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Parks Canada 2010 Arctic Surveys

Notes from the Field

Erebus and Terror Search – Update - August 16, 2010

Preparation of the survey launches takes place on the Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s deck, as seen from atop the bridge Preparation of the survey launches takes place on the Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s deck, as seen from atop the bridge
© Parks Canada

Following the Investigator project, Ryan Harris and Jonathan Moore joined the crew of CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Canadian Hydrographic Service team members at Kugluktuk (Nunavut). This rendezvous took place on August 10, 2010 during a scheduled Coast Guard crew change. Arriving crew members, supernumeraries (as guests aboard the ship are termed), equipment and supplies were flown onto the anchored icebreaker by the ship’s helicopter. The ship continued the next leg of its 2010 Arctic patrol and travelled eastwards along the south side of Victoria Island. For the following five days the ship’s crew conducted maintenance work on navigation aids between Dease Strait and Cambridge Bay. There was a brief diversion for a search and rescue (SAR) call that was soon cancelled.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier crewmembers Joseph Abelson (left) and Mark Kelly work on the survey launch Kinglett Sir Wilfrid Laurier crewmembers Joseph Ableson (left) and Mark Kelly work on the survey launch Kinglett © Parks Canada

During this time, the Canadian Hydrographic Service and Parks Canada teams readied two survey launches Gannet and Kinglett with the assistance of the ship’s crew. On August 15 the launches were put into the water for the first time, tested, and the Canadian Hydrographic Service team carried out some survey work in the approaches to Cambridge Bay. By the morning of August 16 the Sir Wilfrid Laurier was at Jenny Lind Island, situated between Victoria Island and the Royal Geographical Society Islands. Further navigation aid maintenance and survey tasks will be carried out here.


HMS Erebus and HMS Terror Search -- Update -- August 19, 2010

During the first week aboard the vessel, Sir Wilfrid Laurier has covered a lot of ground, with the crew members from both Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) busy with efforts to ensure safe navigational routes for the Arctic waters in this region. The CHS continued its work from the survey launches primarily conducting bathymetric survey work, while the CCG crew focused their efforts on installing and servicing navigation aids. Upon completion of work at Jenny Lind Island, Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier continued eastward.

Launch Gannet Launch Gannet off O’Reilly Island on approach to the day’s search area.
© Parks Canada

Weather and general working conditions have been favourable and the icebreaker is now in the targeted search area for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Ice charts of the Queen Maud Gulf have been examined regularly to determine the viability of conducting the survey work and, weather conditions are always top of mind as they can change drastically and with little notice in the Arctic.

With the two Canadian Hydrographic survey launches, Gannet and Kinglett readied prior to arrival, the marine search began immediately with a side-scan sonar deployed from each launch. The side-scan sonar is towed from the stern of the launch vessel, offering an acoustic image of the sea floor. During surveys with the side-scan sonar, our team will systematically cover as much of the targeted area as possible, while overlapping search corridors. This methodology will provide a composite image of the area and can confirm the presence of any shipwreck remains on the sea floor. The side-scan sonar to be used for this survey is the same equipment used for the recent locating of HMS Investigator off the shores of Aulavik National Park, in Mercy Bay, Northwest Territories.

The team expects to conduct long-days of surveying to maximize the allotted time for being in the targeted search area. If weather conditions remain good, each day will likely consist of 16-hours of survey time, leaving little time for sleeping and eating. This critical focus on the survey work will keep our communications at a minimum, however updates will continue to be provided as time allows.