Dick Hunt's Blog

July 10, 2014

The Building Of The Radio Link From Vancouver To Alaska

Filed under: Current — Tags: — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 10:13 pm

The Building Of The Radio Link from Vancouver to Alaska by Dick Hunt, Saturday, June 28th, 2014.

When the United States entered the second world War , I was at an R.C.A.F. Station on Denny Island just off the West Coast at an area known as Bella Bella. I was in the Signals section and so was involved in the construction of the link. One day we had been flown to the site in a large “FLYING BOAT” called a “STRANRAER”, an odd looking Plane built in Scotland. It was a Bi-Plane, the lower wing being right down on top of the Hull and the upper one ten feet above, with vertical struts and wires keeping it in place. The two Rotary Motors were in the top wing. It looked like it would never fly, but it did. 13 of us with our equipment were transported to the building site, and at sundown we boarded for the return flight. As we gained altitude flying down an open channel we saw just ahead of us thick fog rolling down to the channel out of the coastal mountains. We were quickly immersed in it and flying blind. When we broke out of it, we saw the mountain tops, glistening with snow and ice like jewels in the sky. But the fog stretched for miles, all the way to our landing point and beyond. We radioed our station so they would know our predicament, they set out landing lights and watched for us. To make matters worse, we were getting very low on fuel. Just as we were close to having to ditch anywere we could guess was safe, we saw the landing lights at our home station and with the last of our fuel, splashed down with sighs of deep relief for our deliverance. Nowadays I would have thanked God for His mercy, but that was before I had come to terms with Him. I flew as a passenger often in the course of my duties in the old Stranraeres and it was quite a sturdy plane. But on one occasion we were flown to a tiny Island thirty miles off the coast and in landing in rough waters, the tail assembly fell off and tumbled into the water. We were near shore and a Crash Boat quickly came to our rescue and towed us to the Dock. I was there with my crew to set up the two way radio link and the Radar station. It was Easter Sunday and there was a bag of mail unloaded as we disembarked. I had been very sad that I had not had any mail from my family for some time. Late that day, I went to the Office and there was a letter from my Mother who lived in Calgary. You can likely appreciate my emotion as I settled down to read and re-read the letter. The name of the place was “Spider Island”. It was about a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide and varied in altitude from sea level to 450 feet. Our Radar station was at the high point. We were a dot on the map, 30 miles off the coast. Our Signals Officer was with us and had given us instructions to complete the installations and leave it to him to put them in use. He really had no idea how to do so and my friend, Larry Goodwill and I had to draw his attention away from the equipment while we tuned it to the Stations and put it into service. He then turned on the switches and took the credit for his work. He went home happy. We stayed and completed the assignment for which we were there. A crew from the Airframe Section of our home station arrived in due course, repaired the tail section, rudders etc. and we flew to our base safely. When I was transferred to Calgary, I flew to Vancouver in that same plane.

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