Argus Lake Proclaimed
By Capt Derek Squire
In 1989 I embarked on a task, which I never would have attempted if I had known how long it would take to complete. It seemed simple enough; name a geographical point in Canada by which to remember an aircraft in perpetuity - a piece of Canadiana. Of course, I am referring to a Canadian aircraft that served its country and its crews through twenty years of rough duty. From the Arctic deserts, to the wide waters of the Western Pacific, to the edges of the old boundaries of Eastern Europe, to Caribbean shores during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and to all parts of our fine country, the Argus aircraft served its masters well. It's almost impossible to say just how many Canadians were touched by this aircraft. The aircrews who flew it, the groundcrews who serviced it, the passengers it transported to far-flung duty, and the ordinary Canadians who marvelled at that time, its state of the art complexity. How many were close to the Argus... 5000, 10,000, 25,000? For those, it has become a memory they will carry with them always. More than that, though, I wanted to remember the servicemen who, in the course of their flying duties over the long period that the Argus was operational, met their ends in one of two terrible accidents, one in Puerto Rico and one in Summerside. In each case, whether it was human or mechanical, the complete cause will never fully be known. A topographical memorial to those aviators was my goal. Given the innumerable unnamed topographical features in this second largest country of the world, there should be an appropriate island, lake, point of land or mountain by which to immortalize the Argus. I talked to the Geographical Naming Section of the Department of Mapping and Charting in Ottawa and was directed to apply to the provincial or territorial equivalent of that government body. I thought that the vastness and relatively unnamed obscurity of the Northwest Territories would offer the easiest path. In 1989 I contacted the authorities in Yellowknife, NWT. It should not take longer than six months, I was told. Within a month I had procured detailed maps and had selected five potential sites. Two lakes, two islands and one point of land were plotted and submitted to Yellowknife for approval. Six months later, to my great surprise all submissions were said to have local names and, even though not formally named, could not be renamed. These were sites that were hundreds of kilometres from the nearest settlement! Back to the maps again. This procedure occurred with regularity over the next two years, until I had happened to pick one lake in the Western Arctic that, it seemed, had been overlooked by the local hunters. Now the only requirement was that the Government of the Northwest Territories have the permission of the nearest settlement, Paulatuk, to move forward with the official naming. Letters, faxes and personal interviews by Government personnel with the local officials seemed to yield no progress, and the project continued to get sidetracked for a further four years. During this time I dealt with no less than three successive heads of the Geographical Naming Section of the NWT Government. Each time I would have to start over with an explanation of my quest, and each time I was told, "It should not take longer than six months." Being an optimist, I believed it to be true each time. Eventually, in 1995, the NWT Government fought through the bureaucracy and "Argus Lake" was formally proclaimed to be an entity.
The lake is located to the Southwest of Paulatuk NWT, at position 69 degrees 13 minutes 15 seconds North, and 125 degrees 15 minutes 55 seconds West. It is about four kilometres in diameter and is roughly circular in shape. It was a long battle, but it was worth the fight. "Argus Lake" will not be named on a map until the current series of maps and charts of the area are revised and reprinted. In some cases, that too could take in excess of five years, but in the relatively near future, "Argus Lake" will be recognized as a permanent memorial to all who recall the last of the big piston engine aircraft to serve the RCAF and the CAF.