Collecting an Aircraft and a Community

From the earliest bush planes to post-WWII aircraft, Canada has a long tradition of aerial photographic surveying and exploration. In the 1970s, the newly formed CCRS (Canadian Centre for Remote Sensing) developed a pioneering remote sensing program, which used both optical and radar-based technologies for imaging the earth. Through the RADARSAT program, Canadians took this enterprise into space.

Recently, the curator of Aviation, Renald Fortier and I proposed the acquisition of an aircraft used for some of the earliest remote sensing research in Canada. Many logistical and financial challenges lie ahead, but research into the potential acquisition continues. From 1974 to 2012, the Convair 580 was the experimental platform for radar remote sensing. It performed research for application development in forestry, agriculture, geology, hydrology, oceanography, ice studies, environmental protection, cartography, oil and gas operations, mineral exploration, and arctic navigation.


Photo: The present location of the Convair 580 at the former hangar for the Geological Survey of Canada now owned by Environment Canada. The CV 580 has a colourful biography – from Johnson and Johnson executive transport in the 1950s to rugged scientific vessel for the Canadian government from 1974-2012. Photo from

In the process of researching this proposal, we were struck by the wide range of people, institutions, disciplines, and regions touched and shaped by this aircraft. Many people heard about our proposal and wrote personal, emotional testimonials about their experience with CV 580. As the research progressed, and we heard from people around Canada and the world, we realized we were collecting an entire community, not just an aircraft and its instruments.

Photo: CV 580 as ambassador. The Convair 580 on a 1981 mission with the European Space Agency. The CV 580 flew in missions in over 70 countries and contributed to earth and space-based remote sensing programs in several countries.

Photo: CV 580 as ambassador. The Convair 580 on a 1981 mission to Europe with the European Space Agency. Over the years, the CV 580 flew in missions in over 70 countries and contributed to earth and space-based remote sensing programs all over the world.

Aircraft, instruments, people and places

The CV 580 represents a fascinating integration of the social and material dimensions of scientific practice. The inside of the aircraft could be a vessel from any scientific voyage in history.


Photo: Inside the CV 580. The CCRS and industry partners such as MDA custom built almost all the instrumentation for the aircraft.

There were specialized instruments, skills and communications at work, with many changes dependent on the mission, and/or the introduction of new technologies over the years. A few things were fairly constant. There was a station for real-time processing and radar control, a station for monitoring the imagery and many associated recording systems, and stations for flight scientist and mission manager. The crew managed their instruments and stations while coordinating and communicating with colleagues through the vibrations and noise of the aircraft. Research scientist Bob Hawkins flew on many missions with CV 580 since 1978. He recalled the unique social conditions that developed on the aircraft:

“There is camaraderie like I suppose happens in a military unit as everyone focuses on making his part of the task fit and integrate with the rest of the crew.  We are each aware of one another’s foibles yet confident in the ability of the team to come through..” (Personal correspondence, March 2014)

Photo: Doug Percy at the real-time processing station, c. 1990s.

Photo: Doug Percy at the monitoring and recording station, c. 1990s.

For Pilot Captain Bryan Healey, who flew the CV 580 for 34 years, the instruments were delicate passengers in need of special attention:

“The aircraft has operated in the Canadian Arctic and Archipelago out of Inuvik, Frobisher Bay (Iqaluit) and Resolute Bay on many sorties, on ice identification, mapping and behaviour and was a major contributor to the success of the Canadian Ice Service.  For these trips, we have operated in temperatures as cold as -52 C (and high as +45 elsewhere in the world), a bit of a challenge for a CV580 at times not to mention crew and equipment.  In the early years in the Arctic we had electric blankets on certain pieces of equipment so it wouldn’t take more than 4 hours of warm up before flying because the aircraft was often -40 or less inside after cold soaking outside.” [February 2014, correspondence]

Photo: Each piece of equipment had a weight label iin order to create a precise audit of cargo weight for each mission.

Photo: Each piece of equipment had a weight label to create a precise audit of cargo weight and balance of the aircraft for each mission.

Captain Healey also recalls danger for the flight crew working with the early high power C-band transmitter (used to extend the range and quality of the radar imagery):

“Every once in a while this thing would send a lightning bolt
(literally) from the high power conductors to the cage in the rack. We’d get thunder and all, and you could hear it in the cockpit. Of course the back end crew would have the hell scared out of them particularly the first time it happened. Of course there were so many blown IC’s [integrated circuits] and capacitors when this happened the radar was broken and we’d have to go back and land for repair, which was a problem if it happened early in the flight because we’d be over landing weight with the fuel load. Every once in a while Chuck Livingston (the designer of this thing) would have his hands in there and this thing would let go and “Pow”, 50 thousand volts would flash across to the cage. I don’t know how he never got electrocuted. The unit was subsequently retired by Chuck, I’m not sure if it was because of his fear it would blown up the whole radar or it just didn’t prove particularly beneficial to the operation.”

Healey characterizes the CV 580 as a “phenomenal war horse of science and adversity. I use the word adversity with passion because having flown this airplane for 34 years, I know the veracity of this word as it applies to C-GRSC, its’ crew and all the science and people behind it.” [February 2014 Correspondence]

Photo: The heart of the aircraft – one of two Synthetic Aperature Radar (SAR) antennas designed by Chuck Livingston and made by COMDEV, Cambridge, Ontario

Photo: The heart of the aircraft – one of two Synthetic Aperature Radar (SAR) antennas designed by Chuck Livingston and made by COMDEV, Cambridge, Ontario with Dr. Livingstone as Scientific Authority.

In developing the RADARSAT 2, scientists and engineers drew heavily from the CV 580 experience. All of these social and material lessons are now buried deep inside instruments far from the grasp of museum curators. The CV 580 is the last earthly bridge to that history. Frank Carsey, a long-time CCRS user from the Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech wrote: “Engineers and scientists worked hard, scrabbled for funds, flew out of uncomfortable distant sites, dealt with balky electronics and yet delivered good, insightful science. The CV 580 connects us to those roots.” [Correspondence, March 2014]


Doris H. Jelly, Canada: 25 years in Space, 1988.

Gerard McGrath & Louis Sebert (Eds). Mapping a Northern Land: The Survey of Canada, 1947-1994. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999

Gordon Shepherd & Agnes Kruchio, Canada’s Fifty Years in Space: The COSPAR Anniversary, 2008

Photo 2. Land Cruiser dans la mine de potasse K1\K2 de la société Mosaic

Collecting a Land Cruiser

Toyota Land Cruisers are the mining industries’ vehicle of choice. In fact, the mining sector is one of Toyota’s largest clients in Canada. The customized vehicles are made on order in Japan. Their engines and exhaust systems are adjusted to meet air quality standards and operate within requirements of the mine ventilation system. The trucks are durable and require minimum maintenance. Since driving in an underground mine can be tricky, the vehicles have to respond fast to speed change, and allow the driver to maintain precise speed under varying loads and turn around on the spot. The Land Cruiser is the longest running series in Toyota’s history. This vehicle is a legend!

Photo 1

Photo 1. Toyota Land Cruiser at a mining show in Toronto, 2013

I have been trying to acquire a Land Cruiser for the collection since 2009. It was not an easy task. The large trucks barely fit into an elevator. They go down the shaft in pieces; they are assembled and maintained underground; and they are used for decades. At the end of the truck’s working life, miners salvaged any spare parts, and transport the remains of the vehicle back up the shaft to the surface.

Photo 2

Photo 2. Land Cruiser in Mosaic Company’s K1\K2 potash mine.

Land Cruisers from an underground mine rarely or never make it to an Auto Trader or Kijiji. My best bet for acquiring an operational Cruiser in a good condition was a Canadian distributor. The Land Cruisers are sold in Canada to the mining industry since 1975 by ENS Industrial, located in Saskatoon. At the time when I contacted ENS, the Museum was working on an exhibition on Potash. The exhibition gave us some leverage. I discussed a potential donation of the Land Cruiser to the national collection with ENS in exchange for sponsorship credits in the exhibition. The vehicles are very expensive, and a donation or even a discounted price would be of substantial value for the Museum. ENS expressed interest. However, since the vehicles are made on order, we would have had to wait over two years to move ahead through the priority list.

Photo 3

Photo 3. Mock-up of a Land Cruiser in the Potash exhibition

The only option was to appeal to the mining industry. As I mentioned above, it is very difficult to remove the Land Cruiser from an underground mine without compromising the integrity of the artifact. I was asking the industry to go into a considerable expense and inconvenience. Fortunately, the Public Affairs Department at the Mosaic Company proved sympathetic to my plight. The Mosaic PA staff listened to my material culture arguments for saving one of the Cruisers and removing it from the mine in one piece.

Photo 4

Photo 4. Land Cruiser, 1 km underground, in Mosaic Company’s K1\K2 mine

Although it took months, they finally located a decommissioned, but still complete vehicle for the Museum in the K1\K2 mine complex in Esterhazy – the largest potash mine in the world. The Public Affairs staff then arranged with the miners underground to preserve the truck intact until it could be brought to the surface. Finally in October 2013, the Toyota Land Cruiser arrived in Ottawa, complete, functional, and still full of potash dust.

Photo 5. Toyota Land Cruiser in the collection warehouse

Photo 5. Toyota Land Cruiser in the collection warehouse 090

The War of the Agitators

I recently made the trip to Fergus, Ontario to conduct some research at the Wellington County Museum and Archives. I am working on a project about Canadian innovations in washing machines in the 1920s and 30s and looking specifically at agitators manufactured and designed by Beatty Bros Ltd. The company was founded in Fergus in 1874 and was based there until 1961. The archives in Fergus have an amazing collection of the papers, advertising campaigns, financial and miscellaneous company records of Beatty Bros. Ltd.

1992.1580 053

1920 Beatty washing machine (art. no. 1992.1580)

Upon my arrival I was struck by how beautiful the building was, well-kept and very modern. I was greeted by two of the archive’s staff, Kim and Elysia, both of whom were extremely helpful throughout the day I spent there.

I was looking for any documents, trade literature and advertising material relating to the invention of the agitator. Prior to my visit, some sources suggested Beatty Bros Ltd invented the agitator, while others stated that it was in fact Maytag’s invention and I wanted to clear that up. As it turns out, the agitator was invented by Maytag in 1922 but the patent didn’t hold up so every washing machine company in North America came up with their own version. The historical files in the Beatty Bros Fonds had a lot of documents on the subject including internal correspondence, ad campaigns and what appears to be an internal presentation on the agitators of the competition and how Beatty’s design compares. It was an incredible peek at what I now refer to as the ‘War of the Agitators’ in the 1920s and 30s. 090

An agitator from a Beatty washing machine c 1930s (art. no. 1984.016)

Kim also served as the liaison between myself and the museum’s Curatorial Assistant, Amy Dunlop who, despite having 3 exhibits opening that very day generously found time to show me the museum’s Beatty Bros washing machine collection. She took me to the museum’s storage facility where we saw a collection of Beatty washing machines. I was so pleased to see a Beatty Red Star (a wooden tub, lever-operated machine in production from 1914 to the 1930s) intact, as well as a few other machines we don’t have in our own collection. Such a treat!

Beatty Bros instruments are a window into domestic culture and industry in Canada at a transformative time. Amy and I discussed working together in the future on a project involving our complimentary collections of artifacts, archival material and trade literature. My visit was a success through connecting artifacts, history and place. Our files will be greatly enhanced thanks to our colleagues at WCM&A.


Copies of documents found during my visit to the Wellington County Museum and Archives.

This is the kit ! Donated to the Museum by Parks Canada in March 2013.
Photo: CSTMC/T.Alfoldi

In Search of George Klein’s Snow Study Kit

My research on the history of avalanche studies in Canada started in December 2012 when I made several enquiries as to the possible location of a snow study kit developed by George Klein.

Klein Snow Study Kit, 1947-2013
Manufacturer: National Research Council Canada, Division of Building Research, Source: Parks Canada, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks
Location: Rogers Pass National Historic Site of Canada, B.C.
Artifact no.: 2013.0059.001-.010

A pioneer of the Alouette satellite program, Klein is regarded as one of Canada’s most prolific inventors. He developed the box kit pictured below as well as published Method of Measuring the Significant Characteristics of a Snow-Cover (NRC, MM-192) in the mid 1940’s. But where was the kit? How do I set out looking for it? Would I get lucky enough to find it?

View a 1958 video of the Klein snow kit in use in Rogers Pass, B.C.

photo box only

The complete set of instruments.
Weighing 16 lbs, the set included snow sample cutters, a beam balance, two snow hardness gauges, ruler, cup, magnifying glass, spatula, and thermometers.
Photo: Reproduced with the permission of the National Research Council Canada

Fuelled by curiosity, and knowing of the possible links to avalanche research in Canada, enquiries and connections were made. I had several discussions with Richard Bourgeois-Doyle of the NRC in Ottawa, also George Klein’s biographer, and people from the Centre d’avalanche de la Haute-Gaspésie in Québec, the Canadian Avalanche Association in Revelstoke, Parks Canada, and with the ASARC program at the University of Calgary.

Perseverance paid off! It was in January 2013, with the invaluable help of Dr. John Woods, a retired Parks Canada naturalist, and an enthusiastic Phd student from the Applied Snow and Avalanche Research (ASARC) program at the University of Calgary. They located a snow study kit. This one contained some of Klein’s original instruments, which meant it had been in use for over sixty years. The well weathered instruments stood the test of time, and were still in use at the Mount Fidelity research station in Glacier National Park of Canada, B.C.

With a gracious invitation by Jacolyn Daniluck, a Parcs Canada Communications Officer, I travelled to Rogers Pass National Historic Site of Canada in March 2013 (on this and other related business). It was there I met Jeff Goodrich, an expert in avalanche operations, who would donate a second kit to the Museum. This one, not in use since 2005 had four of Klein’s original instruments: a 500 gram beam balance stamped NRC/DBR, a snow sampling tool, bowl, and a snow density gauge.


Donated to the Museum by Parks Canada in March 2013. Photo: CSTMC/T.Alfoldi

The three instruments pictured, part of one of Klein’s original snow science kits, were donated by Parks Canada in March 2013. Used in the 1950’s by Noel Gardner and NRC avalanche pioneer Peter Schaerer during the construction of the Trans-Canada highway through Rogers Pass, the instruments became part of this red kit and used thereafter by Parks Canada in snow research and avalanche control until very recently.

These instruments, developed by Klein for the classification of snow-ground covers were originally intended to advance his research in the development of snow landing gear for aircraft. His research however would also eventually contribute to the foundation of an international standard for snow classification as well as to avalanche studies during the planning and construction of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Snow Study Plot, Mount Fidelity, Parks Canada, 1965, Glacier National Parc, B.C.
Fred Schleiss is holding a snow crystal identification card and looking at the crystal type. Seen hooked on the handle of the shovel, the Klein beam balance and small bucket are some of the basic instruments used to determine snow density of various layers within this snow pit.
Photo: Reproduced with the permission of Parks Canada.

Klein’s snow instruments made their way to Rogers Pass where they were used by Canadian avalanche pioneers Noel Gardner and Peter Schaerer during the planning and construction phases of the Trans-Canada Highway in the mid to late 1950’s, and used almost to this day in the Parks Canada avalanche control program.

Snow Study Plot, Rogers Pass National Historic Site of Canada, B.C.

Many thanks to Johan Schleiss who gave me a very “cool” tour of their snow study plot in Rogers Pass National Historic Site of Canada, B.C. Photo by author, March 2013


Click here to view VIDEO: Snowplow on the Trans-Canada Highway

Snowplow on the Trans-Canada Highway

This video was taken from the Bostok Creek parking lot at the foot of Mt. Fidelity, in Glacier National Park of Canada. Located at an elevation of 1,900m, the Mt. Fidelity Research Station monitors weather and conducts snowpack analysis for avalanche control. With an average annual snowfall of about 14m (42 feet), it is the snowiest place in Canada and ranked third snowiest place on Earth.

Digging Deeper:

Land of Thundering Snow” rel=”nofollow”>

Backcountry Avalanche Information

Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa

Glacier National Park Canada

Rogers Pass National Historic Site of Canada



Many thanks to Parks Canada (Jeff Goodrich, Jacolyn Daniluck, and Johan Schleiss) for donating the Klein kit and other artifacts to the Museum. To Dr. John Woods, Wildvoices Consulting and Mike Conlan, ASARC Program, University of Calgary for finding Klein instruments still in use and pointing me in the right direction. To the National Research Council of Canada, who started the whole thing in the first place and for the use of the photo of the original Klein snow study kit, and to Dick Bourgeois-Doyle for answering the many questions I had on George Klein.


Bourgeois-Doyle, R., George Klein: The Great Inventor, National Research Council Press, Ottawa, Canada, 1994.

Klein, G.J., Method of Measuring the Significant Characteristics of a Snow-Cover, Report No. MM-192, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, November 1946.

Klein, G.J., Canadian Survey of Physical Characteristics of Snow-Covers, For presentation at the Oslo Conference of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, June 1948.

Proceedings of 1947 Conference on Snow and Ice, Associate Committee on Soil and Snow Mechanics. Technical Memorandum No. 10 of the Associate Committee on Soil and Snow Mechanics, NRC, Ottawa, October 1947.

The International Classification for Snow, Issued by the International Association of Hydrology. Published as Technical Memorandum No. 31 by the Associate Committee on Soil and Snow Mechanics. National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, August 1954

CSTMC / M.Labrecque, 2014

The Manitoba II , Physics Department, University of Manitoba

Field Notes: Mass Spectrometry at the University of Manitoba

On the 1st and 2nd of October, I visited the Physics Department at the University of Manitoba to learn more about their program in mass spectrometry. It has been over one hundred years since British scientists developed methods to deflect ions (charged particles) of different mass in order to study the constituents of materials. Scientists at U of M have since become masters of these effects, making significant contributions in two areas of mass spectrometry – the determination of fundamental mass units, and the analysis of large biological molecules. Researchers, engineers and instrument makers around the world use U of M findings and technologies in physics, chemistry, health sciences and industry.

Why Winnipeg? I found answers in some of the original instruments, and of course, the people who made, developed and used them.

The “Manitoba II” is a central instrument in Mass Spec studies at U of M. It is a room-sized, high-resolution mass spectrometer that has set international standards for determining atomic masses. Ions are deflected and detected after racing through a curved one-meter radius electromagnetic track. Physicist R.C. Barber designed the Manitoba II with many small, precision parts built in the departmental machine shop headed up by Bob Batten, a British-trained technician. It replaced the “Manitoba I” that came to U of M in the early 1960s from McMaster University with H.E. Duckworth.

The Manitoba II , Physics Department, University of Manitoba

The Manitoba II , Physics Department, University of Manitoba

The room and instrument document over forty years of toil and triumph – there are shelves of log books, abandoned parts, tools, signs, layers of black board sessions, trade literature, texts and aged off-prints. The instrument shows countless modifications, inscriptions, warnings, heat streaks, and tape – lots of tape. “It really is built from scratch,” says Physics Chair, Kumar Sharma who was a student of Barber’s in the early 1970s when the instrument was built. The Manitoba team constructed the parts for the electrostatic analyser (ESA)  in collaboration with Canadian Westinghouse in Hamilton. The stainless steel for the case was cut and bent there with the actual welding done by a workshop in King Township, Ontario.

Sharma remembers the Manitoba II being covered in black welding soot when it first arrived in the lab. They had to electro polish it to prevent unwanted contaminants from entering the high-vacuum chamber. “It was the best vacuum I had ever worked with,” recalls Sharma, “made possible by the homemade metal to metal seals.” The vacuum chamber had to be machined, annealed with some surfaces ground flat.

Manitoba II laboratory

Many careers such as Sharma’s have been built (and shaped) around this instrument. Barber had trained under H.E Duckworth, who had trained in Chicago under A.J, Dempster (of Toronto bakery fame). Sharma is now working on the next generation of MS instrument at the Canadian Penning Trap at Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago.

In the late 1970s ion deflection turned into straight flight when Ken Standing and his post doc, Brian Chait, developed a way to analyse big organic molecules using Time of Flight (TOF) mass spectrometry. TOF had been invented earlier, but Standing and Chait developed a method for accurately timing the flight of the big molecules produced by ion bombardment. Werner Ens joined Standing as a PhD student just as this instrument began to work, and with contributions from many others, there followed a succession of advances that lead to major patents and spin-offs in industry. Their work is now a fundamental part of the emerging field of proteomics, the study of protein quantity and structure in life forms. Ens joined the faculty in 1987, and in 2010, Standing and Ens won the Manning Innovation award for their achievements.

Standing attributes his success to good students. “I tend to leave my students alone,” he says. In fact, Ens recalls that his first job was to re-build a filament (for a surface ionization ion source) from scratch. On one of his first days in the lab he burned out a filament that Chait had spent weeks preparing and testing. “I was about as green as graduate student could be,” he recalls. Standing came by this pedagogical approach honestly; In the early 1950s his supervisor, Princeton physicist Rubby Sherr went on leave and left him alone in one of the best nuclear labs in the world. “I was lucky to think of something to do, and I did it.”

The first U of Manitoba TOF instrument from 1979. “It’s just a pipe” says Ken Standing in jest. Photo: Storage room, Physics Department, University of Manitoba.

The beauty of collecting physics is that the most abstract of variables such as time and space become concrete, local and sensory. In the TOF labs, I surveyed a vast landscape of electronic equipment that transformed molecular flight times into accessible digitized data. In the early 1980s Ens had spent much energy building software to interface with time-to-digital converters – a pivotal part of their innovations in precision timing.

Ken Standing with TOF2

Ken Standing with TOF2 representing key developments in TOF mass spectrometry at the University of Manitoba.

Precise vacuum production is basic to the TOF enterprise. When visiting the laboratory, one experiences a constant drone of vacuum pumps for precisely managing experimental vacuum conditions. Ken Standing took me into a backroom of their laboratory to see the original TOF 1979 instrument. I could barely hear (record) him through the clamour of vacuum pumps, each connected to different machines in the lab.

TOF 3 Mass Spectrometer, built at the University of Manitoba, Physics Department c. 1990.

Part of TOF 3 Mass Spectrometer, built at the University of Manitoba, Physics Department c. 1994. The TOF3 combined three innovations – orthogonal injection, MALDI techniques and collisional cooling.

Many factors contributed to the development of Mass Spec at the U of M – post-WWII research in several areas at the department ( e.g. nuclear) drew top faculty and students (local and international); there were good instrument makers – “at one time, you heard many British accents in the machine shops,” Standing recalled; there were connections to the Chicago physics scene through Duckworth and Dempster; there were pivotal Russian (Soviet) influences brought in by Standing as a result of a fortuitous tour he made in preparation for a possible conference; and there was an entrepreneurial leaning that opened the door to successful commercial collaborations (AB SCIEX)

And, there were local questions deriving from agriculture. In the mid 1970s Standing and Chait used the new U of M cyclotron to analyse protein levels in kernels of grain. “They were looking for new applications for the cyclotron,” Ens said. “That’s what gave them the connection to the biological world, and they began to see that maybe mass spectrometry was a better way to look for those proteins.”


Connor, R. D. and University of Manitoba. Dept. of Physics and Astronomy. (2004). The expanding world of physics at Manitoba: a hundred years of progress: Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manitoba. Winnipeg, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manitoba.

Hughes, Jeff. “Making Isotopes Matter: Francis Aston and the Mass-Spectrograph,” Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiatumque Historiam Illustrandam 29, (2009), 131–166

Nier, Keith A. “A History of the Mass Spectrometer,” Instruments of Science: An Historical Encyclopedia. Robert Bud and Deborah Jean Warner, editors. 1998. New York & London: The Science Museum, London, and The National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, in association with Garland Publishing, Inc. Pages 552-56.

Sharma, K. S. (2013). “Mass spectrometry—The early years.” International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 349–350(0): 3-8.

Standing, K. G. (2000). “Timing the flight of biomolecules: a personal perspective.” International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 200(1): 597-610.