Four Degrees Celsius

Four Degrees Celsius by Kerry Karram Page A

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Authors: Kerry Karram
low morale. We have named this place Peechuk Point because the Eskimos use “Peechuk” for all gone, and we are pretty well out of food.
    It is remarkable how much disappointment, despair and hopelessness one can stand, and yet somehow find the will to carry on. Hopelessness can and, in both the Dominion Explorers and searchers cases, did lead to both resourcefulness and resilience beyond expectation.
    Tommy Siers looked at the submerged ’SQ and said, “The only way we are getting this plane back to Winnipeg is to fly it there, so let’s get to work.” [2] As head mechanic, only Siers could make this decision, and it would prove to be pivotal in the lives of all the men.
    The salvage operation began. The aircraft was supported on the ice by the undersurface of the wings, and the skis had touched bottom in the shallow water, making the plane somewhat stable. It was imperative that ’SQ be removed from the ice and salt water in the best condition possible, but with the frigid temperatures the ice was beginning to form where the plane had broken through. Lying on their stomachs and using their bare hands, the men passed a rope into the freezing water and fastened it around the crankshaft of the engine, behind the propeller hub. This was just the beginning in what came to be the most extensive salvage operation in the history of Western Canada Airways. [3]
    The following morning, October 28, while the mechanics, dubbed “the black gang,” worked in the freezing temperatures, the pilots in ’SO and ’CZ began to search the Arctic coast. Having covered the area from Baker Lake to Bathurst and Burnside River, Cruickshank decided that the next area to search would be Ellice River and the surrounding coast. Since the cache had been emptied at Beverly Lake and the Dominion Explorers had never arrived at Bathurst Inlet, he reasoned that the expedition had most likely flown off course due to the winds, bad weather, and inaccurate compass readings because of the magnetic North Pole.
    The men discussed possible scenarios. Cruickshank felt that the planes could have run out of gas and likely landed somewhere on the coast. Refusing to entertain the possibility of both planes going down, he therefore surmised that fuel would have been the problem. He only hoped that they had been able to survive for the past seven weeks. Landing near an Inuit camp would mean the best chance of survival, and since there were gathering points of the Inuit at both the mouth of the Ellice River and Dease Point, these would be the next areas in which to perform the search. [4]
    Once airborne, the planes headed eastward following the Ellice River then north toward the Arctic coast along the Kent Peninsula. In such a massive area of the Northwest Territories, it might seem amazing that Cruickshank had sent the search planes right over the area where the downed Domex party had been stranded for the past seven weeks. At the same time, it is another indication of his intimate knowledge of the region.
    Unfortunately, neither the pilots nor crews of ’SO and ’CZ saw the tiny camp at Dease Point, but they must have been quite close because later in Pearce’s diary he mentions the Inuit hearing planes flying overhead. The area was encrusted with a layer of snow covering the planes, sod house, and the surrounding shattered rock. Inuit staying at Dease Point had been asked to keep the wings of the planes clean, but unfortunately this had not been done. The reality was that this was a challenging area in which to search, and one that was mostly unmapped. All that could be seen from above was a rippling expanse of white, the lakes indistinguishable from land. Visibility was exceptionally poor, but Brown and Spence, with their crews, kept flying.
    The Bathurst Mountains were spattered with patches of exposed black rock, and eyes strained at each dark object that could be mistaken for a group of men. Time and time again

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