Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 09/11/2013 11:46 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 09/11/2013 5:10 PM | Updates
Renowned University of Manitoba Arctic researcher David Barber believes he could — and maybe even should — have died in a helicopter crash in the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean Monday night.
He was the scientist in charge, and when he was away from the Arctic, others had to take the risks for him, a saddened Barber said.
As project director, Barber often took that routine helicopter flight to check ice conditions ahead of the research vessel Amundsen.
But when Barber rotated off the ship last week, that put U of M colleague and long-time friend Klaus Hochheim on the helicopter, in harm’s way above the unforgiving Arctic waters.
"It should have been me on that helicopter, not him," an emotional Barber said in an interview on Wednesday.
"I left the ship on Thursday. I was doing the same work" last week as Hochheim was performing Monday, when Hochheim, Canadian Coast Guard pilot Daniel Dube, and Amundsen commander Marc Thibault died.
Two days after the crash, there were still few answers from federal agencies Wednesday about what happened. The men’s bodies were recovered and taken aboard Amundsen, which reached Resolute early Wednesday. Autopsies are to be performed, and a recovery operation to gather wreckage is being organized.
"It was a very routine operation," said Barber, Canada Research Chair in Arctic Systems Science at U of M. Flying out from the Amundsen, they would have been low over the surface, measuring through lowered sensors the depth of the ice, he said.
"They were on their way back," 10, maybe 15 minutes out, when their automatic signal stopped, sending the Amundsen at full speed to find them, Barber said.
"There was no emergency call, so something must have happened very quickly," he said.
Barber said he met Wednesday morning with the three lead researchers at the Centre for Earth Observation Science at U of M, all of whom had talked to their 10 university staff and graduate students among the 40 researchers aboard the Amundsen.
"We’re quite concerned about their mental state right now," said Barber, who pointed out that clinicians and grief counsellors were flying up to Resolute.
University staff are discussing whether to bring the group home immediately, and whether and when to continue the current research. The Amundsen needs a new helicopter and it can’t sail until it has a new captain, Barber said.
Some people say the Arctic is too dangerous for people, that research should be done through satellites and other technology. Barber rejects that view and he said Hochheim shared that opinion.
"We represent a group of scientists, we’re boots-on-the-ground people, by definition, that’s in harm’s way," said Barber. "They’re (tragedies) traumatic when they happen, but they should not deter us.
"We don’t do it for a paycheque, we do it because it makes a difference" to everyone on the planet to know what climate change is doing to the Arctic sea ice, he declared.
Barber and Hochheim go back 30 years, to when Barber hired the Winnipeg-born Hochheim to work in a small environmental consulting firm. Later, Hochheim joined Barber in academia.
"He was very much a specialist in how climate is coupled with sea ice. He was especially a specialist on Hudson Bay."
Barber said that Hocheim’s work is required reading for his environment students at U of M: "It was seminal on how Hudson Bay works."
U of M said that flags will be lowered through the end of the week, and the university is discussing how best to memorialize Hochheim. He left a wife and three children.
Updated on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 5:10 PM CDT: Due to incorrect information given to the Free Press, a previous version of this story reported officials had recovered a black box the crash site. In fact, a black box has not been recovered.
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Beyoncé and Jay Z put on hell of a stadium show
18-year-old woman dies after rollover in Gimli
UN Security Council calls for Gaza cease-fire
Paralympian seeks return of stolen medals
Goldeyes pummel Railcats
Cyclist Kirchmann finishes third in La Course
Growing movement to treat PTSD in responders
Woman claims she plucked bird on subway
Greg Maddux inducted in baseball Hall of Fame
PM's wife gets stinging reception
Man, 35, missing: city police
Residential school survivors have physical scars
Ebola kills top Liberian doctor, American infected
Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges
Fighting intensifies near MH17 disaster site
Cottage country captivating
Joust in time
Clooney loved taking on tabloid
Pratt stars at track in role as honorary Hoosier
Retired Canadian astronaut had career doubts
Four tips for a low-stress vacation
Different kind of jam session
Therese Casgrain removed from public history
O'Shea likes Blue's ability to refocus after tough loss to Esks
City dangerous by design
Italy's Vincenzo Nibali wins Tour de France
Six-year-old dead after car rams Costco
Look who's talking impeachment: the White House
Fido feels jealousy, study proposes
Franklin demands respect
Typhoon Matmo kills 13 people in China
Police issue alert for missing woman
Grey day ahead