At any given moment, roughly 75 personnel of the Canadian Forces and some civilian contractors live at Canadian Forces Station Alert.
Located on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, in Canada’s high Arctic, CFS Alert is the most northerly continuously occupied place in Canada.
We asked Major Nathan Burgess, the station’s current commander, what life is like at this remote installation.
During their tour, which lasts between three to six months on average, the troops are almost cut off from the world. “It’s probably the closest thing to what it would be like to be deployed on another planet”, Burgess says.
CFS Alert is more than a simple military base. It also acts as a monitoring centre, a science station and a military training centre.
Apart from the polar bears – which can usually be scared off without incident – the location itself isn’t too dangerous. However, over the decades, at least two deadly air crashes occurred while attempting to resupply the station.
While the troops at CFS Alert rarely make the headlines, Major Burgess insists their work is vital to Canada’s security and sovereignty. “We’re keeping an eye on what’s going on, not only within Canadian territory but around the world from this very unique vantage point.”
“It is the most unique experience of my life.”
Related stories from around the North:
Norway: NATO’s Arctic dilemma, Eye on the Arctic special report
Russia: Russia giving major upgrade to airstrip in High Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Sweden to buy U.S.-made Patriot air defence systems, Radio Sweden
United States: Climate change a threat to bases across the U.S., Defense Dept. says, Alaska Public Media