The delightful arrow shaped town of Jasper is surrounded by glacial lakes. A meandering road through the rolling hills leads to two of the prettiest – Patricia and Pyramid Lakes. With a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, surrounded by thickets of Douglas fir and with crystal clear waters, today the two lakes make for idyllic picnic locations with panoramic vistas but during World War II, Patricia Lake was the location for a highly secret project.
With British ships being sunk at an alarming rate by German submarines in the Atlantic, an eccentric scientist named Pyke convinced authorities that he could make attack-resistant ships from ice. A hole in an ice ship from a missile could be easily repaired by adding more water and quickly freezing it. As mad as it sounds, the idea of an unsinkable battleship developed enough with Churchill’s approval for a prototype aircraft carrier to be built on Patricia Lake under the name Project Habakkuk. A 1:50 model ship was constructed with a mix of water and sawdust (called pykrete).
So solid was the pykrete ship that one story goes that in a demonstration of its solid base that a bullet fired into it rebounded almost striking the US Fleet Admiral. However practicalities sunk the project with lots of wood being required for each ship, costs being much greater than a conventional ship and the war developing to a point where the Allies were reaching a point of supremacy.
Enthusiastic divers can brave the icy waters and dive the remaining refrigeration parts of Project Habakkuk along with an underwater commemorative marker – the ship taking most of a following summer to finally sink.