LOCATION: Iqaluit, Nunavut. Latitude and Longitude : 65 45 23 N 68 32 35 W
DESCRIPTION: The original construction of the Iqaluit airfield, originally known as Crystal II, was undertaken by the US military in 1942, and their work on the airfield continued until 1957. The original airfield hanger was constructed in 1943, and still remains in use today. In 1957, the Government of Canada, Department of Transportation (DOT) took control of the airfield, to operate it as a civilian facility, and all construction associated with the airfield. The Government of Canada compensated the US Government for the airfield construction in 1944 in the amount of $6.8 million.
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The Iqaluit airfield, originally named Crystal II, and ultimately the community of Iqaluit are among a unique group of Canadian communities that originated entirely from a military presence, and not from some commercial venture, such as a trading post, or some government administrative venture. Iqaluit joins such venerable settlements as Louisbourg, and Kingston in Canadian history as strategic military and administrative hubs. From its origin as an airfield to serve the ferrying of aircraft from North America to Europe, Crystall II, then Frobisher Bay (1964), and finally Iqaluit (1987), has experienced a remarkable 75 year history.
The work undertaken to build the Iqaluit airfield was completed under very remote operating conditions at the time; the construction window was a very narrow window due to the Arctic weather; the earth moving construction had to deal with permafrost, which was entirely new condition at the time; and the mobilization of equipment and materials was accomplished by sealift only with a narrow period of seasonal mobilization.
The construction of the Iqaluit airfield made pioneering contributions to the discipline of cold region civil engineering because it was the first major construction project in the region of Canada with continuous permafrost. In support of the construction, materials and equipment were mobilized during a narrow window of ice free Arctic waters from a distance of 3,000 kilometres away. The construction itself occurred in a narrow window of the Arctic summer.