This excerpt from "Alert,Beyond the Inuit Lands", describes the station's communications systems in the mid 1990's era.

"Alert has two major internal communication systems - radio and telephone. The first system includes radios in all vehicles and the hand-held radios assigned to certain personnel or checked out on a temporary basis from Operations. Operations maintains a 24 hour radio watch under the direction of the Duty Shift Supervisor. Each radio has two channels, one for airfield communication including aircraft emergencies and Station fire emergencies (Channnel 1) and another for daily radio communication for vehicle and personnel communications (Channel 2). All vehicles monitor Channel 2 and are required to notify Operations prior to any movement off the Station or onto the airfield. Personnel or visitors leaving the Station boundaries on foot for excursions or work are also required to report their movements by radio, especially in winter conditions.

Each of Alert's vehicles has an assigned call sign, often associated with the duty of the major driver or the function of the vehicle. Thus "Fire Fox" and "Fire Queen" are the station fire trucks, "Pack Rat" is the Supply Officer's Crew Cab truck, and "Blue Light" is the Traffic Tech's truck. Authorized call signs for personnel using hand-held radios may be the same as their vehicle call signs or ones reflecting their job or their position's authorized nickname. Thus "Oscar" is the authorized call sign for the SWO's (Station Warrant Officer's) crew cab and also for the SWO using a hand-held radio, OSCAR meaning "on site controller," one of the SWO's jobs on plane day. Visiting scientists assigned radios become "Wolfman" or "Birdman" as appropriate.

During aircraft operations, the use of Channel 1 is limited to those vehicles with specific airfield duties, to avoid distracting the Met Tech and Fire Chief, who must monitor all airfield ground traffic as well as the aircraft.

The other major station communications system is the telephone. The original system consisted of a switchboard room in Building 35. When a request was put forward in 1964 to modernnize the Alert second-hand telephone system, which at that point was not only obsolete but also unreliable and difficult to maintain, the request was turned down. "I am reluctant to agree with this expense to modernize telephone communication in Alert." The estimated cost for the new automatic exchange system was $30,400. The requirement could not be easily dismissed so an automatic telephone exchange was fmally installed in 1971, along with the refurnish of the old switchboard room. This facility provided telephone communications to all major areas of the station and included locals for the airstrip, transmitter site and the DOE weather office".


#1 - Circa 1966: First available in 1957, the Nodwell 110 was named for its load capacity because it was designed to handle 11,000 pounds. Of all the vehicles at Alert, this was the most preferred one because of its comfortable ride. The vehicle could be optioned with a passenger compartment or left as a flatbed as shown in the photo. These vehicles were powered with a Detroit 4-53 diesel engine.  The Nodwell was honoured on a Canadian postage stamp in 1962. (Photo by Gord Walker)
alert_vehicle_with summer_b12.jpg
#2 - Circa 1966: (L) Penguin tracked vehicle. The ride was bone jarring and very uncomfortable. (R) Bombardier B12 in summer rig. (Photo by Gord Walker)
Mid 1960's: A Penguin vehicle fording a stream. (Photo by Gord Walker)
#3 - Circa 1966: Bombardier B-12 in winter rig. Between 1945 and 1951,
L’Auto-Neige Bombardier sold 2,596 of these vehicles. The Department of Public Works owned the majority of the B-12's up north and they were painted yellow. (Photo by Gord Walker)
#4 - Circa 1966: The Penguin Mk 3 which first saw service with the Canadian Army in 1949. It consisted of an aluminum frame and outer skin with a plywood liner for the walls and floor. The hull is constructed from sections of armour plate welded into one unit thus giving the vehicle exceptional strength. Normal seating was 5 people including the driver. Total weight including passengers was 10,000 pounds. (Photo by Gord Walker)


Maximum speed       25 mph
Fuel consumption    1 to 4 mpg
Fording depth       50 inches
Maximum gradability 60%
Ground pressure     1.75 psi

Engine              Cadillac
Type                90° V-8
Displacement        346 cu-in
Brake horse power   (with standard accessories)110 at 3400 rpm
Governed speed      3800 to 4000 rpm
Clutch              Fluid coupling

Transmission        Hydra-matic; speeeds -4 forward, 1 reverse
Universal joints    Cross and Trunnion
Driving axle        Controlled differential

Penguin Mk 3 vehicle. (Image courtesy Canadian Army. Submitted by Ray White) 

Mid 1960's: Penguin (L) and the Mark 3 (R) tracked vehicles at the base of Mount Pullen. The personnel are having a coffee break. (Photo by Gord Walker)
alert_bandvagn 206.jpg
 Bv 206 all terrain vehicle.  (From the Alert photo pool. Submitted by Joe Costello)
A trial of the Swedish tracked vehicle , the Bandvagn 206 (Bv 206) began in January 1992. It's an  articulated, all-terrain carrier developed by Hägglunds (now part of BAE Land Systems) for the Swedish Army. It consists of two units, with all four tracks powered. It can carry up to 17 people (6 in the front compartment, 11 in the rear), although the trailer unit can be adapted for different applications. The low ground pressure enables the Bv 206 to cope with a wide range of difficult conditions. It is also fully amphibious, with a speed in water of up to 4.7 km/h. Over 11,000 have been produced and they are used in more than 37 countries worldwide. The total load capacity is 2,250 kg and a trailer of up to 2,500 kg gross weight can also be towed behind the second compartment. Used of the vehicale for over a year showed excellent results wiht minimum problems so in 1994, Alert received six new BV's to replace the aging Go-Tracks.
Alert's modern day fire truck whose call sign is Firefox.  (From the Alert photo pool. Submitted by Joe Costello)
An unusual aspect of Alert's dependency on aircraft is the "Millionaire's Dump", the location where inappropriate, ineffective or unrepairable equipment or vehicles are stored in the hope that someone will find a use for them. It's just too expensive to send these large items back south by aircraft.

Credits and References:

1) Gord Walker  <walker6(at)>
2) Ray White <legerwhite(at)>
3) Joe Costello <joe(at)>
5) Alert, Beyond The Inuit Lands. David R. Gray. Borealis Press. Ottawa Ont. 1997

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Apr 27/88