Parks Canada’s Research Vessel Departs Victoria for a Voyage of Archaeology and Science

RV David Thompson sets course on an 18,500-kilometre long journey

Victoria, British Columbia – The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, announced that Parks Canada’s newest research vessel, RV David Thompson, has left Victoria on a journey of research, archaeology, and science on the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans.

The voyage of RV David Thompson will occur over three legs: journeying along the Pacific Coast and through the Northwest Passage; spending approximately three weeks in Nunavut investigating the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror; and then travelling eastward to the Atlantic before finally travelling up the St. Lawrence River to spend the winter in the Great Lakes.

Along the route, Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team will be collecting data on topics like climate change and pollution. They will also be undertaking archaeological work in national parks and historic sites including Sirmilik National Park, and Kekerten Island Whaling Station National Historic Site. Finally, they will meet and share their experiences with Inuit communities at various ports of call.

RV David Thompson will serve as the main operational platform for the continued investigation of the wrecks of the 1845 Franklin Expedition later this summer. Parks Canada’s upcoming exploration of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with its Inuit partners, will be one of the largest and most important underwater archeological undertakings in Canadian history. Parks Canada believes there are potentially thousands of artifacts remaining on the wrecks that will help unveil more of the Franklin story.

RV David Thompson is equipped with a range of state-of-the-art archaeological and oceanographic survey equipment, including: multi-beam echosounder, side-scan sonar, remotely operated vehicles, an autonomous underwater vehicle, and can deploy diving teams. In the coming years, the ship will also support inter-departmental collaborations related to marine environments and climate change.


“The RV David Thompson will expand Parks Canada’s capacity to conduct science and archaeology on all three oceans and in the Great Lakes. The knowledge gained and discoveries made along the way will enable us to learn more about Canada’s rich marine heritage, in addition to supporting various marine science initiatives that will enhance our understanding of the human impacts on our oceans and waters – like from climate change and plastic pollution.
The Honourable Catherine McKenna, 
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

Quick facts

  • RV David Thompson is a 29-meter long, 228-tonne steel-hulled ship launched in 1992. While new to Parks Canada, the ship was originally a mid-shore fishery patrol vessel for the Canadian Coast Guard.
  • RV David Thompson is equipped with a crane, work boat, fresh water maker, sewage treatment plant, satellite communications and a range of oceanographic and archaeological survey and diving equipment.
  • For work at the wreck of HMS Erebus, the RV David Thompson will tow and operate in conjunction with Parks Canada’s un-propelled archaeological excavation and diving support barge named Qiniqtiryuaq, which supports three containers for: a lab; storage and equipment space; and hyperbaric recompression chamber.
  • David Thompson (1770 to 1857) was an explorer and cartographer who accurately mapped the main travel routes through some 1,700,000 square miles of the Canadian and American West, in the process journeying some 50,000 miles by canoe, by horse, and on foot. He is called “the greatest land geographer who ever lived” and was designated a person of national historic significance in 1927.

Associated links

Source: Parks Canada Agency