The Inventor

I am not an engineer I am an inventor. It is a different thing. Some engineers can be good inventors but I think it’s almost a problem for them. If people worry too much about all the technical stuff then they can’t look past it and see how to just solve the problem. There’s a Canadian government document, I think it’s called ‘Innovations for Cold Regions Since 1897’ and there are ten people mentioned in there. I am mentioned in a 1986 section for opening up the Arctic System. I arrived in 1982 to solve the problem of making an amphibious arctic escape life boat. I was working for Watercraft International. They sent me for a three month project and I am still here in Canada. Instead of being a three month forty thousand pound job it turned into a fifteen million dollar research project with thirty seven government contracts from five different departments and about an equal number of industry contracts as well. That’s why it took so long.

*

Bruce is the youngest of six children and it was often joked that he had five mothers as the four older girls clearly doted on him, especially due to his status as the baby. Even his brother, though only a couple of years his senior, felt a duty of care which was to be a consistent feature of the relationship.

There is a large portrait in oils, of him as a toddler perhaps two years old, where he poses proudly bare-chested standing on the seat of an imposing brown leather chesterfield armchair. He holds a small spade in his chubby hand and his blond ringlets frame a face that though cherubic is portrayed to convey an undeniable strength of character, shining through piercing blue eyes. Family folklore backs up this impression with several anecdotes of his steadfast if not stubborn will-power which occasionally got him into scraps with authority figures, the slow thinkers or the doubters, from the earliest of his incursions into social mediation. He was quick to defend his right to take part in all activities, despite his young age, and this probably caused most of the altercations as those in charge of his safety attempted to protect him from competing against those much older cousins in rough play or testing his own powers in self-imposed physical challenges. An explosion of temper in a ten pin bowling alley resulted in the five year old landing a well-placed punch on his brother in law’s nose and as a young teen he was forever being chased-down by the Harbourmaster as he evaded apprehension for exceeding the marine speed limit in an overpowered Dory in an estuary on the south coast of England.

The family was a curious mix of the bohemian and the ultra-conservative of the British upper class with a marital mix creating the link between Royal Academy Artists of the early to mid-twentieth century and the wealthy industrialists of the same period. From this recipe came a taste for the creative and a respect for the substance of practicality;  grandparents on one side who painted portraits of royalty for the foyers of  grand public buildings in London, and on the other hand a grandfather who invented the plate heat exchanger and a technique for welding aluminium.

Being born in the mid nineteen-fifties meant that none of the post war circumspection was a burden to Bruce who happily attended Harrow School as a boarder and on the weekends would be collected by the chauffeur in a Rolls Royce and driven either to the city residence in Cadogan Place Belgravia, or perhaps to their country house located on a few acres in the farmland of West Sussex, or maybe to the five storey waterfrontage in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. He claims to be dyslexic and says that this makes him a slow reader thus he explains his mediocre results in academic studies. However it is more likely that being a very physically oriented individual it was simply an anathema for him to sit inside or in fact just sit anywhere for any length of time; therefore the classroom held no attraction for him. He excelled in sports of all description. He represented the school in Rugby travelling to South Africa with a team but he was also keen to stand in the spot light alone, so as an alpine skier he chose to represent his country in the most singular and dangerous of the disciplines, down-hill racing.

Bruce’s parents were completely supportive of his every endeavour to the point of indulgence, his birth coming at a time when they had the money to provide all necessary assistance and as well the guilt which comes from being taken up with their own lives, often travelling overseas for business, hectic social commitments, or being involved in the care of their own aging parents. But perhaps it is this wrangling between materialism and idolising which fuelled a spark that must be present to give the trail-blazer a confidence and energy, a self-belief to pursue the goal despite constant set-backs and negativity.  In their eyes he could do no wrong, and in his eyes too.

There are several early pointers which support the edict ‘give me the boy and I will show you the man’. When I first met him he was seventeen, one year my junior, and that summer we had a holiday at the family’s beautiful house in Cowes. As soon as he knew I could water ski the three of us set off, his older brother John would drive the power boat, I would observe and he of course would ski. Perfect. The modest confines of Osbourne Bay or the Solent were soon too restricting and we made an exciting plan for circumnavigation of the island by water-ski. Even though the weather closed in dreadfully Bruce was determined and as he was in a wet suit it seemed inconsequential, he pushed on until hours later we landed successfully but drenched, having come full circle. A year later we arrived on the Island for another visit and in anticipation of our support Bruce had set up a workshop down by the jetty at the bottom of their long narrow waterfront garden. He was building a ski for a cross Channel attempt. It had to be light but strong to go the distance; wide and thick to be dragged at the slower speed he had calculated would be necessary for the sea conditions we might meet. The engineering drawings and mathematical calculations were not those of an uneducated sportsman but of a fine thinker with focus and an understanding of the task at hand.

It was a confluence of his experiences that led to envisaging the concept of crossing channels or circumnavigating geographical objects. Bruce’s father had owned a succession of sizeable yachts; Camper & Nicholson in Gosport built the sturdy craft that were used by his large family to cross the English Channel every summer to the small peninsula in Brittany where the village of St Jacut de la Mer had been the location for a gathering of the clan since 1913. By the sixties and seventies the family was renowned in the area for arriving once a year in August and living on their huge boat moored in the lee of the harbour wall. Any visiting cousins rented houses in the village and borrowed a flotilla of dinghies to join Bruce, his brother John and the sisters as they navigated the complex rock formations and dangerously fast flowing tides surrounding the Les Ebihens archipelago. Not only had Bruce taken his first steps amongst the seaweed encrusted chains and anchors on the sand flats at low tide, but he had learnt to read the weather and navigate his own craft, often rescuing more incompetent or inexperienced young sailors from the rough waters or the hazard of being stranded by the quickly changing sea levels. One strange thing I noticed that summer when I did the trip in a tandem formation alongside the family yacht, watching the custom designed water ski towed by a tough Dory Tender, was that Bruce insisted on packing two weeks supply of English styled food: white sliced bread, spam, dried mashed potato and tomato ketchup. That was all he ate. It just seemed an intrinsic part of his personality to be eccentric in some harmless but memorable sort of way.

Of course there were the winter sports activities to account for part of Bruce’s construction, and later to play an enormous role in his future. The earliest memory he has is of the family standing on a cold railway station surrounded by towering piles of suitcases waiting for the alpine train to Wengen from Lauterbrunnen, in the Swiss Berner Oberlander. His grandmother is quoted as sternly rebuking him for leaving the window open “shut that quickly, before you let in all the altitude.” But being dragged around on a toboggan behind his mother on the snow covered pathways between the patisserie and the boulangerie probably gave a pre-ambulatory baby some sense of camber and ice construction. By age three he had graduated to skis and with plenty of amateur tutors in the form of the older siblings he quickly became competent at sliding around on a hill. In those days there were ski lifts but his eldest sister soon had married a Swiss engineer who was of the old school and when just advanced enough to manage, Bruce was given skis with seal skin clipped to the reverse side so that he could walk with the other men in the family, up the local glacier and enjoy a night in the mountain hut at the top before removing the skins, applying some wax and skiing the untouched piste in a fast but wonderful run back to the village.

By the time I skied with him he was eighteen and had been selected as a down-hill competitor in the Martini FIS Winter sports races. At this point he had had many years of instruction often by the finest proponents of the sport and at all the top resorts in Europe; his father was the president of the Federation Internationale du Ski and chairman of the Ski Club of Great Britain so they had contacts with strings to pull. During the 1970’s the retired famous racer Jean-Claud Killy ran a shop in Val D’Isere and was on call. At one of the race meets, John and I were positioned with a vantage point to what is described as the ‘compression’ a particular spot in the downhill track where the skier is hit with the most G force and can look his spectacular best. We had the Canon lenses trained on the lycra-clad athlete in the start box at the top and although we could not hear the fine beeps of the countdown, we picked up the perceptible shift in stance as his muscles clenched in that split second prior to the lunge through the door. This really was brave and it demonstrated yet another facet of development in the mind to body framework that would underpin Bruce’s eventual adventures.

A truly global outlook is not a view which can either be instantaneously acquired or faked. It comes from that inhaling of foreign culture through practical and real experience.  Bruce had had European holidays, school rugby trips to South Africa and even relatives to visit in many continents including Australia, but it was probably his scholarship to the University of North Carolina which gave him a chance to gain an independent assessment of a nation and its people. He truly loved the Americans and especially the girls. This was America in the mid-seventies: vibrant, political, inventive, successful and most of all – fun. Perhaps it was with an eye to some prospect of joining his father in the family business that he chose a course in ‘Project Management and Finance’, certainly it was a course which expected good solid work and in that, it defies his own description of himself as non-academic. He did well in the course but did not take up any further tertiary study. He left America but he would return.

Having completed his studies, Bruce was back on the Isle of Wight where he knew some highly entrepreneurial types and one of these men had a stake in the production of farm machinery, the type of hardware which digs large stumps out of the fields, carries heavy loads and pushes earth around with powerful diesel engines and vigorous hydraulics. Bruce became enthused with the modifications to this equipment which were meant to make it suitable for all sorts of tough environments, like Australia. He set up his own company ‘Seligman Industries’; he purchased prototypes, organised for import-export to be set up and then headed to the Antipodes. The European soil which has been tilled for countless centuries is nothing like the rock hard dirt of the Outback and although Bruce worked long hours, made some great mates and loved the sun and surf, his business never took off. Bruce pulled out. He could see the writing on the wall and did not want to waste his time with ploughs that broke and could send him the same way.

It was what they like to call ‘a learning experience’ and what he learned was that he was a pioneer, a man who loved the frontier and all it meant to be on the edge of the wilderness; in an aporia which hints that what lies beyond is empty, uncivilized, unmapped, with an ever moving horizon. Some of the inland trips he took went further than the bush and into what we call the ‘never never’, beautiful country, not quite desert but an axis of special representation. There are other untouched places like this but instead of red they are white. Next time he mixed it with big machines he would make sure they were custom built to fit the bill.

*

As it turns out this whole Arctic project is a funny sequence of events, even going way back, my time in Australia was very valuable, driving bob cats and things. I didn’t know that one day I would be driving big tracked vehicles in the ice, benefitting from what I had learned when I was crawling out of bed in Sydney to drive bob cats for loading dirt. One day we got a whole load of dirt tipped and we had to put it over these big walls, on some very steep slopes that all the real trained operators wouldn’t go near because they said it was too dangerous. I drove along with a full load of dirt in the bucket and because it was rocking sideways I had to rest the bucket against the wall, pull it back, lift it up, and then balance it while I edged up the wall. Now if you asked a real operator to do that he’d just tell you it was stupid. My big problem was seeing, I had to put glasses on because all the stones came falling in through the grate above me as I tipped the bucket up and up. So I couldn’t look up. I had to wear my girl-friend’s sun glasses. We loaded about twenty or thirty truckloads.

We got paid well for it and that’s how I paid for a container load of forklifts for the apple picking. I’d had a truck strike in England, a shipping strike, and then a dock strike in Australia. I finally got all the forklifts to my little workshop in Mona Vale just when the apple picking season finished, so I had a whole container load of one ton fork lifts for Len Dickson in Tasmania that had nowhere to go.  I had to pay interest on the container. I was sitting on the end of my trailer looking desperate when the owner of the hire company in the next shed said “you understand this stuff, you know how to deal with forklifts. I can’t find any operators who will load these things up onto that transporter, do you think you can do it?” so I said “yes.” The first time I drove off the truck I didn’t know anything about it at all. I just pushed the joy stick forward. What I didn’t do was as I was going down the steep little ramp off the trailer, I didn’t put my seat belt on, and I pushed the levers too far forward. So it was going too fast, it crashed down the ramp. I was thrown out of the seat, smashed my face on the roll guard and then I pulled the levers back and it reversed onto the trailer. I went on and off the trailer, two or three times, with blood pouring down my face into my eyes. I realised I had to be more gentle with the levers, it’s all to do with RPM. If you have very low RPM you can move the levers fast, but if you have high RPM you move them bloody slowly. Anyway what I learned with doing all that is so useful driving in and out of the ice. I didn’t have anyone to teach me, I just had Julian Watney laughing at me. He was a qualified pilot, and all he did was say “try that Bruce” and start laughing when I crashed it. This old friend from school days, Julian, was really my Arkos trainer although at that time we didn’t know anything about what the future held; he knew how a joy stick worked on a light aircraft.

*

I remember Bruce’s Australian phase so well because he stayed with us when he wasn’t travelling around the regional areas. This was not completely painless for him because we lived in a small house without any staff. He seemed unused to any sort of domestic task and assumed that his personal needs such as laundry and shopping for the necessities would somehow be automatically taken care of without even the need for a request on his part. It was a shock to us that a twenty three year old would have expectations at this level. When he was on the road he booked motels at first, however he had a knack of making friends in the field. He was obviously a ‘blokes’ bloke’ and everybody called him ‘mate’; soon enough he was always the guest of the local stock and station agent or farmer. His shortcomings in domesticity were always forgiven for the gift it was to be caught up in the aura of his contagious energy and enthusiasm for planning any escapade or adventure. In the short space of a few years he saw a lot more of country Australia than most locally born residents see in a lifetime. He bought a four wheel drive truck and travelled through the iconic regional centres selling and explaining his hydraulically assisted ploughs and hoes. Finally the bottom fell out of the economy and most of his ill-suited equipment as well, forcing him to call it a day.

For a few months he went back to the elegant house in Cowes, which was named ‘Dagmar House’ after a previous owner, the lady in waiting to Queen Victoria. The house was right on the waterfront in the main harbour and had its own long wharf reaching out to the fifty foot ketch that the family owned. Bruce found plenty to be entertained by when he decided to build a small but extremely fast boat and enter the ‘Round the Island Race’. As a practice run and to gather ideas for his own project, he went with a family friend on a larger vessel in the ‘Cowes Torquay Power Boat Race’ just to get a feel for the sport. This competitive craft was a forty five foot twin twelve hundred horse diesel driven by the millionaire owner of breweries on the Channel Island of Jersey and it was well capable of doing one hundred miles per hour. It had no seats; instead a sprung platform floor was the standing space for three. Pilot, navigator and mechanic all hovered and bounced on that deck wearing kidney belts to prevent crushing their vertebrae with the crashing thumps as the boat dashed across the surface of the water which became transformed into concrete when such a skiff ripped along at high speed.

Friend and neighbour Kenny Beken, a professional yachting photographer, was shooting the event from his helicopter, for a calendar, and the whole escapade took on a surreal excitement due to the speed, media, and sheer extravagance of the equipment. Inspired and back on the front lawn, Bruce spent hours on his own sixteen-foot speed boat; figuring out how to adjust trim tabs to provide stability, learning how to toughen the hull strength up with fibre glass sheathing, and coping with meeting the deadline in a production sense, in time for the race. While engrossed in this build Bruce called in on another neighbour to borrow some tools from his workshop. Thomas Wilkes, by then semi-retired, had manufactured hi-tech rescue craft for all types of marine use. When he heard Bruce was virtually at a loose end he put forward another proposition and Bruce accepted the challenge to sell life-boats to the growing market of off-shore oil rigs springing up in the North Sea and the Canadian East Coast. Going back to North America was a cause for intense interest; his previous years there had been such pleasure.

*

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I lived next door to Thomas Wilkes on the Isle of Wight. No, not at all – it’s the only reason it happened. One hundred per cent. I knew Thomas, he watched me through his window when I was building boats and doing things with engines in our garden, he was the one that knew my life story, and dad would always keep him up to date with what we were all doing. He knew where I was and what I was doing. I remember once I was having trouble finding work in Australia, Thomas called me up and so I flew over to Perth to sort out a life boat problem for him, because he was the boss of Watercraft then. My own business, Seligman Industries, was just sort of running out of steam because of politicians changing duty levels and things.

Just about that time Watercraft wanted to do some other research and I got a job with them to do that work because Thomas knew me – he said “there’s one fellow that can do this but he’s based in Australia at the minute doing something with tractors, we need to get him back” and that’s what happened. He rang and said “go and do one short project in Calgary.” He figured it was on my way back home. My first thought was “where the hell is Calvary, that’s where Jesus went on the cross.” So until I got my ticket I thought it was Calvary not Calgary and I wondered what he was talking about. But when a managing director tells a mid-twenty year old you are going somewhere, you tend to say “yes.” A week later I was in the Arctic. Tuktoyaktuk, on an ice breaker. I headed out to look at the conditions. Gulf didn’t have anything up there properly at that stage. I went in to see a guy at Nome to learn more about it and he said “fly up there tomorrow and have a look.”

They put me out at Port Clarence Bay, they drove me out there onto the coast and it was very cold. I had two big bright red Samsonite suitcases. I could see the ice breaker where I was meeting the contacts. It was stuck in all this ice and rubble so I thought I would just walk out there, which I was told not to do. I was climbing over the ice and I got to what had looked from a distance like little pimples of ice but when you got up close they were great twenty foot slabs and I was crawling up them, throwing my bag over the top. Afterwards I heard the story from people I got to know better later on, they were up on the bridge saying “what’s that on the ice?” Because there are a lot of polar bears around there they were always on the look-out for them killing something. It was my red suitcases flying over the top of a particular bit of ice that got their attention “oh my god, I think it’s the Watercraft man” and they came on the loud speaker “be very careful we are sending a crew out.” Soon they had people with guns rushing out to escort me. Then I got on the deck and I wanted to go up to the bridge and I didn’t know my way through the inside so I went up what was an exterior fire escape and they were sitting on the bridge. Suddenly I was tapping on the window. I thought “Oh Christ, what an auspicious start!”

*

Bruce’s first exposure to the new business came at the exact moment of a cataclysmic crisis, the Ocean Ranger sank off the north-east coast of Canada. All the people were killed. There was a fatal explosion and subsequent drowning of eighty two workers due to them being trapped in their rig by storm, fog and ice; not a water-based, a land-based, or even an airborne rescue craft could save them. It is unclear how effectively an attempt at evacuating the rig was carried out. There is evidence that at least one lifeboat was successfully launched indicating that at least some crew decamped but were then let down by the calibre of their craft once they were outside. A report speculated that the subsequent rescue mission was hampered by the adverse weather conditions and concluded that the standby boats were neither equipped nor configured to rescue casualties from an icy sea. As a result of the severe weather, the first helicopter did not arrive on the scene until hours later, by which time most if not all of Ocean Ranger’s crew had succumbed to hypothermia and drowned. An aircraft was also unsuited to retrieval of any bodies or survivors in this environment. This was the watershed that led to a decade of research and development and the final dramatic outcome of an amphibious rescue craft that would change the face of rig design and the practicality of off-shore drilling in Arctic zones.

Ocean Ranger was not an isolated incident. Alexander L. Kielland, a Norwegian rig, capsized whilst working in Ekofisk in March 1980 killing one hundred and twenty three people. In fact, between 1980 and 1984 hundreds of lives were lost on rigs due to sinkings, explosions and fires in a total of thirty-five serious incidents where the drilling platforms were entirely lost. The disasters brought Canada’s big players in the oil and gas industry to the realization that they had a problem. Operating an off-shore oil platform in temperate parts of the world was dangerous enough, but when the rig is located in the rich oil fields of the Arctic Sea, evacuating the crew in case of emergency would be no trivial matter. The ability of the evacuation systems to function during unpredictable seasonal conditions as water and ice fluctuate in their transition between solid and liquid state is crucial.

The Arctic holds about twenty two per cent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and natural gas resources. Approximately sixty-one large oil and natural gas fields exist within the Arctic Circle in Russia, Alaska, Canada’s Northwest Territories, and Norway. Forty-three of the large Arctic fields are located in Russia. Of the eighteen large Arctic fields outside Russia, six are in Alaska, eleven are in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and one is in Norway. These areas are extremely inhospitable with an environment consisting of rogue waves, fog, icebergs, sea ice and hurricanes. The underdeveloped zones are characterised by extremely low temperatures and strong ice loads.

Offshore drilling structures like BP Exploration’s North Star Island, an artificial island built within ten miles of the northern coastal services town of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, are surrounded by ice rubble fields and miles of ice infested waters. In case of an explosion or oil slick fire the industry’s standard life rafts would be clearly inadequate. What they needed was a fireproof thermally insulated evacuation craft that could navigate through the zones of land, water and ice in various states, characteristics which are governed by seasonal expectations and the less predictable factors of global warming affecting the freeze and melt.  They also needed to carry more than fifty passengers and cargo onto and over some of the most forbidding terrain on the planet.

*

In 1982 lots of things happened:  I had already left Australia and headed back to England when the Ocean Ranger sank of the east of Canada, all eighty two people were killed. In the next year after that, with the government’s knee jerk reaction, the life boats supplied went from one hundred to two hundred per cent capacity. There were many lifeboat systems sold, at one hundred thousand dollars each. I sold most of them and a few were sold by Norwegians. Mine were all Watercraft but I worried about their versatility, that’s what really started this project. Then came a financial crisis and oil prices crashed, no more rigs means no more lifeboats. Because they couldn’t pay me my commission, instead I chose to buy the company along with all the research they had done to date. So I then became Watercraft. It was like the General Motors of life boats.

I have a Canadian passport; I was once only about a month away from getting an Australian passport, so I could have been a tri-nation. It was important for me because of getting grants from the government. I became a Canadian citizen in 1986 but I was a landed immigrant before that. It’s a very complicated thing, it’s all to do with the amount of money that was invested in Watercraft, that was the reason I got in when I did. Firstly I was working on sub-contract to Gulf and once I actually formed a company then it was all to do with money.

I have very clear opinions on government funding. There is nowhere else in the world where you can get as much early funding on ‘concept’ as Canada. Or at least in the mid-eighties that was it. Then when you get your first commercial contract they drop you like a stone, so there are a lot of very brilliant things that are developed but then are lost because the idiot politicians don’t understand that having the ideas, doing the research, inventing the vehicle when compared with actually producing it is only about two or three per cent of the job. For some reason politicians and the general public think “oh, I’ve got a patent, I’ve got an invention, now I am going to be rich.”  It’s absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing. There are millions and millions of very good ideas, millions and millions of patents started, and in all those things only one in a thousand survives. A really good invention means nothing. Nothing. The difficult bit is to get all the contracts, it’s not even skill, its luck, its being able to keep the continuity.

I arrived in Canada and we were working on the amphibious idea and then oil prices halved from twenty dollars a barrel to the ten level. Everyone pulled out. We evacuated Cooper Island in the Beaufort Sea on January 17th 1987 and then after another few months of report writing, that was the end of the project with the oil industry. So I had a world leading concept with nowhere to go, I knew it was going to be used one day, I didn’t know whether it was two years, five years, ten years or fifty years. I just knew one day it would be needed but I didn’t know when. We started up a little shelf company called Arktos Developments to try and protect some of all the knowledge from predators. Arktos comes from the Greek word; a swimming bear seemed an appropriate tag for the huge tough tracked amphibious craft built to withstand the frozen environment.

If I hadn’t got the job at Sultan Ship Yards with Nathan the whole thing would have disappeared. Before that I had even got desperate and done all the interviews to be a fireman. That’s what I was going to do to feed the children, I thought that’s what I was going to be, another fireman. I really thought I would, and then in the final analysis they liked me and everything, but I was too old. At thirty three or whatever I was, they said “nah, you are out of our range.” A lot of people vouched for me, said “this guy has done a lot of the sort of stuff we need, he just needs to be taught the specific skills of fire fighting” but as fate would have it I was turned away.

I had a mate called Peter Quinn, a very senior fellow. When he left Watercraft the next job he got was as general manager of Sultan Shipyards; he walked in there and said the thing we don’t have is any sales. He rang me up and said “can you come and be our ‘director of operations’ … not really that but our head salesman.”  I just had that title so that the people didn’t boot me out. If you go in and say you are marketing manager or sales or something, people don’t want to see you, but when you are director of operations they welcome you and tell you their problems and then you solve their problems. In the next five years I sold lots of fire boats and dive boats to National Defence. I kept the shipyards busy for the last few years of their life.

So anyway, I didn’t know when Arktos was going to come back but it was pretty well exactly ten years after the finish of our pure survival research in 1987. In the meantime we had been lucky that someone in the seismic survey industry happened to see our vehicle in Tuktoyaktuk and in 1992 he came to me and said “could you put seismic survey guns on that vehicle.”  I said of course, and that’s how we started up again. Five vehicles ended up sold to China through the China National Petroleum Corporation. The amphibious design was perfect for the quagmire of peat they were exploring.  So we became a seismic survey company through the 90’s building survey vehicles for China and some Coastguard vehicles till again we were slowing down and winding things up.

*

Even while Bruce was involved in other boat building he maintained a small Arktos design team who continued working in Vancouver, a city with close proximity to some of the best ski slopes in the world and Bruce had always had that thing about French cuisine, so British Columbia was more appealing as the home-base for his operation than a set up on the Canadian East Coast. His workshop was on the outskirts of the city, on the banks of the Fraser River, convenient for testing the capability of his invention, in the form of prototype machines, against the strong tidal flows, through the silted muddy shoreline and the occasional snow drift. He had some craft being constructed for China but the real dream project of an amphibious lifeboat still needed to collect more contracts and attention to its Arctic applications for that was where its real uniqueness came into play.

Publicity was a part of the equation, something Bruce had learned from watching Kenny Beken in the powerboat scenario, and with that in mind he agreed to assist a team entered in the Rome to New York Overland Race being run by the Ford Motor Corporation. The Ford Overland Challenge in March of 1994 was the first ever attempt to drive ‘on land’ from London to New York City. A small group of enthusiasts got together and mapped out a route which included the narrow stretch of ice between Russia and Alaska, the Bering Strait. For that small segment of the course they needed a land vehicle that could manage to traverse the iceshelf but which had an additional safety factor of floatation, just in case they were skating on thin ice at any point in the crossing. During March there was normally enough ice to form a bridge of sorts between the two continents. The new Arktos invention, an amphibious articulated tracked craft, prototype of the machines currently used by the Canadian Coast Guard to complete surveys and  rescue crews off oil platforms, was just what they needed.

This adventure led to great innovations for the craft, and the competitive aspect pulled the Arktos team together in spirit. That is until they got stuck on an ice flow and had to abandon the vessel between Russia and Alaska. But the run achieved its long-term purpose: it attracted wide spread media coverage and exposure plus they had proven that if used in the conditions for which it was designed, an amphibious vessel could travel at speed and over significant distances and if necessary remove men from harm and take them to safety.

*

Arktos-Alpha was a design study that was never built. It came from the first prototype, a form of final report to the joint industry committee. In fact Alpha is very close to what we build today but when I got the contract with coastguard, Beta was the first one that was actually built. In 1985 the first big decision I made was to produce Arktos-Beta, the Canadian coastguard work vehicle, and that’s when all the design happened. Then we had Arktos-Gamma, the first seismic survey vehicle in China.  Later on Arktos- Delta was a design study for Russia, with Russian engineers involved for a long time, naturally it was a much bigger machine.  Arktos-Epsilon was the hydrographical survey vehicle that was built for coastguard. Those Greek letters:  Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, they could go on and on but we dropped it then, partly because I don’t know what the next ones are! 

Beta is a good name. Beta was the ‘six million dollar’ one. It’s the only yellow one. It was made yellow because John and I saw a cab in Vancouver that we liked the colour of so we chased him down and we got the colour name. Ha … that was a research project! We bought it back from the coastguard to do the Ford Overland Challenge. After so many years work with the coastguard, that craft had chalked up the sort of mileage which would require trade-in on a new vehicle or refurbishment. So we tidied it up and loaded it on a plane bound for Russia.

I was trying to leave from Nome on the north slope of Alaska and fly the Arktos Beta by Hercules aircraft to Uelen, quite close to the kick off point in Russia. . It’s a harsh climate, average winter temperature is minus twenty two and in summer mostly just a few degrees above freezing, very windy but for us so much more convenient. The officials were sure that the air strip wasn’t long enough, because no Russian aircraft can stop that quickly. So they made us go to Lavrentiya to start with. We were taken by surprise by the Russian bribery, systemic on the coast. It took us lots of attempts to get the thing in. We circled over Lavrentiya airport where they wanted thousands of dollars landing fees so we had to go back to Nome Alaska to fill in forms related to what actual money we had in our pockets and our wallets, which currencies, all of us. Then they demanded $US 4,750 for landing fees and our pilot says “no, we do not have that sort of money.” They say we do and lay out all that previous paperwork.

To make things worse, the pilot was so angry about being diverted from the Uelen airport just because it was a little shorter. There was a control tower half way down the runway at Lavrentiya and he came down and he landed before the buildings, just crammed on the brakes, stopped really quickly and then we slowly taxied up to the control tower. He had landed in about twenty five per cent of the length of the runway, just to go ‘up yours’. He could have gone to Uelen so easily.

The real trouble for us now was that we were dropped off thousands of miles south (well about six hundred) from where we had planned to start the crossing. Duncan and I said ok, we will have to go into the water and up the coast and then break through the ice and go across via the Diomedes group of islands in the Strait, and get across, which we could have done. “Oh no, it’s an overland challenge!” These people, their boss Richard Creasy and all the directors of the Ford Overland Challenge Group, said “no … no, we’ve got to go on land.” So what happened is we had to drive the vehicle on the ice and over a mountain range that was about two and a half thousand feet high to keep within the rules of their project. We had a vehicle that was twelve years old, that was designed for a hundred hours of operation and it was well over a thousand hours already, and the tracks had been sitting in one position for about four years and they weren’t properly UV protected, meaning that as the tracks were driving along I could see the tears appearing. I knew we were going to get to the other side but with all the tracks falling off. 

The tracks are not designed to go over a lot of really sharp rocks. On one dark night we had a problem going down the back of this mountain, there’s no road of course. Verne called out “there’s something wrong with the track”  and I slowed it down as quick as I could even though it seemed to be running fine, but the track had indeed ripped right off about a hundred yards back up the side of this mountain. The tracks literally weigh a ton and it was with great difficulty that we had to roll it up and manhandle it down the mountain back to where the vehicle was perched because the sliders without their tracking just slipped on the rocks, the front tracks were pulling it but the back just skated down at a crazy angle. Finally we managed to move the tracks somewhat closer, but it took many hours and all our strength. This part of Siberia is polar bear territory and there were footprints visible so we made a secure camp for the night inside the craft, bedding down using the warmth of the idling diesel engine for added comfort.

So they lost us, Verne, me and Norm Parks, the helicopter lost us for a while. We had missed the rendezvous. The next morning we could hear the helicopter going up and searching but they were in just the wrong place. They thought we were going to go right round the back of the hill. Duncan, the other member of our Arktos team, wasn’t with us. Now he was on the helicopter with a film crew of about six people; they went looking for us all over the mountain range. Duncan said they were flying back towards Uelen in the helicopter because he couldn’t persuade the Russian pilot that I would be there. Like me, Duncan would have gone over the top. In a last desperate effort, he forced them to give it a try and they then flew over the top and there we were sitting on the side of the hill trying to roll the track down the mountain. They landed and gave a hand but then that became one of the many times they took the group of film people back for a rest because they could only manage being outside for a day or so.

A few days on and the next thing that broke was the articulation arm which began to rip out of the back unit, that was the second time the film crew went back for a rest because they were ‘a little bit tired’. Once we got started fixing the articulation arm we realized we had to weld it to get going again. We managed to fly a welder out onto the ice and lower him from a helicopter. This is when suddenly that group, the film crew and their doctor, all decide to fly back to Lavrentiya in the helicopter because they were tired!  And the mechanics and drivers, we who had been out for four or five days getting across the mountain, just couldn’t believe it. We stayed, but that’s just what you have to do.

Immediately after that one of our electricians called Norm did what I told him not to do and was walking across the articulation arm. He slipped, hit the ice, bounced up, hit his head on the tracks. When you make a hole in your skull, wow! I didn’t even realize how much blood goes up there but it was pumping out like the scene with the Black Knight in Monty Python, “it’s just a flesh wound” I joked. The best I could do was what I’d been told by the medic, if people got hurt or are flailing around and have got broken limbs or something he told me about this thing I had to inject them with, in order to calm them down. And then you can deal with it. I screamed “get the first aid kit.”  It was then I found out that these brave film crew people had taken it with them in the helicopter in case they needed it on the way back to their hotel. So they had left us, all the Arktos mechanical crew on the ice, to weld up an articulation arm, without any medical supplies. So what I had to do was I had to wrap Norm’s head up with a bit of oily rag and duct tape to stop the blood coming out. There I was sitting out on an Arctic ice flow with an East Indian in a duct tape turban, blood dribbling down his neck. Eventually it slowed down and he was alright, but those are the sort of things that happen. I am very squeamish about blood and I faint a lot, so you can tell it wasn’t the easiest thing for me to do. But because it was someone else’s blood it didn’t bother me at all.

We climbed up some ice near Cape Peek at Dezhneva Point (named after Semyon Dezhnev, a famous explorer).  Going further out into the ocean the ice conditions were variable. The Bering Strait marks the point at which the Pacific and Arctic Oceans meet and is generally considered the most dangerous waterway in the world. The difference in the height and temperature of the two bodies of water causes the ice to constantly shift, creating cracks and pressure walls that can appear and disappear again within hours. We crawled up a huge pile of ice, probably forty or fifty feet high over a distance of a hundred feet, so it was very steep in blocks. We climbed up, climbed down the other side; we fell off one big block and ice smashed through the floor underneath the engine. Then we crashed down onto the surface and water started pissing in through that hole under the engine.  I couldn’t get at it because the engine was in the way so I got some towels and I jammed them into the hole. Then I was getting ready to climb out so I said to the camera man, who was over forty years old, “can you pump on this bilge pump,” which was in fact very good irony because it was them who wouldn’t pay for the electric draining system I had wanted. This was just a manual operated pump and needed a man on the job. It was then he started crying, so I said “if you don’t pump on this thing we’ll just sink quicker” and then he really started crying so I thought, forget that. 

We needed to get out of the water quickly so now I climbed down from the control cockpit and Verne who was still with us was fighting with a hydraulic winch on the front.  I was going to drill a hole through the ice shelf with a special ice anchor that Duncan and I had invented, which was a crow bar with two holes in it so that you could lower it down in a straight line between the ice and then pull up with the central eye and it would come like an anchor against the bottom of the ice. When you wanted to get it out, you lowered it down again and pulled it up by the eye that was on the end and it would come out the hole again. But anyway, I was doing that because no-one else really knew how to do it, and meanwhile I left Verne dealing with the winch. I got the thing in through the ice, we hydraulically winched ourselves up and it was fine, we were on the ice again. Then they decided that they had spent enough money and time. That was it, they were going to fly the rest of the way to Alaska. Only twenty six miles from completing our crossing. Even though with a day of work on the hole in the floor of the craft we could have kept going and we would have been fine.

When we eventually had to give up, in the middle of the Strait, the vehicle could easily have been fixed. We had to abandon it with the engines blasting. I’d just fuelled it up because I thought we were going the rest of the way. We’d been out for about seven days, I had slept next to the engine so I was sleeping on foam rubber lying next to a four cylinder Cummins diesel and the noise was constant because we could never turn the engine off due to the freezing temperatures. I never did get my ear plugs in properly.

We really had the wrong crew of people, I remember another time when we saw a big polar bear kill, seal blood all over the place; after that the people wouldn’t get out of the vehicle and I had guys peeing in Coke bottles and things. I said “what are you doing! Get out and pee.” They were too frightened of the polar bears. So people are going to start crying when you tell them to pump a bilge in a bit of a crisis, and people that are peeing into Coke bottles, and those sort of things going on with the film crew; they are not the people that get you through , we were doing something that no one had ever done before. It’s like if you were driving across the north of India and you looked up and saw Everest and said “oh well why don’t we go and climb that today?” and go off in your slippers, well it wouldn’t happen.

There’s one individual I am thinking of who understands all the radar, communications, air systems, everything on the Arktos. He’d be just a perfect co-pilot and he can answer any question the pilot can throw at him but he isn’t actually very good at driving. I wouldn’t even let him reverse a trailer with a boat on it into my driveway at home. He’s just not good at operating equipment. But he’s read the manual inside-out and knows what every control does, everything. So if a pilot says “what’s this, how do I do this, the tractions spinning” then he just says “put the diff lock on.”  He’s calm; he’s the person who would be good at any expedition or evacuation.

This was an expedition that could only be done by a crew of people that are very dedicated, understand what they are doing and don’t get frightened. So it was just ridiculous what we were trying to do. So that was quite interesting. That is what happened with the crossing. The vehicle performed unbelievably and we had to leave it on the ice. And I had just fixed it up with more fuel ready to go on when the evacuation helicopter arrived, so I had to leave that bright yellow Arktos Beta with all its lights and strobes going and engines at about eighteen-hundred RPM, its little heart beating on the ice … and we just left it, and now it’s at the bottom of the Bering Strait. But as I flew back over Cape Dezhneva I thought, well rather than me taking it as a pack-rat back to my shop and not throwing it away, this was a fitting end. If it had completed the crossing it was arranged that the craft was going to go into the Smithsonian Museum with the Wright Brother’s planes and all the other stuff. That was one of our big motivations for doing it at all. But it was always a risk if it didn’t make it because of nothing to do with the Arktos.

*

The publicity from the Ford Overland Challenge was followed by a market place movement in the price of oil, political upheaval in the Middle East and a trend to look for oil in new locations. Its initially conceived target, and the most valuable market for craft, was realistically restricted to icebound oil rigs whose spring and autumn production closed down at great expense to the owners. Rigs must have a fool-proof evacuation plan. In winter the crews literally took a bus ride out to the rig on ice roads, in summer they could transit on marine vessels. Now in the transitional ice season they could use the amphibious craft, enabling the rig to continue operation throughout all seasons of the year.

The North Caspian Sea and the Alaskan exploration areas both were geographically located in the arctic zones where sea ice seasonally went through the flux of ice rubble and thinning surface ice pack. These were the exact conditions that the Arktos had been developed to travel in with its unique amphibious manoeuvrability. Finally a breakthrough. The oil companies needed the flexibility the craft provided and they were prepared to pay good money for the opportunity to open up production in previously inaccessible places with a workforce protected continuously whatever the weather. Bruce set up a new factory in an industrial suburb south of Vancouver. The craft were put to the market at a couple of million American dollars each and immediately an order came through for the North Shelf up in Prudhoe Bay Alaska. Then Kazakhstan and Russia followed up with their requests for this unique equipment.

As with the build of the cross channel water ski, the agricultural stump puller and the small off-shore racing power boat, John was called in to project manage and more importantly witness, collaborate and encourage. However, this was the biggest thing they had ever done together, by far. The craft became a combination of Bruce’s water ski experiments, farming machinery development and his alpine experience as he incorporated wide fibreglass shells, diesel engines, caterpillar tracks and hydraulic joints.

*

People have a curiosity to watch accidents, survivors and disasters so a large audience watched us on television. When I drove the vehicle out of the Hercules Aircraft in Russia the film people had edited in the ‘Thunderbirds Two’ music as a backing track, that ridiculous cartoon show. One particular day they interviewed the doctor. It just happened to be when there were a lot of problems and the doctor whinged “but Bruce wants to keep going” and all my family in England watching knew that from my water-skiing, and they laughed. The Ford Overland Challenge had an attraction for the motor sports community but everybody was watching that film taken from the helicopter as we headed back, they saw what happened to the Arktos, millions of people in England watched it abandoned and sinking. That image made headlines on nightly news bulletins even in Australia.

Then in 1998, out of the blue, some guy said “Bruce are you still working with those buggy things? We might need them for the Caspian Sea.”  I pursued it and by the end by of the year we got an order for three, suddenly at the same time an order for the north slope of Alaska, and surprising inquires for Sakhalin Island, all these areas! Pure evacuation craft. Possibly due to the oil price. It’s called the survival revival.

The survival revival happened in 1998 after a space of ten years, so if I’d known in 1987 when I evacuated Cooper Island that it would be ten years, I don’t think it would have made any difference, because what we did in China with the seismic survey vehicles was very useful for us .

What we had was unique then and it still is today. It’s eye-catching. Two huge tanks, like something from a war movie, built of bright orange fibre glass with impressive black caterpillar tracks and linked together by this umbilical hydraulic arm which creates the push-me pull-you mode of motion as the craft moves through the water at about six knots, climbs out onto the ice with a powerful show of force or lunges down from the ice shelf surfing into the rubble of partially frozen sea. All this is accomplished carrying up to fifty oil workers through even a fire blazing oil spill and away to safety from an exploding off- shore rig, exposed to danger mainly by its isolation, some ocean, some ice.

I am often asked if someone else helped me to think of the idea for putting tracks on something and having two pods stuck together with a hydraulic arm. Well it’s not one idea; it’s a combination of lots of things and loads of different people. There are probably ten or fifteen articulated vehicles in the world of different types but not all are amphibious ones. They have two parts but for a different purpose, all do it for the high mobility but I had to do it to climb from water to ice. It became very obvious. The single most important person in my decision making process was Ben Hanimoto from the US core of engineers. He developed the Haglunds vehicle, the only other amphibious craft. However, it’s not really amphibious; it can’t do rough conditions and it can’t pull itself in and out of water and ice, if it falls through the ice it’s in big trouble. The fact that my invention has two bits pitching up and down so there is very high traction is part of the story; it’s a big part of the equation. No one else does that. Every build we change things, that’s our biggest weakness if you look at it from the outside. It would be cheaper and quicker to just keep doing the same thing, but we improve a lot, some things we could not have foreseen, and now the vehicle is infinitely better. The product is advancing a lot more than if we were a big company, because at the end of the day we get ideas from anyone and everybody, but John and I decide which ones are worth doing.

*

Finally two monster machines were fitted out ready for North Star Island up at Prudhoe Bay, complete with forty five seats, safety harnesses and some ultra-hi-tech navigational and communication equipment. The last phase was the delivery and for this the specialist low bed truckers, at home on the ice roads of northern Alaska, were commissioned. Their job was to carry the craft up the west coast of Canada, across the US border to Fairbanks and then along the haul road. They chose December so that the ice roads would be solid enough to manage the incredible weight of the machines which had now reached thirty five tonnes a piece.

Bruce flew to Dead Horse to meet the trucks and was walking down a corridor of the BP office, a demountable building which housed the administration as well as about eight hundred men and women who peopled the round the clock shifts to run the rigs stationed six miles out across the frozen Arctic Ocean. I could see him giving some of the guys a friendly grin and a thump on the back. He was well known for his trials with the prototype during the previous years, mainly because he had survived a dramatic incident which occurred prior to the complete freeze. The craft had been testing its unique ability to climb out of the transitional ice rubble stages onto the solid pack ice when its hydraulic link arm which connected the two hubs had twisted through one hundred and eighty degrees allowing the front cabin to completely rotate. The craft was thrown backwards into the water upside down resulting in the open escape hatch in the roof becoming a hole in the floor, water pouring through it. The safety measures taken included wearing a life jacket but this vest quickly became a death trap preventing Bruce from diving down under the water and out through the narrow opening until he suddenly remembered his dad’s sailing knife looped on a lanyard around his neck and in desperation he cut and ripped the buoyancy vest from his chest. His appearance on the surface of the water was met with a rejoicing that turned to concern for hypothermia, he would need treatment immediately. The capsized craft was winched to the dock and the faulty joint was redesigned to prevent such an event ever occurring again.

Bruce spotted me and the pilot car driver. We had just entered the building to confirm the successful delivery of two Arktos craft. Her converted Ford pickup could be seen parked outside the window, plugged in to the electric cable to provide heat for the sump. She had a tray in the back for the forty four gallon drum of diesel, chain and rope, shovels and spare parts – the tools of trade for any of the men – for she was uniquely a woman in a man’s world. The truck’s dash had a standard collection of CB radio gadgets and since the millennium to this had been added the satellite phone, GPS and tracking systems which were used to communicate road conditions back to the drivers in the convoy of Kenworth trucks we had shepherded from Whitehorse along the commercial ‘haul’ road that has been described as the most treacherous place on earth in winter. From Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay’s settlement at Deadhorse on the four hundred and fifteen mile Dalton Highway I had been impressed with how she knew every twist and steep grade from milepost zero to four hundred and fourteen, even when snow depth concealed the infrequent signs, or white-outs cut any view of the pipeline, so often a comforting confirmation of good navigation when the ice road became invisible. The only surprise to ever catch her off guard would be a cloud of Ptarmigan when they lifted from the road immediately in front of her transporters thus narrowly avoiding the crush of the twenty two wheel giants. Until then the flock had looked part of the ice road cut high into the Atigun Pass well north of the Arctic Circle, our pathway to the oilfields of Alaska.

*

The fighting I had with the banks, what’s that big street in Sydney … George Street.  The fights I had with those bastards in George Street, letters of credit and all the paperwork to import stuff, together with my business degree that I did at North Carolina, I did marketing and production; all these things I thought pretty useless at one time. It’s quite strange that if you stack up the bob cat driving, the banking, and the dealing with the oil companies then the single most important thing in the Arktos story is actually the fact that it’s not a few hair brained engineers and inventors sitting around deciding what to do.

We had eight of the major oil companies and when I was sitting down at the table at the first committee meeting, I did something that I did through a survival instinct that turned out to be brilliant. I got worried about what they really wanted so I made up a one hundred and ten point criteria and I got one of the guys, (computers in those days weren’t quite what they are today) but this was in 1984 and I made the clients rate the items,  go from one to ten, negative to positive.   Admittedly it was a pretty biased thing because I’d already told them what I wanted because I had shown them the little quarter scale model, but I made them answer the questions: how many people they wanted on board, what safety features, speeds, dimensions and they all said “well you know what we think.” But I said I was not going to go any further forward without a signed answer to all those questions, from each company.

Then we put it into our computer, all the information, and we came up with the joint industry average. So Exon sat up at the next meeting and said “it’s got to include helicopter transport.”  I just leaned down to my book beside me and said “right we want to change that criteria?” and the Gulf and Shell and all the other people would stare at the Exon man and he would sit down. So that joint industry average gave me tremendous muscle the whole way through the project. Every time someone went a bit off track I’d go back to a vote with everybody “do we want to change that?” and they’d all sit down. So what we ended up with was the first Arktos which was basically a full scale model of the little models we had already built. Then we went up to the Arctic and did a year’s testing. 

*

When you design arguably the world’s most mobile vehicle, you have to plan for all possible operating environments. “Basically, the Arktos is built like a Thermos bottle,” says Nathan Kew, technical supervisor for Arktos. Its structure is composed of an e-glass/Kevlar-hybrid composite sandwiched around a foam core, so it’s very well insulated. To prove its insulating effectiveness, the Arktos was engulfed in flame for nearly twenty minutes in a test pool of highly flammable fuel. While the outside reached several hundred degrees Celsius, the temperature inside the craft rose by only one degree. It has to protect its passengers from temperatures down to minus fifty degrees Celsius yet simultaneously survive the heat of an oil slick fire.

Because it is a composite structure and hollow inside, it’s relatively light and very stable on land or water. The composite hull protects the craft from the abrasive and potentially crushing forces encountered while traveling through and over ice floes. To traverse the rugged terrain, the Arktos looks similar to a tank or bulldozer, the tracks are covered in spikes, optimally shaped and angled to help the vehicle claw itself out of the water, the front unit uses the buoyancy of the back unit as a support, like getting a hand up on your foot; when the front gets on land or ice, its tracks pull the back unit out of the water. The fifteen metre long, thirty-two ton Arktos reaches speeds of up to sixteen kilometres per hour. On water, the amphibious vessel operates more like a very large Jet Ski. A water jet, combined with a three hundred and sixty degree steer-able nozzle, propels the craft at speeds up to five and a half knots.

Currently, there are twenty five Arktos Craft serving in remote locations around the world, including the North Caspian Sea, China’s Bohai Delta and the northern coast of Alaska. Most in the field serve as evacuation craft and are fitted with seating for fifty-two passengers, a fire fighting water cannon and a positive air pressure system. Their delivery was the culmination of twenty years work and the safe arrival of the craft onto the off shore rigs would finally ensure that a Ranger styled disaster could now be avoided. The oil companies justified the multimillion dollar purchases because their profits would soar with year round twenty-four-seven drilling timetables being safely planned in a workplace where evacuation was possible at any time of the year. The water-based drilling platforms now had a rescue system in place which coped with seasonally transitional ice conditions during the melt or freeze seasons which were all becoming more unpredictable due to climate change in future years.

The paradox is that a young European man who loved to ski on both water and ice went to Australia where he observed the complexities of introducing diesel powered hydraulically-assisted tracked vehicles to a harsh hostile landscape. This Australian working environment made a lasting impression which played a pivotal role in the solution to a problem he faced when he was confronted with the tragedy of the Ranger Oil Rig disaster. The effect of the Australian connection was to ignite Bruce’s latent innovative intelligence. eHHeHhghh He automatically associated the knowledge he had gleaned in the outback with his sporting experiences. The combination of these factors then transformed an industry, a world away on yet another continent, with a unique invention. The thing that’s intangible is the personality that drives him so doggedly; through the troughs when physical or economic setbacks plague the project and riding a crest with unstoppable enthusiasm when he perceives a new goal.

*

That whole thing, being part of the Ford Overland Challenge, for me it was only about keeping the concept alive financially that I even did it; and a certain amount of ego – I thought I could cross the Bering Strait easily. I will cross it one day because it’s never been done yet, a lot of people have tried. If only they hadn’t landed the plane six hundred miles south of where we really wanted to be. To do that trip with the vehicle in the condition it was, we should really have gone north and up to Prince of Wales in Alaska, no trouble. Without a shadow of doubt. Going from the south with something like Arktos Beta would be no problem. Would it be safe? As safe as anything is the first time you do a trip – you don’t know what it’s going to be like. I will do it one day; leave from Prince of Wales, go back across to Cape Peek and put a big cross for the original Arktos up next to the explorer’s cross on Dezhneva Point, on the top of the cliff there. And then I’d turn round and drive back again so I don’t have to deal with all the Russians, there’s no Russian that‘ll have enough courage to come out to the end of the point and give me a ticket. There are lots of people that want to come with me to do that.

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About clareseligman

A flash fiction/short story writer with an interest in the themes of cultural studies, travel, music, teaching, sailing and snow skiing.
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