May 20, 2020 – Royal Canadian Navy divers participated in Operation NANOOK-NUNALIVUT in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut from March 2 to 18, 2020, along with divers from Finland, France and Belgium.
“The conduct of dive operations in the Arctic in temperatures below -50 degrees Celsius presents many unique challenges relating primarily to equipment temperatures and freeze-up,” said Lieutenant (Navy) Kristopher Hicks, dive team officer in charge and clearance diving officer at the Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic).
The dive team’s presence in Rankin Inlet enabled them to revalidate their procedures, test equipment and prove their ability to dive and conduct light salvage operations in a harsh and unforgiving environment.
“There are many additional variables and mitigation measures that must be thoughtfully considered to ensure successful operations,” said Lt(N) Hicks.
Divers practiced their skills under the ice with two different technologies: the Ultra Lightweight Surface Supply Diving System and the Ice Diving Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus with communications and video.
The Inuit community of Rankin Inlet is made up of approximately 2,000 residents and is one of the most important communities in Canada’s North. Rankin Inlet – called Kangiqtiniq in Inuktitut, which means “deep inlet” – is a hub for the region, as all flights to the Kivalliq region pass through the community’s bustling airport. The welcoming people of this town are proud to showcase their culture and traditions, many of which are expressed through art at local galleries.
The Arctic has become increasingly accessible due to climate change and new technologies resulting in increased traffic. The increase in traffic while positive for the communities also creates new safety and security risks. Canada must therefore be prepared to conduct search and rescue operations and to respond to disasters in the area.
Operations like NANOOK-NUNALIVUT demonstrate the presence and capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces in the Arctic and improve readiness in the region. It is also an opportunity to work with Canadian partners in the North.