Operation NANOOK-NUNALIVUT 19: Diving in the High Arctic

Panorama view of the dive site being set up on the ice during Operation NUNALIVUT
Panorama view of the dive site being set up on the ice during Operation NUNALIVUT in Tuktoyaktuk, NT on March 21, 2019. Photo: MCpl Gabrielle DesRochers, Combat Camera

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By Lieutenant(Navy) Éliane Trahan

Clearance Divers, Combat Divers and Port Inspection Divers from across Canada are currently participating in Operation NANOOK-NUNALIVUT 19 in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, until April 1, 2019. They are diving in the glacial waters of northern Canada with colleagues and military divers from France, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

The purpose of this operation is to improve the ability of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to operate in austere and isolated locations. Although divers are often called upon to work in difficult conditions across Canada and abroad, diving under the ice in a location of up to -60 °C remains a real challenge.

International representatives were first welcomed to the Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) (FDU(A)) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they had an opportunity to get to know each other and trial the different equipment. The group of about 50 people then flew to Inuvik, a two hour drive from Tuktoyaktuk.

“We are proud to be at the helm of the diving activities for this operation. Once the divers put on their equipment, whether they are Canadian, French or Norwegian, they are one team. Especially in such conditions, they must to rely on each other.” said Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Fournier, Commander Task Force Dive and FDU(A) Commander.

Image gallery

  • A diver shows a thumbs up to indicate he is okay after entering the arctic water
  • Military divers from Canada, Finland, Sweden and Norway work together to remove a block of ice freshly cut on the dive site
  • A member of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group talks with divers from Norway and Sweden on the dive site during Operation NUNALIVUT
  • Panorama view of the dive site being set up on the ice during Operation NUNALIVUT

Military divers are recognized for their professionalism and expertise. For the duration of the operation, they will explore the seabed to a maximum depth of 17 meters, and will practice their skills under the ice using a new piece of diving equipment, the Ultra Light Surface Supplied Diving System. The Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and Joint Arctic Experiment teams will also perform various thermal retention experiments on divers.

Lieutenant-Commander Kharim Schliewinsky, Advanced Diving Medical Officer, is the CAF’s Senior Medical Authority in Tuktoyaktuk, and he is prepared to provide medical coverage if any diving incident occurs.

The members of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group are also part of the team in order to provide advice and facilitate a smooth integration into an arctic environment. While here, military members have the chance to meet Tuktoyaktuk residents and learn about Inuit culture and traditions.

To follow the activities of Operation NANOOK-NUNALIVUT 19 and see the military in action, visit the Joint Task Force (North) web page and the Canadian Forces Combat Camera image gallery.

On social media, visit:

Joint Task Force North Facebook page

Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic Facebook page

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