Week 3

August 27, 2015

Ground work peaks polar bear's curiosity

A polar bear spotted on the shore at Cape Felix (Photo: Thierry Boyer/Parks Canada)

We started the day at Cape Felix, located at the northern tip of King William Island. This area is rich in history and archaeology and is a strategically valuable location in navigation. Sir John Franklin's crew set up a site here, and evidence of its use was first found by Lt. William Hobson in May 1859.  

The first task was to service the beacon located almost directly on top of the archaeology site. Using the helicopter for transport, so that work was completed quickly and efficiently, allowed Dr. Stenton and Dr. Park to venture out and spend a full day at the site where they conducted ground surveys, documented new artifacts, and applied the LiDAR over the area to capture high resolution 3D images of the site.

CCG Helicopter delivers crewmen to navigational beacon

Musket balls with sprues attached, site NlLf-7, Cape Felix, King William Island. (Photo: Douglas Stenton, Government of Nunavut)

In addition to mapping the Cape Felix site, more than 100 artifacts were collected by the Nunavut team, including a large quantity of glass from broken bottles discovered at the site in 1859. Percussion caps, buckshot, and lead fragments were also found, but the most interesting artifacts discovered were small pieces of lead and four musket balls, each with the sprue attached, suggesting that ammunition was being manufactured at the site.

To keep the archaeologists safe while they worked, CCG Seaman Devin Ramos maintained watch. Polar bears can be as curious as archaeologists, so keeping a wide berth and spotting the bears a long way out is critical. One bear in the area was particularly inquisitive, but left without incident.

Hydrographer-in-charge Tim Janzen, along with Arthur Wickens and Michael Black, were also brought into shore to establish three new vertical benchmarks and conduct multiple water level observations. That information will be linked directly to information being collected by the submersed tide gauge, and will be used to develop vertically accurate charts and tide tables for this area. 

Arthur Wickens, CHS Hydrographer

Michael Black, CHS Hydrographer

As well, the latest Radarsat image and ice chart from the Canadian Ice Service both indicated that there remain areas of significant concentrations of ice in the Victoria Strait, specifically in the zones where efforts will be concentrated over the coming weeks. To gain a more complete picture, Captain Aldridge, flanked by archeologists Ryan Harris and Thierry Boyer, headed out by helicopter to conduct ice reconnaissance. In addition to assessing the ice, Captain Aldridge directed the helicopter to an area where a shoal had been first reported in the early 1980s. En route, a clearly visible shallow feature was spotted about 2 miles to the south of the reported location. Based on these first-hand observations, a rough position of the new feature was noted and adjustments were made to the site selections for the upcoming surveys. These new changes would ensure that the survey launches could operate safely in their defined blocks, and allow a more detailed examination of the feature of interest for both charting and archeological purposes.

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