Saturday, May 30, 2020

Charting the Northern Canadian North

 The Arctic

Where your Covictory Garden would freeze.

By Algkalv and Dr. Blofeld based on original by Yug. Inset map is by EOZyo.
The Arctic Archipelago, or the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, or as I like to call it; the Northern Canadian North, is a region which groups together all islands lying to the north of the Canadian continental mainland, with the exception of Greenland. This area covers about 1,424,500 square kilometres with 36,563 islands in the Arctic Sea. And it is very cold.

The waterways between these islands are claimed by Canada as internal waters but are viewed as international waters by other nations including the USA. There are also areas contested by other nations, such as Hans Island, and Ellesmere island which Denmark also claims as part of their territory. The question of sovereignty and ownership, what is internal waterways and what is international waters are at the focus of disputes. 
The Northwest Passage is a growing concern for Canada as a result of climate change, as ice shifts and melts opening the waterways of the Arctic. If the area becomes more accessible to shipping, Canada and the inhabitants of this region are concerned for the sensitive environment. 
Much of the people living in this region are members of First Nation, Métis or Inuit peoples, constituting 53% of the population. The territories of Nunavut, North West Territories and the Yukon have the greatest proportion of FNMI inhabitants in all of Canada. Exploration and mapping of this area has a long and bitter cold history, with new discoveries leading to maps being updated or entirely rewritten. You can check out some historic maps of Northern Canada through the McMaster University Maps digital archive. Charting the Northern Canadian North comes with many tragic and triumphant outcomes, from John Franklin to Ernie Weeks.

Ernie Weeks 1941 / Hamilton Spectator /
Courtesy of  The Canadian Warplane Heritage
Museum Archives Collection
Waterdown has some close connections to the mapping of our northern nation. Frederick Ernest "Ernie" Weeks, best known to most of us from "Weeks" - Home Hardware on Hamilton Street in town, was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. In 1940 Week's was summoned to Mount Hope airport (now John C. Munro Hamilton Airport next to Canadian Warplane Heritage) to be an instructor for the new B.C.A.T.P. - British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. As an R.C.A.F. pilot, Ernie was called upon to fly a secret mission aimed to map the north. In the process he left his mark in several places, naming Week's Lake in Shefferville, Quebec, Ernie's Lake in Nunavut, and a lake in his first wife Pauline's name.

In 1943 the mission to help map the Arctic and establish Canadian sovereignty in response to the Soviet's landing a four-engine aircraft in the Arctic in 1938. Ernie attended a secret meeting in Ottawa to be briefed on the mission objective.

"The government wanted more information on the Arctic. There were no maps of the area. RCAF aircraft didn't have the range to fly very far north, so bush pilots again were recruited. It was top secret. Our mail would go to a post office box in New York and then (be) transferred up to us."  
 Ernie Weeks The Spectator 2004. 
Weeks flew a Noorduyn Norseman to remote areas of the north where he would drop off a surveyor and supplies. The surveyor would build stone cairns with bronze markers that would serve as permanent fixes for aerial photography. The complete mapping of Canada's Arctic territory was completed in 1958.

Side note: The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum has in it's aircraft collection an air-worthy Noorduyn Norseman. I first got to fly in it in August 2017, and have made a number of trips up in it.
Norseman Pre-Flight Fueling
C-47 Environment Canada Markings
Another aircraft at the museum with a connection to the far north is the Douglas C-47, a passenger and cargo aircraft with a history that reaches back to 1944, where it participated in the D-Day operations. After the war and serving in various roles the C-47 was used by The Department of Energy and Mines, then with Environment Canada doing remote sensing for mineral and environmental surveys in the far north and Arctic region of Canada.

C-47 Wartime Camouflage 
Serving in both No. 233 Squadron RAF and No. 437 Squadron RCAF by the end of the war, the C-47 carried 298 casualties, medical aid, repatriated 456 prisoners of war, carried more than 5,100 passengers to destinations in Europe as well as almost 500,000 pounds of freight. While serving with No. 233, the aircraft also boasted an interesting name.

After the Second World War, the new likely foe to be fought were the Communists, the Reds, the Soviet Union. Fears circulated of attacks on The United States and Canada, and the path the bombers or rockets would take was determined to be over the North Pole and Arctic regions of Northern Canada. With what started in 1943, the initiative to map the northern region was deemed essential. Flying in the Arctic was difficult due to adverse weather conditions, unreliable magnetic compasses and the lack of accurate mapping. In order to protect the Capitalist West, the north had to be known. It was not only the RCAF that took on this initiative. The USAAF was up in the cold with us too, conducting transport of supplies to northern airbases under Operation Polaris. What the Americans didn't tell the Canadian government, was that they were also taking aerial reconnaissance photographs. Fearing that the Americans were searching for undiscovered islands they could claim for their own, thus undermining Canadian territorial sovereignty in the North. Diplomatic objections were filed, the Americans admitted "our bad," and agreed to stop.
Consolidated 'Canso' with B25 Mitchell in backgound
408 'Goose' Squadron
Dept. National Defence / Library and Archives Canada /
The season for aerial photography in the Canadian North was short, as the ground needed to be free of ice and snow, and sight could be further hampered by cloud cover and smoke from forest fires. From No. 22 Photo Wing at Rockcliffe, Ontario, three B25 Mitchell light bombers were purchased and retrofitted with special cameras for use in Topographic Air Navigation Charts. They also used Avro Lancaster MKX heavy bombers, and Consolidated 'Canso's for this task. Oh look, another three war birds in the aircraft collection at Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. 

(Left) Fairchild K-20 Aircraft Camera next to Olympus Digital camera (Right)
Believe it or not, the laptop is not an artifact (Yet).

Airwoman displaying types of aerial cameras used by the Royal Canadian Air Force in
 Operation Eclipse to photograph a solar eclipse.
R.C.A.F. Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, Canada, 19 July 1945.
Library and Archives Canada
And what do these special Cameras look like? Often bomber aircraft had cameras in them to take photos of bombed targets during or after a raid. The K-20 camera, as you can see in the photo (Left), look likes it belongs in a bomber.

Using what they had learned from wartime photography, new technologies and methods were explored by the men and women at Rockcliffe. 

The RCAF’s 1947 photographic flying season was impressive. Two squadrons conducted aerial surveys. One, equipped with Dakota aircraft and the latest navigational aids, completed 111,043 square miles of vertical photography. The other squadron, flying Lancasters and Mitchells, covered 293,000 square miles with trimetegron photography.

They were assisted by SHORAN (Short Range Aid to Navigation) which had grown out of wartime bombing technology. Portable SHORAN sites were established at increasingly remote sites. They emitted radar pulses that enabled personnel to establish precise distances between various points and thus draw the flight lines. Millions of photographs were forwarded to the RCAF’s Photo Establishment at Rockcliffe where they were assembled into mosaics which eventually became maps.

In 1948 while flying over the Foxe Basin off the southern coast of Baffin Island led to the discovery of two uncharted islands which added an additional 5000 sq miles of new territory to Canada!
Preliminary indexing of tri-metrogon aerial photographs, 
No.1 Photographic Establishment, R.C.A.F., 
Rockcliffe, Ontario, Canada, 1 March 1945.
Library and Archives Canada

Eventually Avro Lancasters from No. 408 Squadron of Rockcliffe would take complete control of Arctic aerial mapping, and by 1951 had photographed the majority of the region. Attention at this time turned to aerial patrol of the Arctic region, and collecting atmospheric samples after Soviet nuclear tests.

Today, satellites and Google Earth make maps and viewing far off places seem simple, even mundane. But these developments had to start somewhere, and it was with the ingenuity and adventurous spirit of the men and women, some of them local - of the R.C.A.F. 

Whew, this was a big post. I hope you read some of it at least. Saturday - gone.

Sources for this post:

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Archives Collection

Digital Archive Maps - McMaster University

Remembering Ernie - Flamborough Review

Passages: Bush pilot and Waterdown businessman 'a hard act to follow' -

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Aircraft Collection

A bird whose wings touched history - The Spectator 

Aerial Visuals - Airframe Dossier - Douglas C-47

Dakota FZ692 - RAF Air Station Blakehill Farm, Cricklade UK

Digital Collection Photographs - Library and Archives Canada 

Mapping the Canadian North - Post WWII - Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton

Mapping in Full Flight: Air Force, Part 28 - Legion


The Operation Manna Garden is flourishing!
And two successful 'Manna Drops' have been achieved. Hope you enjoy your cilantro Erin and Nathan!

Monday, May 25, 2020


The Graduate (1967)

The Covictory Garden has been given a new name, behold the Operation Manna Garden. In tribute to the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands and the Manna Drops of Operation Manna and Operation Chowhound, as well as a credit to Operation Market Garden of 1944. The garden is doing well, the onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, peas and cilantro are thriving. We still have yet to complete the fence to protect it from rabbits and other animals that would gladly devour our plants. 

As you may notice there are egg shells scattered about. These are drying out in the sun in preparation to render them easier to crumple into smaller pieces to mix into the soil. They will increase the presence of calcium. Calcium plays a very important role in plant growth and nutrition, as well as in cell wall deposition. As a soil amendment, calcium helps to maintain chemical balance in the soil, reduces soil salinity, and improves water penetration. The mulch was simply for aesthetics, although I later learned that maple mulch can rob the soil of nitrogen. Oops. So, in order to increase the nitrogen level in the soil, we have continued to save our used coffee grounds to mix into the soil to add nitrogen to the soil. Gardening is a lot of science we've learned, and it's been an awesome experience!

Mr. Tidridge has requested that my blog post for this week discuss the subject of plastics. 

Plastic is a type of synthetic or man-made polymer; similar in many ways to natural resins found in trees and other plants. Not all plastics are the same and have different properties depending on their intended use. One of the first plastics developed in the 20th century was developed by an American-Belgian chemist named Leo Bakelite. "Bakelite" as it was called, was used to replace shellac and covering electrical wiring. 

Watch this video of the production and uses of Bakelite. Who doesn't love early 20th century narrator speech?

One of the initial uses of plastics was to create items and commodities at a lesser expense than the regularly used raw materials. This was especially the case during World War II, as many raw materials were difficult to source, or already had important roles in the manufacture of other items, such as rubber for tires.

Check out these objects from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Collection and Archives made throughout the 1930's-1950's, see if you can identify the areas of each item that are made of Bakelite.
P-51 Aircraft ID Model c.1940
Northern Electric "Bathtub" Morse code key c.1940's
Leather Flying Helmet with Headset and wiring c.1942
Kodak Baby Brownie Camera c.1939-1954
In 1941, car manufacturer and inventor Henry Ford manufactured a prototype plastic car, made from soybean and corn oil. But with the entry of the United States to the war, manufacturing in all areas moved into mobilizing for war. The production of plastic from crude oil made many components of war materiel, from gear wheels in aircraft and tanks, to parachutes, and nylon rope.

Plastics boomed during World War II, and continued to after the war. Today they make up nearly everything we own.

In 1950 the world produced 1.5 million tons of plastic.

In 1960, 25 million tons.

In 1970 over 50 million tons.

Making things out of plastic made many commodities more affordable to the post-war consumer society. Televisions were made cheaper and more families owned one. In 1965 the plastic shopping bag was invented and filled many retail stores and shopping malls. In many parts of Africa, plastic bags have been dubbed "the national flower" due to their presence everywhere, flapping from trees, fences, and structures across the continent. Plastic made the new post-war consumer world, from Tupperware parties to recreational activities like an all-plastic boat.

One of the most iconic plastic items which has been a focus of many environmental concerns today made its debut in 1975, when soft drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi switched from their signature glass bottles to "PET" bottles. And it was in the next decade that the world began to realize the environmental problems resulting from plastic. 

In the 1980s plastic was everywhere. While it is inexpensive to produce, it's environmental impact comes at a high price. As a consequence of being a man-made product, it's nearly indestructible. The polypropylene bonds which hold plastic together do not exist in nature, which means there is no natural decomposition factor. It is estimated that it will take 450 years for nature to break down a plastic bottle, which remains only an estimate. It was because of the environmental impact of plastics that in 1988, the arrows that you see on your blue bins became mainstream as recycling arrived on the scene. 

By the 1990s nearly everything is made of plastic, or has plastic components, accessories, covers, packaging etc. And it's polluting our oceans on a shocking scale and at an alarming rate.
Map of Garbage Patches throughout the Oceans
It is estimated that 8-12 million tons of plastic is dumped in the ocean each year. A lot of plastic finds it's way to the oceans through water ways, blowing from landfills, garbage bins, and by littering. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains an estimated 80-100 tons of plastic alone. It is speculated that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. This poses serious health risks to not only marine animals, which over 100,000 are killed by plastic each year, and up to a million sea birds, but to ourselves as well. 

The issue of plastic pollution not only affects the environment, but our personal health as well. A study conducted in 2018 showed that microplastics were discovered in human excrement, indicating that by some way plastic is getting into our bodies. It could be that as a result of this discovery, that each person might ingest a credit card's worth of plastic per week.

For Further Reading on Microplastics in our bodies.

Although there are a lot of concerns for the environment and our personal health, plastics are vital in many areas that protect us and keep us healthy. Plastics are used extensively in of the medical field, and personal safety. Plastic syringes keep many diabetics alive each year, and many medical implements are made of plastics. Kevlar body armour which is made of different types of plastics protect and save the lives of first responders. There have also been studies and experiments with creating new, safer, and cleaner plastics. Check out how researchers have created biodegradable plastic from Algae.

I'm sure you are as tired of the word plastic as I am now by the end of this post. But here's the word a few more times. It is important that we ensure the plastics we use can be and are recycled, and that in any way possible we should limit our consumption of single use plastics and protect our natural world.

Sources for this post:

Johnston, Karis. Legacies of War: How the Commercialization of Plastics in the United States Contribute to Cycles of Violence, SIT Graduate Institute: Spring 2018

History 101. Plastics. ITN Productions. (Episode aired 22 May 2020)

Further Reading:

ASU Researcher uses algae to make biodegradable plastic

The many uses of plastic materials in medicine

You eat a thousand bits of plastic every year

What Protects Us (Hint: Plastics)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

COVICTORY UPDATE & The Post War Legacy of Nutrition

May 8, 2020

While deciding what to eat during your day you may have a number of considerations. 
How much time do I have? Do I have to make something? Do I have to buy something? 
You may also consider the purpose or the value of the food you eat.
Will this give me energy? Will this make me feel full?Is this good for me to eat? Is this bad for me to eat? 

But who tells you what is good food and what is bad food?
Nutritionists and Food Scientists of course. Or is it the politicians? Your friends? Or do you take your food choices based on what is told to you by athletes, celebrities, or what is posted on social media? The power and control over what we decide to eat, what we have access to eat, and how we value food is a consequence of the enduring legacy of nutrition and food science that grew out of World War II.
As I mentioned before, wartime nutritionists in Britain actually argued that bacon be added as a staple of the ration to add flavour to foods, even though energy inefficient. When Britain entered the war in 1939 the government had not yet implemented a wide scale rationing system. In contrast, Germany had begun a nationwide ration by August 1939. When Britain did begin to impose rationing, it repeated a system from World War I, which unlike Germany - had no reference to nutritional advice as to what should be part of the national diet. The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Food simply reflected what was available. As a result there was no guarantee of a balanced diet, and many food alternatives were made available due to the restrictive measures on imports.

Processed foods were essential to save shipping space, which also led to some of the most unpleasant wartime foods to eat. Every four weeks each British household was entitled to a packet of dried egg. "The very worst breakfast ... was a two inch block of hard scrambled egg oozing with water ... and the TASTE - ugh!"

Processed 'cheese' in a tube was described as, "a soapy wartime product with no consistency and poor keeping quality, unfit to eat raw."
"[T]owards the end of the war dried banana powder appeared but we all thought it was disgusting. It became a joke that if we children were naughty we'd be made to eat a spoonful of it."
Condensed milk was however very much sought after. Tins of condensed milk became a useful commodity for barter between soldiers and civilians.

Canada's Food Guide
Today, the access to nutrition is widely available to most people. If you can get an internet connection you can access Canada's Food Guide which tells you what to eat. Health and Nutrition are part of the Ontario curriculum taught in schools across the province. Or you can read the Nutrition Facts label on most of your food containers and you will know what you are eating. Mostly.
What you may notice when you examine those labels are the vitamins and minerals contained in that food, some of which does not occur there naturally. Fortified foods are an example of the influence nutritionists had on food during World War II. During the war, Britain was consuming huge quantities of bread (1.8 kilograms a week 1939-1945). However, white bread made from wheat imported from the USA was very low in nutritional value. The extraction process removes a lot of wheat germ, where the vitamins, iron and protein are. In contrast, wholemeal bread is more nutritious, but it would go stale faster, and generally people did not like it as much as the white bread loaves. By 1942 white bread was outlawed in Britain due to the shipping crisis, and the dreaded beige 'National Loaf' became the staple of the British war diet. But it doesn't end there, for it was discovered that phytic acid in wholemeal flour hinders the body's ability to intake calcium. As dairy products were also rationed, 120 grams of calcium was added to every 100g of wheat flour to increase calcium intake. Many other foods took on added vitamins, such as fortified margarine with Vitamins A and D. 
With the Victory Garden plots throughout Britain, potatoes which are high in Vitamin C, and the greater intake of fresh vegetables due to the 'dig for victory' campaign helped to give the British people healthier diets.

But how did this change after the end of the war in Europe? While Britain had enjoyed its bread during the war, in 1946 bread was rationed for the first time and a special system was introduced to control the sale of potatoes. The two unrestricted food sources that the Ministry of Food had made a principle of allowing in unlimited quantities were now restricted to the British people. After the war the amount of fat and meat in the national diet fell and the average calorie consumption dropped to 2,300 - which was about two-thirds of American post-war consumption.
Hershey's Chocolate Fuel for Victory
While not all countries had the plenty of the USA, around the globe diets based on nutritional knowledge improved. In Canada with a raise in worker's wages increased the consumption quantities of proteins, iron, and calcium. When the government discovered a lacking in Vitamin C, oranges and grapefruits were imported from the United States at great expense. Canadian workers continued to do their part for the post-war European states. Between 1946-1947 Canadian meat processors produced canned, pastes, and meat spreads as well as blood sausage for Europe. Mechanization of the prairie provinces also freed up 40,000 draught horses which were sent to farmers in Czechoslovakia, France and Poland.

Britain and the Dominions ended up at war's end with healthier populations who had also fostered a healthy expectation of their governments be responsible for the health and the feeding of its people. The position of food scientists and nutritionists also saw their positions elevated in the public and government sectors, resulting in the power to influence food choices and the dictating of good and bad foods.

Source Material

Lizzie Collingham, The Taste of War: World War II and The Battle for Food. New York, Penguin Books: 2013.

Monday, May 18, 2020


Happy Victoria Day and happy gardening to all the Covictory Gardeners! Be well and Stay safe!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Food at the Front


Stationed in wartime Britain, food was at the front of everyone's minds. Canadian servicemen and women thought about, wrote home about, and complained often about the food available in Britain. Many in their early 20's, these young men and women recalled mom and dad's cooking and the food they were used to growing up across Canada. Like the citizens of Britain, the services deployed to Britain before the eventual invasions of the continent were at the mercy of whatever food was available. You can recall perhaps as a child going over to a friend's house for dinner, and their parents cooking wasn't how your parents cooked - and you were either delighted or horrified. But you either ate or went hungry, so is life. 

But in August 1941 Canadian troops stationed in Britain actually staged two sit-down strikes because of only being provided two cooked meals per day. And the inventive new alternatives to the usual foods Canadians ate were met with suspicion. Margarine was a recent invention and "huge white blocks of it, hard as stone, decorated every table." Dinner in the messes on airbases in Britain were often boiled or fried Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and some kind of meat, "like greasy mutton." Breakfast often included more Brussels sprouts reheated from the night before and referred to as "bubble and squeak," or a simple fare of one piece of bread soaked in cooking grease and fried. Powdered milk and eggs were among the other ersatz creations available. And although they were often argued to be inedible, like dinner at your friend's house - you either ate or went hungry. However it was not only the Canadian troops that were unhappy with their food, and throughout Britain, Canada, and Australia, it was generally accepted that if these young men and women were risking their lives in the fight, they at least deserved something good to eat.

J. Douglas Harvey DFC, CD, Wing Commander recalls how aircrews felt about a diet containing mostly Brussels sprouts:

"They did their part in keeping starvation at bay, but they couldn't have been a worse choice for aircrew required to fly at high altitude in unpressurized aircraft. Modern diets for aircrew call for less volatile ingredients. Luckily we all wore oxygen masks, which filtered out most of the gaseous smells."

Aircrews stationed in Britain were at the ridicule of other branches of the military, who were often stationed ships or in the trenches, which may have provided less than favourable living conditions. The Air Force were sometimes treated to a little extra while stationed in Britain, especially those of Bomber Command.

"Our crew would journey far afield searching for a café that served something that tasted like food. We found such a spot in the town of Rippon ... [I]t was owned by a young widow. Her air gunner husband had been killed over Germany. This gal, much to our satisfaction, discriminated. Seated in the small, permanently crowded café, you were surrounded by army types. The featured item on the menu was bacon and eggs, always a rare treat. If you were in air force uniform your eggs always sat a little higher on your plate. Underneath the two eggs lay a small steak. None of the army guys got this treatment and we felt special."

Ready for War

Throughout the other branches of the military the complaints of food were much the same. But by mid 1943 food quality in the military seemed to have improved, resulting in less squabbles and strikes due to the efforts of the Army Catering Corps. First established in 1941, the Army Catering Corps trained cooks in the army how to properly prepare food including: how to make a roux, salmon and potato cakes, a variety of stews and hotpots and how to prepare dehydrated foods so that they would at least be edible. 

Soyer Stove
Wiles Steam Cooker
In the Australian army, the preparation of food in the field was cooked on what was known as a Soyer Stove. Dating back to the Crimean war of 1853-1856, these stoves burned food to the point of being almost inedible. While some of us don't like things too crispy, the other downside was a nearly 85% of vitamins were depleted from the food. The solution was the Wiles' Steam cooker, cooked food in 20 minutes and could be done so while on the move, retained 75% of vitamins, and also made the food seem edible. 

Water was also an issue wherever you were, and access to clean drinking water was sometimes not possible without added chemicals or filtration. Water for the British Army in Egypt was said to contain so much chlorine and salt that milk curdled in tea. So gave rise to what was known as "char" very strong tea drunk with condensed milk and as much sugar one could get their hands on. 

In Burma, due to the multi-ethnic, religious, caste, and nationality of the British Army, Indian quartermasters had 198 different ration scales to determine what food went to who and how much. 

As the war progressed and nutritionists and food scientists made progressive steps to help feed the Armed Forces, overall nutrition and food quality improved to help keep morale high.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

You Plant for Victory

There will be sunshine and a lot of dreary cold days but stay motivated COVICTORY GARDENERS!
Watch this video from 1943 of Mr and Mrs Plugger and their victory garden. Remember that you have your family, friends and community to help you out in this difficult time.

He Plants for Victory, , provided by the National Film Board of Canada
This animated short focuses on Mrs. Plugger, who is eager to start her own Victory Garden. Reminding her that tools are hard to get and that neither of them know much about gardening, Plugger organizes his neighbours to cultivate vegetables in a vacant lot. A message about the importance of cooperation and knowledge sharing . . . especially during war time. National Film Board of Canada