Mapping Canada’s northern landscape

Submitted by John R. Reid

“We were modern-day Arctic explorers” – John R. Reid, NLUIS team member

Between 1971-1985, four hundred maps and reports were published by the Northern Land Use Information Series Program (NLUIS) of the Lands Directorate covering Canada’s North. This unprecedented Northern initiative was a joint effort by Environment Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (known today as Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada). Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Northwest Territories Wildlife Service were major participants. The maps include wildlife, fish resources, Indigenous land use, ecological land classification, and socio-economic and cultural data.

Multiple crews covered 300,000 sq. km of land through 450 hours of flying time each year to complete this ambitious initiative. One field season, NLUIS team member John R. Reid coordinated with Territorial Wildlife Biologist Bob Decker to save costs. The two recall a memorable day of surveying in 1985 on north-central Baffin Island. Their crew landed their helicopter at the southern end of Barnes Ice Cap at the base of the glacier where the MacDonald River exited. The glacier unexpectedly calved shortly after the team began their survey, causing a large wave of ice and water that tossed their empty helicopter across the rugged terrain. Fortunately, rescue arrived following a chilly and uncomfortable night in a tent in an abandoned streambed.

Transport Canada’s rotary-wing aircraft aviation safety letter featured the incident on their front page. It warned helicopter operators about the dangers of parking too close to active glaciers. The survey team suspected that the rotor noise from the helicopter, in partnership with the melting water, might have triggered the major calving of the ice cap.

This story is a testament of the dedication and resilience of the passionate people of ECCC and the perseverance they demonstrate in the pursuit of the protection and conservation of our environment.

Helicopter destroyed after being tossed by a wave caused by calving glacier
Helicopter destroyed after being tossed by a wave caused by calving glacier
Researcher looking in shock at the helicopter destroyed after being tossed by a wave
Researcher looking in shock at the helicopter destroyed after being tossed by a wave
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