Captain Bill Noon CCGS

Captain Bill Noon CCGS

Captain William Noon (19?? – ) joined the Canadian Coast Guard in 1981, serving as a seaman and then Lifeboat Coxswain in Bull Harbour, Powell River, and Ganges, BC. In 1984 he attended the US Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat Surf Course at Cape Disappointment, Washington and Canadian Coast Guard Coxswains Course in Cornwall, Ontario. After obtaining a bridge watch-keeping certificate, Noon served as Navigation Officer on numerous ships. including the CCGS Martha L Black, CCGS Narwal, CCGS Sir James Douglas, CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier and CCGS Bartlett in BC coastal waters, and CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Arctic Ivik in the Canadian Arctic.

Captain Noon was appointed Master of CCGS Arctic Ivik in 1995, then appointed Master of the Buoy Tender CCGS Bartlett in 1997. Noon commanded the research ships CCGS Ricker then CCGS John P Tully, undertaking offshore oceanographic and search and rescue missions. He served as superintendent of the Regional Operations Centre (Pacific) from 2000 through 2002, followed by a further command of the CCGS John P Tully, 2003-2009. He was appointed master of CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 2010.

His interest in maritime heritage takes up much of his time when not at sea. He recently completed a six year term as trustee for the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and currently sits on the board of the Victoria Classic Boat Festival where he also serves as a judge. Captain Noon is an active member of the Thermopylae Club of Victoria, named after the famous China clipper. The club was founded by mariners in 1932, having as its goal of protection and preservation of the nautical history of Canada’s west coast. His remaining time is spent restoring and cruising aboard his 67 year old wooden boat, Messenger III, a former coastal mission boat.

The Beaver Medal (2020)

The Maritime Museum of British Columbia awarded Captain Noon its highest honour, the Beaver Medal, “for his achievement in a 38 year career with the Canadian Coast Guard including several summers in command of an icebreaker supporting the search for the Franklin expedition ships and for his outstanding volunteer work wit the Classic Boat Festival in Victoria.


HMS Erebus

HMS Erebus was a 372-ton Hecla-class bomb vessel designed by Sir Henry Peake and constructed by the Royal Navy in Pembroke dockyard, Wales in 1826. The vessel was named after the dark region in Hades of Greek mythology called Erebus. The ship took part in the Ross expedition of 1839 to 1843. It was abandoned during the Franklin Expedition in 1848 and rediscovered in a submerged state in September 2014 after a long search.

The Discovery of HMS Erebus

HMS Erebus with HMS Terror in New Zealand in 1841.

HMS Erebus with HMS Terror in New Zealand in 1841. Painting by James Wilson Carmichael

Dozens of expeditions have searched for the wrecks of the Erebus and Terror over the years but the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition was the most ambitious in size and technological capacity ever launched. The expedition was comprised of an unprecedented number of public and private organizations which came together to search for artifacts from the 1845 expedition. The exploration of sections of seabed where the ships were last seen had been made impossible until now due to the thickness of sea ice in the search area.

Captain Noon was in command of the CGGS icebreaker Sir Wilfred Laurier, one of four primary vessels assigned to the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition that successfully discovered the long-lost remains of HMS Erebus. Sir Wilfred Laurier was accompanied by HMCS Kingston, the Arctic Research Foundation’s vessel Martin Bergmann, and One Ocean Expeditions’ One Ocean Voyager.

In addition, the survey vessels , HMCS Investigator, the Canadian Hydrographic Survey’s Gannett and Kinglet collected side scan and multi beam sonar data using sonar technology developed by Newfoundland’s Kraken Sonar Systems.

A sonar image of HMS Erebus. Parks Canada

A sonar image of HMS Erebus. Parks Canada

The Underwater Autonomous Vehicle (UAV) Arctic Explorer went where no UAV had ever gone before. She was built by Port Coquitlam’s International Submarine Engineering and deployed by Defense Research and Development Canada. Arctic Explorer dove further beneath the ice than UAVs deployed on previous searches had done while operating in extreme water temperatures. Tracked by an acoustic homing system developed by Nova Scotia’s Omnitech Incorporated, she operated independently for days..

Navigational Demands for the New Century

A remote region with a harsh climate, Canada’s Arctic remains relatively unknown, but as ice disappears more ships than ever ply its waters, despite a lack of comprehensive hydrographic surveys.

Data collected by the Canadian Hydrographic Service during the expedition will be used to create the navigational charts mariners need to navigate Arctic waters safely, helping decrease the risk of groundings, loss of life and environmental damage. In addition, the expedition was supported by the Canadian Space Agency’s RADARSAT-2 satellite, providing satellite imagery and enabling another partner, the Canadian Ice Service, to analyze the type, extent and movement of sea ice. The satellite provided detailed images of uncharted shoreline, helping chart the region for shipping.

The determination of the Victoria Strait Expedition speaks to the North’s past and its future, bringing both into perspective. Recovering artifacts from the Franklin Expedition shed light on the long search for the Northwest Passage, on the Arctic’s environment, and on early contact between Inuit and Europeans.

In coming decades, the North promises to become more important to Canada. International demand for its resources, combined with the technologies that make their development more feasible will continue to drive development in the region. Northerners, including Aboriginal peoples—who comprise the majority of the population in Nunavut—have more say in development than ever before, thanks to a series of devolution and land-claim agreements.

During the 2014 expedition, a land-based archaeological team from Nunavut’s Department of Culture and Heritage reinterred the remains exhumed for research purposes in last years. The land-based team will conduct additional surveys and analyses of known archaeological sites, deepening our understanding of Canada’s North and its communities.

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) played a leading role in connecting the efforts of expedition to Canadians and geography enthusiasts around the world. At the center of Canadian exploration, the RCGS is leading proponent for geo-literacy. It served to inform and educate Canadians about the expedition, and the solution of one of Canada’s great mysteries and how the search for Franklin’s lost ships has impacted our shared heritage.

With the strong support of its partners, including The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, One Ocean Expeditions, Shell Canada and the Arctic Research Foundation, the RCGS is developing and disseminating an educational program to Canadian schools, developing a stronger engagement with the Arctic and knowledge of how this great region has shaped Canadian history.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation

As a strong and generous supporter of scientific research in the North, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation was a valuable partner in the Victoria Strait Expedition. A catalyst for the search, the Foundation collaborates with and support the RCGS in supporting front line research and creating educational materials to bring the stories of Canada’s North to students across the country.

In recent years, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has helped address the gap in discovery research in the North and is now among the largest private supporters of northern research in Canada. The foundation provides prestigious awards and fellowships to leading Canadian scientists, and enables northern research stations to offer critical support for field research.

The Arctic Research Foundation

Collaboration with Northern communities has been an important facet of the Victoria Strait Project. Many of the project’s partners work with Northern communities to meet local needs. Some will contribute directly. For example, the Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) is building and outfitting a dedicated artist’s studio in Cambridge Bay. Each year, the foundation overwinters its ship off Cambridge Bay. This allows it’s boats to be among the first able to travel to other Arctic communities as the ice begins to break up. In recent years, the ARF has helped Inuit quarry and transport local soapstone, the medium of choice for many carvers.

This year, the Arctic Research Foundation will also support a research project led by Queen’s University to study the feasibility of an Inuit-operated commercial fishery based in Gjoa Haven, promising to generate new knowledge of current subsistence-fishing practices and a potential commercial fishery.

One Ocean Expeditions

Another intriguing partner of the successful Victoria Strait Project involved One Ocean Expeditions. A Canadian tour operator founded in 2007, One Ocean operates The Akademik Ioffe/One Ocean Navigator, and the Akademik Sergey Vavilov/One Ocean Voyager on cruises through the Arctic each summer. One Ocean replaces its scientific gear with Zodiacs and kayaks, hires experienced scientists, educators and guides—including interns from Nunavut Arctic College—and takes groups of up to 95 passengers on once-in-a-lifetime journeys through the North.

One Ocean’s expeditions are point-to-point; passengers fly into northern communities such as Resolute Bay, and are then ferried to the ship. One Ocean makes multiple stops, generating significant revenues for local communities. As part of the Victoria Strait Expedition, One Ocean served as a platform for 10 days, supporting the operations of Parks Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada among others.