Mostly natives of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, the 55-person crew of the Canadian Coast Guard’s largest icebreaker, the Louis S St-Laurent, played an integral role in this mission. From the skilled officers and technicians who piloted us safely through ice, to the talented cooks who kept our stomachs full, everyone on board was fundamental to the mission’s success. Together they operated like a well-oiled machine – a very skilled and welcoming machine, ensuring we survived and enjoyed Canada’s high Arctic.
Colin Lavallee, the helicopter pilot on board the Louis during this expedition, describes some of the typical tasks you’d be likely to see him doing during science missions – and the importance of being prepared when you’re miles deep in the Arctic.
The clinic might just be one of the most important rooms on board the icebreaker – though I hope no one ever has to experience why firsthand. As nurse Emilie Francoeur explains, sometimes a Canadian Coast Guard ship could be miles and miles away from a city equipped to handle a patient’s injuries, which means the clinic needs to be prepared to stabilize injuries or illness before patients can seek full treatment.
Subsistence hunting and fishing are an important cultural and social activities of many Aboriginal groups. They provide food and work for the community, summon laughter, and engender friendship. Canadian Coast Guard Logistics Officer, Nathan Whiffen, shares his moving story of his eyewitness account of a harvest in a Northern community.
Emergency At Sea
Being at sea is a truly humbling and awe-inspiring experience that involves a certain level of risk. The sea is unpredictable – there can be storms, unexpected hazards in the water, and even a small event can turn into an emergency situation. Canadian Coast Guard winchman, Kirby Vatcher, shares two at-sea experiences as a rescue specialist onboard the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, where training and swift action allowed him and his colleagues to save the lives of those involved.
Captain Wayne Duffett
Taking to the high seas straight out of high school, Canadian Coast Guard Captain Wayne Duffet is no stranger to sailing or to icebreakers. Here he shares some of his experience and knowledge working with icebreakers.
Poetry and Adventure
The Arctic is a truly magical place – but you don’t have to take just my word for it. Members of the crew speak to the powerful and seemingly irresistible draw the North has, so much so that when they speak about it, it’s just like poetry.
Work on The Louis
Being in the middle of the Arctic, stuck on a ship that is so isolated from civilization, is a truly unique experience – one where you come to rely heavily on your crew and others who understand and work in the North as you do. Everyone becomes very tight knit, bonding, playing bingo and cards together, and forming a kind of temporary, makeshift family. Even when I came onboard for a short time, I felt like I was making some real friends – something that made me feel welcome and warm.
Mike Goodwin, storekeeper
The storerooms and refrigerators onboard the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent rival grocery stores and restaurants, having everything from scallops and ice cream to…a drum set. Here, Mike Goodwin, the storekeeper, gives me a quick tour to see how a large icebreaker keeps its occupants comfortable during long Arctic trips.