Brief History of Wrigley Station
from the Official History of the NWT&Y Radio System written in 1960)
'41 saw the United States drawn into the war by the Japanese sneak attack
on Pearl Harbour and by the Spring of '42 northwest Canada was to see many
US Army personnel employed on the construction of the Alaska Highway from
Edmonton to Whitehorse and Fairbanks, and the Canol Pipeline from Norman
Wells to Whitehorse.
NWT& Y Radio System became involved in supplying communications for
both projects, especially for the Canol Pipeline
.. The US Engineers
undertook to improve the existing airports on the route so they could handle
the aircraft being used and, in addition, to construct emergency landing
fields at intermediate points such as Embarras, Alta., Hay River, NWT, Providence,
NWT and Wrigley, NWT.
US Signal Corps established small low powered high frequency stations at
these points as well as at the main airports, including terminals at Edmonton
and Canol (across the river from Norman Wells) to provide weather, air ground
service and general communications for the project. However the net did
not prove very satisfactory due to the low powered equipment and the vagaries
of short wave with the result that a great percentage of the traffic was
passed to the nearest RC Signals station and relayed over the NWT& Y
Radio System. The NWT&Y Stations had higher powered shortwave equipment
and also long wave equipment which was not subject to the 'blackout' like
short wave. With this combination of equipment RC Signals were able to 'get
through' at practically all times. This extra relay work placed an extremely
heavy burden on the System stations, particularly at the main airports where
there was a duplication of US Signals and RC Signals facilities.
common agreement between the US and Canadian Governments, during the summer
of 1943, it was decided that RC Signals, on account of their vast experience
in northern communications and their already well established key stations,
were much better qualified to handle all phases of communications for the
in 1944 the American Government decided to abandon the Canol Pipeline Project
presumably because the oil reserves available from friendly Allied sources
now appeared adequate to supply the needs of Alaskan defence forces thus
making a continuance of the pipeline from Imperial Oil at Norman Wells a
costly and unwarranted expenditure. All American troops were withdrawn from
the Mackenzie River area. By previous agreement RC Signals took over the
operation of the US Signal Corps installations at the intermediate emergency
airports of Wrigley, NWT Hay River, NWT and Embarras, Alta..
Bob Chinnick, TMO for the System, officially took over these stations in
the order mentioned on the 17th, 22nd and 23rd of November 1944. At the
same time the Department of Transport took over operation of the airports
at these points.
is situated on the west bank of the Mackenzie River halfway between Fort
Simpson and Fort Norman. However, the Radio Station was located seven miles
south of the settlement on the opposite side of the river where the airport
had been constructed by the US Engineers. The original RC Signals staff
consisted of ASgt. Ray Bird, Cp1. Edmond and Sigs Harding, Harward and Stager
all of whom had been given a meteorological course prior to leaving Edmonton.
The station therefore took its place immediately as a link in the System
rendering a full complement of weather reports in addition to supplying
communications for the area.
and maintenance of the Wrigley airstrip was carried out by the Department
of Transport until the Fall of '46 when it was decided that the aircraft
activity in the lower Mackenzie River area had decreased to the point where
such expenditure was no longer warranted. This decision of course also meant
the closing down of the Radio Station, which was done on the 4th October
1946. Radio equipment was packed and shipped to Simpson and Hay River for
storage while the personnel were posted to other stations.
following summer (1947) the station was re opened by Sigs from June until
late September to provide communications and weather information for a RCAF
Photographic Survey Detachment.
again the Wrigley station was re opened in the Spring of '48, this time
with Sigs personnel not only supplying communications and weather reports
but also operating the airport including the maintenance of the strip.
functioned on this basis until 1955 when RC Signals pulled out. The operation
of the airstrip reverted to the Department of Transport once again. Canadian
Pacific Airlines, practically the only user of the airport, assumed the
task of providing communication facilities.
Signals Radio Station, Wrigley was turned over to the Department of Transport
on the 3rd May 1955, thus terminating one of the most unique services rendered
by any station of the NWT&Y Radio System during its existence.