HMCS Inuvik

An overhead view of HMCS Inuvik Naval Radio Station.

HMCS Inuvik.

There has been one establishment named Inuvik in the Royal Canadian Navy.

HMCS Inuvik (NRS)

Naval Radio Station (NRS) Inuvik was established in the Northwest Territories in 1961 as a result of the move of NRS Aklavik. The move was necessitated by the thawing of the permafrost under the buildings of Aklavik (Place of Brown Bear), which caused them to settle and shift. The new town of Inuvik (Place of Man) had all its buildings built clear of the ground on piling to avoid the same fate.

Early in November 1960, an advance party of the Royal Canadian Navy, consisting of a petty officer and four men, was dispatched from Aklavik to take over the complex of buildings of the new radio station. Frozen pipes, defective circulation pumps, oil too cold to circulate, jury-rigged oil tanks, malfunctions in the fire protection system as well as continuing difficulties with transportation were among some of the immediate hazards. Late in February 1961, a tractor train of four sleds left Aklavik on a three-day journey to Inuvik that would follow the frozen channels and branches of the Great MacKenzie, the north’s winter highway. The move as such took place during the latter part of March 1961.

On 10 September 1963, Naval Radio Station Inuvik was commissioned HMCS Inuvik. As well as being the Royal Canadian Navy’s only commissioned establishment north of the Arctic Circle, what was less likely to be observed was that HMCS Inuvik was the most westerly of the navy’s shore bases. A line drawn due south of Inuvik would cross the Pacific Ocean about 800 km west of Esquimalt, British Columbia, headquarters of the Pacific Command. With the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces, HMCS Inuvik became Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Inuvik on 19 July 1966. CFS Inuvik was staffed mainly by Communications Research personnel, with support personnel from throughout the Canadian Armed Forces. As part of the Supplementary Radio System, CFS Inuvik was engaged in communications research, in particular, problems of Arctic communications, techniques and equipment, and High Frequency/Direction Finding (HF/DF) in support of search and rescue efforts in northern regions.

Badge of HMCS Inuvik.

Badge of HMCS Inuvik.

On 10 August 1968, what started out as a small campfire erupted into a blaze that devoured trees and tundra. At its most critical stage, the wind was gusting in from the north and northeast, driving the fire directly toward Inuvik. About 80 Defence personnel and fire fighters were at the station soaking buildings as the fire raced past at 60 kilometers per hour. As the fire surrounded the station, the Commanding Officer gave the order to retreat to Swan Lake. The antenna farm was demolished; power poles were downed, but luckily no other major damage to the site. On April 1, 1988, CFS Inuvik ceased operations.

  • Date commissioned: 10 September 1963
  • Date paid off: 19 July 1966
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