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Eastern Manitoba and NW Ontario  
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Exploration in NW Ontario & Eastern Manitoba

1957 Bush Click to view pictures with captions.

At the end of my 3rd year, I got a job with INCO.  In early May I traveled to Copper Cliff, the headquarters of the company, first for a medical, and then to the field camp near Capreol, a CN rail switching yard on the NE rim of Sudbury Basin.  Transcontinental passenger trains heading west from Montreal and Toronto were joined into a single train here.  I experienced this 'joining' four times in as many years to come while traveling west.

Whistle mine was, at that time, an abandoned underground operation.  We spent the most of May doing geophysical surveys over the property, using new, INCO developed electromagnetic (EM) equipment.  The equipment consisted of a large (6foot base), vertically oriented triangular-shaped coil of wire (primary coil) that sent EM signal into the earth, and a small round pickup or secondary coil used to detect an electric conductor in the ground. As long as no conductor existed, the null signal was recorded when the secondary coil was horizontal.  In the presence of a conductor, secondary EMF was set up which was picked up by the secondary coil.  The primary coil had to be pointed in its vertical profile, at the secondary coil.   Since this was heavily wooded bush, the operators of the two coils usually shouted at each other so the coils could be oriented.  My favourite shout was Harry Belefonte's Deo...  Deeeo.  A conductor in this area would be expected to be a massive sulphide ore deposit.    And indeed, our work indicated such a conductor.  A nickel orebody was eventually developed and open-pit mined by Inco Ltd. (now CVRD Inco Ltd.) between 1988 and 1998.

The above activity was mostly marking time until the north thawed sufficiently, and lakes became ice free for aircraft landings.   From Capreol, we hopped the transcontinental to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and from there changed to the train bound for Churchill, Manitoba.  Our destination was Thicket Portage, essentially a rail stop, which it still is so today.  This was the spring thaw in the muskeg of Canadian Shield, and the train often traveled at walking speed, since the ground was soft, the rail bed unstable, uneven, and faster speed would have resulted in derailment. 

From Thicket Portage we flew a short distance north to Thompson, where INCO was developing a large nickel property discovered just the year previous by EM survey. It was then just a mining camp.  Now it is a thriving city of about 14,000 souls.  Mining and smelting are the main industries.

We stayed in Thompson just long enough to organize our party of four for exploring, prospecting the Shield to the east.  Most of the time we were to 'chase' airborne magnetic anomalies.  Airborne magnetometer surveying was based on technology developed during the 2nd World War, where it was used to hunt for submarines. Submarines, being made of steel, became magnetized in the earth's field, and a magnetometer bird, towed under an aircraft, can pick up the disturbance in the earth's magnetic field caused by the submarine.  The same holds true for any magnetic body in the earth.  The Ontario Department of mines used the technique to fly over most of northern Ontario, producing airborne magnetic maps that showed disturbances, or anomalies, in the magnetic field.  Our job was to trek to the anomaly in the bush, and determine what caused it.

The party split into two two-man units, travelling separately.  I was paired with the leader of the expedition, Eric Munsterhjelm, a big Swede.  I was no featherweight, but to even out the canoe, I had to have a boulder in the bow.  Our first stop was Gods Lake, one of the largest Shield lakes in Manitoba. INCO had an exploration camp there.  After that, we visited lakes mostly in Ontario, including Pierce Lake, Red Sucker Lake, Sandy Lake, Big Trout Lake, Wunnummin Lake.  Most of these can be found on the Ontario road map, the northern portion. 

A typical anomaly chase would consist of landing on or portaging to the lake nearest the anomaly, and getting as close as possible to the anomaly on the lake.  From that point, we beached the canoes, and traveled by pace and compas inland to the site of the anomaly.  Often, the trek would be 5-7 km one way through bush and muskeg.  There we would poke around to try to determine the cause of the anomaly.  In some cases, all we found was muskeg.  In most cases, it was an abundance of magnetite mineral in the gneiss or granite.   Sometime it was a banded iron formation in the volcanics.  Then we set to try to find our way back to the canoe.

What we were really looking for was another Thompson deposit - an ultrabasic rock with massive, magnetic pyrrhotite/pentlandite containing nickel and copper.   We carried a white powder, dimethylglyoxime, C4H8N2O2, to test rocks for nickel.  The high-tech test consisted of spitting on the rock, sprinkling some powder on the spit to make a thin paste, and rub it into the rock surface.   Even few parts per million nickel will turn the white paste pink.

At the beginning of August, we were at Big Trout Lake, living in a cabin on an Indian reservation.  The settlement had a Hudson Bay store, where Indians traded pelts for store credit, a wather station that sent up weather baloons twice a day, and a nursing station, staffed by two nurses.  Eric started complaining of a sore stomach, a belly ache, which he initially blamed on my cooking.  The ache was growing worse, so we consulted the nurses, who radioed a hospital in Sioux Lookout, 500 km to the south.  The concensus was that Eric had an appendicitis.  A plane was summoned, and Eric flown to the hospital in Sioux Lookout.  There, they removed an appendix that was about to burst! 

With about a month left in the field season, and a number of sites yet to visit, I was advised to hire a local Indian to act as a companion.  Joe Moris, a band councillor, and a person who could speak at least few words of Englisth became my Tonto.