UVic research engineer Alison Proctor kneels beside a Bluefin-12 AUV used this past summer to search for lost ships of the Sir John Franklin expedition in 1845.

Franklin’s ships remain lost

UVic ocean lab team returns from Northwest Passage search mission

In 1845, 129 men set sail on Sir John Franklin’s HMS Terror and HMS Erebus to explore the Northwest Passage and find a safe route from Europe to the Orient.

The Franklin expedition was meant to last three years but after just 18 months, the vessels disappeared. While some artifacts were located in known archeological sites on Nunavut’s King William Island during a month-long summer search, evidence of the ships themselves has yet to be found.

From Aug. 24 to Sept. 21, robotics experts from the University of Victoria’s ocean technology laboratory, including research engineer and team leader Alison Proctor, ventured into the arctic archipelago during Parks Canada’s fourth mission to unlock the mystery of what happened to the elusive ships.

Proctor was a part of a three-person engineering and operating team from the lab who worked alongside representatives from the seven participating groups on the Sir Wilfred Laurier and the Martin Bergmann vessels. Proctor collected data through the Bluefin-12 AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle), a fully autonomous submarine which uses side scan sonar imagery to search the seafloor for any characteristics that might suggest wreckage.

Following an early morning launch, the crew would survey for as much time as the weather would allow, usually logging 17-hour days. Summer temperates off King William Island, comparable to winters on the West Coast, weren’t an issue, but high winds were.

“It’s not that cold at all, but the water temperature is quite cold, so you can’t go swimming and you don’t want to fall in the water,” she said.

The team didn’t uncover any stand out features in the sonar data – either relating to shape, size, or patterns which would suggest a man-made object – but Proctor isn’t giving up. The data is now being analyzed by Parks Canada and the researcher says it’s just a matter of time before they uncover the evidence they’re looking for.

“Parks Canada picks the (search areas) with the highest probability, but it’s a big ocean and we have a very large survey area,” Proctor said. “While I have no doubt that it will be found, it could take a while. I think eventually somebody will find remnants and figure it out.

“The sonar is very precise, but we won’t necessarily use this technology to find it,” Proctor added. “If it takes 10 more years, who knows what the technology will be at that time? There’s an infinite number of possible outcomes here.”

Proctor was happy with how the Bluefin-12 performed, but said it will likely undergo modifications for future expeditions, should the lab be asked to return with the $800,000-vehicle on future polar expeditions.

The combined sea bed surveys led by Canadian Hydrographic Service, which worked closely with Parks Canada and UVic, covered 424.3 square kilometres. The survey vessels travelled a total line distance of more than 4,200 kilometres, covering the distance of almost two-thirds of Canada.

The Canadian Space Agency, Canadian Ice Service, the Government of Nunavut and Environment Canada were also involved in the search.

“Along with our attempts to locate HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, this project continues to be successful due to the collaborative nature of our work,” said Ryan Harris, underwater archaeologist with with Parks Canada.

“Together, our combined expertise and equipment is allowing for the mapping and charting of this region, leading to safe, navigable waters, while systematically narrowing the search for the lost Franklin vessels.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

 

Just Posted

Governing bodies accused of ‘destroying’ girls’ hockey by Island’s top team

When asked for advice hockey dad says ‘put your girls in soccer’

Guns could use smartphone-style fingerprint locks in near future

Startups looking to outflank traditional gun manufacturers using tech knowhow

Economic inequality, immigration still need work in Victoria: Prosperity index

Housing, environmental health factors show improvements in 2019: report

Victoria City Councillor Laurel Collins wins federal NDP nomination

Collins will run for Victoria in the upcoming federal election

WATCH: Soon-to-be guide dogs take part in the Amazing Puppy Race

10 puppies training to be guide dogs took part in a social Easter egg hunt

Victoria church bells toll in solidarity with Notre Dame Cathedral after devastating fire

Churches around the globe ring bells to honour iconic Paris cathedral

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Howe Sound Queen sailing toward retirement

Vessel now up for auction ends regular runs between Crofton and Vesuvius at the beginning of June

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Most Read