January 04, 2013

Mid Canada Line DDS Site 409

MCL DDS Site 403 - March 1957
Courtesy of Larry Wilson & John Rowe - http://www.lswilson.ca/
A little bird put a bug in my ear this afternoon...  He suggested a trip to James Bay, to the end of the road; the end of the James Bay Road (around 53.9736, -79.0698) and now I'm wondering if I could get to a nearby Mid Canada Line station during the same trip... After all, when are you going to get that close to the 55th parallel?
"The Mid-Canada Line refers to a Doppler radar detection system for aircraft (Early Warning System), nicknamed the McGill fence, stretching across Canada from Labrador to British Columbia, along the 55th parallel. The Mid-Canada Line was built by the federal government between 1954 and 1957. The 42 stations located in Québec (35 sites north and seven sites south of the 55th parallel) were operated by the Department of National Defense (DND) from 1958 to 1965. The sites were abandoned in 1965. At that time, all equipment, buildings, fuel tanks, barrels, pipelines, pumping stations, machinery, as well as hydrocarbons and contaminated soil were left behind. The detection antennas, some of which were longer than 100 m, were lowered to the ground to eliminate aviation hazards. After the federal government abandoned the Mid-Canada Line, the 42 sites in Québec were ceded to the Government of Quebec in 1966. In Québec, there are 22 Doppler radar detection sites located approximately 40 km apart and 20 supply sites, each generally located less than 2 km from a detection site." -Kativik Environmental Advisory Committee, Work Necessary To Complete The Mid-Canada Line Clean-Up Project (May 2012)
From the map below, you can see the Mid Canada Line stretched across Canada, in some very remote areas of Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.  While it stretched across Saskatchewan,  Alberta and British Columbia as well, they were arguably less remote.  The locations in Labrador, Quebec and Ontario were built in the middle of "nowhere", using only helicopters to bring supplies in.  You'll notice that some of the buildings and antennas used look remarkably like Gap Filler Annexes or Pinetree Line equipment.  After all, they were all built at about the same time, by the same countries, with roughly the same government contracts for supplies.
The Fort Albany, Relay and Kempis Mountain sites, where Troposcatter repeaters were placed to feed the aggregated Mid Canada Line (MCL) feed South to North Bay, have already been rehabilitated; spilled diesel, lead acid batteries, and other nasty environmental containments have been dug up, and shipped to safe storage or incineration sites.  Unfortunately (environmentally speaking) with limited money to undertake these clean-up projects, the Government of Canada has prioritized the clean up operations.  Each of the cleanups will cost many millions of dollars, so the clean-up of all Mid Canada Line stations will take many years.  In the meantime, PCBs and other containments are still leaking into lakes, rivers, and the soil surrounding these bases, many of which are on aboriginally controlled land.  As it turns out, MCL site 409 and 410 haven't been cleaned up yet, and the local Cree aren't pleased with the priority they have been given.  A barge laden with fuel drums sank in James Bay and to this day leaks causing oil sheens that wash up on the local shore.  There are still hundreds of (mostly) empty 55 Gallon drums of fuel sitting at site 409 and 410, as well as other gear.

MCL DDS Site 410 - Winter 1964 / 1965
Courtesy of Larry Wilson & John Heselton - http://www.lswilson.ca/
Since the latest report (below) is from 2012, at least I know the sites are still there, and I could get pictures of them, if only I could get to them.
One problem... I don't know where Mid Canada Line Site 409 is... I have a good idea where 410 is, and it's farther north... but 409 I can't find any info on.  Suggestions?

I expect that site 409 looks much like 403, which is why I posted the picture of 403...

The Google Maps view and Bing Maps view is pretty poor or the area I'm interested in, so they're not a lot of help... If I understand correctly, Mid Canada Line DDS 409 and 410 were right beside each other; one was the airstrip and pump station, and the other a couple of kilometers away was the tropo repeater shown in the picture.  I suspect another trip to the Air Photo Library will be required to get some better imagry.

Location of Mid Canada Line Sites in QuebecCourtesy of DND
Location of Mid Canada Line Sites
Courtesy of Larry Wilson - http://www.lswilson.ca/

 Site of "Cape Jones" MCL DDS Site 409 and 410

Ms. Elaine Feldman - Federal Administrator, JBNQA - Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
Brief Regarding the Complete Restoration of Mid-Canada Line sites in Nunavik



  1. Site 400 is or was located at Great Whale River, Quebec. The name was later changed to Grande Belaine
    and later changed to a native name. Site 400 was a sector control site. 403 was a Doppler control site which fed into site 400. Site 409 was a tine island with line of sight to 410. It was a repeater station. I spent a year at site 400, 342,403 and 409 during 1957. The nearest town was Val Dor which is 500 miles to the south.

    1. I stopped at site 321 while on a solo canoe trip on the Great Whale River in 1986....and in the barracks discovered a note left 2 years earlier by a biology crew, and addressed to a former girlfriend of mine who had planned to paddle from Lab City to Hudson Bay via upper Kaniapiscau and Grand Baleine....Michael Ketemer emdeekay@hotmail.com