Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Update on ProCom's Northern Search

Many thanks to Michael Wing for sending along an update on ProCom Marine's application for a survey to test their remote sensing equipment. Readers of this blog will recall that such testing was given as reason for their presence in Larsen Sound off the northwest coast of King William Island last summer, at a time when there were intimations that an unauthorized search for Franklin's ships might have been contemplated.

As CBC news notes, "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." Personally, I do wish that they had been simple and direct, if indeed a search for these ships was contemplated, as the apparent response from the Nunavut Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth -- asking them to relocate such tests elsewhere -- would negate their value in terms of the Franklin search. Such searches risk becoming a sort of local political football (or should I say, hockey puck) if they cannot state their real reason for being. While I have the very highest degree of respect for the Inuit of this region, having met and spent some time among them, I can't see how throwing hurdle after hurdle in the way of searchers benefits anyone. Some sort of partnership and cooperation between the communities in Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven and ProCom or other searchers seems very much to the mutual advantage of both, and I very earnestly hope that this will prove to be the ultimate solution.


  1. It sounds to me like this "archaeological" project to search for the lost ships of the Franklin expedition may be just a prelude in the search for oil and gas (and the Nunavut Impact Review Board saw it as such). As the CBC reports, the stated purpose of the autonomous underwater vehicles in the project proposal was to "develop solutions relating to offshore surveying for oil and gas in Arctic conditions." And it sounds like there is also some pushback from local communities who don't fully understand the project, and concerns over potential impact to historical sites. I'm glad people are asking questions, sounds like ProCom hasn't done its due diligence.

  2. I agree about the lack of "due diligence" here. It's intriguing to wonder whether ProCom is using the oil & gas rationale to accomplish archaeology or using the archaeological angle to serve oil and gas exploration. They don't really seem to be set up to search for oil & gas; their main business is as a subcontractor with folks like the Discovery Channel to do underwater documentaries -- unless perhaps they're hoping that they could make some money on the side by developing equipment or techniques they could then sell to someone else.

  3. Thanks for your reply. It's a pretty interesting issue. I found this older article from the CBC regarding efforts to involve Parks Canada in the search:


    I admit … my perspective is all second hand on this, but it looks like two national perspectives coming together on this historic event, with indigenous perspectives also caught in the mix. And as yet … no significant agreement on what do do about a search, or perhaps even have a search. With Canada increasingly concerned with jurisdiction over it's northern arctic waterways, I would think making it a "joint" historical and scientific effort between all of the parties would be the most rewarding and compelling approach … and turning the page on a history that viewed the North as just another place to drop in, explore, and document.