in August 1936, F/L Coleman and LAC Joe Fortey of an RCAF aerial mapping
party were reported missing in the Barren Lands. To better serve the
communications needs of the search party LCpl. Joe Slean and the Outpost
radio equipment were moved to Fort Reliance at the eastern end of
Great Slave Lake. This
was to be the base for search operations for the lost aircraft and
crew. Regular schedules were kept with Fort Rae RC Signals and Government
Survey parties at Aylmer Lake and Lac de Gras, sub bases for the search.
communications provided by "Outpost Joe" were invaluable
in bringing the search to a successful conclusion on 16th September
with the finding of the downed aircraft and crew of Coleman and Fortey
extremely weak from hunger but very much alive. They were immediately
evacuated 'outside' to recuperate from their harrowing three weeks
in the Barrens before returning to duty. The radio station remained
open until gas and a new crew had been flown in to the downed aircraft
and it was brought back from the Lac de Gras area to Reliance on 20th
September. The following day Slean and his radio equipment were returned
to Outpost Island.
Excerpt from the Official History of the NWT&Y Radio System,
by WO Cal Vince.
In the fall of 1936 an extensive search was under way in the Ft. Reliance
area, for two lost RCAF fliers. This required extensive communications
between Reliance/Edmonton/Ottawa, etc. These were being carried out
under most difficult conditions, by the RCAF personnel who were engaged
in the search. They had low-powered, portable equipment and relayed
their traffic to Resolution or Rae, whichever of the stations could
read them thru the summer static.
Joe Slean was the Outpost Island operator, and I believe it was Joe
who suggested that the Outpost Station be moved to Ft. Reliance to
aid in message handling during the search. This was carried out and
was of great benefit to the conduct of the search. As an aside, the
lost were found, on the verge of winter, after enduring for 28 days
on 2 weeks rations. Joe Slean was part of the move to Reliance. He
set up the equipment at Reliance and remained there for the duration
of the search, putting in many long hours at "the key" in
handling all of the communications requirements during the search.
of clues that had been found, the latter part of the search was centered
in the Lac de Gras/Aylmer area. This was far from the main base at
Reliance. A sub-base (read "tent camp") was set up at Aylmer
with some of the search aircraft based there. My records make no mention
of a base at Lac de Gras. So, the "Govt. Survey Parties"
(mentioned by Cal Vince in the official history of the NWT&Y RS)
that Joe was "working" were part of the search party, the
ones who happened to be in camp at that particular time
this, of course, was long before the RC Sigs station was build in
Ft. Reliance. That didn't happen until twelve years later, in 1948
Note from Rex Terpening, former Aircraft
Engineer serving the northern bush airlines
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