When the call came from 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group headquarters in Yellowknife asking Moses Iqqaqsaq of Iglulik if he wanted to head out to a navy ship, the response was simple.
“I said yes,” Iqqaqsaq said, sitting on the flight deck of the HMCS Charlottetown anchored in Frobisher Bay.
He flew to Iqaluit August 13, and was joined by fellow Ranger Jay Killiktee of Clyde River as two members of the Canadian Armed Forces participating in Operation Nanook 2018, a joint effort between this country’s variety of protective forces. The operation takes place each year across the North.
As experts of the land, Iqqaqsaq and Killiktee were consistently praised by the personnel aboard the warship. They also acted as polar bear monitors around the air cadet camp.
This edition of the Arctic operation was supposed to take place on Devon Island, much farther North, but HMCS Charlottetown Commander Nathan Decicco said the ice in Lancaster Sound was really thick this year for the first time in several years, and his ship is not an ice-breaking vessel.
Iqqaqsaq says the work with the army on this trip was more difficult than his previous Nanook experience because, unlike a winter operation, army personnel have to carry all the gear on their backs rather than load it on qamutiik.
Both men, who together have almost half a century experience with the Rangers, say they found being on the massive warship exciting.
“We learned a lot about the people on the ship,” said Killiktee, adding living on the ship for almost two weeks was good.
Going to Nuuk, Greenland, was a special part of the trip for Iqqaqsaq and Killiktee.
“It was our first time we went to Greenland,” said Iqqaqsaq.
HMCS Charlottetown departed Halifax, NS, on August 8, with a first stop in St. John’s, NL, where Navy Parliamentary Program participants joined the crew on board. Through that program, Canadian leaders of all political stripes are introduced to what the navy does at sea.
“Not many Canadians are aware we even have a navy,” said Decicco.
That leg of the voyage included international participation with the Danish navy and American aircraft, and anti-submarine warfare, gunnery, surveillance and boarding exercises with them.
Lt. Commander Adriano Lozer noted the Canadian navy is always at the ready.
When the HMCS Charlottetown – one of 12 Canadian navy Halifax-class frigates with anti-submarine, anti-aircraft and anti-ship capability – is deployed, 50 per cent of the ship is awake all the time.
“The routine is seven hours on, seven hours off, five hours on, five hours off. This is so that if at any time, if things develop very rapidly, you can respond. Every position is manned, which you need if you’re off the coast of Syria, anywhere there’s warring factions,” said Lozer.
The parliamentarians disembarked from the HMCS Charlottetown in Iqaluit, and a group of Canadian industry leaders hopped on board. That’s when the HMCS Charlottetown headed to Nuuk.
“The focus was the same – to demonstrate what we do at sea,” said Decicco.
“And that leg of the trip was a little bit unique because that’s when we started to really interact with the ice. We started to see some of the Arctic scenery that you’d expect.”
That trip taught the civilian passengers about the realities and challenges of operating in the North.
For example, Decicco noted there’s a lot of eco-tourism activity as well as other shipping activity, and while his ship was not deployed to the scene when the Akademik Ioffe ran aground near Kugaruuk Aug. 24, it could easily have been.