Erebus Technical Briefing: Full Transcript

Parks Canada has now provided a full French and English transcript of the  Technical Brief on the upcoming Erebus ice dive project. This fully covers the participants and the press questions.



Transcription prepared by Media Q Inc. exclusively for Parks Canada

Transcription préparée par Media Q Inc. exclusivement pour Parcs Canada 

DATE/DATE:  March 6, 2015 11:00 a.m.

LOCATION/ENDROIT: Teleconference, Ottawa Ontario

PRINCIPAL(S)/PRINCIPAUX: Mélissa Larose, Moderator;

Rear Admiral John Newton, Commander, Joint Task Force, Atlantic, Maritime Forces Atlantic;

Lieutenant-Commander Stephan Julien, Commanding Officer, Atlantic Deep Diving Unit;

Marc-André Bernier, Chief, Underwater Archaeology Team from Parks Canada;

Jeff Anderson, Vice-President, Operations Western and Northern Canada, Parks Canada.

SUBJECT/SUJET: Spokespersons from Parks Canada, in collaboration with National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces, Hold a Technical Briefing Regarding the Recently Announced Winter Dives on HMS Erebus as part of Operation NUNALIVUT 2015.

Operator: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the technical briefing spring dive conference call.  I would now like to turn the meeting over to Ms. Melissa Larose.  Please go ahead, Ms. Larose.

Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs.  Bienvenue à l’appel conférence de l’exposé technique au sujet des plongées printanières.  J’aimerais maintenant céder la parole a Mme Melissa Larose.  À vous la parole, Mme Larose.

Mélissa Larose: Bienvenue à tous.  Welcome, everyone.  Je vous remercie de vous joindre à nous ce matin.  Voici comment l’appel va se dérouler.  Premièrement, présents avec nous en ligne aujourd’hui nous avons – ou présents dans la salle avec nous, nous avons le contre amiral John Newton, chef de la Force opérationnelle interarmée de l’Atlantique, le capitaine de corvette Stephan Julien, commandant de l’unité de plongée de la flotte atlantique, M. Jeff Anderson, vice-président, Opérations Ouest et Nord du Canada de Parcs Canada, et Marty Magne, directeur, Direction des ressources culturelles de Parcs Canada ainsi que M. Marc-André Bernier, chef de l’équipe d’archéologie subaquatique de Parcs Canada.

I would like to thank you all for being here today with us this morning.  First, let me introduce you to the speakers present with us or on the line today.  We have the Rear Admiral John Newton, Commander, Joint Task Force, Atlantic, Maritime Forces Atlantic, Lieutenant-Commander Stephan Julien, Commanding Officer, Atlantic Deep Diving Unit, Mr. Jeff Anderson, Vice-President, Operations Western and Northern Canada, Parks Canada, Marty Magne, Director, Cultural Sciences Branch, Parks Canada, and Marc-André Bernier, Chief, Underwater Archaeology Team from Parks Canada.

L’exposé aujourd’hui sera bilingue et se déroulera comme suit.  Nous aurons une courte présentation par le contre amiral Newton, suivie par le capitaine de corvette Stephan Julien ainsi que Marc-André Bernier.  Les médias auront ensuite la possibilité de poser une question chacun.  Nous aborderons les sujets de plongée, de la formation, et de l’Opération NUNALIVUT.   Cependant, pour des questions de sécurité et d’intégrité du site, nous ne pourrons dévoiler les coordonnés géographiques du site de plongée.

The technical briefing will be bilingual, and the rollout will be as follows.  A short presentation by Rear Admiral John Newton, followed by Lieutenant-Commander Stephan Julien and finally Marc-André Bernier from Parks Canada.  Reporters will have the opportunity to ask one question each.  We will be taking – we will be talking about the dives, the training and the NUNALIVUT Operation.  For security reasons and site integrity, the coordinates of the site will not be disclosed today.  Also a fully bilingual transcript will be available after the call as well as B rolls, vignettes and pictures.

Une transcription officielle sera disponible après l’appel ainsi que des photos, vidéos et des vignettes.

I’ll pass the mic to Rear Admiral John Newton.

Rear Admiral John Newton: Bonjour à tous et merci d’être ici aujourd’hui.  Mon nom est contre amiral Newton, commandant des Forces maritimes de l’Atlantique et de la Force opérationnelle interarmée de l’Atlantique basé à Halifax, Nouvelle-Écosse.  Je vais vous brosser un tableau des événements qui auront lieu dans les eaux de l’Arctique central en avril 2015 pendant l’Opération NUNALIVUT.

So I’m going to go through what Operation NUNALIVUT is.  It is an annual operation in the Canadian Armed Forces in the North.  It is an exercise in Canadian sovereignty demonstrating the ability of land, sea and air elements of the military to project into and onto the waters and lands of the Canadian Arctic.  The operation is commanded by the Joint Forces of the North, Joint Task Force North situation in Northwest Territories, at Yellowknife under the command of Brigadier-General Greg Loos.

L’opération est commandée par la Force opérationnelle interarmée du Nord situé dans les Territoires du Nord-Ouest sous le brigadier général Greg Loos et met à profit de l’expertise des unités spécialisées de nos trois services.

The services involved typically include the Rangers of the Canadian Army and the Arctic Response Companies from regiments based across Canada.  There’s tactical air lift from the Royal Canadian Air Force, long range patrol aviation from the east and west coast squadrons and special ski-equipped aircraft of both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States International Guard.

La participation maritime est généralement consistée d’équipes des unités de plongées de la Marine royale canadienne.

So we’re talking about here there’s usually teams of the Royal Canadian Navy fleet diving unit, Pacific and Atlantic, that participate.

Other government departments participate and support, including Environment Canada, the Canadian Ice Service and Parks Canada, as was the case in 2014, and as will be the case this year.  And by way of background, in 2013, Operation NUNALIVUT saw patrols into the northwestern reaches of the Canadian archipelago.

Last year, in 2014, NUNALIVUT was centred around the eastern end of the Northwest Passage, at Gascoyne Inlet and Beechey Island.  And Ranger patrols went across the Northwest Passage from Pond Inlet while divers descended to the bottom to check underwater elements of a technology demonstration project that it has been building at Gascoyne Inlet under the auspices of Defence Research and Development Canada, amongst other government authorities.

So also during NUNALIVUT in 2014, Parks Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy collaborated to conduct an ice dive using robotics to visit the wreck of the Breadalbane, one of the fleet of rescue ships sent out after the disappearance of the Franklin Expedition.

So this year, thanks to the leadership of Joint Task Force North and supported by the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic and Parks Canada, Operation NUNALIVUT will be staged in the central archipelago at the very remote and austere geography at the site of the now located HMS Erebus, the flagship of the Franklin Expedition.  Other military forces participating under Joint Task Force North Command are Ranger patrols from the 1st Ranger Patrol Group, an Arctic Response Company from the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricias Light Infantry out of Edmonton, 440 Squadron Twin Otters out of Yellowknife and Defence Research and Development Canada.  A ski-equipped Hercules aircraft from the 108th Squadron, United States Air National Guard out of Schenectady, New York will also participate this year.

At the site of the dives and of the mission, in a display of inter-agency cooperation and to the mutual benefit of the participating forces and Parks Canada agency, an ice dive will be conducted to the wreck of HMS Erebus.  The team will survey the wreck to assess the state of this historically significant element of Canada’s northern story, improve our ever-developing competencies of the Royal Canadian Navy and other supporting elements of the Canadian Armed Forces to operate in and project power across the Arctic.

Je vais maintenant passer la parole à mon collègue capitaine de corvette Stephan Julien, commandant de l’Unité de plongeur-démineur de la flotte atlantique.  Stephan.

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Monsieur.  Good morning.  My name is Lieutenant-Commander Stephan Julien.  I am the commanding officer of Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Bonjour, mon nom est le capitaine de corvette Stephan Julien, et je suis le commandant de la flotte de plongeur-démineur à Halifax en Nouvelle-Écosse.

During the ice diving in April on HMS Erebus, I will be in command of the diving contingent consistent of a combined team of Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic, Fleet Diving Unit Pacific and also Parks Canada Underwater Archeology Diving Team.  Today, I will be happy to answer any of the questions that you may have concerning the planning of the diving operation itself and also the diving which will be executed in the April time frame.

Aujourd’hui je veux vous annoncer que je serais le commandant du contingent de plongée qui consiste de la flotte de plongeur-démineur atlantique, de la flotte de plongeur-démineur pacifique et aussi des plongeurs archéologistes du Parcs Canada.  Incluant dans ce groupe, nous allons aussi avoir des plongeurs de la réserve navale avec nous.

In total, we will have a complement of 34 personnel at the diving site in addition with the six force protection rangers surrounding the site for the safety of the personnel at the dive site.

In total – au total, nous allons avoir un contingent de 34 membres du Parcs Canada et des plongeurs de la Marine royale canadienne en addition avec les Rangers pour donner de la protection au plongeur qui sera au site de plongée.

And this is all I have for you, and I will be happy to answer any of the questions that you may have.

C’est tout que j’ai présentement et je serai content de vous répondre à n’importe quelles de vos questions.

Marc-André Bernier: Bonjour, tout le monde, Marc-André Bernier, chef d’équipe d’archéologie subaquatique de Parcs Canada.

Good morning, everybody.  I’m Marc-André Bernier, the Chief of the Underwater Archaeology Team of Parks Canada.

Donc en septembre dernier, nous avons fait la découverte, grâce à un projet de collaboration avec plusieurs partenaires, la découverte d’une des – d’un des navires de l’expédition de Sir John Franklin qui a quitté l’Angleterre en 1845.  Dès le moment où nous avons découvert l’épave et nous avons eu la chance de faire sept plongées sur – sept plongées de deux personnes sur cette épave, dès ce moment-là, nous avons commencé à planifier les étapes subséquentes.

So last fall, in September, we had the – we had the privilege of discovering one of the two lost ships of Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition and right from the moment that we discovered the site and that we were able to dive on the site, conducting seven dives each with two divers, we started to plan the next steps. So for the last seven months, we’ve been preparing for what is coming up this April, looking at different scenarios, different ways of going back to the ship, and this is what we’re going to talk about today is what we are going to do and how we’re going to do it.

Donc déjà dans les sept derniers mois nous avons travaillé ans arrêt pour planifier les prochaines étapes et c’est ce que nous allons faire aujourd’hui, nous allons répondre – présenter ce que nous voulons faire au niveau archéologique et comment nous allons le faire avec la collaboration de nos – de nos partenaires de la Défense nationale.

Nous avons suivi un entraînement intensif — je pourrais en parler lors des questions.  Depuis le début de janvier, notre équipe a – s’est entraîné d’une part à Ottawa avec le Collège Seneca, le programme de plongée du Collège Seneca, et ensuite directement avec nos collègues de l’Unité de plongée de la flotte atlantique.

So for the last seven weeks, we’ve been training – our Parks Canada team has been training with first the Seneca College to be able to conduct these dives and then on two occasions, in Halifax and in Quebec City, with our colleague divers from Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic to prepare for what’s coming up.

So I’ll leave it there, and we’ll be able to answer your questions and give you more details on what we plan to do on this dive.

Mélissa Larose: Mélissa Larose.  Donc nous allons maintenant ouvrir la période de questions.  We will now start with the question period.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  We will now take questions from the telephone lines.  Nous allons maintenant passer à la période de questions.  If you have a question, and you are using a speaker phone, please lift your handset before making your selection.  Si vous utilisez un téléphone mains-libres, s’il-vous-plaît soulevez votre combiné avant d’effectuer votre sélection.  If you have a question, please press star, 1 on your telephone keypad.  Si vous désirez poser une question, veuillez s’il-vous-plaît appuyer sur les touches étoile, 1 de votre téléphone à clavier.  If at any time you wish to cancel your question, please press pound.  Vous pouvez à tout moment annuler votre question en appuyant sur le dièse.  Please press star, 1 at this time if you have a question.  S’il-vous-plaît appuyez sur étoile, 1 maintenant pour poser une question.  There will be a brief pause while the participants register for questions.  Il y aura un court délai vous permettant de vous enregistrer dans la file d’attente.  Thank you for your patience.  Merci de patienter.

The first question is from Michel Sacco from le magazine L’Escale Nautique.  La première question est de Michel Sacco du magazine Escale Nautique.  À vous la parole.  Please go ahead.

Question: Oui, bonjour, Marc-André. J’aimerais savoir en fait quel est le plan de match pour ces plongées?  Je pense aussi c’est peut-être la première fois que vous allez sous le couvert de glace, donc dans des conditions très particulières.  J’imagine que l’entraînement que vous avez suivi était relatif à ces conditions particulièrement rigoureuses et j’aimerais connaître les objectifs des plongées que vous allez mener je crois pendant 11 jours.  Et quel est le plan de travail?

Marc-André Bernier: Oui, bonjour, Michel.  Donc effectivement, d’une part, je vais commencer avec juste au niveau de la plongée, l’entraînement qu’on a suivi.  Peut-être que Stephan pourrait parfaire aussi la réponse au niveau de la plongée.

Pour notre part, du côté de l’équipe d’archéologie subaquatique c’est en effet la première fois depuis plusieurs années qu’on plonge sous glace.  On l’a déjà fait dans le passé, mais la mouture actuelle de l’équipe c’est de la première fois qu’on fait ça.  Donc on s’est entraîné pour pouvoir le faire, c’est-à-dire avec une alimentation d’air en surface.  Donc au lieu d’avoir des bouteilles sur – au lieu d’être alimentés en air par un scaphandre autonome, on est relié à la surface avec des ombilicaux et pour nous c’était une nouvelle formation.  Donc on s’est entraîné de ce côté-là et on a pu le faire sous glace lors des deux derniers mois, ce qui nous a préparés à d’autres versions, à l’autre dimension, si on veut, de cette – de ces plongées-là.  Donc tout ça ça fait on a maintenant environ sept semaines de plongée pour faire ça.

Donc peut-être avant de parler des objectifs de plongée, je vais peut-être laisser le lieutenant commandant Julien peut-être parfaire la réponse au niveau de la préparation.

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Oui, bonjour, Michel.  C’est Stephan Julien ici.  Oui, pour nous, les plongeurs de la Marine royale canadienne nous devons toujours nous entraîner sous la glace.  Ça fait partie de notre mandat d’opération pour des raisons de récupération et de prospection.  Donc c’est quelque chose qu’on fait continuellement dans la Marine royale canadienne.

L’occasion qu’on a eue ici c’est de pouvoir mettre une équipe des plongeurs archéologistes de Parcs Canada et des plongeurs des Forces armées canadiennes, dont la Marine royale canadienne ensemble.  Et l’intention – parce que les méthodes des plongeurs de la Marine royale canadienne sont peut-être un peu différentes des plongeurs civils et plongeurs des autres organisations fédéraux au Canada.  On a dû entraîner les plongeurs de Parcs Canada avec nos méthodes de sécurité et aussi avec notre équipement de plongée.

Donc pour pouvoir faire ça et pour pouvoir procéder sous la glace à l’endroit du Erebus, nous avons créé un entraînement de deux phases.  La première phase qui s’est fait à Halifax en Nouvelle-Écosse a l’unité de plongée de la flotte Atlantique consistait d’un échange de techniques et de procédures entre les Forces armées canadiennes, dont les plongeurs de la Marine royale canadienne et aussi des techniques et des procédures employées par les plongeurs de Parcs Canada qui était très important pour aussi des plongeurs de la Marine royale canadienne de comprendre et d’être capables d’effectuer.

La deuxième partie de la phase un était en fait de passer et d’enseigner en fait les règles de sécurité de la Marine royale canadienne dont lorsqu’on effectue les opérations de plongée.

Et la dernière était en fait entraîner les membres de Parcs Canada sous – avec l’équipement des plongeur-démineur de la Marine royale.

Donc ça c’était la phase numéro un.  La phase numéro était finalement de finaliser notre entraînement pour pouvoir dire qu’on était confiant de procéder sur le Erebus.  Pour pouvoir faire ça, on a dû entraîner les membres de Parcs Canada et de la Marine royale ensemble sous la glace et ce qu’on a fait c’est durant la dernière semaine on a fait des – plusieurs plongées, quatre à cinq, parfois six à sept plongées par jour et entraîner les plongeurs des deux équipes avec l’équipement qu’on va utiliser sur le Erebus.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.

Marc-André Bernier: Juste pour la deuxième partie de la question, les objectifs archéologiques, donc ce qu’on veut faire, ce qu’on avait commencé à faire en septembre c’est en fait de comprendre le site, c’est-à-dire on l’a découvert l’épave. Maintenant, en quoi consiste ce site archéologique-là et quel est le potentiel et surtout comment procéder aux prochaines étapes?  On n’a pas eu la chance de passer beaucoup de temps sur le site.  On a quand pu récupérer quand même beaucoup d’information, surtout, entre autres, avec l’aide du – de l’image multi-vaisseaux fourni par le Service hydrographique du Canada.

Maintenant, on est encore à l’étape de comprendre le site, et c’est ce qu’on veut faire.  Donc les objectifs principaux sont de continuer à procéder à l’enregistrement du site pour établir la méthodologie pour poursuivre à long terme.  Donc comment – bon, il faut continuer la documentation de base photo-vidéo.  Il faut établir nos points de référence parce qu’on va document à peu près tout et de façon – on va documenter tout de façon très rigoureuse donc il faut s’établir des – des références pour pouvoir ce faire.

Ensuite, on va essayer d’avoir des enregistrements tridimensionnelles avec différents équipements, dont entre autres, laser.  Et tout ça pour la suite des choses.

Donc en gros, ce sont les objectifs qu’on veut – qu’on se fixe puis encore dans l’évaluation du site pour pouvoir planifier le reste des événements.

Mélissa Larose: Parfait.  Prochaine question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  The next question is from The Ottawa Citizen.  La prochaine question est de Tom Spears du Ottawa Citizen.  Please go ahead.  À vous la parole.

Question: Could you give us an idea, please, how much ice is going to be up there at this time, and is it one solid sheet or will it be broken up in little pieces?  Just what is it going to look like.

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Yes, good morning.  It’s Lieutenant-Commander Julien speaking.  So as I previously said, Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic has been operating in that region of the Arctic for several years now, and we picked the month of April because at this time it is likely that the ice will be the thickest.  And we’re looking at approximately seven feet of ice that we’re going to have to drill in order to conduct the diving operations.

Rear Admiral John Newton: Land fast, flat ice, not packed ice.

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Correct, sir.

Mélissa Larose: Thank you.  Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  The next question is from Joseph Frey from the Canadian Geographic Magazine.  La prochaine question est de Joseph Frey du magazine Géographique canadien.  À vous la parole.  Please go ahead.

Question: Good morning.  It’s for Lieutenant-Commander Julien.  What type of support role will the RCN clearance divers be playing on the expedition in support of the Parks Canada divers?  And have the RCN divers received any training in basic underwater archaeology?

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Yes.  Good afternoon, Joseph.  Yes, absolutely. So the two-phase process that we’ve been doing for the last – the last month, one consisted of an exchange of information between techniques and procedures – between Parks Canada divers and also the RCN divers.  That was done and conducted at the Fleet Dive Unit Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  In return, we are supporting Parks Canada divers with the Royal Canadian Navy diving equipment and utilizing our diving procedures and also our rules and regulations for safety.

The phase two was conducted this week in Quebec City under the ice in a very similar environment that we will be facing in the Arctic on top of Erebus where we actually trained with the equipment that we’re going to be utilizing during the operation on HMS Erebus.

Marc-André Bernier: And so more specifically too on the archaeology part of it, we will be diving – the plan is to dive one archaeologist and one Fleet Diving Unit diver at a time, both together.  And so we’ll be conducting archaeology recording of various – various levels.

Part of the training in Halifax was archaeological as well.  We gave an introduction to underwater archaeology, nautical archaeology course to our colleague divers to prepare them to support us underwater.  There’s multiple tasks.  It’ll be deploying various types of equipment and also recording and everything planned we’ve tried to address, and we have successfully addressed in the last – in the two weeks that we’ve come.  So basically, it’s going to be – it’s going to be working side by side, but a lot of training has been put into the – in both sides, both in the diving and also the archaeology.

Mélissa Larose: Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  The next question is from Peter Golden from The Diver magazine.  La prochaine question est de Peter Golden du magazine Diver.  Please go ahead. À vous la parole.

Question: Yes.  Good morning.  For Marc-André, I’m wondering, given the seven dives that you made last year, is there a particular focus or something that you’re going to be zeroing in on in the April expedition or is it just going to be another kind of general survey exercise?

Marc-André Bernier: Well, good morning, Peter. Well, we are continuing the process.  So the basic – the recording is not finished yet, so we’re going to continue on that.  We look at it as if we had three sites.  There’s the hull itself, and we have a good recording of that.  We are looking also at the outside, the perimeter as being a different logistical challenge or archaeological challenge.  And of course there’s the interior of the wreck.

One of the first things that we are going to do is going to remove some of the kelp that covers the wreck because presently we have a very limited view of what the ship looks like because it’s covered with the wreck.  So that’s one of the first steps.

After that, it’s going to consist of intensive photography and video of the wreck, and then we’re going to set up our reference points and start mapping and develop techniques to proceed in each of the areas.  We’re hoping to do a test excavation outside of the wreck, of the perimeter, just to see how if we address the large scale excavation what are the challenges that we’re facing?  What is the density of the soil?  What is the density of the artifact materials that we’re going to encounter and so on?  So that’s for the outside.

For the wreck itself, we’re going to, as I said, have a better view of it.  And for the inside, we’re going to try to see if what we have in mind as for recording works, which is basically a laser technology that would – from 2G Robotics that would give us a three-dimensional view of – a capacity to record inside the hull.  So we’re not going to go deep inside.  We’re just going to – we know there is a place where we can lower this equipment and try it out.

What we are going to do as well is to introduce in some of the openings a point of view camera, so basically a small camera on a pole that will allow us to view inside the shipwreck and to help us determine the step forward.

So in a nutshell, those are the objectives.  So it’s basically pushing what we did in the fall to a greater extent and to prepare the next steps, the next steps afterwards, conducting excavation.

Mélissa Larose: Thank you.  Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  The next question is from Gab Franz (ph) from the Freelance Correspondents 1 newspaper.  Please go ahead. À vous la parole.

Question: Hello.  Good morning.  Marc-André, I have one more question concerning why – why are you doing this now in April when the ice is the strongest? Why didn’t you wait till summer? And will you also look for the second ship?

Marc-André Bernier: Well, I’ll start – well, good morning.  And I’ll start by the second part, which is it is our plan to continue to look for the second ship, and we’re working on that with our usual partners, trying to increase the partnership as well of our Canadian – of our Team Canada approach.

The answer to the first question is why are we doing it there?  There’s advantages to do it in open water and there’s advantages to do it over the ice.  One of the things that we encountered in the fall was that we actually lost five days of work because of a storm, and we had to wait to get out of Gjoa Haven and then to access the site.  So there’s a lot more impact to – and relatively speaking, a lot more impact possible when you’re actually looking for – working from a floating platform.

The other inconvenience from the situation in the fall is that because of that sequence or that long string of bad weather, we were faced with a very poor visibility, again relatively speaking, but the visibility was not that good.  What we’re hoping in this case here is to be able to access the site in just about – well, in – in very heavy conditions there’s a limit as well to what we can do if there’s a blizzard of course, but we it gives us the capacity to work from a solid base and to be very operational – or be operational in more – giving us more time.

The other part is we hope and we expect that the visibility is going to be a lot better and it’s not going to be impacted by weather on the surface.  And since everything has been sitting there under the ice protected for the winter, we should – we hope – we’re expecting extremely good conditions for that perspective.

So those are the advantages.  And deploying also on the ice is more efficient. I don’t know if you want to add.

Rear Admiral John Newton: It’s a very short season.  It’s a short season in the summer, and you know, we have to take advantage of all these windows that close very quickly due to extremes of winter and extremes of the late summer.

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Correct.  And also, sir, the beauty of the ice, it provides us, as Marc-André said a stable platform.  But by providing us a stable platform, we’re able to bring specialized equipment that normally underwater we wouldn’t be able or it would be more difficult to bring because we would need a larger vessel to do so.  On the ice, we can bring that specialized equipment, establish a camp directly over the site itself and extend our diving hours.

Marc-André Bernier: And as well, just to add the final maybe comment on that is that it is a difficult site to access by – with boats.  And a large vessel cannot get in there as easily, so this is a good way to do it.  And we wanted to get to the site as early as possible.

Mélissa Larose: Thank you.  Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  Once again, please press star, 1 if you have a question.  De nouveau, n’hésitez pas à appuyer sur étoile, 1 pour toute question.  The next question is from Mark Newell from Archaeology Hour.  La prochaine question est de Mark Newell. À vous la parole.  Please go ahead.

Question: Yes, thank you.  This is a question for Marc Bernier.  If you’re going to be drilling in the ice and diving under seven feet of ice, will there be – will the divers be tethered to the surface?  Will there be communication to the service or will they be free diving in some way under the surface?  How do you actually control the divers under and ice cap?

Marc-André Bernier: Actually, I’ll let Lieutenant-Commander Julien start with the answer, and I’ll add afterwards.

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Yes, good day.  Lieutenant-Commander Julien here.  Yeah, the beauty, as I said, of bringing the specialized equipment, it provides us with a hard helmet diver to the diver and it’s linked with a communication system directly to the surface, so at all times, the supervisor, who’s going to be on the surface, has direct communication with the diver.  And also when we put both divers in the water, both divers will have communication between themselves as well.

So to answer your question, this is how we control the dive is from the supervisor on the surface.

Marc-André Bernier: And the umbilical.

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: And the umbilical.  So there’s an umbilical attached to an air panel on the surface, and the airflow is controlled directly to the helmet of the diver.

Marc-André Bernier: And to complement that, one of the – one of the challenges that we have is, as Admiral Newton said, we have a very narrow window of opportunity, either in the spring or in the winter or in the summer.  So to optimize that, we have to really push the diving capacity to the limit in a sense.  What – the depth of the site allows us to spend more time underwater.  We have less restrictions.  If it would be 60 feet, 20 metres down or 30 metres down, then we’d have less time because of dive physics.

However, what’s happening here is we do have the capacity to spend time.  The limitation becomes air.  Then it’s – in September we were able to dive one hour.  And after one hour, you had to come back because you were out of air.  With the surface supply and the divers having umbilicals feeding air, we can go beyond that and then extend the dive time, which is critical.  Then it becomes also the cold.  So we’re – the cold, we can – we can be in the water for more than an hour; we’re dressed for it. So the key thing here is being able to dive with an unlimited supply of air, which is going to give us the maximum time.

The safety – obviously, when you’re linked to the surface with an umbilical that has a line incorporated and communications, it’s actually very safe, and we do have a backup bottle on our back, so in case something goes wrong, we have plenty of air to come back to the surface, and finding the hole in this case is just following your umbilical.

Rear Admiral John Newton: It’s Admiral Newton.  I just want to add something because I hear the thought going by twice now, this ice sheet which is really thick.  It’s not a negative.  It’s actually a contributing positive.  It is also the airstrip for resupplying this camp and moving the equipment in and moving it out.  So that seven feet of thickness is inherently part of the plan to use big ski aircraft, really large ski aircraft to build the camp, to support the divers and get them out of there will all their equipment in the end.  And that’s probably a very economical and a very efficient way to put a dive site together.

Mélissa Larose: Thank you.  Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  Your next question is from Harry Wilson from Canadian Geographic.  La prochaine question est de Harry Wilson.  Please go ahead. À vous la parole.

Question: Yeah, hi.  It’s a question for Marc-André.  Marc-André, I’m wondering what is the process should the divers find something that they deem of significant value such as the Erebus bell that was brought to the surface.  What happens when something like that is identified, located and how would you protect the site from treasure hunters?

Marc-André Bernier: Well, we have procedures in place for protecting and surveilling the site.  As regards to the – what we do if we encounter things, we expect – I mean we saw that there were many artifacts there.  When we remove some of the kelp coverage, obviously there’s going to be some more.  The primary focus is to, as I said, complete the understanding – a primary understanding of the site.  However, we are coming prepared in case we have to intervene, and we want to – if everything goes well, we can then move to maybe – start some of the next steps.

We will have a Parks Canada conservator on site, a professional trained with waterlogged and underwater finds who will be there in case some of the artifacts are recovered.  So everything will be put in place to ensure that everything is appropriately done from the moment of recovery right to the transportation in the lab as in the case of the bell.

So this is – this is, however, is not the focus at this point.  We are prepared for it, but it’s part of a series of steps that we need to take, and right now, we’re focussing on recording and really understanding the site because it’s – I want to stress that this is an extremely complex site because it is so – it’s so well preserved, it’s three-dimensional.  It’s a challenge for recording, but we have a plan to do that that is going to deliver quite exciting results, we think, but it’s a very challenging site, so we’re going step by step and I have said in the past that this is – this is like investigating a crime scene of the past, if you want, and the crime scene analogy, but it’s – it’s maybe not the best, but it’s basically we’re detectives of the past, and we have to come and really set the stage for recording and understanding everything.  And then after that, objects are what – the artifacts are what – are the elements that are going to give us clues and answers to the story.  So we will get to the artifacts at one point but, we have to really set the methodology first.

Mélissa Larose: Thank you.

Rear Admiral John Newton: Yeah, I’m not going to get into the security of the site in the water, but over the long term there is a bit of a whole-of-government approach to ensuring the security of the site using the Marine Security Operations Centre in Halifax and government partners in the Canada Space Agency, the Rangers, the RCMP, border security, Transport Canada and Joint Task Force North all have their ears and eyes tuned to this site and are part of a team effort to ensure the security over the long term.

Mélissa Larose: I might want to pass the mic on to Jeff Anderson to answer the last part of the question.

Jeff Anderson: No, I think that’s – I think what Admiral Newton covered there covers it very well.  Thank you.

Mélissa Larose: Okay.  Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  The next question is from Peter Varga from the Nunatsiaq News.  Please go ahead. À vous la parole.

Question: Hi.  I just have a question, which I guess seems obvious enough, and I think you referred to it at the beginning, but my question is has the military been involved with archaeological dives before in the Arctic, number one?  And why are they involved – are you involved with this particular one now?

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Yes, good morning, Lieutenant-Commander Julien.  Yes, the Royal Canadian Navy has been involved in the past with the HMS Breadalbane, with ROV, small robots as well in – with Parks Canada.  And last year, we had one of the divers from Fleet Diving Unit included in the team for the research of the Erebus.

Marc-André Bernier: And as well, I may add that a few years back as well, we had the chance to collaborate together on the wrecks of Hamilton and Scourge in Lake Ontario where we conducted archaeological operations with the Navy – the Royal Canadian Navy and the Fleet Diving Unit.  So there is a tradition of working together there.  And in addition to that, the expertise of – that the Royal Canadian Navy brings to the operations in the Arctic in such conditions and also the diving under ice for us is extremely valuable and allows us to be really operational a lot quicker than we would have been even maybe not possible at this point without their contribution.  So the participation is crucial for us to be there at this time in doing it safely and doing it right.  And they – we have that history of working together, which we’re continuing.

Rear Admiral John Newton: I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody at this table, but in 1967, there was an Operation Franklin where military divers actually went to the bottom trying to find the wreck, but obviously we were looking in the wrong spot.  And in the 1980s, our submersible, our deep submersible actually dove on the Breadalbane and some of the most – some of the best image collection of that era.  So everybody’s explained it here, there has been a long-term partnership in archaeology type work.

Mélissa Larose: Thank you.  Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  The next question is from Peter Golden of The Diver magazine.  La prochaine question nous parvient de Peter Golden.  À vous la parole.  Please go ahead.

Question: Well, a couple of things.  First of all, I wonder if the Lieutenant-Commander could say and spell his name, please.  I’m also wondering, Marc-André, following the April dives how soon are you going to have images available for the media.

Mélissa Larose: I’ll let Lieutenant-Commander —

Lt Commander Stephan Julien: Yes, Lieutenant-Commander Stephan Julien.  Stephan is S-t-e-p-h-a-n and Julien is J-u-l-i-e-n.  I’ll let Marc-André answer to the picture.

Marc-André Bernier: Yes.  The – well, one of our main objectives is to really engage the Canadian public with this story and with the work that we are going – the Canadian public and the public around the world.  I mean this is a shared heritage. It’s a global heritage, and it’s a heritage with England more specifically, obviously.  So we want to share this story and the excitement of it with the public as soon as possible.  So we are working – we will be working to have as many things as possible as accessible.  And we’re going to send pictures from the site as we go along and as technology allows.  So we have a plan to have regular updates and allow people to follow the project as we are going.  So hopefully as fast as we can, given the remoteness of the area.

Mélissa Larose: Thank you.  Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  Once again, please press star, 1 at this time if you have a question.  De nouveau, n’hésitez pas à appuyer sur étoile, 1 pour toute question.  La prochaine question est de Gab Franz du Freelance Correspondents 1 newspaper.  Please go ahead. À vous la parole.

Question: Yes, thank you very much.  Coming back to what you said you are a detective of the past.  Could you just give us an idea what kind of questions are you looking for to get the answers for?  What is – after we discovered the site where the ship is, what are the other important questions that you are asking?

Marc-André Bernier: Yes, many – and I think what’s going to happen is that as we investigate the sites, more and more questions are going to come up, but fundamentally some of the first primary questions that we’re asking ourselves is how did the – well, how did the ship get there?  How did this vessel enter this little archipelago of islands and ended up in this place?  I mean that’s one of the big questions that came up immediately.  And that stems from the fact that the – the fact that the ship lies quite – quite far from the original abandonment point and specifically that the Inuit accounts that were collected over the years mention the fact that some of the crew were onboard.  Although they were not seen, there were traces — smoke coming out of the ship, footsteps in the snow.  So that’s a fundamental question that I think everybody sees as one of the first questions.  So how – can we – are we able to identify that.

The rest, there’s so many of them. I’ll give you a few examples.  There’s how did the – what was the state – can we say anything about the state of the expedition at this point?  What – are there any supplies left in the ship?  What – what was the condition – the conditions – try to establish the conditions of the people who were onboard at the time that they abandoned the ship.

Another really interesting question is the interaction that the Inuit had with this vessel after it was abandoned.  Again, the accounts say that they visited the site in various occasions, that they saw things inside, that they collected things inside that they reused in their own – for themselves.  So those are really questions.  Can we see traces of this presence on – in the material culture?

Obviously, the ship itself is a technological – really item where we’re really interested in this icebreaker of the past, but fundamentally, we’re trying to figure out what happened after the ships were abandoned in 1848.  When did this ship get there?  How did it get there?  With who, if with someone?  What were the state of the crew and what happened afterwards?  Was there a second abandonment?  Is there a second trail of people leaving?  Those are all questions that are interesting, and we’re going to also try with – link that to the work that Doug Stenton is doing on land to see if we can link everything with the other sites because it becomes now a very complex – it has been for the longest a very complex series of sites that show the presence of this crews, so this is one of them, and we’re going to try to link that in the bigger picture that’s – that we have.   So those are some of the things that we’re looking at.

Mélissa Larose: Thank you.  Next question.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  There are no further questions registered at this time.  Nous n’avons plus de questions pour le moment. I would now like to turn the meeting over back to Ms. Larose.  J’aimerais maintenant retourner la parole à Mme Larose.

Mélissa Larose: Bonjour à tous.  Hello, everyone.  I would like to remind all of you that a full transcript bilingual will be available after this call.  We will send this to you by email as long – as well as with a link to the photo and the B rolls that were taken during the conference call.

Je voudrais rappeler à tous qu’une transcription complète bilingue va être disponible après cet appel.  Nous allons vous envoyer le tout par courriel dans peu de temps et que les images, les vignettes et vidéos seront également disponibles.  Si c’est tout, j’aimerais remercier tous les gens présents autour de la table.  Merci pour votre participation.

It was a pleasure to speak about this great – great initiative that we’re going to do, and let’s hope that we bring home some good news when the guys go up.

Thank you.

Operator: Thank you.  Merci.  The conference has now ended.  La conférence est maintenant terminée.  Please disconnect your lines at this time.  Veuillez s’il-vous-plaît raccrocher votre ligne.  Thank you for your participation.  Merci à tous les participants qui se sont joints.


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