Michael Moloney trims the buoyancy on the Deeptrekker ROV in preparation for the search day. (Photo: Matthew Ayre)
In August, the pair, outfitted by MEC, embarked on their voyage through the Northwest Passage and Greenland aboard the research vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov. The ship departed Pond Inlet, Nunavut on August 30; the next morning at 6 a.m., Moloney, Ayre and crewmembers Ted Irniq and Kelson Rounds-McPherson set out in a Zodiac, battling one-and-a-half-metre swells as they made their way toward the search area, a windblown stretch of beach near Buchan Gulf. They had only a short window of time to find evidence of the Nova Zembla.
“We knew that the beachfront was what we were targeting. That was what we had triangulated from those historical documents. Then it became your traditional sit and wait and stare at a SONAR screen for hours,” says Moloney.
Armed with satellite imagery of what appeared to be the hull of a ship near the wreck site, Ayre and Moloney first set out to discover the nature of the intriguing shape below the water. Unfortunately, that lead turned cold. “It was a collection of rocks,” Ayre says.
However, using an ROV supplied by DeepTrekker, the team was able to obtain SONAR imagery that revealed some promising shapes, including what appears to be one of the anchors of the ship — straight lines and right angles are indicative of man-made materials, says Moloney. But it was on the nearby beach that they discovered the most promising evidence of the wreck. Through binoculars aimed at the shore, Ayre spotted what looked like pieces of wood on the sand, so he deployed a drone and was amazed at what he saw on the monitor. Pieces of spars and large timbers with metal rivets were scattered across the beach. Unfortunately, their drone battery drained in just a few minutes from the cold, so Ayre could only search for a few minutes before he flew it back to the Zodiac with just seconds to spare.
“I reckon this is the cheapest and fastest shipwreck discovery in history,” says Ayre with a laugh.