Bay of Fundy
In the summer of 2020, exceptional technical skill met state-of-the-art technology when the RCMP integrated SEAMOR’s Chinook ROV into their elite underwater recovery and training practices. “Think of it like the device the explosive disposal unit sends in to investigate a possible bomb,” said Sgt. Jay White, head of the RCMP National Underwater Recovery and Training Centre, “It’s like an underwater drone, and we can put it in places where we can’t go or where we don’t want our divers to go.” The RCMP National Underwater Recovery and Training Centre is located in Nanaimo BC, not far from our headquarters.
By utilizing advanced sonar sound waves to detect objects in strained visibility, the Chinook ROV protects divers by reducing their time in dangerous underwater conditions. Its rugged exterior is reinforced to withstand even the most severe settings, extending the RCMP’s reach beyond the natural limitations of human divers.
It is with great pride that we equip the dedicated men and women in RCMP and SAR units with our world-class ROV. Crafted with the sophistication required to execute intricate missions, and the industrial durability to combat unstable underwater environments, our ROV’s mirror the intelligence and endurance of their operators.
It wasn’t long after the RCMP acquired their Chinook ROV that it was called to service in the wake of tragedy. On December 15 2020, a scallop dragger with a crew of six called the ‘Chief William Saulis’, succumbed to severe weather conditions and sank in the Bay of Fundy. Alerted by the vessel’s emergency beacon, the Nova Scotia RCMP were quick to action.
Recovery operations in unpredictable waters is far from a simple process; it is a challenge underlined with considerable risk. The search for the ‘Chief Williams Saulis’ proved no different. The wreckage rested 68 metres underwater, surrounded by pockets of fierce swells and already shrouded beneath layers of sand.
A skilled diving team was deployed to visually survey the area, but conditions quickly became unmanageable and the crew was forced to return to land. The dangers could not be ignored. After a thorough analysis, the Canadian Armed Forces determined that the threat to divers’ lives was far too substantial to consider a human dive a viable option. The RCMP had to find another way.
The search and rescue team swiftly changed course, deploying a sonar system. But forcible currents made the sonar unit difficult to maneuver and stabilize, resulting in distorted sonar images. Further complicating their efforts, the sonar’s maximum depth was approximately 20 metres below sea level, which proved inadequate.
The Nova Scotia RCMP had several options to choose from when it came to deciding how they would attempt an unmanned recovery operation. Private companies offered their machines and technology, but it was the elite recovery team from Nanaimo BC that was chosen to bring their SEAMOR Chinook ROV to the Bay of Fundy.
Our commitment to designing custom features with an in-depth understanding of each client’s needs remains one of our keystone values. Every situation calls for its own set of specialized functions, and a single, mass-produced ROV is incapable of fulfilling many specific requisites. We equipped the RCMP’s Chinook ROV with a dual-function gripper, a forward-mounted Tritech 720ik multibeam imaging sonar and an Imagenex 881A mechanical scanning sonar to pinpoint underwater targets. It also includes an external temperature sensor, auxiliary lights, and rear camera to increase visibility and offer a detailed comprehension of the area. On top of these customizations, we assembled the Chinook ROV with all of SEAMOR’s standard accessories, such as a high-definition video camera with lights and auto heading and auto depth functions.
In harsh weather and turbulent tides, the West Coast recovery team began. The operator’s keen maneuvering of the Chinook ROV enabled it to cut through the strong Atlantic currents and land on the seafloor. The Chinook ROV used cutting-edge mapping software to navigate the hazardous environment and finally reach the ‘Chief William Saulis’.
In a battle against the elements, SEAMOR’s Chinook ROV endured. Jennifer Richens, director-general of RCMP Learning and Development, noted that the Chinook ROV certified a safe and effective operation. “One of the key things is equipping people with the right technology,” Richens said.
Our hearts continually go out to all involved when we learn that the Chinook ROV is being deployed for a search and rescue or recovery operation; it is an honour to have our technology working to dispel mystery in favour of fact, and hopefully offer a sense of closure to families and friends left behind. To all those affected by the events in the Bay of Fundy in December 2020, we hold you in our thoughts. Thank you to all of the RCMP, Coast Guard and Search and Rescue for your efforts.