1999 was the year after the wind-up of the big international Spinnaker Project, so in a way it was rather anticlimactic. On the other hand, 1999 was the first year that we had worked out of the lab in Halifax rather than the one in Victoria, and this generated new interests and new problems. In fact it was not at all definite that we would be going to the Arctic that spring. The cold war was essentially over, and I imagine that the government felt it could cut back on the amount of money that it was spending in the defence of the Arctic. The fact that it lost most of its Defence-Science Arctic expertise when it closed the Victoria lab did not bother it unduly. It was generally felt that it would be a long time before the government of Canada would again be interested in the Arctic.
However, the lab in Halifax - to its credit - felt that it was important to maintain and foster some expertise in the arcane problems of living and doing research in the Arctic. Moreover, they had a couple of us to act as mentors, and if they didn't use us in the next couple of years they would really have to start all over again. Also, the fact that the Arctic Ocean is covered with ice gives it some particular advantages. First of all, the surface is motionless, and this allows sensors to be tested in the ocean without all the problems caused by wave action. Moreover, when arrays of sensors are suspended from the ice, their relative positions do not change; they do not bob around and drift - as they will in the open ocean. The ice of the Arctic Ocean was a unique platform waiting to be used. And the lab had no shortage of projects that could use this facility. Finally, another advantage is that of expense. Going to sea in a ship is a very costly business. Going offshore a few kilometres by skidoo is dirt-cheap by comparison.
Consequently, about a dozen of us set up camp on the Arctic Ocean about 10 km north of Alert. The Newsletters give the details.
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