HMS Investigator and McClure's Cache
Spotlight on Technology
The Underwater Archaeology Service (UAS) is a recognized Parks Canada Centre of Expertise, bringing together archaeological and technical capability for the investigation, evaluation, and protection of Canada’s underwater cultural heritage. Over its almost fifty year history the team’s scientific divers have discovered and explored thousands of underwater archaeological sites throughout Canada. As the country’s foremost underwater archaeology team, it is best known for its work on historic shipwrecks. In this time, team members have collectively amassed tens of thousands of diving hours, have undertaken the largest underwater archaeological excavations in the country, and have developed unparalleled experience in underwater archaeology in Canada.
The UAS employs a multitude of methods and techniques, ranging from routine diving inspections to more sophisticated remote sensing surveys to comprehensive and meticulous site excavations. The team has developed particular expertise in the study of shipwrecks from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries and has cultivated a world-class proficiency in their discovery, survey, excavation and presentation to the public. The UAS works closely with other Parks Canada teams and regularly operates in remote and challenging settings along Canada’s Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts as well in the nation’s lakes, rivers and minor water bodies. Most of its work is in National Parks, National Historic Sites, and National Marine Conservation Areas, but is also called upon by provincial and territorial governments for advice.
Parks Canada has been doing archaeology for decades and our archaeologists contribute greatly to understanding the fabric of Canada’s history. Several dozen archaeologists work across the country to investigate traces of the past in National Parks, National Historic Sites and National Marine Conservation Areas. All together, over ten thousand sites have been documented from coast to coast to coast. Parks archaeologists have pioneered many methods and techniques of the archaeology of historic structures, such as forts and fur trade posts, as well as the underwater archaeology of shipwrecks. Notable excavations include those at L’Anse aux Meadows, at Louisbourg, and under the Dufferin Terrace in Quebec City.
Today, our archaeologists often work in partnership with Aboriginal communities who have much traditional knowledge about their history , and we invite the public to participate in our digs. After work in the field is completed, teams of conservators clean and stabilize the excavated artefacts, and the archaeologists write reports describing what they have learned. These results feed into management plans for our lands and interpretative programs for the public. Over 30 million artefacts are safeguarded in our laboratories. Many more are displayed at park visitor centres and historic sites where they help tell stories of Canada’s past.