When Philip Grandy of Belleoram was in grade nine he had to write an essay on his life’s ambition. He wrote about his plans to become a sea captain, as the sea was a big part of his family’s history.
Now, what students in grade nine write about concerning their career choices may not actually work out in the future. However, in Phil Grandy’s case it turned out to become very true as he went on to become a Master Sea Mariner with the Canadian Coast Guard.
As a matter of fact, he went on to become one of Canada’s most famous captains as his 1994 trip to the North Pole earned him fame in navigation circles all over the world.
Captain Grandy was home recently taking in the Belleoram Come Home Year activities and took some time out to talk about his career.
“I always dreamed of going to sea and being involved with navigation even as a young boy. My grandfather used to make sails in the old sail loft here in Belleoram and it was a family tradition in going to sea so it was in my blood I suppose.”
When he was 16 Captain Grandy answered the calling to go to sea in moving to Nova Scotia to work on a trawler out of Halifax. He worked at this for six months and then applied for a position with the Canadian Coast Guard where he spent the next 35 years of his working career.
“I attended the navigation school at the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology and eventually earned my members certificate in 1969. I went on from that to work as a navigation officer, chief officer and eventually became a captain in 1975.”
Over the following years Captain Grandy worked with search and rescue, on medium icebreakers and then on Canada’s largest icebreaker the ‘Louis S. St. Laurent’.
It was while captain on the ‘Louis S. St. Laurent’ that Captain Grandy earned his claim to fame and it’s a pretty good claim at that.
During this posting with the St. Laurent, which began in 1992, he established two landmarks in navigation of surface vessels.
In 1993, the St. Laurent became the third surface vessel to navigate the length of the M’Clure Strait, and the first to do so in 31 years.
Then in 1994, his voyage across the central Arctic Ocean from the West was the first complete transit of the Artic Ocean by surface ships and ranks as a major achievement in high Arctic navigation.
Captain Grandy not only brought his ship through uncharted waters safely and successfully, but, in the latter stages under more difficult ice conditions, also guided the United States Coast Guard Cutter ‘Polar Sea’ to the North Pole.
The voyage allowed an international scientific mission to conduct groundbreaking research, which could not otherwise, have been done, establishing a benchmark for future Arctic Studies.
“I had a crew of 96 on that 1994 trip to the North Pole and 30 scientists from the United Sates and Canada. We were the only Canadian surface ship to ever go over the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole coming from the Bering Strait.
“As a matter of fact, on August 22, 1994 I talked to my wife who was home in Belleoram for the Come Home Year from the North Pole. How’s that for a long distance phone call?”
Captain Grandy said that he thoroughly enjoyed his role with the Canadian Coast Guard.
“I’ve always loved a challenge and it certainly was a task to get the ship to behave properly in ice as it required a lot of trimming and ballasting.
“I learned quite a bit about ice dynamics by studying ice conditions at the Institute of Marine Dynamics center at Memorial University where they can grow ice to simulate various types of ice conditions and do model testing in those conditions. It was great too, on that trip, to have Dr. Mary Williams with us from Memorial University who is one of the world’s foremost experts on ice profiling, ice dynamics and ice strengthening.
“So, that aspect was great. And it also was interesting to meet so many different interesting people in my career. On the 1994 expedition to the North Pole we had so many people from varying cultural backgrounds trained in many different scientific fields. It was extremely interesting to work with these really educated people.”
The St. Laurent expedition to the North Pole resulted in a number of significant scientific findings such as: Biological productivity estimated to be ten times greater than previous estimates; Large eddy of cold fresh water shelf water found centered at 1000 m on the periphery of the Makarov Basin and uncharted seamount discovered near 85 degrees, 50 minutes North and 166 degrees, 00 minutes East.
While Captain Grandy retired from the Canadian Coast Guard in 1996 he has remained active in a number of seagoing ventures since then.
In 1996 he completed the environmental assessment on Voisey’s Bay for Canship Ugland.
Later on he was asked to do some work for Imperial Oil that was supposed to take a couple of weeks. The thing is, those few weeks turned into nine and a half years of work in various parts of the world.
In 2011 Captain Grandy worked for the Russian Government in East Siberia. Russia needs to have its application for rights to their continental shelf completed by 2014. As 90 per cent of their shelf is under ice they needed Captain Grandy to help with a seismic monitoring project through the ice.
He has also had to undertake an environmental assessment for the Russian Government to simulate an 1100-foot tanker going up 800 miles of an ice regime, near the Sakalin Islands, (North of Japan) without ice strengthening and getting back with sustaining any damage. This venture alone required three trips to Russia.
On July 19 of this year Grandy was scheduled to fly from Gander to Nuuk in Greenland to pick up the ship ‘Polarus’ which is registered to the Norwegian Government. He had been asked to do some seismic charting for Norway, a project he will start this summer.
“I enjoyed my career tremendously,” Captain Grandy said. “My wife and I spend the winters in Arizona now and, when time permits, the summers home in Nova Scotia.”