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Stantec supports Franklin expedition shipwreck preservation

Wind and wave modeling analyzes the impacts of climate change on important pieces of Canadian history


Stantec, a global leader in sustainable design and engineering, has investigated climate change-related risks to two famous 19th-century shipwrecks shrouded in mystery in the Arctic Ocean.

Stantec has provided hydrological and storm modelling to Parks Canada surrounding the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site of Canada in Nunavut. The historic wrecks are tied to the legendary expedition of Sir John Franklin, whose crew of 129 explorers went missing in 1846. What exactly happened to the expedition, on its journey from England in search of a Northwest Passage, remains a mystery.

Today, Parks Canada released the results of its 2023 seasonal archaeological research for the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site, which included the recovery of numerous artifacts. Parks Canada’s underwater archaeologists also took thousands of high-quality images during the research period.

Stantec’s research will help Parks Canada understand climate threats to these important artifacts of Arctic maritime history.

“Stantec is excited to help Parks Canada and its Inuit partners understand the environmental threats to these pieces of human history,” says Darren Kipping, underwater archaeologist and Stantec’s manager of the project. “Understanding what those potential impacts are now, and into the future, can assist Parks Canada and its partners in the study and management of the site.”

Stantec, through its Indigenous business partnership with Nunami Stantec, has produced a numerical model of current, historical, and future wind and wave patterns that can threaten the wrecks. The study area focuses specifically on the region of eastern Queen Maud Gulf (also known as Ugřulik) and Wilmot and Crampton Bay, and the western approaches to Simpson Strait and Terror Bay. Established in 2006, Nunami Stantec is a majority Inuit-owned consulting company based in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, and is a partnership between the Sakku Investment Corporation, Kitikmeot Corporation, and Stantec.

Franklin’s expedition left England in 1845 in its search of the Northwest Passage. Using a combination of traditional Inuit knowledge, passed down by elders through generations, and modern technology, the wrecks were discovered in 2014 and 2016 near King William Island (also known as Qikiqtaq). In collaboration with local Inuit, Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team is now trying to unravel the mystery of the lost expedition by examining the wrecks and thousands of remaining artifacts.

Whereas both wrecks are located in relatively shallow water and are exposed to storm events, waves, erosion, and sedimentation, HMS Erebus is particularly at risk. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of these natural events in the Arctic environment, posing a threat to the wrecks.

“We greatly appreciate the work of the Stantec team, who provided invaluable research to support understanding of the weather-induced threats to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in quantifiable terms,” said Jonathan Moore, manager of Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team. “Stantec’s expertise with hydrological and storm modelling has helped us to better understand the environmental conditions surrounding these remarkable sites.”

Stantec’s research will help determine the severity of storm events to occur in the project area by 2050. This information will be used in subsequent modeling tasks to determine the likelihood, frequency, and risk from future environmental stressors.

About the Wrecks
The wreck of HMS Erebus was added to the National Historic Sites of Canada Order in 2015. HMS Terror was added to the national historic site in 2017, ensuring legal protection for the wreck site under the Canada National Parks Act. Parks Canada’s archaeological exploration and study of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, in collaboration with Inuit, is one of the largest, most complex underwater archaeological undertakings in Canadian history.

About Stantec
Communities are fundamental. Whether around the corner or across the globe, they provide a foundation, a sense of place and of belonging. That’s why at Stantec, we always design with community in mind.

We care about the communities we serve—because they’re our communities too. This allows us to assess what’s needed and connect our expertise, to appreciate nuances and envision what’s never been considered, to bring together diverse perspectives so we can collaborate toward a shared success.

We’re designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers, innovating together at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.

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Media Contact
Chris Niskanen
Stantec Media Relations
Ph: (612) 895-5032 

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