As Ron Carlson has explained on his blog, the process for applying for any kind of archaeological work in Nunavut is particularly labyrinthine. One has to have one's request signed off on by a wide array of interested parties, including local Inuit hamlets in the vicinity of the proposed work. Mr. Carlson, to his great credit, has taken the process seriously, working closely with local Inuit leaders, and taking care to provide all the requested information. Since his project, which proposes taking aerial photographs using a thermal camera, is totally non-intrusive, one would think that approving it would be a straightforward matter -- but this is far from true. Nunavut's regulations are very strict -- even taking an ordinary photograph of a possible archaeological site without a permit -- as Bear Grylls' team did last summer -- is technically illegal. In Carlson's case, he satisfied all the various entities who had to sign off on his proposal, and had the support of the Hamlets as well -- and yet his permit was denied. The reason given was his lack of archaeological qualifications! Now, if his proposal involved putting spade into soil, or even a foot upon the ground, that would be understandable, but in this case, I personally feel the rationale borders on the absurd. His proposed search is totally without impact on the ground, undertaken at his own expense, and would produce data which he would share with any and all professional archaeologists an scholars who were interested -- a great many of whom have not the means to get up to King William Island -- and they would have been enormously grateful (I know I would). And yet, apparently, unless he can locate an archaeologist to sit in the passenger seat, this potentially valuable research won't be allowed.
Ron, to his credit, plays absolutely by the book, and he hopes to return next year with the support and/or presence of qualified archaeologists. But it's a real shame that the government of Nunavut has not seen fit to approve this year's search, which I know all of us here were very hopeful could shed new light on the Franklin mystery. Fortunately, Franklinites are very patient people -- we certainly wish Ron the best and I know we'll be there to support, and to follow, his proposed mission next year.