HMCS Yellowknife supports Canadian Coast Guard in wreck survey

Kateryna Bandura, 
Lookout Editor

The Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) successfully assessed several well-known shipwrecks around Vancouver Island.

HMCS Yellowknife supported three members of the Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) (FDU(P)) and two CCG personnel in locating and surveying two wrecked vessels for potential environmental damage to the Island’s west coast Oct. 3-7.

“The mission objectives were met; the CCG team could make an educated assessment of the Vanlene wreck, and, as a bonus, we verified the containment measures on Motor Vessel (MV) Scheidyk were intact,” said Chief Petty Officer Second Class (CPO2) Craig Elliott, Sea Bed Intervention Systems Chief at FDU(P).

MV Scheidyk cargo vessel sank in 1968 after striking a submerged ledge on the south side of Bligh Island. The CCG had spent considerable time and effort cleaning up and containing it over the past few years, CPO2 Elliot said. The team’s mission was to inspect the containment measures and verify that no additional leaks were present.

CPO2 Elliot said the original plan was to survey the wrecks of Vanlene, Ernest Todd, and Squamish Queen around Barkley Sound.

“After successfully surveying the Vanlene, we conducted a search and determined that the position of the Ernest Todd and Squamish Queen were erroneous, and that the likelihood of locating them was very low,” he said.

Both units embarked ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles), controlled by Yellowknife, providing sonar and camera imagery.

“The FDU(P) team operated the Seabotix vectored Little Benthic Vehicles (vLBV) 350 ROV to capture sonar and video images of the wrecks to help Paul Barrett, CCG Superintendent Incident Management, assess the potential pollution risk,” CPO2 Elliot said. “Cameron Knight, CCG Diving Safety Officer, was the most experienced ROV operator in the group and provided outstanding coaching to our team while we operated the Seabotix.”

CPO2 Elliot said this was an excellent opportunity to work together on a small but meaningful project with tremendous support from HMCS Yellowknife.

“It shouldn’t be understated that Yellowknife’s crew was outstanding, flexible to changes on the fly, and everyone on board seemed interested and supportive of the mission,” he said.

Lieutenant (Navy) Phillip Hopkins, Operations Officer with HMCS Yellowknife, liaised with both teams to ensure Yellowknife was positioned correctly to aid in their search and survey. Yellowknife anchored in the vicinity of several wrecked vessels while FDU(P) and CCG personnel assessed the vessels.

Yellowknife did an amazing job supporting the embarked team,” Lt(N) Hopkins said. “Both the CCG and FDU seemed very happy with the success of the surveys they conducted.”

The mission helped the FDU(P) team better understand what to look for on the next wreck survey, CPO2 Elliot said. The team already has a list of several wrecks to inspect next and looks forward to continuing working with the CCG in 2023.

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