Notes from the Northwest Passage
Episode 9: 100 dives later
July 26, 2011
Episode 9: 100 dives later
Transcription prepared by Media Q Inc. exclusively for Parks Canada
Transcription préparée par Media Q Inc. exclusivement pour Parcs Canada
DATE/DATE: July 26, 2011
LOCATION/ENDROIT: Event, OTTAWA, ON
PRINCIPAL(S)/PRINCIPAUX: Ryan Harris, Underwater Archaeology Service, Parks Canada
SUBJECT/SUJET: Notes from the Northwest Passage - Episode 9: 100 dives later.
Narrator: You’re listening to Notes from the Northwest Passage, an audio blog from Parks Canada archaeologists working in the Arctic to uncover history’s mysteries related to the early exploration of Canada’s north.
Ryan Harris: Hello, this is Ryan Harris, Underwater Archaeology Service, Parks Canada reporting from Polar Bear Cabin in Aulavik National Park. Half of our field team has already boarded the twin otter aircraft en route to Inuvik and the rest of us are just packing up the remaining gear and getting ready to leave ourselves.
It was one year ago today in fact that the wreck of HMS Investigator was first detected by Parks Canada using tow side-scan sonar. And already, we are wrapping up our first field campaign diving on the site but which saw a very successful series of over 100 dives being conducted on the wreck. Overall, it’s a quite remarkable success and this is owing to the fantastic weather that we’ve enjoyed over the last couple of weeks in Mercy Bay, quite different from what we saw last year. And we’re almost astonished to see that the Bay is virtually clear of ice and may be clear for some time still.
Apart from that, the visibility in the water was quite different than we saw it last year. We saw the really clear conditions and thought that might be the norm, but perhaps it was the exception rather than the rule and we are unable to account for why we weren’t able to see as clearly underwater. But that didn’t keep us from completing many of our archaeological objectives.
First and foremost, we completed the preliminary mapping of the entire site and this was undertaken using a variety of means, including photo, graphic mosaics and video mosaics, manual recording with tape measures and rulers, plumb bobs, as well as acoustic mapping with sonar. We also completed a number of internal hull inspections using a point of view high definition camera system and while it’s hard to make much sense of the jumble of things inside and given the darkness, it reveals a number of class structures and including elements of some water type bulkheads and it further revealed the large accumulation of sediment that has filled up, at least halfway up to the space between the lower and the upper deck beams
This all bodes very, very well for the preservation of the substantial number of artefacts that undoubtedly is in tune within the hull. It seems that everywhere that we looked, we were finding artefacts in plain sight. And that was one of the remarkable aspects of diving on this particular shipwreck site. It’s every time you’d noticed something new, generally several things that you hadn’t noticed in the dives before and so there was just a surprise or two every time that you dive in and it was quite, quite a sight to behold, a truly serene experience, surreal experience really. Taking advantage of the weather, we were often diving at, you know, midnight or 1, 2 even 3 o’clock in the morning and diving in waters that were than zero degrees Celsius. At that time of day, this northern latitude is something none of us will ever forget.
We also completed a variety of sampling protocols, including a biological water quality sampling like some sediments from the deck for further analysis and also sampled some of the dripping rust or iron kind of secretions that are very colourful and seen oozing for the plates up in the bow of the ship. And these will all be subject to analysis in the coming months.
Perhaps the highlight however of the project was the number of artefacts that we were able to recover and these were recovered for a variety of reasons. Either they were gravely exposed and subject to threat from the, from the ice grinding down on the hull or they’re of pretty good diagnostic value or they were just remarkable in their ability to tell us something about the expedition. Nineteen artefacts were collected in all, including three pieces of footwear, including an almost complete shoe, a large piece of copper hull sheathing was retrieved from the port side of the ship, an intact piece of the bottom felt used to insulate between the copper hull sheathing and the hull collected intact. Three complete blocks and a cleat from the ship’s rigging and a small pane of window glass heavily scratched which we suspect might come from the skylight that once was positioned overhead the gun room where the officers used to dine. But the most exquisite artefact that was recovered was a percussion cap rifle intact, except for the barrel itself and with a number of interesting markings which we’re going to analyse.
All in all, from the, you know, the two weeks spent diving in the site, we recovered an enormous amount of archaeological data which is going to take many, many months to thoroughly digest and analyse. So that’s what’s going to occupy us for the coming months. We don’t know when we’ll revisit the site of HMS Investigator again, but we’re fairly confident we will at some point, but there’s a lot of archaeological work to take place in the meantime.
So I’ll sign off with that. This is Ryan Harris, Underwater Archaeology Service, Parks Canada, the conclusion of our 2011 underwater archaeological survey of the site of HMS Investigator.
This audio program was a production of Parks Canada, an agency of the Government of Canada responsible for Canada’s national parks, national marine conservation areas and many of Canada’s national historic sites. To learn more about Parks Canada, to download more podcasts and to find accessible transcripts of our podcasts please visit the Parks Canada website at www.parkscanada.gc.ca.
The contents of this audio file are the copyright of Parks Canada 2011. This podcast series is also available in French on i-Tunes as well as the Parks Canada’s website. Ce balado est également disponible en français sur i-Tunes de même que le site web de Parcs Canada. Thanks for listening.