Arctic survey bid hits snag over Franklin ships

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CBC News – original article here

An Alberta archeological firm’s proposal to test survey equipment in an Arctic waterway has hit a roadblock over concerns about the long-lost ships of Sir John Franklin. ProCom Marine Survey and Archeology had asked the Nunavut Impact Review Board to approve its proposal to conduct work in Larsen Sound, 195 kilometres northwest of Taloyoak in western Nunavut.

The company’s project, called Polar North, would use autonomous underwater vehicles to “develop solutions relating to offshore surveying for oil and gas in Arctic conditions,” according to proposal documents. If approved, the work would take place in April and August this year. But in a letter to territorial Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk, the review board recommends that he modify or abandon ProCom’s proposal on the basis of the project’s location and “unacceptable potential adverse impacts to cultural resources.

” National historic sites Larsen Sound is considered to be the final resting spot for one or both of the famed British explorer’s ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, which disappeared during a doomed expedition to chart the Northwest Passage more than 160 years ago. “It was primarily the location of the project, and the fact that there are recognized national historic sites that are believed to be in Larsen Sound,” Ryan Barry, an official with the review board, told CBC News.

“The concerns, primarily from the [Nunavut] Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, were such that they saw the potential for impact to these historic sites.” ProCom’s latest proposal does not mention Franklin’s ships, but the company ran into trouble with the Nunavut government when it tried to look for the lost ships last fall without the necessary permits. Concerns raised Barry said the board reviewed ProCom’s Polar North application in consultation with community organizations in the hamlets of Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven and Kugaaruk, as well as with officials from the federal and territorial governments and Inuit organizations. Major concerns about the project were raised during those consultations, with the proposed location being most significant, Barry said.

According to the review board, the Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth recommends that ProCom relocate the project to another body of water north of Larsen Sound, excluding Lancaster Sound. In a letter to Shewchuk, ProCom president Rob Rondeau said his group is prepared to make changes to its application. “Given the size of Larsen Sound, ProCom would be prepared to relocate the project, from the survey area as proposed, providing an alternative site can be selected, so that it can continue to be based from Taloyoak,” Rondeau wrote. Rondeau told CBC News he would prefer not to comment on the matter until Shewchuk has decided whether ProCom can resubmit its application with changes.

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