Canadian Consulting Engineer

Stantec research supports preservation of Franklin Expedition shipwrecks

January 24, 2024

HMS Erebus wreck

Photo courtesy Stantec.

Consulting engineering firm Stantec is supporting Parks Canada’s efforts to research and preserve the Franklin Expedition’s shipwrecks in Nunavut.

Through a local Indigenous business partnership, Nunami Stantec, the firm has used hydrological and storm modelling to produce a numerical model for Parks Canada of wind and wave patterns that pose climate change-related threats to the two 19th-century wrecks—HMS Erebus and HMS Terror—in the Arctic Ocean.

The ships are tied to Sir John Franklin’s expedition, whose crew of 129 left England in 1845 in search of a Northwest Passage and went missing in 1846. What exactly happened on their journey remains unknown, but the wrecks were discovered in 2014 and 2016 near King William Island (also known as Qikiqtaq) in 2014 and 2016, using a combination of traditional Inuit knowledge and modern technology. They were added to the National Historic Sites of Canada Order in 2015 and 2017, ensuring legal protection under the Canada National Parks Act.

Earlier this week, Parks Canada released the results of its 2023 seasonal archaeological research for the site, which included the recovery of numerous artifacts. The study area focused on the region of eastern Queen Maud Gulf (also known as Ugřulik) and Wilmot and Crampton Bay and the western approaches to Simpson Strait and Terror Bay.


“Stantec is excited to help Parks Canada and its Inuit partners understand the environmental threats to these pieces of history,” says Darren Kipping, underwater archaeologist and Stantec’s manager for the project. “Understanding what those potential impacts are now and in the future can assist in the study and management of the site.”

Parks Canada’s underwater archaeologists took thousands of high-quality images during the research period. In collaboration with local Inuit, they are now trying to unravel the mystery of the lost expedition by examining the wrecks and their remaining artifacts.

Both wrecks are located in relatively shallow water and exposed to storm events, waves, erosion and sedimentation. Stantec’s research will help determine the severity of such events in the project area through 2050. This information will be used in subsequent modelling to determine the likelihood, frequency and risk of future environmental stressors.

“We appreciate the work of the Stantec team, who provided invaluable research to support understanding of the weather-induced threats to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in quantifiable terms,” says Jonathan Moore, manager of Parks Canada’s underwater archaeology team. “Their expertise with hydrological and storm modelling has helped us to better understand the environmental conditions surrounding these sites.”

Established in 2006, Nunami Stantec is a majority Inuit-owned consulting company based in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.


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