Deadly Frontiers: Disaster and Rescue on Canada's Atlantic Seaboard


216 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Index
ISBN 0-86492-311-2
DDC 363.34'81'09715





Reviewed by Gordon Turner

Gordon Turner is the author of Empress of Britain: Canadian Pacific’s
Greatest Ship and the editor of SeaFare, a quarterly newsletter on sea


Their stories are the stuff of high drama. Search-and-rescue
technicians, or “sartechs” in military jargon, descend on swaying
ropes from aging helicopters into raging seas to rescue half-drowned
freighter crews. Or maybe the sartechs set out inland by chopper to
rescue a pilot from a plane that has made a forced landing far from the
nearest airfield. Or a group of trained
civilians—“groundpounders”—assemble to search for a child that
has wandered into the bush and failed to return home. The stories make
the headlines and provide memorable television clips for a few days,
then fade away until the next urgent call arrives.

Dean Beeby is an experienced journalist who has made an intensive study
of his topic. His accounts of three high-profile incidents—the crash
of Swissair Flight 111, the sinking of the freighter Flare, and the
ground search for the missing nine-year-old Andy Warburton—form the
core of this compulsively readable book. More than this, though, the
author takes the reader behind the scenes. He describes the training of
search-and-rescue personnel, both military and civilian, who seek
constantly to improve their techniques and thus their rescue rates. He
writes of the emergency organizations whose command structures have not
always been integrated satisfactorily when cooperation was essential. He
describes the efforts of sartechs who must contend with helicopters that
each year become more outdated and less reliable. Replacements have been
promised, but the reality is that obsolete helicopters still remain in
service because of the federal government’s waffling on buying new

The author has interviewed the people who have made search and rescue
an increasingly sophisticated and successful procedure. He has woven
their powerful accounts and his own pointed observations into a book
that tells a compelling story of lessons learned, lives lost, and, above
all, lives saved.


Beeby, Dean., “Deadly Frontiers: Disaster and Rescue on Canada's Atlantic Seaboard,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024,