University of Calgary

Dr. Richard Levy Uses 3D Laser Scanning to Digitally Capture Fort Conger, Nunavut

Submitted by jwalla on Fri, 2011/11/18 - 10:27am.

Laser scanning is currently being used in various areas of the world to document ancient architecture. University of Calgary Professor’s Richard Levy of environmental design and Peter Dawson of archaeology along with Chris Tucker, President of Point Geomatics Ltd. investigate the use of 3D laser scanning to document one of the most remote scientific station in the Canadian Arctic, Fort Conger, Nunavut under a grant from Parks Canada.

Established in 1882 on Ellesmere Island, the wood framed structures provided researchers and military officers and staff a permanent base from which to conduct scientific research. As one of 14 expeditions conducted during the First International Polar Year, the establishment of Fort Congers was led by First Lieutenant Adolphus Greely and became one of the most famous American expeditions. From the fort at Franklin Bay on Ellesmere Island, this expedition was well known for the desperate escape of its 25 members by sled and boat to Pim Island at Camp Clay, where only seven men out of the original 25 would survive.

The structures and artifacts at Ft. Congers, despite remaining intact because of the cold temperatures, are beginning to experience some deterioration. Several wood huts can be found on site, built in 1900 under Robert Perry’s direction using materials taken from the original structure built in 1881 by Adolphus Greely. The foundation for the original building (18.5 m x 5.2 m) that contains the rooms for staff and scientific work is still a prominent feature on the site. The original structure was built of double walled tongued and grooved boards with an air space of 32 cm. Tar paper was used to seal the inside and outside surfaces of the shelter. The roof, a single layer of boards, was covered with tar paper. The interior was divided into three rooms that were used for living and scientific work. The varieties of objects preserved by the cold temperatures include cast iron stoves, clothing, tools and hundreds of tin cans.

In 2007, scientists from the Royal Military College of Canada identified the need for remediation at Fort Conger, due to the elevated levels of arsenic and mercury present in some soils. The source of these contaminants seems to be the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, which used these elements to preserve natural history specimens. When the station was abandoned, the containers corroded, and the chemicals leached into the soil. Remediation will require the removal of the contaminated soil, creating problems for the preservation and protection of the structure and artifacts.

Laser scanning offers a key tool for preserving the site and its artifacts before remediation and their potential destruction and removal. In the summer of 2010, using both Z + F Imager 5006i W-Lan and Minolta Vivid 910 laser scanners, an archival 3D image of the site and artifacts was created.

This data will serve as the basis for a virtual reconstruction of the site from 1881-1900 that will educate the public on the importance of this scientific expedition in North American history.

Click here to learn more about Professor Richard Levy and his various research projects.

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