Military Drills in Arctic Aim to Counter Russia, but the First Mission Is to Battle the Cold

“Many people are spending their own money to get better mitts,” Ms. Sullivan-Kwantes said.

Two days later and about 870 miles away, some of the military exercise’s participants were in Tuktoyaktuk, Canada, showing their mettle by ice diving into the partly frozen Arctic Ocean. The proposition was so breathtakingly heart attack-inducing that the Canadian hosts decided to dare visiting dignitaries sponsored by the Atlantic alliance to take part.

First, the semiprofessionals — Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Canadian naval divers — demonstrated how to don so-called dry suits, carrying oxygen tanks on their backs and connected to safety ropes.

Watching the divers Janne Luukimen of Finland and Chris Trufal of Canada slide below the ice and into the frigid water underneath was almost calming; the two were pictures of gritty determination. There was no yelling, just methodical equipment checks followed by no-ripple entries into the sea, where they disappeared beneath the ice.

Not so the visiting V.I.P.s, who put their names in a hat. Three were picked for 10-second plunges into the sea: Chief Warrant Officer Dominique Geoffroy of Canada, Col. Jacques Roussell of France and Lt. Col. James Kerr of Australia. (Australia is not in the alliance but acts as if it is.)

As everyone else huddled in parkas, mittens and boots, yelling encouragement, the three men, clad in boxers and briefs, strutted onto the ice, where they were to jump in and count to 10 out loud. Only upon arriving at 10 would they be pulled out with a rope.

Mr. Geoffroy and Colonel Roussell acquitted themselves passably with a few shouts and a lot of gasping, and got to 10.

Colonel Kerr got there, too, but the route he took was shorter. “One! Two! Three!” he bellowed, using an expletive. “Four, eight, nine, 10!”

Source

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