A Cold War Adventure in Canada’s High Arctic

Cold War era intrigue. Navigation in the high Arctic. Local maritime history. British Columbia’s subsea industry. Working out on the Arctic ice pack. Bruce Butler will cover these topics on November 4 at 7:00 pm at his virtual presentation Into the Labyrinth.

Bruce Butler played a key role in Project Spinnaker, a classified Canada-US defence research project conceived in the waning days of the Cold War. The project’s secret purpose was to monitor Soviet submarine traffic in Canada’s ice-covered Arctic waters. The star of Project Spinnaker was Theseus, a massive, unmanned, autonomous underwater vehicle. Twenty-five years ago Theseus went to Canada’s high Arctic for a classified and record-breaking mission.

Theseus was built by International Submarine Engineering Ltd. (ISE), a Port Coquitlam-based subsea engineering company. Bruce Butler was working for ISE when Canadian defence research scientists came looking for assistance on Project Spinnaker. Over the course of the project, he and his colleagues spent three years performing countless sea trials in Indian Arm. He also participated in five month-long deployments in the Arctic.

The Project Spinnaker mission was based out of Canadian Forces Station Alert, a top-secret military listening post at the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island. Alert is so far north it’s actually closer to Moscow than to Ottawa.

In 2018, Butler published the book Into the Labyrinth: The Making of a Modern-Day Theseus, which explores his involvement in Project Spinnaker. He’ll talk about his book and his eight years with the project at the virtual presentation.

Into the Labyrinth will include photos and video and a question-and-answer period. Butler promises not to talk too much about subsea robotic technology.  But if you have questions about subsea tech, he’ll likely have answers.

Bruce Butler graduated from UBC in 1983 with a B.Sc. in Physics and Computer Science and is registered as a Professional Engineer. He worked at ISE for 14 years, first as a software engineer then rising to the position of senior systems engineer.

After leaving ISE he worked in in the tech industry many fields including

  • mining automation
  • marine navigation
  • vessel surveillance
  • industrial wireless controls

Butler now lives in Penticton where he is semi-retired. He focusses on writing, building a house and doing consulting engineering in the Middle East.

Tickets to this event are $7.50 and free for members. If you need your personal promo code to get your free member ticket, email admin.support@vanmaritime.com.

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