Anyone who is a regular user of the Long John Index knows that we have a special place in our hearts for Alert, Nunavut, or as we like to call it, "Alert, Top of Canada". There are a couple reasons why we like to check in on Alert. For one, its the most nothernly populated settlement in not only Canada, but they entire world. It's also ridiculously cold! Thirdly, its actually home to a Canadian Forces base! So what is life like in Alert? Heck if we know! So we reached Captain Pat Thibault of 8 Wing Trenton, who is stationed at CFS Alert, to find out what it's like to live and work in Alert, Top of Canada!
Long John Index Service: So, Captain Thibault, all of Canada is interested to know: what in Walter Gretzky's back yard are you doing in Alert, Nunavut
Capt. Thibault: As part of the Station personnel "the Frozen Chosen", we are here to ensure ensure our presence at the Top of the country to maintain the Sovereigty , Show the flag with pride. I am in charge of the Logistic and the General Safety across the Station. Briefly, I ensure the coordination of supply and shipment between Trenton and Alert is well done. For the Safety aspect, I am in charge to coordinate and provide safety briefing to all personnel coming to Alert. In a place isolated like here, a lot of safety briefing and emergency training are provided. Obviously our national sport is played on a weekly basis here, usually Saturday afternoon and Thursday night. Most of the time we play inside because of the weather.
Long John Index Service: About how many people are you stationed with?
Capt Thibault: During the summer the flow of activity is at his peak and people on the Station can reach over 200 people. During winter time (Oct to May), the average is approx 80 people.
LGI: Where are you from, and how do winters there compared to living in Alert?
Capt Thibault: I am currently posted at 8 Wing Trenton and the difference is quite important. I arrived at the end of September with a t-shirt, it was +25 in Trenton, here it was -15. It didn't take long that I put my coat on. Today (8 Nov) for exemple, it is -36 with no wind outside. I thought Winnipeg was cold, but it is colder here...No offence to people living in Winnipeg.
LGI: Take us through an average day of life in CFS Alert
Capt Thibault: Our schedule is not so different than when we are Down South. For most of us we usually go for breakfast at 7 h00 am, start working around 7h30 and the day usually finishes around 17h00. The food here is very good and it may be easy for some to gain few extra pounds during their tour in Alert. But to prevent that we have a very good gym that allow us to practice many kinds of sports or activities, most of us go at the gym on a daily basis to stay fit. Also we have plenty of social activity in the evening, like pool tournament, poker night, Bingo and so on .
LGI: Okay so its early morning in January, already -35 ( which is a Long John Index of 5), and someone has to go out to warm up the Minivan to go on a Timmies run. How do you dress to survive the outdoors?
Capt Tibault: If it is 6h30 am I will wear my pijama, we don't have to go outside to get our coffee, unfortunatly we don't have a Timmies yet. But, if I have to visit the guys at the power plant or the Supply building, I will have to wear what we call the B25 (full artic clothing gear), which include the parka, snow pants, toque, gloves, mukluks. Without that it is pretty easy to get frostbite.
LGI: About how much time do you spend outdoors on a normal day?
Capt Thibault: I would say approx 30 minutes to one hour per day for me, but their are people who are spending much longer than that because of their job requirements. When the weather is calm, I tried to go outside as often as possible even if it is Pitch Black 24 hours a day , at this time of the year.
LGI: Whats the best thing about living in Alert?
Capt Thibault: It is a unique environment for me and a very good experience . I consider myself lucky to have been here, considering the few number of people from our country who came here. Going to the North Pole is not very usual, so it is special to live. Also, the strong community spirit inside the Station is something that surprise me the most. It is like a very small village, where everybody knows everybody and everybody talks to each other. We are in the North Pole area (less the 850 Km from the geographic North Pole), but we can say that "we are still in Canada !" which is great. We are not alone here, we have the opportunity to observe different kind of wild animals, like the artic rabbits and wolves on a regular basis.
LG: Best advice you can give to other Canadians about surviving the winter months?
Capt Thibault: Stay warm and avoid the frostbite at all cost. Safety first!