Lynn's Comments: We didn't have a bonfire in the backyard, but we did have deck chairs, flashlights and food. Dad played the guitar. He knew every camp and military ditty by heart and at this tender age, my brother and I thought he was absolutely wonderful. He was!
Lynn's Comments: Back home, I was beginning to worry. My father-in-law knew exactly where Rod had gone, and he knew almost to the minute when he'd return--if all went well. The ETA came and went. My mom-in-law took the kids, and I drove up to the airport to wait. Rod's dad joined me. The weather was clear but cold and it was getting dark. The men at the airport assured us that the guys would be safe if they'd had to put down on a lake somewhere, but nothing sounded right to us. We filed a missing persons report and waited for Search and Rescue to respond.
Lynn's Comments: At Yathkyed Lake, the men had set up a camp. Without warm clothing, a tent or supplies, they created a windbreak by putting the canoe on its side. A tiny fire was kept going as they dried their socks and underwear over it. They hung their clothing on ground willows, and all traded off using the one pair of boots they had to go in search of firewood. They placed rocks in a ring around the fire. Two men at a time would lie under the canoe, and the other packed hot rocks around them. When they were able to move, they traded places. The wind and the flies were relentless. They tried to keep their spirits up by joking. Rod knew that his dad would be doing everything possible to find them. The ELT (emergency locator transmitter) had not gone off in the plane, so there would be no radio signal for rescuers to follow, but Rod's dad, Tom, knew the territory. He knew the ETA, and he would be quick to know there had been an accident. Every motion of the wind sounded like a rescue aircraft. Every minute that went by seemed like forever.
Lynn's Comments: An enormous Hercules Search and Rescue plane arrived from Alberta along with a helicopter and a Twin Otter outfitted with bulging Plexiglass side-windows where spotters would sit. They set up a military style office at the Lynn Lake airport. Enormous maps of the search area were put up on the walls. There were pilots, co-pilots, SARTECHS (search and rescue technicians), spotters, and others. Everyone was serious, focused, and prepared. What surprised me was the way they treated me. Rather than shooing me away, they sat me down and explained with kindness and courtesy exactly what they were doing and how the operation would proceed. I felt relieved and comforted. They knew exactly how to treat people in crisis and in shock. I was surprised by how coherent and calm I was.
Lynn's Comments: A false alarm set off by a geological research helicopter sent the Hercules rescue team in the wrong direction. With just the canoe for shelter, the lost men waited anxiously for signs of help. Every sound, the wind, the waves on the water, small movements in the brush, sounded like the engine of a plane. Rod had left specific instructions on where he would be, and couldn't understand why it was taking so long for help to arrive.
Lynn's Comments: What they wanted most was warmth, shelter and food. Nothing else was important. They just wanted to survive. It surprised them all to think that days beforehand, they had been thinking about luxuries. This experience changed them all.
Lynn's Comments: I don't remember the date. All I remember is that on the evening of the third day, the guys heard the sound of an aircraft. The first thing the Search and Rescue spotters saw were white parallel shapes under the surface of the water (not smoke). They had seen the pontoons of an overturned aircraft before. Technicians began to prepare for what they believed was the recovery of four drowned men, but something caught their attention on the shore. Overwhelmed and exhausted, the men had just enough energy to stand and wave as the Hercules circled overhead.
Lynn's Comments: Every one of us can go back in time to remember a perfect starry night. Maybe it was on a camping trip or maybe on the edge of a city; looking up at the stars never gets boring, never gets old. How do you describe a perfect starry night? The over-used word "awesome" genuinely belongs here.