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Sunday, September 30, 2012


 Yesterday I did two loads into Anaunethad Lake for a young family for the annual trapping season. The above picture shows the top with two loads of freight and on the second one I had 5 passengers. The lower picture taken from the cabin shows the Turbo Otter tied to the dock.
This photo taken was of the front and rear of the cabin. With them they had supplies to last until February and of importance was the Generator, Satellite and Flat Screen Television. The cabin being of log construction was well built with a low ceiling for easy heating.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Yesterday with the help of James Miller we moved some fuel to Labyrinth Lake NWT which is 100 miles North of Stony Rapids. The purpose of the fuel is as a supply for the winter Caribou Hunts. The local Dene people travel by snowmobiles after freeze up to lakes in the North to areas where the Barren Land Caribou winter. The photo above shows the Turbo Otter with James on the float with the barrels of fuel already off loaded on the beach.
This photo was taken with cloud cover moving in and the sun above the wing. The water was very calm with a glassy water landing.


This photo was taken from above the falls facing South with the river flowing downstream. Cameron is standing on the point below fishing.
Each year Transwest will ask employees from Stony Rapids to take a day trip to various locations showing an appreciation for the seasons performance. This year we planned a trip to Lefty's Falls for a day of fishing and sight seeing. So we planned it for September 15th. The morning looked very damp and cold, wind was blowing out of the Northwest at 25km and I arrived at 7:15AM to ready the aircraft for the day trip. The day before I was told we would have myself and 8 people planning for the day trip, but, with the morning weather I was wondering if anyone would show up. To my surprise at 7:45 I had 4 employees show up and they were Al, Jackie, Cameron and Bruno. So we made a few calls to others who had planned the day trip, but they were quite happy staying in their warm beds. At 8:45 we took off from Stony Rapids for the day excursion.
The picture above is Bruno far left, then Al, Cameron and Jackie. The aircraft used was the Turbo Otter shown tied up at Lefty's Falls.
 The above picture shows the falls from below and another view from above the falls.
The photo below shows the fruits of our labor, a few Trout taken home for the evening meal.

Below is a short story about Pilot Lefty Mcleod.

by Bill Poole
I first met Lefty McLeod when I opened up an RCMP detachment at Goldfields in June 1951. Given the activity in the area at that time, with numerous uranium mines, prospectors and service personnel, Goldfields—established in the 1930's but abandoned in later years—was given new life as the distribution centre of supplies for the area.
Hence, the province, the federal government and Eldorado Mining and Refining opted for a police presence. The occasional visit by the RCMP officer based at Stony Rapids was no longer adequate. The future Uranium City—located some 20 kms northwest of Goldfields was, in 1951, but a few surveyor blaze marks on trees.
Lefty was employed by Saskatchewan Government Airways and flew their Beaver aircraft based at Goldfields. He serviced the many uranium mining camps, prospectors, government personnel and RCMP of the region. Among the very few bush pilots working out of Goldfields, Lefty was considered to be top drawer.
Once, when in the Stony Rapids area, Lefty came across the beautiful waterfalls on the Grease River. He reported his finding. Subsequently, it was named Lefty's Falls, but much later this was changed to Hunt Falls.
- Douglas Walker photo courtesy Tourism Saskatchewan
Hunt Falls, in northwest Saskatchewan.

On July 15, 1952, a radio message was received from Eldorado—the federal and largest uranium mine in the area—that an employee had been found dead in his bunk. The circumstances were suspicious and the RCMP was asked to attend.
Subsequent investigation suggested that a crime might have been committed. RCMP headquarters at Prince Albert was advised that an autopsy was needed. Arrangements were made to have an RCMP aircraft land on the dirt airstrip at Eldorado to pick up the body and take it to Regina. Unfortunately, a suitable aircraft from Edmonton would not be available for three days.
The weather was hot. What to do with the deceased? The use of the Eldorado's meat locker was quickly ruled out: It was thought that the 700 employees would be upset. Further inquiries revealed the presence of a mine tunnel on an island on Beaverlodge Lake. It would be quite cool inside, a good place to keep the deceased for three days.
A pine box was assembled and the dead miner placed inside. The box and its contents were taken in a freighter canoe to the island. My fellow constable and I struggled up the hill to the tunnel, opened the old wooden doors and deposited the box in the cool, dark interior.
Three days later, at my request, Lefty taxied his Beaver aircraft to the rocky island shoreline. But there was a problem. The pine box would not fit lengthwise into the cargo area. What to do? Lefty had the answer. Off came the cargo doors on both sides of the Beaver and the box was shoved in sideways. True, it extended beyond the aircraft's fuselage by a good twelve inches on both sides, but Lefty was not concerned.
He asked the junior constable to straddle the pine box—after all, he was wearing breeches, riding boots and spurs. From the comparative safety of the front passenger seat I began to explain that I, as the constable in charge, should occupy the more dangerous position. My protestations were drowned out in the roar of the Beaver's engine as we took off.
We were airborne but heading south. To reach the Eldorado dock on the lake, we had to go north.
At 900 feet above Beaverlodge Lake, Lefty banked the Beaver in a very tight turn. The junior constable dug in his spurs. I began writing my report to HQ in my head. How to explain the loss of the corpus delicti? How to explain the loss of government property, to wit: one barely used junior constable with spurs?
But, eventually, a very cool Lefty put the Beaver down and taxied to the dock. The pine box was quickly taken to the RCMP aircraft for the long ride to Regina.
For bush pilot Lefty McLeod, it was just another business day.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


 A few days ago I flew some BLack Lake Elders to a place called Flett Lake. When everyone arrived they were all carrying water bottles, but, they were all empty. So, of course I must ask! Whats with all the empty bottles? The one lady said " we are going to get medicine from a small lake" which is just south of Flett Lake. The photo on top shows the Otter secured to shore close to a trail that the Elders walked to the small lake. The lower portion of the picture shows an old cabin which was used as a trappers cabin many years ago, and even now each winter the people from Black Lake take the snowmobiles to Flett Lake for the annual Caribou Hunt in February.
While flying along on our way to Flett Lake one Elder was sitting up front with me and we talked about the history of the area, and he told me about a plane crash that occured in the early fifty's, which had not been made to public, but the local trapper had discovered the wreckage and found the pilot had perished in the crash.
So, always being curious about history I researched a crash that occured in 1951, and I found there had been two. One in May and the second in September and it was during the search for the latter aircraft that the May crash was discovered.
The May crash was Johnnie Bourassa on a trip back from Bathurst Inlet which at the time was in the Northwest Territories. The following is part of the original story written about the crash.

On May 18th, 1951 Johnnie Bourassa lifted off from the open water on Back Bay, Yellowknife and headed north to the Salmita Mine.
The Salmita Mine gold deposit (now known as Tundra Mine) was
first discovered in 1945 and underground exploration was carried out in 1951-1952. It was located at Latitude: 64 Degrees 04 Minutes (North) and Longitude: 111 Degrees 09 Minutes (West), just south of Courageous Lake, 152 miles Northeast of Yellowknife.
It was there that Johnny refueled and also removed the floats from the airplane and put on skis. Bathurst Inlet was still frozen solid and he needed skis to land.
The trip to Bathurst Inlet went according to plan. At Bathurst Inlet Bourassa met up with his boss who was fuelling up another aircraft to fly it further north. He instructed Johnny to only put as much fuel into the Bellanca as it would take to get to the fuel cache at Salmita Mine. Apparently the cost of transporting fuel to these caches was very high so he wanted to avoid carrying fuel back south.
According to Inuit living at Bathurst Inlet, Johnny didn't want to stop at Salmita so he filled his tanks and left for Yellowknife.
A day later his boss was returning south and when he stopped at Salmita to put floats back on his plane he noticed that the floats for the Bellanca were still sitting there.
This could only mean one thing that Bourassa's plane had gone down. He took off and searched the route between Salmita and Bathurst. When he got back to Bathurst Inlet he learned that Johnny had, contrary to instructions, filled the tanks of the Bellanca before heading south. This significantly increased the distance the plane could travel and, as far as searching goes, it meant trouble.
If the had only enough fuel to get from Bathurst Inlet to Salmita, and was forced to make an emergency landing, then it would be located within a circle whose radius was the distance between Bathurst and Salmita, a relatively small area as far as air searches go.
But with full fuel tanks the potential search area could be hundreds of times larger. The Bellanca had the range, with full tanks, to fly from Bathurst all the way to northern Saskatchewan or Alberta or well into the Mackenzie Mountains. Before the development of modern locator transmitters, searching for a missing aircraft in the north was a long, tedious process.
A quick search was made between Yellowknife and Bathurst Inlet but nothing was found. The search was expanded but only covered a few hundred miles on each side of the route Johnny should have followed from Bathurst to Yellowknife. No sign of Johnny, his airplane or any wreckage was found. The searchers had no idea where to continue the search so it was called off.
In early September of the same year, a U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane went down in northern Saskatchewan. Efforts to find the plane and its pilot were carried out in great secrecy (the wreck and the plane's dead pilot were, in fact, recovered and returned to the U.S.). During that hunt, searchers discovered an old Bellanca on skis, parked on the Shore of Wholdaia Lake, 450 km southeast of Fort Reliance (60 degrees 43'N, 104 degrees 10'W; 350 miles south-east of Yellowknife, 60 miles north of the NWT-Saskatchewan border). The USAF searchers reported their find to the Ministry of Transport in Edmonton. Tommy Fox of Associated Airways, which had purchased Yellowknife Airways, immediately sent two crews into Wholdaia Lake to check out the abandoned aircraft. Neil Murphy was in charge of one crew.
The plane had been run up on shore and except for a ski, broken on the foreshore boulders, it was intact.
"Johnny had left a letter in the cockpit," Murphy recalls. "It said he had waited by the plane for five days, but he'd run out of food and he had no rifle. So he was going to walk out to Fort Reliance." The trouble was he had no idea how far east of Reliance he was when he landed. He was at least 300 mile off course.
Resourceful to the last, Johnny Bourassa had taken the Bellanca's clock, planning to use it as a compass, and he cut a piece of aluminum from the fuselage, to use as a signal mirror.
The note went on to say that he was going to walk around the south end of Wholdaia Lake then on to Fort Reliance. He estimated that it would take him three weeks, a distance of about two hundred and fifty miles.
Below is the note left and details of what was written to be found by the search team.

If he had studied his maps he would have seen that it was only 125 miles or so to Fort Fond du Lac on Lake Athabasca and only about half of that to Stony Rapids. If he had walked around the south end of Wholdaia Lake, as the note said he was going to do, he would have seen the Indian portage trail, as wide as a wagon track, which led to Selwyn Lake and so down to either Fond du Lac or Stony Rapids.
Search aircraft began to fly the route between Wholdaia Lake and Fort Reliance but since the chances of finding a single individual out on the land was slim it was decided that a ground search also be conducted.
The decision was then made to call in the Canadian Rangers and so began the longest and most intensive search the No. 7 Company, based out of Yellowknife, was ever involved in. With the help of local hunters and trappers, and men brought in from as far away as Edmonton, every square inch of the bush between Wholdaia Lake and Fort Reliance was searched.
Rangers and volunteers made an extensive search of Johnny's likely route. They mostly did this by looking for 'summer campfires', places he may have camped. But no trace was ever found.
Murphy and a young Dene member of the search party managed to track Bourassa for some distance. They came across a birch that had been felled to make a crude bridge across a stream. Farther on, they found three spruce trees, close together, which had been set afire, possibly as a distress signal: three shots, three fires, three similar indicators of any kind are a universal distress signal in the bush.
At the mouth of a stream that emptied into a lake west of Wholdaia Lake, the two searchers found a log that appeared to have been cut to form part of a raft. Beyond that point, there was no further trace of Johnny Bourassa. Neil Murphy believes he followed Johnny Bourassa's final trail through that trackless wilderness. “He's spent enough time in the North to know that when a man's luck runs out up here, that's it”.

 The map above shows the crash site according to the report co-ordinates with a RED DOT. The line at the bottom would have been the trail to Flett Lake and on to Stony Rapids which had been used by the Dene people for generations.
The map above shows the various locations according to the story. Bourassa departed Yellowknife and flew to the Salmita Mine Site for fuel and switched to Skis for the plane. The flight from Bathurst to Yellowknife had a heading of Southwest of 240, but in his note he had written a heading of 180-185 had been maintained, and the golden rule of early days fying was broken, he had no maps along on board the aircraft. With a heading as recorded depending on the magnetic correction and wind, doubtful it would have taken him where he needed to go.
In any case the story was of great interest to study, and what I found interesting was the crash of the second aircraft which resulted in the dicovery of the first.

Monday, September 3, 2012


 Photo by Ian Mowatt
The above pictures were taken of the abandoned weather station located at the Northeast part of Ennadai Lake located in Nunavut. On this day Ian Mowatt flew to the site contractors to complete a overall inspection for the tender process to close the site and place it back to its original landscape. The site was established in the late 40's by the Canadian Military and was taken over by Environment Canada during the late 50's. The site was abandoned of any onsite personnel and totally automated providing local weather reports at that time.
Photo by Ian Mowatt
While waiting at the site for a few hours Ian had a Caribou come strolling by. The Caribou migration in the area normally starts around August 15th, but this was the only lone animal spotted.
Ian was flying C-FSCA the Twin Otter on this day, has it secured to shore on the sand beach at the weather station site.


Photo by Ian Mowatt
This picture would have been taken in mid June approximately 25 miles South of Stony Rapids. It was the first fire action of the summer for the local fire crews and it just got worse after that. The setting sun shining against the smoke makes for a great picture. Thanks Ian.