In 1996, University of Calgary students Karin Clark, Cory Hetherington, Chris O'Neil, and Jana Zavitz, spent weeks conducting over 100 interviews to research the effects of oil and gas exploration in the Canadian Arctic. Findings from these interviews formed the basis for their book Breaking Ice with Finesse: Oil & Gas Exploration in the Canadian Arctic, published in 1997. The authors promise the reader “a renewed sense of Canada’s spirit of technological innovation, frontier and homeland practical expertise, and ‘can do’ enthusiasm.”
Among those interviewed were government officials, corporate managers, and industry employees. The study focused primarily on the five major corporations: Dome Petroleum Limited, Gulf Canada Resources Limited, Panarctic Oils Ltd., Arctic Transportation Company Ltd. (ATL), and Imperial Oil Resources Limited and its subsidiaries, Esso Resources Canada Ltd. and Esso Petroleum Canada. Subsidiaries of Dome—Canadian Marine Drilling Ltd. (Canmar)—and Gulf—Beaudril  Limited (Beaudril)—were also represented. Technology, employment, and training programs were discussed.
Business owners and citizens from the communities of Tuktoyaktuk, Fort McPherson, Aklavik and Inuvik were interviewed. Local residents recalled how traditional culture and Northern lifestyle were impacted by oil and gas development. Interview topics encompassed the social, environmental and economic impacts of prospecting in the Beaufort Sea and the Canadian offshore oil and gas industry.
The collection is one part of The Arctic Technology Preservation Project which was established to preserve the wealth of knowledge and technological information developed and tested during the intense period of exploration between 1970 and 1985. This background information is considered important to future researchers. The oral history part of the project was initiated with the aim to preserve the memories of individuals involved in Arctic energy exploration, to provide broader context surrounding the industry’s vast collection of documented information. Key pioneers of the Beaufort Sea energy exploration era shared their anecdotes and personal recollections of their experiences in these tape-recorded interviews in 1996. These interviews became the AINA “Breaking Ice with Finesse” Interview Tape Collection, which includes printed notes pertaining to the interviews.
For further information see: Clark, Karin. Breaking Ice with Finesse: Oil & Gas Exploration in the Canadian Arctic. Arctic Institute of North America, 1997.