pond Inlet. All our equipment was loaded onto the Dehaviland Otter and soon we were rumbling down the runway; actually its just frozen tundra smoothed out for airplanes. The pilot slammed on the brakes we could see smoke coming from the underside of the airplane. Coming to a complete stop we all scrambled out. The right tire was barely on the rim and was flat. Many hours later the repairs done to the airplane it was decided that just Rick and I and the pilot would go with all the equipment to our area. The others would follow the following day. The bay is about twelve miles across it was our job to determine where would be the best place to land. We chose a long beach that had a lively glacial creek cascading down from the mountains above and spilling into the Arctic Ocean. I had landed before on beaches in Honduras and other places but this was something new the beach was strewn with rocks and stone with very little sand. The bush pilots are quite amazing people. He swung the airplane around a mountain, coming in quite steeply and at the last possible moment pulled back on the rudder and we landed roughly bouncing down the beach. I was sitting in the co-pilots seat and was pressing down on the imaginary brake, because the mountain on the other side was coming up very fast. We stopped a few feet from the flanks of the mountain. We landed at twelve o five August 10, 1976. The plane unloaded and exhausted from a long day of traveling and delays in Resolute Rick and I in full daylight at three in the morning just threw tent coverings over ourselves and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

Hours later when we awoke I had me first opportunity to see the land and water for the first time. We chose well, the creek was clear and cold, the water delicious and pure. The bay was slate grey with small blue-green ice-floes silently drifting with the tides. While scanning the ocean up pops a small head of a ring seal to welcome us to the arctic. To the north and east of us was land that had green grass and flowers blooming in the twenty-four hour daylight. Probably thousands of years ago the Intuit tribes would haul out whales here to cut up for food and oil and over the millennia life started to grow in this desolate land. We saw Arctic willow trees that stood perhaps a foot tall and were seventy-five years old. Since the area is desert the air is dry, very dry, the land itself provides little nutritional value to any living entity. Seeing how nature works with life on the far north was awe-inspiring. It would take centuries for something that once was alive to decay fully and become fertilizer for other living things.

Rick and I soon established an area for our camp site, the mess tent near the creek and the seven sleeping tents stung like rubies and sapphires along the beach to the north. One of our rules we had decided upon long before we arrived here was that nobody goes wandering off alone, ever! The one caveat was to deal with bodily functions. Here too we chose a spot that would give some privacy but near enough to the camp that if a polar bear should come up to attack we could hear the individual and hopefully repel the bear and save our fellow explorer.

The quiet was extraordinary and that was noticed immediately so when we heard the airplane engines they were still a long way off before we had visual on them. This airplane was a Beaver model and landed safely. After a few minutes of chatting we got down to setting up our campsite. Within a few hours all was in readiness. I made our first meal and the mess tent was ample for all us to sit inside in relative comfort on coolers back packs or any other contrivance. There weren’t any chairs on this trip.

The Arctic Ocean water temperature was twenty-eight and half degrees Fahrenheit. The ocean salinity is much heavier thus water freezes at a lower temperature than thirty-two degrees. I had taken a dry suit called a Unisuit since it was one piece of half-inch Neoprene. My underwear consisted of a one piece uniform of thick plush polypropylene and a thick linen tee-shirt. I had fairly thick mitts and a full face mask and required fifty-five pounds of lead weight to sink below the surface. My scuba fins were extra long and oversized to accommodate the ponderous foot part of the suit; the additional weight was the scuba tank itself and the regulator. I am thinking the total weight on my body is about seventy-five pounds. Cameras and lights although heavy on land weigh a minimum underwater. After my first dive in the Arctic Ocean I wrote this poem over the course of our stay in Kluktoo Bay.

Arctic Diver

Arctic diver, dressed as a gargantuan red beast
With a suit of pliable amour,
You descend into the frigid fathoms
Past the opaque sugar interface of fresh and saltwater.
Into the pellucid, quietude of sea anemones,
Of pulsating jellyfish and broadleaf kelp,
Ctenophores, swimming by in silent legions
Nudibranch, starfish, and sea urchins,
Imagined in a temperate zone only,
Cameras enclosed with muffled hands.
Trying to record life beneath the frozen sea
Slow moving shrimp brown and delicate purple.
Sluggish Sculpin, swimming between brown kelp leaves.
Arctic diver, whose ponderous moves
Begins to feel the cold unmerciful water,
Listens as the metallic inhalations of air
Expire in a curtain of expanding bubbles.
To the cruel windswept, sea high above,
Film shot, cold unbearable, he begins to rise
Back to the cold Arctic air and snow-capped mountains.

August 1976