Tony Stemler, project manager with Canadian Maritime Engineering, is dwarfed by the RV David Thomspon, a former coast guard fishery patrol vessel being refitted in Nanaimo for archeological work. The ship will help researchers study the Franklin Expedition wreck sites in the waters off Nunavut. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Old coast guard ship refitted in Nanaimo for Franklin Expedition research

RV David Thompson in dry dock to prepare for use in archeological studies

A former Canadian Coast Guard vessel has been brought out of mothballs and is being refurbished for a new life as a research vessel with Parks Canada.

The RV David Thomspon, formerly the CCGS Arrow Post, has been in dry dock in Nanaimo since April where it has undergone its transformation from an unused coast guard vessel that served with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to a refitted and refurbished craft tailored to underwater archeological research.

Named for a famous Canadian explorer, the RV David Thompson’s first task will be to help conduct archeological studies of the remains of an exploration mission dating back more than 170 years, the wreck sites of the Royal Navy ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, which were lost with all hands during Sir John Franklin’s attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage in 1845. The wrecks were located between 2014 and 2016 in the waters off Nunavut.

The RV David Thompson, which was formerly fisheries patrol vessel, is being refurbished by Canadian Maritime Engineering on Stewart Avenue where the plastic shrink wrap was recently removed to reveal its new Parks Canada green hull paint.

“There is some side scan sonar being installed, which is an integral piece of equipment to the Franklin Expedition [research],” said Tony Stempler, Canadian Maritime Engineering project manager. “Everything from main engines, to [generator] rebuilds, exterior paintwork, piping, new sewage plant, steering overhaul top to bottom, pull the [drive] shaft, rudder, gearbox serviced, all that kind of stuff. It’s preparing it for its next phase of life.”

The ship is currently surrounded by scaffolding, but its overhaul should be complete in September when it will sail to Victoria for the winter and prepare for the ship and crew’s archeological work to be conducted in 2018, plus return to the wreck site of HMS Investigator, discovered in 2014.

Candian Maritime Engineering has operated at the former Nanaimo Shipyard site on Stewart Avenue since August 2016. The firm’s first job at the Stewart Avenue site was to dismantle the derelict vessel Viki Lyne II after it was towed from Ladysmith harbour in 2016.

“We had some great feedback from the marine industry that the facility was open, so we’re continuing work here,” Stemler said.

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