08/31/2012. Remarks by Johan Visschedijk: "On August 24, 1929, a group of Dominion Explorers Expedition (Domex) prospectors flew into the Arctic to search for mineral deposits. Overdue at their destination, on September 23 Western Canada Airways began a search and rescue operation which would become the most expensive and extensive in Canadian history, costing over 21 million dollars in today's currency value, and more than 17,000 mls (27,360 km) flown by the five search aircraft.
Kerry Karram's grandfather, Captain Andy Cruickshank, was assigned to lead the rescue team. Kerry's book, Four Degree's Celsius, A Story of Arctic Peril, documents the search and rescue drawing upon the reports in the Northern Miner and Manitoba Free Press newspapers, and the recently discovered diaries of Andy Cruickshank and Richard Pearce, a member of the stranded party.
G-CASQ was Cruickshank's aircraft. Grounded many times by weather, damage and mechanical problems, readying the aircraft to resume the search again was a complicated task, using found materials and tools carried on board, made even more difficult in sub-zero Arctic temperatures. From the book:
"The air engineer's first job was to cut kindling and make a fire near the airplane. A tarp (the engine tent), which had been thrown over the plane's engine the previous night, provided a makeshift hangar. He would then light two heating torches, making sure a fire extinguisher was at hand, and begin the arduous and dangerous task of heating both the engine and the engine oil... Once the oil had been heated over the fire and the engine warmed, the engineer removed the torches and would quickly pour the oil into the tanks, pull off the canvas... hand crank the engine, and... hope to hear the staccato roar of the engine... if the engine did not come to life, the oil would need to be drained quickly and the process started all over again."
On October 28, on landing, G-CASQ fell through thin ice, its salvage being the most extensive in the history of Western Canada Airways.
"The engine and cockpit were completely submerged and filled with ice and salt water, while the wings rested on the surface of the ice... The propeller tips were bent, the carburetor and magnetos were soaked, and the instruments and cylinders were full of water."
The plane would have to undergo extensive repairs.
"They baked the magnetos for two days... (and it was) decided to shorten both propeller blades by four-and-a-half inches. After this task, the propeller needed to be balanced... Shortened propeller blades would have a definite impact on the performance of G-CASQ, but with Cruickshank's experience, he felt that he could handle the plane... The generator was ruined and the instruments were not functioning... but... Cruickhank proposed to fly without instruments (and)... He would fly on one magneto..."
On November 4 it became known that after more than two months in sub-zero temperatures, the Domex party had traveled over 90 mls (150 km) from Dease Point to Cambridge Bay! The rescue mission now changed to a retrieval mission, including the repaired G-CASQ flying again. But the Canadian North was not ready to let the crews accomplish this without encountering many more mishaps in the 1,400 mls (2,253 km) flight back to Winnipeg. It would take more than a month!"