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.

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

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gabriel Swift, 23, is one of three Victoria filmmakers chosen to receive $20,000 Telus Storyhive grants to produce Local Heroes documentaries. (Courtesy of Gabriel Swift)
Three Victoria filmmakers producing ‘local heroes’ documentaries with $20,000 grants

Telus Storyhive providing $20,000 to 40 Western Canada productions

Goldstream Food Bank president Gayle Ireland is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Local Hero as Community Volunteer of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Two-week stint at Goldstream Food Bank turns into 35 years of volunteer service

Goldstream Food Bank’s Gayle Ireland is the 2021 Community Volunteer of the Year

Council has recommended that the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) approve a cannabis retail application by Buds Cannabis. It plans to open the store in the 9700-block of Second Street. It would be the business’ second outlet (it has an outlet in Central Saanich) and the second such business in Sidney. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney recommends approval of licence for second pot shop

Councillors also push back against public concerns about Sidney’s image

From right: Brad Cameron, BCEHS superintendent of patient care delivery for Greater Victoria, with primary care paramedics Em Funk, Tyrone Trotter, Fiona Galvin and Peter Hill at the Leigh Road station. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore paramedics didn’t waver when faced with COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Emergency Health Services personnel are this year’s Courage and Bravery Award recipients

February is Black History Month. (Photo: Government of Canada)
Camosun College highlighting Black content with research guide during Black History Month

The collection includes a range of works by Black authors and creators

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

Most Read