Captain Arthur Langley DeLancey – Northern Canada Freshwater Mariner

by Don & Jim DeLancey 2012

Arthur Langley DeLancey

Captain Arthur Langley DeLancey (Photo from DeLancey collection))

Arthur was born in 1915 in the Athabasca area of northern Alberta. He enlisted in the RCNVR in 1940 and was assigned to a number of different Corvettes (HMCS Dundas, HMCS Kitchener, HMCS Thorlock and HMCS Arnprior) where he was an ASDIC operator and radioman doing convoy escort duty in the north Atlantic. he was demobilized in the fall of 1945.

Arthur DeLancey

Arthur DeLancey served in the RCNVR during the Second World War. (Photo from DeLancey collection)

After his wartime naval service he returned to Alberta and took a job with the Alberta Provincial Fisheries Department. He tested many lakes, collecting spawn from trout and whitefish. These were taken to the Hatchery in Canyon Creek on Lesser Slave Lake. As the fish were hatched and grew into fingerlings, he then dispersed them to lakes throughout the province. This was done on foot, with dog team and with an old Chevrolet car where driving was possible.

Fish Hatchery

Fish hatchery located at Lesser Slave Lake. (Photo from DeLancey collection)

In June of 1949, he moved to Hay River in the Northwest Territories to join the Federal Department of Fisheries. Commercial fishing had only begun on Great Slave Lake in 1945, so he helped set up the Department in the North. He was assigned to the Protection Branch and was the Captain (with a Master - Minor Waters certificate) of a number of wooden hulled patrol vessels. As a Fisheries Officer, he patrolled Great Slave Lake and neighboring lakes by boat in summer and by Bombardier (Bug) and aircraft in the winter. Over the years, Art was involved with the protection of the fishery of beluga whales, narwhals, seals, arctic char as well as the more commonly known fresh water fish such as walleye, trout, northern pike, inconnu and whitefish.

DeLancey Certificate

The Certificate of Service for Arthur DeLancey as part of his application for Masters papers. (Photo from DeLancey collection)

DeLancey Certificate

The Master Mariner Certificate DeLancey received qualifying him to command vessels up to 350 tons. (Photo from DeLancey collection)

The MV Marila was purchased by the Canada Department of Fisheries in 1955, and he patrolled the Great Slave Lake until his retirement in 1975. He was credited with a number of rescues of fishermen and adventurers on the Great Slave Lake over his career, he had the utmost of confidence in his boat in the worst of storms when even the local Coast Guard would not venture out.

The Great Slave Lake could be a ferocious body of water in the fall when the norwesters would blow down from the Arctic before freeze up. It was said that no one knew Great Slave Lake as well as him because from the time he could navigate the waters in the spring time through the ice. Some time in the early 1960s a tugboat (the NT Husky) owned by the Northern Transportation Company became grounded on a sand bar just outside the mouth of the Hay River and no effort from two other tugboats could pull her off. Dad proceeded to come along the stern of the Husky and because the Marila only had a 4 foot draft he was able to get close enough whereby they hooked a line on astern and he was able to wash the sand out from underneath the tug and pull her off the bar. He was a great innovator! He was also credited with finding the deepest part of the Great Slave Lake in an area called Redmans Canyon in what is the East Arm of the lake. This area of the lake is located in the Precambrian shield and is predominately a rock landscape. The depth sounder on the Marila registered down to 2200 feet and there was still water left so he used a line with a chunk of lead on it and it sounded out at what he calculated to be 2215 (+/-) feet.

The Marila was built in 1955 for the Federal Department of Fisheries in Vancouver by Allied Shipbuilders, she was then put on a rail car and shipped to Waterways Alberta Captain DeLancey finished her refit. Then he sailed her down the Slave River to Bell Rock NWT where she was portaged over Bell Rock and then on to the Great Slave Lake. She plied the waters of the Great Slave Lake as a patrol vessel with Hay River as her home port for the next 34 years at which time she was sold to Robert Steen, Tuktoyaktuk NWT and used a a crew tender in the Beaufort Sea for a number of years. She now is on the west coast and is owned by Henry Buitendyk and is home ported in Nanaimo BC. We have many fond memories of going on patrol with my father over the years as we grew up.


The Fisheries Canada patrol vessel Marila (ON 198656) (Photo from DeLancey collection)

Our dad was very reluctant to retire when he did because his love for the lake was so profound. He earned the respect of the fishermen on the lake because he was a fair man. He knew that working as a fisherman on the lake was no easy task and rather than seizing a man’s gear because he was fishing in restricted waters he would allow them to move to the proper area and continue fishing. In the winter, conditions were very harsh and the fishery officers would live in the back of a Bombardier or a small shack that they would pull behind it. It was not an easy life for them nor for the fishermen but our dad loved it none the less.

Our father also had a love for his market garden which we had on our property 8 miles outside of the Town of Hay River. While he was away on patrol it was our job to take care of the 10 acres of garden which was no easy chore, to this day I do not have a garden! Dad was also a ham radio operator and this was something he did well on after his retirement after moving to Westlock Alberta in 1987. Dad passed away in 2000 at the age of 85 doing another of his loved hobbies, motor biking. He was killed instantly in an accident just north of Edmonton and my older brother and I had the honor of going back to the Great Slave Lake and with the assistance of the Fisheries Department members who took us out into the lake, where we spread Dad’s ashes at his request on the waters of the lake he loved so much.

Don followed in my Dad’s footsteps for a time in the 1970s when he took a job on board the MV Angus Sherwood, a 700 ton flat bottom tug boat owned by Northern Transportation Company working out of Hay River NT. They sailed up the Mackenzie River and worked in the Beaufort Sea and in Eastern Arctic waters. He worked in the engine room for two seasons as an Oiler, but never pursued that as a career afterwards. Don has lived in Leduc Alberta since the mid 1970s and the closest thing he has to a marine life is a beautiful 16 foot cedar strip canoe for use in the waters of the North Saskatchewan River.

To quote from this article please cite:

DeLancey, Don & Jim (2012) Captain Arthur Langley DeLancey – Northern Canada Freshwater Mariner. 2012.

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