For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
HMCS LABRADOR 50
Laid down in the Marine Industries shipyard in Sorrel, Quebec, in January, 1949, she was 369 feet long, 63 feet, 6 inches at the beam, and displaced 6,490 tons. Powered by six 2,000 horsepower diesel engines, she was capable of 16 knots. Deep-drafted and round-bottomed, with big screws tucked away well below the plimsoll line out of reach of tumbling surface ice, she was fitted with retractable stabilizing fins and heeling tanks on the port and starboard sides capable of pumping water from side to side at the remarkable rate of 40,000 gallons a minute, allowing her to roll in pack ice. With a crew of 225 officers and men and three helicopters, the Labrador was not simply an ice-breaker. She was commissioned to patrol northern waters and show the flag, conduct hydrographic and scientific surveys and provide a rescue and salvage service. On 23 Jul 1954 she sailed from Halifax on her maiden voyage and became the first warship to negotiate the Northwest Passage and, returning to Halifax on 21 Nov 1954 via the Panama Canal, the first to circumnavigate North America. In 1955 Canada and the USA began construction on the DEW line and HMCS Labrador's task was to chart and clear the passage in the Foxe Basin area so that equipment and supplies could be taken ashore by landing craft. In 1956, Labrador returned to the Arctic and during her time there aided the American ice breaker Edisto and getting a supply convoy from the Foxe Basin to the Bellot Strait. During this transit, the Edisto, which had become icebound and broke a screw, was rescued by HMCS Labrador. In Mar/Apr 1957, HMCS Labrador made a rare trip across the Atlantic and visited Portsmouth, Oslo and Copenhagen to show the flag. In the fall of 1957 three US Coast Guard Cutter, Storis, Bramble and Spar, were transiting the Northwest Passage. Due to the uncertainty of having a clear passage through the Bellot Strait, HMCS Labrador rendezvoused with the US squadron on the western end of the Bellot Strait, which turned out to be ice free, and escorted them through. Due to cost cutting measures for the RCN, Labrador was paid off for refit on 22 Nov 1957 and transferred to the Department of Transport. After that she was primarily used as an icebreaker in the St. Lawrence and embarked scientists for summer studies in the Arctic. She was sold for scrap in 1987 and broken up in 1989.
Photos and Documents
(AM67) RCMP vessel Alexandra Fiord 7302
(AM76-AM78) Sled dogs onboard HMCS LABRADOR
(AM80) HMCS LABRADOR's Helo (AM84) Local vessel named "MONTE CARLO"
(AM86-AM87) Supplies being transferred from LABRADOR to smaller craft for local Eskimos (AM89) Sailor from LABRADOR by sled dog pen with Polar bear hide (AM90) HMCS LABRADOR's boat - HMCS POGO
(AM97) Archie MacArthur on left (AM98) Franklin Expedition grave (AM102) Iceberg in the Hudson Strait - 1948
(AM103) Iceberg - 09 Sep 1948 (AM104) Iceberg - Wakeham Bay 09 Sep 1948 (AM105) HMCS LABRADOR's helo (AM107) USCGC EASTWIND W279 coming alongside HMCS LABRADOR (AM107) USCGC EASTWIND W279 alongside HMCS LABRADOR (AM108) Walrus on an ice flow
(AM109-AM110) Archie MacArthur on HMCS LABRADOR - 1954
Map of HMCS LABRADOR's 1954 Arctic Operations
The LABRADOR'S map may be viewed in the following size formats listed below. Scans courtesy of Neil Kenny
From the collection of CPO1 Archie MacArthur, RCN
Courtesy of Colleen Coons
HMCS LABRADOR 1955-1957
(RM01) Robert Manzer, RCN c1955 (RM02) Cd Bos'n Robert Manzer on HMCS LABRADOR (RM03) HMCS LABRADOR (RM04) LABRADOR crew ashore in the Eastern Arctic (RM05) HMCS LABRADOR alongside in Halifax
(RM06) Chipping ice off HMCS LABRADOR (RM07) Robert Manzer on HMCS LABRADOR, Eastern Arctic Mar 1957 (RM08-RM09) Robert Manzer on shore somewhere in the Eastern Arctic
From the collection of Robert Manzer, Lt*, RCN
Courtesy of Bob Manzer, Cdr, RCN, ret'd
(LZ01) HMCS Labrador 50 (LZ02) HMCS Labrador transiting an ice field - DND/RCN photo. Neg # LAB 2525 (LZ03) HMCS Labrador transiting an ice field - ship's helo hovering off bow - DND/RCN photo. Neg # LAB 2524 (LZ04) HMCS Labrador 50 (LZ05) Bell 47 Helo crash - DND/RCN Photo. Neg # 2458 (LZ06) HMCS Labrador (foreground) and a US LSD (either USS Fort Mandan or USS San Marcos) In Aug - Sep 1956, HMCS Labrador assisted the US icebreaker Edisto in escorting a convoy westward through the Northwest Passage from Foxe Basin to the Bellot Strait - the Fort Mandan and San Marcos were part of that convoy.
On 04 Sep 1957, HMCS Labrador rendezvoused with USCGC Storis (W38) USCGC Bramble (W 392) and USCGC Spar (W 403). These photos were taken during that rendezvous and the following transit of the Bellot Strait. The following link is to a write up of the voyage of the 3 US Coast Guard Vessels - Across the top of the World
(LZ07) USCGC Storis W38 coming alongside HMCS Labrador 50 (LZ08) (L-R) USCGC Spar, USCGC Bramble, USCGC Storis, HMCS Labrador (LZ09) USCGC Spar, USCGC Bramble (middle) and USCGC Storis (furthest from camera) (LZ10) USCGC Storis W38, USCGC Bramble and USCGC Spar being lead through the Bellot Strait by HMCS Labrador. Photo taken from the flight deck of HMCS Labrador (LZ11-LZ12) Convoy proceeding through the Bellot Strait led by HMCS Labrador. Photos taken from Labrador's helo.
Song - Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers (on youtube)
(LZ13) Unknown event on HMCS Labrador, possibly Crossing the Line Ceremony. Note the officer with the rather large straight razor (LZ14) HMCS Labrador in Europe, spring 1957 - port unknown
From the collection of Larry Zbitnew, LCdr, RCN
Courtesy of Dennis Cardy