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Deadly Frontiers

Deadly Frontiers

Disaster can strike without notice. In a split-second the forces of nature, human intervention, or a simple twist of fate can place lives in jeopardy. A ship sinks, a plane crashes, a child wanders deep into the forest. Death is imminent, except for the bravery and persistence of small groups of men and women who enter these dark frontiers as rescuers. Of course they fail sometimes — but often they return with the near dead, plucking them from the hungry jaws of disaster. Written by veteran newsman Dean Beeby, Deadly Frontiers: Disaster and Rescue on Canada's Atlantic Seaboard tells the stories of real-life heroes, and of the bureaucracy and bungling that threaten their lives and those they have sworn to save.

In Deadly Frontiers, Dean Beeby deals with the chilling question of Canada's preparedness for disaster, as he investigates the most significant events in the contemporary history of search and rescue. Canada occupies a unique position in the rarified world of search and rescue. The second-largest country on the planet, Canada has three jagged coastlines, an immense internal wilderness, and a vast Arctic to swallow hapless travellers. Since the Second World War, Canada's East Coast has been the crucible for modern search-and-rescue techniques and equipment. This hard-won experience has been driven mostly by disaster, from the 1982 sinking of the Ocean Ranger oil rig off Newfoundland to numerous cargo-vessel disappearances in the 1990s, including the Protektor, Gold Bond Conveyor, Marika, and Vanessa. Ground search and rescue, a special branch of this culture, was reborn in 1986 during the protracted search for a lost child in the forests north of Halifax. Swissair Flight 111 plunged into waters off Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia in 1998, triggering a massive search-and-recovery effort, as well as a fundamental rethinking of emergency response. The worst disaster within the search-and-rescue community itself was the 1998 crash in Quebec of a Labrador helicopter from Greenwood, Nova Scotia, leaving six rescue specialists dead among the charred wreckage.

In Deadly Frontiers, author Dean Beeby examines official documents, forensic evidence, and the personal histories of those involved in these cases and more. His book is a frank examination of how Canada's tragedies and triumphs have helped forge a professional search-and-rescue culture that is second to none.


Dean Beeby was born in Halifax and grew up in Edmonton, Kingston, Kitchener, Dorval, and Toronto. He earned a BA in history from York University and a MA in history from the University of Toronto. He has been a career journalist since 1981, joining the Canadian Press in 1983. In 1987/88 he covered Parliament Hill for CP, and in 1988 he became their Toronto Business Editor. He has lived in Halifax since 1990 where he is the Canadian Press Bureau Chief for the Atlantic region. Dean Beeby is a recognized authority on search and rescue. As a journalist, he has covered many disasters including the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111, for which CP Atlantic Bureau won a National Newspaper Award. Beeby is the author of In a Crystal Land: Canadian Explorers in Antarctica and Cargo of Lies: The True Story of a Nazi Double Agent in Canada. He has been a contributor to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, The Canadian Encyclopedia, and the journal Ontario History. In 1987, he was co-editor of Moscow Despatches: Inside Cold War Russia. Beeby is an ardent advocate and user of freedom of information laws, including the federal Access to Information Act. He has been a speaker and panelist at numerous conferences and seminars, including those organized by the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Newspaper Association and the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

"A gripping account of disaster and rescue on Canada's East Coast... a chronicle of heroism and heartbreak... With more than a decade of experience covering disasters, a lot of research and interviews, and documents obtained under the Access of Information Act, Beeby brings a new approach to his in-depth retelling of these events... Beeby writes with sensitivity balanced by hard-edged journalism." — Canadian Press

215 pages
Pub date: September 24, 2001