Robert L. Christie (1926-1999)


  • Walter W. Nassichuk



Geology, Geologists, Biographies, Christie, Robert Loring, 1926-1999, Natural history, Expeditions, Explorers, Geological Survey of Canada, Economic geology, Canadian Arctic Islands, British Columbia, Northern, Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, Nunavut, Ellesmere Island, Canadian Arctic


... Bob will be remembered for a broad range of geological achievements in western and Arctic Canada, as well as in Greenland, achievements documented by nearly 100 maps and reports published in scientific journals. ... Bob was undoubtedly the kindest and gentlest man I have ever known, and his family and friends were the special delights of his life. ... Bob discovered the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) even before he went to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to study geology. ... He thrived in the outdoors, particularly in strenuous activities like rock climbing, mountain skiing, and backpacking. Moreover, he loved the beauty of nature, especially the mountains above tree line and the ocean. ... He was inventive and could fix anything: repairing a tent, a broken radio or compass, or a leaky boat was child's play to Bob. ... Bob's long career as an Arctic geologist began on northern Ellesmere Island in 1954, when he joined a team headed by Geoff Hattersley-Smith and jointly sponsored by the Defence Research Board of Canada and the United States Air Force Cambridge Research Centre. ... Using skis and a dog-hauled sledge, Bob made the first geological reconnaissance from Ward Hunt Island to Lands Lokk, where only a few early explorers had been before. In spite of severe weather and harsh travel conditions, Hattersley-Smith remembers Bob's cheerful stoicism, his tolerance, and his tact, but cannot recall a single cross word or disagreement for the entire six months. ... My most memorable and pleasant field seasons in the Arctic were in 1962, 1963, and 1966, when I served as Bob's assistant, mainly in fly camps. I remember the excitement of learning new things from Bob each day, about Arctic history, Inuit life, plants, animals, and astronomy, as well as geology. I hoped that the end of each field season could be delayed as long as possible. Each day would begin with Bob's favorite breakfast, his legendary "raisin porridge," and it would end with his summarizing our scientific observations for the day with extensive, well-illustrated notes. ... In addition to being well prepared, well organized, and an outstanding but modest teacher in the field, he was always jovial. I can't remember a single cross word between us or a single day that we couldn't find something to laugh about. In addition to pursuing his own objectives in the field, Bob was always thinking about data that we might gather for colleagues interested in subjects beyond his own area of specialization. ... In the early 1980s, in addition to his Arctic work, Bob began to study the economic potential of phosphate rocks in Canada. Through extensive fieldwork in western and Arctic Canada and in the United States, he soon established himself as an authority on the subject. ... In recognition of Bob's scientific leadership and his broad knowledge of Arctic geology, he was assigned two other major projects in the 1980s both of which he completed with distinction. First, in 1984 and 1985, he updated the geology of Melville Island through incorporation and synthesis of new surface and subsurface geological and geophysical data to assist in the exploration for petroleum and minerals. Second, his compilation of the geology of Melville Island, with contributions from 16 other scientists, was published in 1994 as GSC Bulletin 450. ... Finally, Bob was seconded to the Polar Continental Shelf Project in 1990. ... Bob realized at that point that his Arctic career had come full circle: it had all started on the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf with Geoff Hattersley-Smith some 36 years earlier. ... For 38 years I have been warmed by the gift of Bob's friendship in my life. He has left a profound and indelible mark on all of us who knew him, and he has left an equally powerful imprint on the geology of the Arctic, a land he truly loved. ...