UVic’s Researchers Use AUVs to Seek for Missing Vessels in Arctic

UVic's Researchers Use AUVs to Seek for Missing Vessels in Arctic

Researchers from the University of Victoria, Canada (UVic), will be in the Arctic this summer with their autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to assist Parks Canada as it continues its search for the lost ships of Sir John Franklin.

Underwater archeologists from Parks Canada have recently spent three field seasons searching for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which disappeared during the British explorer’s 1845 mission to chart the Northwest Passage. None of the 129 men on board survived and although traces of the expedition have been found, the ships’ final resting places remain unknown.

Parks Canada is expanding the scope of its investigation this year with new partners, vessels and instrumentation to cover more area over an approximate four weeks rather than the six days of surveying done in past years.

UVic’s Ocean Technology Lab’s AUV is equipped with a bathymetric side-scan sonar system to gather three-dimensional data about the ocean floor that can be used to identify items of archeological interest and also for charting by the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

“This collaboration with Parks Canada offers incredible learning opportunities for graduate students in our lab and also showcases the type of work we’re able to do,” says Dr. Colin Bradley, a mechanical engineer and director of the Ocean Technology Lab.

“Among the challenges, will be navigating the torpedo-shaped vehicle in the northern waters where the magnetic field is erratic,” says research engineer and team leader Alison Proctor. “That’s an integral part of our navigation system and these are uncharted waters, so we are uncertain what to expect.”

Team members will spend 12 to 14 hours a day on the water operating the AUV from a 16-foot boat that will be launched daily from a Canadian Coast Guard vessel and a research vessel provided by the Arctic Research Foundation. Other collaborators include the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Canadian Space Agency, Canadian Ice Service, the Government of Nunavut and Environment Canada.

UVic acquired the AUV in 2009 with funding from the Western Economic Diversification Canada. For the last six months, the AUV has been used by the VENUS coastal network, part of the Ocean Networks Canada Observatory, in Saanich Inlet.


Subsea World News Staff, August 29, 2012; Image: UVic