PEI

Research vessel departs for study of 'black hole' of Hudson Bay

With an extensive refit complete, the William Kennedy will leave the port of Summerside, P.E.I., Wednesday to explore one of the most understudied regions of the Arctic — Hudson Bay.

William Kennedy was converted from a crab boat to a research vessel in Summerside, P.E.I.

The William Kennedy will sail for Churchill, Man., Wednesday. (Arctic Research Foundation)

With an extensive refit complete, the William Kennedy will leave the port of Summerside, P.E.I., Wednesday to explore one of the most understudied regions of the Arctic — Hudson Bay.

"Despite being Canada's largest ocean watershed, the Hudson Bay is like a black hole in terms of scientific knowledge with large gaps in oceanographic and near shore studies," Adrian Schimnowski, CEO of Arctic Research Foundation, one of the operators of the boat, said in a news release.

William Kennedy is a converted deep-sea crab fishing vessel. The refit, which was done in Summerside, cost $2 million. The boat is operated by the University of Manitoba and the Arctic Research Foundation, the same organization that discovered the HMS Terror.

Places other research vessels can't reach

The operators say the converted fishing vessel is well-suited to the exploration of Hudson Bay's coast. Its 3.6-metre (12 foot) draft will allow for work in shallow water.

The refit has added two research labs. (Arctic Research Foundation)

The refit added an interior dry lab and wet lab and accommodations for up to 14 people beyond the crew to the 20-metre boat.

"The size of the William Kennedy, the water it can access, and the type of research that can be done on it, has largely been missing from Arctic study," said C. J. Mundy, principal investigator of the Southampton Island Marine Ecosystem Project, one of the research groups on board for the maiden voyage.

Establish a baseline

The main goal for the vessel will be to establish a baseline picture of the environment and ecosystems around the Hudson Bay coast, which will then allow researchers to monitor the impact of climate change.

David McIsaac is the captain of the William Kennedy, which will conduct research on Southampton Island. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

The research will involve oceanographers, geneticists and biologists, who will work collaboratively with local communities.

The William Kennedy's maiden voyage will take it from Summerside to Churchill, Man.

The converted crab boat is headed for Southampton Island at the mouth of Hudson Bay. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

David McIsaac sold the former crab boat to the Arctic Research Foundation and will captain it on its latest voyage. 

​"It's not like fishing where it's repetition. You're doing the same thing day after day after day. This one, we're doing something different every day," McIsaac said. 

"And it's all uncharted so you're always paying attention to where you're at too."

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