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Iconic piece of Canadian history may reside in Great Lakes

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Friday, July 28, 2017, 1:03 PM - A effort is underway to unearth and recover a lost piece of Canada's past: Scale flight models of the legendary Avro Arrow, lost in Lake Ontario since the 1950s.

The new search was announced last week, and officially began Friday, with the deployment of an unmanned underwated vehicle, monitored by boat topside. The search is led by OEX Recovery Group, sponsored by Osisko Mining, and will involve Kraken Sonar, whose expertise and equipment was actually used during the search for the Franklin ships.

Unlike that search, which took several expeditions over the course of a few years, the search for the Arrow models covers a much smaller area of water that OEX will spend four weeks on. The group's head, John Burzynski, told CBC News Friday will know "within days" if the effort has been successful.

Arrow program abruptly cancelled

The Avro Arrow program's aim was to develop a new made-in-Canada air superiority fighter. Aside from the six full-scale prototypes, Avro also produced nine models, at one-eighth scale, and blasted them across Lake Ontario attached to booster rockets from 1954 to 1957. 

However, the program was canned abruptly in 1959, and all of its fruits were lost.

"For political reasons, the entire project was canceled," David Shea, the VP of Engineering for Kraken Sonar, which participated in the Franklin search and will be involved in the Avro search, told the National Post. "Thirty thousand people lost their jobs and the government destroyed all the drawings, models and burned everything so it wasn’t replicated. These models, at the bottom of Lake Ontario, are the only intact pieces of that whole program."

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The last few years have been a boon for Canada's lost historical icons. First, the two missing ships of the doomed Franklin Expedition, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, were discovered in the Canadian Arctic in 2014 and 2016, and now this missing piece of the Avro program is on the search list.

The lake is obviously much smaller than the Canadian Arctic, but the missing models are also much smaller than Franklin's ships. Nevertheless, the search team is confident they can find them within a search grid centred around Point Petre, Prince Edward County, the models' launching point according to CBC.

"We think they’re much closer to shore than previous searches have ever thought...they were searching kilometres and kilometres out in the lake. We think they’re within sort of a three to four kilometre radius," Burzynski told the Toronto Sun earlier in July.

If the models are found, Osisko says they will ultimately find homes at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum in Trenton.

SOURCES: Osisko | CBC News | National Post | Toronto Sun | Thumbnail credit

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