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Northern surveyor explored new frontiers

Ben Morgan
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, July 02, 2008

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Just five weeks after graduating from high school, Lorne McNeice began a love affair with the North, doing survey work in some of the most remote locations of Canada's Arctic frontier.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Surveyor Lorne McNeice puts on a new hat - a gift given to him from his office staff - at a farewell send-off on June 27. - Ben Morgan/NNSL photo

It was something he dreamed of while growing up on the prairies.

Throughout his career, McNeice surveyed parts of northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, Yukon and NWT and in Nunavut he travelled as far as Ellesmere Island - where he saw muskoxen and Arctic hare.

On nearby Devon Island, he encountered an "alien" expedition - the NASA Mars program - whose members shared their knowledge of a region that most resembled the surface of another planet.

McNeice said nothing can beat surveying work on the frontier.

"It's a pretty rugged thing to do. You have to walk all day and carry bundles of steel posts. It's quite a bit of exercise," he said.

He surveyed land claims and mineral stakes and even worked on the Matonabee subdivision project in Yellowknife back in the 1970s.

Eventually he settled in Yellowknife, gaining several years' experience in the industry. He rose quickly to the rank of deputy surveyor general for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Now he's retiring and moving back to the prairies.

"We'll miss him, that's for sure," said Andrew Brebner, who worked with McNeice at the regional office for Canada Centre for Cadastral Management in the Greenstone building.

McNeice has spent most of his life in the North - a place he said is full of spectacular sights.

"Those were some of the most memorable moments - climbing mountains or just watching the barrens," he said.

Technology used in surveying was changing just as he began his career.

"It took 20 minutes to do the measurement, then another 20 minutes to do the calculation," he said, "now you just push the button."

City development is expected when you work in the survey field, he said, and he's not surprised that Yellowknife has grown into what it is today. But over the span of his career in the North McNeice did notice a change in the weather.

"In the '70s the summers were always dry and sunny, there was hardly ever any cloud or rain during the day. When it started to change it was a surprise," he said.

Yellowknife and the north will always have a place in his heart.

"It's a special place," he declared.

Regardless of retirement, he won't be far away in spirit.

He plans to stay in touch with his NWT contacts. Consulting work, he said, may be his next stop on the horizon.