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MRU prof to help lead the first public voyage to Franklin Expedition wreckage site

Professor Lynn Moorman asked to be geographer on board

Mount Royal geography professor Lynn Moorman has been asked to be an expert on board an expedition cruise along the storied Northwest Passage that will include a visit to the site of the sunken wreckage of a Franklin Expedition ship. Moorman will serve as the geoscientist on board, as the expedition takes passengers on a two-week trip from the western to eastern Arctic this fall. The ship sails from Kugluktuk, Nunavut (formerly Coppermine) to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland from September 7 to 23.

The route will lead out of the Northwest Passage, and will include a stop at the site of the HMS Erebus. The ship was one of two in the ill-fated expedition led by Sir John Franklin, which left England in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage. The ships became icebound and were abandoned. Malnutrition, disease and the elements overtook the crews, killing everyone. Undiscovered for 170 years, the sunken wreckages of both ships were recently located ― the HMS Erebus in 2014 and the HMS Terror in 2016. 

Map showing passage and site of Erebus, route the ship will follow

Out of the Northwest Passage route from Kugluktuk, Nunavut to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, showing the stop at the wreckage of the HMS Erebus.

~Courtesy Adventure Canada

"To be invited on this expedition as an expert geoscientist is a terrific honour for Lynn. It reflects her expertise and accomplishments to date,” says Jonathan Withey, dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology. “It’s also a recognition that Mount Royal University has academic experts who are adept at using their disciplinary knowledge and experience; in this case, to help Canadians and international travellers discover our northern environment and heritage."

Adventure Canada, which is the tour operator, and Parks Canada are working together to allow visitors to see this important national historic site for the first time. “It’s a celebration of Canada’s 150th,” explains Moorman. Among the experts on the trip are a number of Inuit guides. “They are so critical to providing a rich context for people’s understanding of the Arctic, and the Inuit were very involved in helping to finally locate the Franklin ships,” Moorman adds.

Adventure Canada ship

The Ocean Endeavour at a stop in the Arctic.

~Photo courtesy Lynn Moorman

When the ship reaches the location of the Erebus, now a national historic site, passengers will have an exclusive experience with the underwater archaeologists and guardians of the Erebus site from Gjoa Haven. The expedition will also stop at Canada’s two most remote national parks before crossing the Davis Strait to Greenland. At various stops along the route, small Zodiac boats will take passengers to shore. Moorman, as the geoscientist on board, will lead hikes to interpret the Arctic landscape for them, including glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet. 

Lynn Moorman

Lynn Moorman at the helm of a Zodiac, which takes small groups of passengers on day trips to explore the Arctic landscape.

~Photo courtesy Lynn Moorman

“It’s like university on the water,” Moorman says of the learning opportunities by multi-disciplinary experts on the trip. Her onboard talks focus on geo-technologies, landforms, geologic history and glaciers. “I’m in this (teaching) profession because I want to help people understand more about how the world works, more about the Earth, and that’s the exact same role that I have on the ship.”

Moorman’s experience with Adventure Canada began in 2015 through an invitation from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) to be a geographic ambassador onboard and promote the society’s mandate of making Canada better known to Canadians and the world. Moorman, a faculty member in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is a governor of the RCGS and has been a member of its education committee for eight years.

As someone with knowledge of Canada’s geography, she found herself answering passengers’ questions and was asked to return the following year as staff. Her first visit to the Northwest Passage as staff was in 2016, passing by the site of the HMS Terror on the day the find of Franklin’s second ship was announced. “We were right there at the spot, right where the Coast Guard was. We had gone out on the deck very early in the morning when the announcement was made that the wreckage had been found.”

Eastern Arctic scenery

Small groups of passengers leave the ship to explore the eastern Arctic scenery.

~Photo courtesy Lynn Moorman

“There’s something magical about the north, and it’s a place I’ve always been drawn to,” Mooman says. Her fascination was hatched in childhood, while doing a Grade 3 project about the Arctic, and was nurtured by her parents’ love of travelling as a family.

“I think when you travel to a place you become inherently interested in it, and my parents instilled that curiosity in me at a very early age,” she says. Moorman returned to the western and eastern Arctic numerous times as an undergraduate and graduate student in physical geography, participating in field studies and studying glaciers and glacial lakes. She has continued to travel extensively throughout the Arctic.

Moorman is keen to share with her students the experiences, images and knowledge she gains on this trip. But it’s not just geography students who will benefit ― there’s a business angle, too. Moorman has been given funds by the Bissett School of Business to acquire art pieces from young Inuit artists working across the Arctic.

“I’m going to be bringing those back to help inform and engage business students through service learning projects; we hope to develop distribution channels and get better exposure here for the young Inuit artists,” she explains. A photographer on the expedition will take pictures of the artists to help tell their stories and promote their work here. “We’ll be displaying their art at Mount Royal. I think it’s just the start of a really unique partnership.”

Withey is pleased that others at the University are involved in Moorman’s trip. "Participating in this expedition will be a profound experience for Lynn, I’m sure. But it will also be one that benefits the Mount Royal University community broadly. It will help students learn more about Inuit culture and has the potential to develop partnerships and do work that will support northern communities."

Greenland scenery

The Ilulissat Icefjord, 250 km north of the Arctic Circle, on the west coast of Greenland.

~Photo courtesy Lynn Moorman

Moorman has also been invited to join a second Canada 150 expedition cruise around Greenland and Labrador, immediately after the Out of the Northwest Passage trip. It will sail from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to significant parks and sites in Newfoundland and Labrador, including Torngat Mountains National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.

HP_img_northwestpassagegreenland

Moorman's second Arctic trip leaves Greenland to explore coastal regions of Newfoundland and Labrador.

~Courtesy Adventure Canada

An ambitious traveller, Moorman hopes to continue her involvement with the Adventure Canada expedition cruises farther afield in the Arctic, and beyond the Canadian north to Iceland and the waters off Scotland. “I want to continue building my own knowledge base about the far corners of the world and the Arctic. All of this keeps me enthusiastic about the Canadian landscape, and I get to bring that into my classes.” She is optimistic the involvement of Bissett students will succeed and grow, and maybe expand to involve students in other programs, too.

Withey agrees. “It’s wonderful to see that the benefits of this trip will transcend traditional disciplinary and faculty boundaries, and allow Science and Technology to forge additional, new connections with the Bissett School of Business.”

Moorman has been on sabbatical in Australia as a visiting scholar at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. While there, she gave a talk about the Passage at the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland.

She will return to the classroom after the two cruises. She has been a faculty member since 2010 and is a recipient of a 2017 Distinguished Faculty Award.


Read more about the voyage.

Learn about Mount Royal’s
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Bissett School of Business.


July 21, 2017
― Melissa Rolfe

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