CFS Alert: Photos 7 - SCENES

1950: Lancaster crash aftermath. (Photo by Pete Johnson )

Remains of the Lancaster taken in 1962. (Photo by Jim Thoreson)
1962: Another view of the graves and memorial to the Lancaster crew who were killed at Alert. The graves and airstrip are a reminder of the the origins of Alert. (Photo by Jim Thoreson)
Maurice Drew indicates that the wife of one of the Lanc pilots came up to Alert every summer and laid a wreath at her husband's cross. On two occasions Maurice was there with a few others as they all stood by in solemn respect. She came in on a special flight and stayed just long enough to get the job done then leave. It was  moving event and a tribute to those who paid dearly for their work in supporting Alert.
alert_anemometer.jpg alert_snow_engress.jpg
1958: Due to a continuous high wind on Jan 17/58, Earle Smith's shift was marooned in the Ops Bldg for two shifts.  The anemometer picture (read 100 mph!) was taken at the JAWS site.  The wind wrecked the ZL-Special amateur radio beam antenna which was mounted on a mast adjacent to the Crypto Centre. PO2 Harry Madden was sleeping in there because there was nothing else to do during the storm.  When that beam came crashing down on the roof, Harry came boiling out of there looking as white as a sheet. (Photo by John Sookachoff, civvy i/c of JAWS or "Monty" Montezuma, one of the JAWS Radio Operator/Techs) 1958: The garage was supposed to be windproof but the wind-driven snow leaked through the cracks and was  packed in there like concrete.  (Photo by RCAF Cpl Ivan Wilson)

alert_sept_1959_s.jpg September 1959. All the structures are labelled on this photo. Click to enlarge. (Photo via Joe Costello). 
alert_cfs_aerial_s.jpg This is an undated aerial photo. Click to enlarge. (Photo via Joe Costello). 

Undated aerial photo of Alert. (Photo source unknown. Assume DND)

1965: This is Dumbell Lake, Alert's source of drinking water. (Photo via Gord Walker)
Spring 1962: When the gravel landing strip was free of snow for a short period each summer (not this photo) the C130's would disappear in a storm of gravel and dust when the pilot reversed the props. (Photo by David Smith)
Maurice Drew comments about aircraft operations in Alert. "Sometimes the loading ramp of a C-130 would be partially opened just before touchdown. The reason given is that, on many occassions, the crew were anxious to avoid impending bad weather, which often occurred in the high Arctic without warning. Every minute counted when off-loading the cargo and getting airborne again. The ramp was not lowered completely on landing otherwise it would be too risky.  However, the engines would often be left running while off-loading just to save time. As part of the SHWAILETS duties, everyone at the Base would be assigned to participate in loading or off-loading an aircraft at one point or another. Many personnel wore glasses or goggles to avoid flying grit. During all of this, aircrew kept people away from the spinning propellers

Often an aircraft had to run its engines due to extremely cold temperatures. One day a Fairchild C-119 (Flying Boxcar) landed in Alert. After taxiing to his final position,  the pilot made the critical mistake of shutting down both engines. It was so cold that he couldn't get them re-started. The Kauffman starter could not get the engines flashed up nor could a fire which was built under one of the engines. As a result, the flight crew spent more than a week in Alert. Although they were a pleasant change to familiar faces, the flight crew were not happy campers. Bad radio conditions prevented a message from being sent out about their safe arrival in Alert and also their current predicament. It was reported that Search and Rescue operations were about to commence from Thule since they thought the aircraft went down. Such are the conditions in the Arctic.

In the early days, flights in and out of Alert were dictated by weather conditions. I had been writing to nine girls in Ottawa that I dated on a regular basis. My aunt from New York City shipped a Christmas parcel in November thinking it would get to me in plenty of time. It was February 14th, Valentine's Day when a flight finally arrived with all of our late mail and food supplies. My aunt's parcel had been opened, including photographic paper, by customs officials (an unnecessary intrusion) but I also received nine Dear John letters! The girls thought that since they had not received word from me in several weeks I was no longer interested in them".

Every Herc landing is spectacular, no matter when!  (From the Alert photo pool. Submitted by Joe Costello)

Alert has a single runway 05/23 T. It is 5,500 feet long by 150 feet wide and its centre is situated at 82 31.07N, 62 18.83W. There is no control tower, however Alert Radio CYLT can be contacted on 5680 KHz or 126.7 MHz. It is available on 3 hours notice from Resolute or Thule, within 15 minutes of ETA and prior to descent.

This photo of a "darkness" approach to Alert's runway was taken sometime in 1975 or 1976 from the cockpit of a CC-130 Hercules aircraft. Since Alert is dark for nearly 6 months of the year, the photo could have been taken anytime during that period. Of interest, are the VASI  (Visual Approach Slope Indicator) lights on either side of the runway. If the closest set of lights are white and the further set are red, that means the aircraft is on the correct glide slope as indicated here. If both sets of lights are white, the a/c is too high. If both sets of lights are red, the aircraft is too low.  The improved runway lighting system was installed by 1 Construction Engineering Unit (1CEU) based out of Winnipeg. In the foreground are the approach lights which are situated on towers ranging  in height from 5 feet to 52.5 feet. (Photo from the collection of Capt. John Wannacott via Bob Bridges). 
This is a Vermeer trencher that was used to dig trenches during the runway lighting improvement project at Alert. The  machine had a tapered chain up to 12" wide with tungsten tipped cutting teeth which would cut through the frozen gravel and dig down to a depth of 6 feet.  The cross conveyer was reversible and could be extended outwards. This photo was taken on the first day of construction when the machine was brand, spanking new. Needless to say it was well used and in need of a major refit by the end of this job. A year later it was still in Alert never having been shipped south for repairs. The trencher was affectionately called "The Digging Dutchman". (Photo by Bob Bridges)

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This view, looking almost due south, shows Crystal Mountain (1290 ft) on the left and Mt. Pullen (1500 ft) on the right, both of which are part of the Winchester Hills range. Crystal Mountain  is properly called "Dean Hill" according to map #MCE 140 printed in 1967. Both of these geographical features are approximately 9 miles (15 km) distant from Alert. Gord Walker remembers watching that little band of light appear on the horizon between those two mountains in February, the first sign that the dark season was coming to an end. (From the Alert 50th anniversary photo pool) 

1962: As part of base defence, all Alert personnel were all issued FNC1 rifles and helmets. Jim Thoreson came up with this innovative way to store his and his roommate's rifle rather than just have them sitting in the corner. (Photo by Jim Thoreson)

1962: Temporary heating oil storage. These are the oil barrels that arrived on the Hercules aircraft from Thule. The oil would then be pumped into large storage tanks where it was then distributed to the various huts.  (Photo by Jim Thoreson)

Alert's new welcome sign was erected around 2004 and stands at the top of the hill just as you enter the main part of the camp coming up from the runway. It co-exists with the original one (below) showing the various locations.  (Photo by Claus Halkjae, posted on Google Earth)
The basic Alert sign was erected in 1967 as a Centennial project. It has become "customized" over the years. This is how it appeared in May 2002. The wheels are just propped up against the posts. ( Image #1144 taken by Major Fillion.)
Close-up of the sign post. (Science and Technology Museum photo 03-2314)


The JAWS station in 1950. (Photo credit unknown)

2006: Environment Canada. The Alert Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) Observatory. As a GAW station, the Alert Observatory is the site which measures the mixing ratios (concentrations) of atmospheric trace gases and particulate matter. These measurements, combined with those from other international baseline sites, provide scientists with information about the variability and long term trends of these chemicals in the atmosphere on a global scale. The Alert GAW Observatory is located at 82°27'N, 62°31'W on the edge of the Lincoln Sea at the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. (Photo courtesy NOAA. Taken by Robert Stone or Taneil Uttal)

Credits and References:

1) Jim Troyanek <intarsia(at)>
2) NOAA Research photo -
3) Gord Walker  <walker6(at)>
4) Alberta On-Line Encyclopedia
5) Ray White <legerwhite(at)>
6) David Smith <drdee(at)>
7) Jim Thoreson <jimthoreson(at)>
8) Maurice Drew  <maurice0404(at)>
9) Earle Smith - VE6NM <t16ru672(at)>
10) Joe Costello <joe(at)>
11) Alert approach photo via Bob Bridges  <chuchinka(at)>

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