With Jonathan and Michelle back in school back in Yellowknife, Janine 4, and I flew back to Ft McPherson, with a sleep over in Inuvik. We arrived back to join Alex and the crew, in the midst of a kind of excitement of having lived through a potential disaster but again dodging it. The day before, when they started the large generator, all the hydraulic systems were still open on the large jacks. This in fact literally launched the partly constructed tank into the swamp.!!
Alex’s had some panicky seconds of tryingto imagine how he could possibly get a large crane to come from Inuvik and this might in fact make this whole summer a loss financially. As the dust settled, Alex looked up to see the gentleman who was the local water delivery man. This man was not very amenable to bringing us water when we first arrived. Now here he was looking wide eyed and concerned for what he had just witnessed. He held a part from some machine in his hand, and Alex strolled over and said , “is there something I can do for you?” I wish I could remember his name, but he hesitantly held out the piece he wanted welded. After Alex completed that task, for the man who had been difficult up to this time, he said a plan to bring the tank back to it’s upright position was dropped into his mind. Amazingly,due to the skill he and the crew had with cables, winches etc. the tank was up on the jacks and ready to continue. Perhaps because Alex was able to step back from his own little disaster, to help this man who had been difficult, allowed him to receive the help he so desperately needed.Now, September was here, and according to the locals, winter could show its face at any time. Alex, Janine and I moved into a government owned apartment with high ceilings, and large windows that afforded a grand view of the Peel River and the Richardson Mountains, on the Yukon border, in the distance. Day by day, the color of those hills turned darker and more purple, as the wild flowers did their “thing”.
The weeks passed and the phone calls from the NWT Government construction department continued, pressing Alex “will you be ready?’
“If you would stop calling, I could keep working”.
Now, the word came through the local contact man, “the barge was just one day away”.We were not ready, and the tension was high.
The next morning, from the tank site beside the river, the men could see the barge in the middle of the river within site, but it wasn’t moving.
Next came the pick up truck saying, “the barge is stuck on a sandbar, so it will be late” Hallelujah!!
Next, the district inspector flew in and delivered the ultimatum, that the tank would need to be x-rayed. Alex drew attention to the contract that stated, if it passed the hydro test(pumped full of water) that would suffice, which it did pass. This man was adamant that an x-ray crew would be flown in from Calgary. Can you believe how grateful we were the barge was stuck up river? Alex knew that in many cases like this, said inspector, would be asking for a little greasing of the palms, but he did not take the bait.
So, now the x-ray crew arrived and took more than the required shots. The barge had arrived in front of Alex’ two tanks, waiting and as the sun was starting to set, there was kind of a “holy hush” on that site. We were all waiting for the radiography crew to finish, and I know Alex was praying for a miracle.
The little man, who set up the drama, was pacing . I remember when the x-ray man said “you can start pumping, nuclear quality welds”. No one was more shocked than Alex. It is one thing to pass a hydro test, but not this quality. Now the government inspector started to suspect that Alex had paid off the x-ray people. I remember the film being held up into the sunset rays, and it couldn’t be argued with. The tap was turned on and we breathed a sigh of relief
. As Alex and Bob started to pick up tools, etc, Alex overheard the inspector being berated and sworn at for overlooking the hook up of some smaller vessels, in preparation for receiving fuel. Alex stepped up and offered to hook them up for him to get them out of his jam. This, however, put us at risk for not getting our equipment and machinery on the same barge to get out of McPherson, the last one of the year.
Finally, all the welding was finished , and next day Janine and I were on site, and we were trying to rationalise, that perhaps our machinery could stay in there till next year. Like Alex often said “we don’t know enough to be pessimistic.”
As he continued to clean up, we eventually saw the barge pass us, leaving without our equipment. Much later as the sun was nearly set, in came a Northern Transportation truck, with the captain marching up, a little annoyed, to Alex saying,
“you must have friends pretty “high up” for my shore captain to call me saying go back for Morrison’s load.” It must have been high up, because Alex did not contact anyone on the matter . The loading of equipment went on into the night, as I recall, in a very soft rain.
On September 21, we were flying out ourselves The water delivery man was there and as we loaded he said to Alex “you must have favour with God, I have never seen the snow stay away this long.”
As we lifted away from the scene in that little plane, I was surprised and delighted to see beautiful white swans gathered on the lake below us.