Jonathan Moore will be the lead underwater archaeologist searching for shipwrecks in the waters around Haida Gwaii.

Jonathan Moore will be the lead underwater archaeologist searching for shipwrecks in the waters around Haida Gwaii.

Search for Haida Gwaii shipwrecks set to begin

Everyone knows of Haida Gwaii's treasured sandy beaches, but what's under the surface that has piqued the curiosity of Parks Canada.

Everyone knows of Haida Gwaii’s treasured sandy beaches and beautiful landscape, but it’s what’s under the surface that has piqued the curiosity¬† of Parks Canada.

Along with Peter Lantin, president of the Haida Nation Canadian Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq has announced that Parks Canada will lead an underwater archaeology project to search for submerged, historic shipwrecks in the Gwaii Haanas region.

A variety of technology will be deployed in the three-week expedition including remote sensing (using side-scan sonars), magnetometers, specialized diving techniques and an autonomous underwater vehicle.

The goal of the search is to find ships that may have sunk centuries ago, including several from the period of “contact”. The federal government states that two ships in particular, one from 1794 during the maritime fur trade and another from 1851 during a search for gold, might be located.

The project is part of “years of work by Parks Canada and various partners to explore, study, protect and share with the public the rich archaeological heritage of the area,” according to the government.

“Today’s announcement supports the key pillars of our new National Conservation Plan, by conserving and restoring our lands and water and protecting Canada’s rich natural heritage from coast to coast to coast. Searching for shipwrecks in Gwaii Haanas will help us gather an inventory of the cultural treasures in Canada’s first national marine conservation area reserve,” said Aglukkaq.

“Haida Gwaii and the surrounding waters are blanketed with Haida history. Locating a vessel and other cultural material from the time of contact will provide valuable insight for those times but also give us pause to consider our relationships today. We are pleased to participate in the search for clues to the early history of contact in our territory,” said Lantin of the search.

A total of six bodies will board the Gwaii Haanas II for the search; four Parks Canada underwater archaeologists, the Gwaii Haanas cultural resource management advisor and a volunteer from the Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia to complete the project.