Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Labrador was commanded by Captain “Long Robbie” Robertson, and it’s hydrographer was Lieut. Thomas Irvine, the 30 years old. It was Irvine’s job to map uncharted waters and plan a safe route.
This mission was authorized by Naval commanders because they feared that the United States were poised to send one of their Beaufort Sea Icebreakers through the Northwest Passage. That would have been a blow to Canada’s sovereignty claims over the arctic. The mission was kept secret, however, because Canadian officials were afraid of the consequences were the Labrador to fail.
When it succeeded,the accomplishment was made known to the world. Reporters met the ship when it docked in Esquimalt, British Columbia.