Divers in the water
Course offered in Qikiqtarjuaq

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Qikiqtarjuaq (Jun 19/00) - Nunavut's first occupational diving course will likely mean that four Qikiqtarjuaq clam divers will be working under the ice by the end of the month.

The $114,000 course is being offered to the four men in their home community by an instructor from the British Columbia-based Canadian Diving Group, which is affiliated with the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

The four men began the 20-day diving course two weeks ago. Both the hamlet and the dive agency said it made sense to hold it in Qikiqtarjuaq.

"The bulk of the diving done here is under the ice, and we organized it so the men would train in the environment they would be working in," said hamlet senior administrative officer Don Pickle.

Pickle was instrumental in arranging the course after the men were shut down earlier this year by the Worker's Compensation Board for harvesting and selling clams with only a recreational licence.

Perseverance by both the divers and Pickle resulted in getting funding from the Department of Sustainable Development, the Kakivak Association and Community Government and Transportation.

"The divers are very excited and happy to be starting to dive again," said Pickle.

And according to the chief operations officer of the Canadian Diving Group, Geoff Greenwell, the course is a pilot project.

"There is enormous potential for divers in the North -- harvesting, the diamond mines, aquaculture -- and this course will explore the possibilities," said Greenwell, who will be auditing the course.

"Because we can't replicate the conditions in a southern environment, it made more sense to bring an instructor up, ship in the equipment and have him available on weekends and evenings for assistance."