1923 - 1929
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Department of Interior, searching for some reliable and rapid means
of communication to cover the vast areas involved in the northland
and realizing the possibilities of wireless telegraphy, asked the
Defence Department to consider the installation of Army Radio stations,
with all expenses to be borne by the Department of the Interior.
approval of such a project had barely been granted before a party
of RC Signals personnel consisting of Maj. (later Lt. -Col. ) WA Steele,
MC; Lt. (later Brig) HE Taber,- Sgts. FC Heath (later WO 1) and WW
Lockhart (later Col. ); Cpl. CG May (later Capt.) and Sigs CL Routh,
HA Lamb and M W Whelan was loading technical equipment aboard the
"SS Princess Louise" at Vancouver, enroute to Dawson City
and Mayo Landing in the Yukon.
City, because it was the northern terminus of the Government Telegraph
Line, and Mayo Landing, because it was the centre of a rich mining
area and headquarters of such Government officers as the Gold Commissioner,
Mining Recorder, and RCMP Commissioner, were chosen as the most suitable
centres to be linked first by the new radiotelegraph.
Steele's party travelled by water to Skagway, Alaska and narrow-gauge
railroad to Whitehorse, YT. From there one detachment under Maj. Steele
and Lt. Taber proceeded to Mayo and the balance under Sgt. Heath departed
Mayo a small frame building was rented, essential furniture acquired
and the 120-watt transmitter (a set familiar to World War 1 signallers)
assembled and tested. In less than a week of such preparation the
station was ready to operate.
Steele and Lt. Taber then hastened to Dawson by flat bottomed boat,
as the season was growing late and the danger of "freeze-up"
Dawson accommodation difficulties were solved when the RCM Police
kindly loaned a small log building to the signals party and the equipment
was quickly assembled, tested and all was in readiness for the first
on the 20th of October 1923, the patience of the operators at Mayo,
who had been hopefully 'listening out' for many days, was rewarded
when the never-to-be-forgotten signal came booming in as Dawson came
on the air. Bursting with elation, Sgt. Bill Lockhart, Chief Operator
at Mayo, immediately replied to Sgt. Frank Heath, Chief Operator at
Dawson, and thus the NWT&Y Radio System was born officially.
stations were jammed with well-wishers and jubilation ran high as
the first message was passed. All present sensed instinctively that
this was indeed the dawn of a new era for the Canadian Northland.
new outlet provided by radiotelegraph station was immediately utilized
by banks, mining and steamship companies and the general public, as
well as by Government agencies. All were loud in their praise of the
rapidity with which they could now transact business with the "outside"
as compared with the weeks and sometimes months it had taken previously.
long contact was made with stations of the US Signal Corps in Alaska
(the Alaska Communication System) and by this route as well as over
the telegraph line to British Columbia, the volume of traffic soon
proved that a long required need had been adequately filled and the
installation of the first two radio telegraph stations was justified.
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the venture now launched successfully, the Department of interior
lost little time in requesting additional stations for such important
settlements as Fort Smith, just over the Alberta boundary in the NWT
on the Slave River, where the Department maintained offices which
controlled the entire District of Mackenzie; Fort Simpson, a busy
trading post at the junction of the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers, and
Herschel Island fur trading centre and summer port of entry approximately
160 miles west of the mouth of the Mackenzie River along the coast
of the Arctic Ocean.
with the prospect of operating these additional stations in the North
it was obvious that some more reliable traffic outlet than that provided
by the GTS from Dawson to Hazelton, BC was required. Accordingly,
it was decided to install a terminal wireless station in Edmonton,
Alta. where traffic could be transferred directly to the Canadian
National and Canadian Pacific Telegraph Systems.
the expansion program for 1924 included stations at Herschel Island,
Fort Simpson, Fort Smith and Edmonton.
in the summer of 1924, RC Signal parties were dispatched from Ottawa
to install and operate the terminal station at Edmonton, Alta. and
the relay station at Fort Simpson, NWT.
Edmonton party was in charge of Lt. Bill Laurie (later Col. and D
Sigs) and is believed to have consisted of CSM Bill Currie, Bill Sutherland,
Dusty Weaver and Harry Yelland.
Simpson party was in charge of Lt. RAH Galbraith and is believed to
have consisted of Sgt. Cec May, Cpl. H McAuley and Cpl. Jardine.
Fort Simpson and Edmonton stations were completed as planned. By early
October of 1924 traffic was funnelled entirely by wireless from Dawson
and Mayo through Fort Simpson to Edmonton where it was transferred
to the CN or CP Telegraphs for delivery or furtherance, a tremendous
improvement over the oft-times undependable telegraph outlet from
Dawson to BC.
equipment for the Fort Smith installation was diverted temporarily
for installation on the Hudson Bay Company's "S S Distributor"
to provide communications with the "outside" for the Governor
General, Lord Byng, during his 1925 summer tour of the mighty Mackenzie
River and so Fort Smith was not to join the System until after the
completion of this river trip.
the service provided for Lord Byng was the first of many occasions
when NWT&Y Radio System personnel accompanied distinguished visitors
throughout the North, ministering to their safety and comfort and
furnishing the outside world with information on their activities
for the installation of a station on Herschel Island were altered
for various reasons.
for this installation was shipped north from Vancouver on the 1924
summer run of the Hudson Bay Company Steamer "Lady Kindersley"
while personnel to install and man the station travelled north from
Edmonton to Waterways by train, Waterways to Aklavik by river boat,
thence to Herschel Island by Eskimo schooner. On arrival, the signals
party under command of Lt. HA Young (later Maj.-Gen) and consisting
of Sgt. Jack Pearson, Cpl. Frank Riddell and Cpl. Heke Kerr took over
an old building which had been occupied in the '90s by the late Bishop
Stringer, famous Bishop-of-the-Arctic. Arrangements were made to obtain
some food from the Hudson Bay Co. from their limited supply, pending
the arrival of the "Lady Kindersley".
work, such as selecting a suitable site for the radio station and
other buildings, was completed during the first week and the party
relaxed to await the arrival of the "Lady Kindersley".
month of August passed and when new ice began to form early in September
the party began to feel some concern as to the fate of the "Lady
this time, Capt. Pederson, an Arctic whaler and fur trader from Oakland,
California, put into harbour to carry out some repair work to the
engines of his ship the "Nanook ". The Capt. had a small
surplus of food supplies such as flour, salt pork, sugar, bacon, etc
which were purchased by the Signals party, which by now was more or
less resigned to spending the winter in the Island minus the winter
clothing and food supplies expected on the "Lady Kindersley".
early November and with the disappearance of the sun, the party had
covered the Missionaries' hut with snow blocks, converted a 50-gal
gas drum into a stove and had settled in for the winter. The details
of how this gallant party survived the winter of 1924/25, practically
living off the land, is an epic in itself.
in December information was received from a band of Eskimos, who had
come from Point Barrow at the northern tip of Alaska, about the sinking
of a large ship early in August. As the "Lady Kindersley "
was the only ship known to have been in that area, it was presumed
that reference was made to her.
a result of this information Lt. Young and Cpl. Frank Riddell hitched
up the dogteam which they had purchased from the Eskimos for transportation
for hunting and fishing, and took off on the 180 mile trek to Aklavik
late in April to meet the one and only winter mail.
mail brought official confirmation of the sinking of the "Lady
Kindersley" and the complete loss of equipment for the station,
including building materials, foodstuffs and clothing.
also brought word of the concern felt at headquarters in connection
with the party's lack of food and winter clothing.
concern had resulted in the Department arranging for the dispatch
of a food-laden barge down the Mackenzie River from Fort Smith late
in August. However this effort was also doomed to disaster as the
barge foundered and was lost in a storm while crossing Great Slave
Smith forwarded recommendations by the outgoing winter mail from Aklavik
to Ottawa that new equipment and supplies be shipped down the Mackenzie
River in 1925 and that the main station should be located at Aklavik
rather than at Herschel Island. He also recommended that Herschel
Island be operated as a sub-station of Aklavik during the annual six
weeks when navigation was open in that area. The main reason for this
change in plan was that, with the anticipated advent of air travel,
Aklavik appeared destined to become an important northern terminus
rather than Herschel island. Developments during the next ten years
proved the wisdom and soundness of these recommendations.
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29 June 1925, a duplication of the equipment and supplies lost on
the "Lady Kindersley" arrived at Aklavik by the "SS
Distributor". All available white trappers, Indians and Eskimos
were hired and building operations commenced on the main radio building,
warehouse and staff quarters. With twenty-four hours of daylight,
exceedingly rapid progress was made and on 6th October 1925, Aklavik
Radio Station, equipped with a 500-watt SITD transmitter and SITD
2 receiver, was officially opened.
the same year, 1925, buildings were erected at Fort Smith and installation
of equipment completed after it had served its purpose on the Governor
General's river trip to Aklavik and return. The station, staffed by
Lt. RS Hastings, OMS Bill Loverook, Cpl. Aubrey Griswold and Sig.
Joe Dexter, joined Dawson, Mayo, Simpson and Edmonton on5th September,
to be followed a month later by Aklavik, in the fast expanding communication
network known as the NWT&Y Radio System.
It should be noted at this time that, after the Dawson and Mayo installations,
no more 1st World War Army equipment was available and it was necessary
for the Corps to design and manufacture suitable equipment for the
Simpson, Edmonton, Smith and Aklavik installations. Additional sets
were also built to replace the original Army equipment at Dawson and
Mayo, which was considered a bit low-powered for the purpose required.
Inspection and Test Department was equal to the task and thus was
born the SITD 500-watt low frequency transmitter and the SITD2 low
frequency receiver which were to be the main equipments on all large
stations of the System until the late 30s and early 40s when higher
powered commercially manufactured, low and high frequency equipments
were made available.
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Island commenced to function as a summer sub-station of Aklavik during
1926 when Lt. HD Cluff, who had replaced Lt. HA Young at Aklavik,
proceeded there and set up the equipment, including a modified 30-watt
HF transmitter for intercommunication with Aklavik, in the old Missionary
building which had been commandeered by the original Signals party
two years earlier. A new station building was constructed during the
summer of 1930 and Herschel Island was operated each summer during
the navigation season by personnel supplied from the Aklavik station,
until 1937, after which the need for communications at this point
ceased to exist. The main reason of course was the decision of Capt.
Pederson not to continue to operate his trading ship in the Arctic
as he had done annually for 42 years, using Herschel Island as his
base. The Hudson Bay Company closed their store at the same time and
re-established it at Shingle Point, which is about 80 miles west of
Aklavik. Therefore Herschel Island was doomed as an active summer
trading post. Return to index
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1927 saw the addition of a station at Fort Resolution, NWT. Resolution
is located on the north shore of Great Slave Lake in Resolution Bay,
just southwest of the mouth of the Slave River. All water transport
proceeding from Fort Smith to Mackenzie River and Arctic coast points
must travel down the Slave River and across Great Slave Lake to enter
the Mackenzie River. The lake crossing was quite often very treacherous
and the Resolution station was strategically located to be of invaluable
assistance to both river and lake navigation in this area. The original
staff is believed to have consisted of Sgt. Fred Raney, Cpls Ned Symons
and Eddie Edwards or possibly "Heps" Hersey.
activity was rapidly increasing in the north thereby causing an increase
to all business in general, especially air and water transportation
companies, which were hard put to keep up with the increased demand
for the movement of supplies and equipment. Demands from both industry
and government were being made to DND for the expansion of the Radio
System. These demands were being met by the opening of new stations
as fast as financial appropriations would allow.
1929 No Records available