Navy patrol ship in Iqaluit on ‘journey of discovery’

HMCS Harry DeWolf doing Arctic security patrol on Operation Nanook; expected to depart Iqaluit on Tuesday.

By Jeff Pelletier, Nunatsiaq News - August 22, 2023
Cmdr. Guillaume Côté, captain of the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Harry DeWolf, observes from the ship’s bridge in Iqaluit on Monday. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

For the 85 sailors aboard the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Harry DeWolf, their work on Operation Nanook is more than just an Arctic security patrol.

It’s also a chance to learn more about the Arctic from the people who live in the region, says the ship’s captain, Cmdr. Guillaume Côté.

The ship anchored in Iqaluit last Friday and is scheduled to head out Tuesday evening.

The DeWolf — 103 metres long, with the capacity to carry rescue boats and a helicopter — is a new class of Arctic/off-shore patrol ship. It was delivered to the Navy in 2020 and commissioned for service in 2021.

The ship is on an Arctic patrol that launched from Halifax about two weeks ago, and will be at sea until the beginning of October.

In Iqaluit, several crew members disembarked and spent time in the community. At a gathering at the Legion hall Saturday, Côté and his crew met with elders and several local leaders and guided them on a tour of the ship.

“They are the ones with the knowledge, they know how things actually are operating because this is a new theatre of operation as a military force up here,” he said.

“This is also part of the journey of discovery, is actually to be able to understand how people live or [are] organizing themselves. Once we understand a little bit more of that, then we can actually start progressing.”

Côté said naval crews face challenges in the Arctic relating to weather, mobility and the effects of climate change.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Harry DeWolf is anchored off the shore of Iqaluit. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

On Sunday, that also included dealing with Iqaluit’s fast-changing tide levels.

While doing a pickup at the Iqaluit causeway boat ramp, the receding tides pulled out so quickly their landing craft became stuck on the ramp for the remainder of the day.

At high tide that night, the 17-tonne vessel was finally towed back to the DeWolf.

Côté said he’s impressed with his sailors, their teamwork and their adaptability.

During a media tour Monday, the DeWolf’s sailors could be seen collaborating on several heavy tasks, including the raising of rescue boats onto the ship’s two sides.They also carried out what was described as the recovery of the landing craft that became immobilized Sunday afternoon.

“Everyone’s always willing to have a good laugh together, people have different initiatives to raise morale and everyone works really hard together,” said Sub-Lt. Fraser Duff, one of the bridge watchkeepers.

Operation Nanook has the ship patrolling the Arctic with some international partners. During parts of the trip to Iqaluit, the DeWolf travelled alongside a French patrol vessel and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter ship.

On the Harry DeWolf, each sailor has a role. But for their down time, there’s a gym, a cafeteria and several lounges with TVs and a Big Buck World arcade hunting game.

There’s also a pet wall, where sailors have shared photos of the dogs, cats and rabbits they’re missing while they spend months at sea.

When Côté isn’t busy running the ship, he might be building Lego sets to add to his collection of Star Wars memorabilia displayed around his office.

After Iqaluit, the DeWolf is headed to Nuuk, in Greenland. Later, it will make its way to Resolute Bay before returning to its base in Halifax in early October.

A multi-role rescue boat is used to transport people between the HMCS Harry DeWolf and the shore. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

Côté, whose naval career has taken him around the world to Europe and the Middle East, said he’s eager to continue his first-ever journey through the Canadian Arctic.

He and his crew hope to continue working with communities and partners on providing a security presence in the region.

“For some of them, and I’d say at least half of them, it’s a first experience just like for me, so basically we’re doing this discovery together,” he said.

The landing craft used to transport passengers on and off the HMCS Harry DeWolf was loaded on to the ship Monday after getting stuck on land Sunday. The craft was towed back to the DeWolf Sunday evening. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

Located in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, Nunatsiaq News is dedicated to covering affairs in Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec since 1973. It has been a partner to ArcticToday and its predecessors since 2016.

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