Tuktoyaktuk and the Nunavut community of Resolute Bay are welcoming military divers from five nations this month.
Divers from Canada, France, Finland, Sweden, and Norway are working to build their ice diving knowledge and test new equipment as part of Operation Nanook-Nunalivut.
Matthew Innocent, a sergeant with the Canadian Forces and a combat engineer by trade, specializes in combat diving. He explained what the divers focus on in their training.
“As a combat engineer, we’re in charge of ensuring that friendly forces can move, can fight, and can manoeuvre. And we want to deny that to the enemy [in a] subsurface and an underwater condition,” Innocent told Cabin Radio.
“It also allows us to work with other Canadian Forces when it comes to water crossings, bottom profiling, or checking out anything … in and around water.
“We’re testing all this new equipment to see how it holds up in the harsh Canadian climate,” he said, adding the equipment includes a new surface supply system – which provides air to divers while underwater.
The task force arrived in Tuktoyaktuk late last week and, after setting up a dive site a couple of kilometres outside the community, began diving on Friday.
Multi-national task force
Innocent’s Canadian contingent includes 10 combat divers. Including other Canadian and European divers, there are about 50 participants in total on site, he estimated.
“It is a joint exercise,” said Innocent. “Some countries have brought their own equipment to test up here to see how it works in the harsh Canadian climate.
“It’s a great learning opportunity for everybody to learn new skills, drills, and evolve their own skills and drills moving forward.”
Innocent said weather conditions were clear and favourable as they were setting up and beginning their dives: temperatures hovered between -20C and -29C, while the warmer water was between -1C and 1C.
Still, divers are only in the water for 10 to 15 minutes at a time – and never exceed 20 minutes unless they are using extremely specialized equipment.
Some of the divers are participating in a Defence Research and Development Canada study during the operation.
Researchers are collecting data on how human temperatures fluctuate in the cold.