Holland College Blog

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Holland College Commercial Diving graduate part of historic Victoria Straits Expedition

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Joe Boucher aboard the RV Investigator during the Victoria Strait Expedition. Photo by Thierry Boyer

Joe Boucher aboard the RV Investigator during the Victoria Strait Expedition. Photo by Thierry Boyer

When Joe Boucher signed up for the Commercial Diving program at Holland College in 2008, it’s unlikely that he thought that he’d end up on board a ship off the coast of Nunavut searching for two ships that disappeared almost 170 years ago. But that’s exactly where he found himself, as part of the Victoria Straits Expedition to find the Franklin Expedition ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.

May, 1845, the two Royal Navy ships left Greenhithe, England on an expedition to map out a northwest passage that would take the ships from Europe to Asia. Under the command of Sir John Franklin, the expedition’s two ships set out with 134 officers and men. The ships had been fitted with the most up to date gear for polar exploration, including a heating system and a water distillation system; and were loaded with enough provisions to last up to three years. Franklin’s orders were to find a passage and return to England via the Pacific Ocean.

Last seen by Europeans in July of 1845, the ships never returned to England.

In 1848, a search party was sent to determine the fate of the explorers, and subsequently there were many searches. In 1850, three grave sites and relics from the expedition were located on the east coast of Beechey Island. In 1859, Lieutenant Hobson, part of searcher Francis Leopold McClintock’s expedition, discovered a note on King William Island that shed some light on the fate of the crew of the two ships. Over the years, human remains believed to be those of members of the Franklin Expedition were found, the condition of some of the bones suggesting that the lost sailors had resorted to cannibalism. Many studies and findings, including scraps of notes written by members of the expedition found by Inuit hunters over the years, have suggested that the men had succumbed to starvation, frostbite and hypothermia; but the ships themselves were never recovered.

In August of 2014, the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition was launched. The expedition brought together public and private partners and the most sophisticated equipment in the world to search for the ships and the secrets they may contain.

This area of the Arctic waters is relatively unmapped, due to the thickness of the ice, and it somehow seems fitting that a graduate of Holland College (which is named after one of the most influential 18th Century surveyors of British North America), should participate in such an ambitious project…and have one of the coolest jobs ever.

Joe’s Story

Crew shot after the discovery of the Franklin wreck (Jonathan Moore, Ryan Harris, Joe Boucher, Chriss Ludin) at the stern of RV Investigator. Photo by Thierry Boyer

Crew shot after the discovery of the Franklin wreck (Jonathan Moore, Ryan Harris, Joe Boucher, Chriss Ludin) at the stern of RV Investigator. Photo by Thierry Boyer

I grew up in Barrie, Ontario, but I have lived mostly in Ottawa since 2002. After graduating from Holland College’s Commercial diving program in 2009, I worked for a few years as a commercial diver.  I came across a posting on the Government of Canada’s public service jobs website for an underwater dive technician position. I had the required experience, education and background, so I decided to apply. I was the successful candidate. I started working with Parks Canada in 2011. I’m an

underwater archaeology technician. I am a diver with a commercial background, so I do many of the more practical tasks underwater. I also contribute to some of the underwater archaeology taking measurements, making observations, and even excavating. However, diving is really only a small part of what I do.  I work with our technologist to maintain all of our equipment, such as boats, trucks, and dive equipment. I assist with acquisitions and provide logistical support on many of our projects.  I work to ensure that our equipment is transferred from one project to another in a timely and efficient manner.  I do whatever else is asked of me, which can be very diverse, from driving a forklift around to shaking hands with our Minister, to rebuilding diving regulators.  My job, in large part, consists of doing what is needed to ensure that the archaeologists can do theirs, including offering advice or insight in areas where I may have a different perspective or understanding, based on my training and previous work experience.

Every spring, we have a meeting to discuss the next year’s work plan. We decide what projects will be undertaken and resources are assigned following these discussions. This past year, I was lucky enough to work in Gwaii Haanas National Park, The Empress of Ireland National Historic Site and, most recently, the Victoria Strait Expedition.

There were a number of vessels involved in the expedition: Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Kingston, the Arctic Research Foundation’s Martin Bergmann, the Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier and One Ocean Expedition’s One Ocean Voyager, supplied through the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.  There were also a number of small boats and other tools such as a Defence Research and Development Canada autonomous underwater vehicle.  I was berthed on board the Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and piloted Investigator, the boat that was towing the side scan sonar that found the Erebus.

Joe Boucher (helm) Jonathan Moore(standing) and Ryan Harris (side scan sonar operator seat) in RV Investigator. Photo by Thierry Boyer

Joe Boucher (helm) Jonathan Moore(standing) and Ryan Harris (side scan sonar operator seat) in RV Investigator. Photo by Thierry Boyer

It took two days to get from Ottawa to Cambridge Bay. From there, I boarded the Sir Wilfrid Laurier to begin the search. We did not go directly to the site – we searched a gradually expanding area. The route was planned out in advance.  In total, we were on board for approximately four weeks, and I believe the discovery was made during the second week aboard the vessel.

Once the discovery was made, we made several passes with the side scan sonar to acquire more diagnostic images.  After this, we used a Parks Canada ROV to “ground truth” the target to get a camera on the shipwreck and actually make sure it was what we thought it was.  After this, we dove on the wreck.  At the same time, in between dives, the Canadian Hydrographic Service used a high-tech multi-beam system to acquire very detailed 3D images of the shipwreck.

I am one of only four people present at the actual discovery, and I am one of the seven people who dove on the ship to date. It was pretty cool. I dove on the shipwreck once.  The idea was to look for unique features on the wreck which would help identify which of Franklin’s ship we had found.

It was a pretty humbling experience.  When you think that you are part of a select group of people who are the first to lay eyes on the ship in almost 200 years, it certainly does stop and make you think.  Really when I was around the ship most of the things going through my head were the still unanswered questions: How did the ship get here? What is still on board? What can we learn from the ship?  I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to dive the vessel and hopefully future expeditions will give us the opportunity to answer many of the questions which remain.

Our team was recognized by the House of Commons when we returned from the expedition.  We received a standing ovation from the MPs, and had our photo taken with the Prime Minister.

When I was in school, I never saw myself going this direction, but it’s absolutely awesome.  Going to Holland College opened all kinds of doors for me. The program gave me many of the tools I need to do my current job.  I learned a lot about many of the tools and equipment used in diving, how things work and why they work.  It taught me the importance of a certain level of physical fitness for diving.  The program gave me knowledge and experience necessary to start my career as a commercial diver.

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I would tell other people interested in getting into this field that hard work is very important. Employers, as well as your fellow employees, will respect you more if you put forth a solid effort.  Your interpersonal skills are very important.  A career in diving often means spending long periods of time at least semi isolated with your colleagues.  You have to know how to get along with people.  Breaking into the diving industry is not easy, but the program at Holland will give you an excellent start.

Joe wasn’t the only Holland College graduate to participate in the Victoria Strait Expedition. Captain David MacIsaac and his son Daniel, graduates of the college’s Marine Training Centre, were also part of the expedition. Their stories will be posted on the blog soon.


Useful links

For more information about the Franklin Expedition and the efforts to find the missing ships since they disappeared in about 1845, visit the Canadian Geographic website. http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/franklin-expedition/partners.asp


A complete list of partners can be found here. http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/franklin-expedition/partners.asp





Written by Sara Underwood

January 15, 2015 at 2:10 pm

2014 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Kind of interesting, if you’re into stats!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Written by Sara Underwood

January 5, 2015 at 11:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Trade HERizons program encourages women to consider non-traditional careers

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Trade HERizons ChristineChristine MacDonald quit school at the beginning of Grade 12. After that, her life began to spin out of control.

“I didn’t like school from Grade 7 on,” she explained in an interview recently. “I wanted to go into late immersion, but when I got in, I couldn’t understand anything, and if I’d switch to English, I would have been dropped down a grade.”

She struggled with her schoolwork and became more disillusioned. When she quit school, she started drinking heavily. It all came to a head in the spring of 2013. Her grandmother died of cancer, and a month later, Christine overdosed. At that point, she realized that she was in serious trouble.

“I realized cancer and addiction were both terminal illnesses. I had the chance to turn things around and live, but she didn’t.”

She sought help for her addictions, and after completing an 8-week residential program, she started to rebuild her life.

She began to consider what her job options were. A case worker suggested that she consider Trade HERizons, a career exploration project for women interested in trades such as carpentry, electrical, automotive, and welding. The course is free of charge to participants, and is run by Women’s Network PEI.

In 2013, Christine and the other participants attended the program full time. In addition to participating in team building workshops, the women are taken to sample seven trades training programs offered at Holland College.  Christine was especially interested in the college’s Wood Manufacturing/Cabinetmaking program.

After completing the Trade HERizons program, Christine worked on a construction project for the Reach Foundation from January until August, and decided that she would like a career in the trades.

In September, with help from the Trades HERizons office, she enrolled in the Wood Manufacturing/Cabinetmaking program.

“Trade HERizons have an incentive program, so I was able to build up enough points to cover the cost of my steel toe boots,” she said. “They helped with application fees, and I was awarded two scholarships, one from Holland College and one from the Community Foundation.”

“I like working with my hands and building stuff; but I wanted to work indoors, so this program suits me. It’s much more precise than carpentry,” Christine, who is now 23, explained.

Graham Hicken is instructor of the Wood Manufacturing/Cabinetmaking program. He said he would like to see more women consider a career in this field.

“There should be more women for a couple of reasons. First, it can make the guys step up their game, but more importantly because many women have natural skills that it takes men a while to learn, like attention to detail and manual dexterity. Most women already have those skills, some guys will never get them,” he said.

Christine is not the first student who has entered the program after participating in Trade HERizons, and Graham hopes that she won’t be the last.

“My goal is to have the class split evenly between males and females.”

The Trade HERizons program is currently looking for participants for the next course, which starts in January.

When asked if she has any advice for women who are trying to break free of their addictions and move on with their lives, Christine quoted a friend.

“Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle.”

Christine still faces many obstacles, but she has proven to herself and others that a strong spirit and the desire to make a better life can overcome even the most overwhelming situations.

Written by Sara Underwood

December 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Heritage Retrofit Carpentry program hosts Australian visitor

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Robert Brodie (left) and Josh Silver during Roberts recent visit to P.E.I.

Robert Brodie (left) and Josh Silver during Robert’s recent visit to P.E.I.

Holland College’s Heritage Retrofit Carpentry instructor Josh Silver hosted a visitor for Down Under recently, when Robert Brodie from Swinburne University of Technology, located in Melbourne, Australia, visited the program.

Robert is traveling across North America to study how specialized skills are certified in Canada and the United States, research that is being funded by a fellowship from the International Specialized Skills Institute. The institute is an independent organization that works with Australian governments, industry and education institutions to enable people to hone their skills and experience in traditional trades and professions, and in leading-edge technologies.

In addition to visiting Holland College, Robert has visited Algonquin College in Perth, Ontario; Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton; and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary.

In each location he reviews the curriculum, teaching styles, and delivery methods for carpentry programs. The purpose of gathering this information is to develop the parameters for a higher qualification in the field of carpentry in Australia.

“You can get a degree in building in Australia, but it’s not a skills-based program. This training would be for a tradesperson who wants to distinguish themselves from other tradespeople,” he said.

In Canada, apprentices work toward becoming journeymen, and may choose to earn their Red Seal, a nationwide credential that gives tradespeople the ability to work anywhere in Canada without further testing or certification. In Australia, Robert explained, there is no such credential.

“In Australia we have a national training package, and so someone who trains in South Australia can take their qualification to Queensland and it will be the same; because it’s a nationally recognized training qualification.

“In heritage work, of which there’s plenty in Australia as well, how do we know that you can do that work and that you understand what’s required to work on a heritage building? So my philosophy is to create something above standard qualifications. So if there were a restoration of a heritage building, you would need to be on a register.”

This credential would raise the profile of tradespeople who have qualified for it.

“They’ll have a higher product knowledge than required just to become a standard tradesperson,” Robert said.

“We need to create some prestige for the trades in order to attract people to the trades and for the community to actually hold us in greater esteem.”

At the end of the year, Robert will present his research to the International Specialized Skills Institute, and it will be presented to government for consideration and hopefully used to shape a new credential for accomplished carpenters.

He said there are many similarities between the Heritage Retrofit Carpentry program at Holland College and the program he teaches in Australia. Plans are underway to exchange assignments between Robert in Australia and Josh’s Heritage Retrofit Carpentry students here.

“What we’ve discovered is that we’re alike in many ways,” he reflected. “We both feel that we’ve got a future together, albeit that we’re on opposite sides of the world…we think that there’s room for some collaboration. What we teach is essentially the same.”

Written by Sara Underwood

October 1, 2014 at 10:44 am

An interview with alumnus Liam Mogan, Photography and Digital Imaging 2006

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Liam MorganLiam Mogan graduated from Holland College’s Photography and Digital Imaging (PDI) program in 2005 and has been honing his skills ever since. He’s been winning awards along the way, too; most recently, he won Gold in the National Magazine Awards for a fashion story in Sharp Magazine.

Liam was born in Prince Edward Island, but moved to Brandon, Manitoba when he was 11. He returned to the Island to attend Holland College, where he studied with instructors Alex Murchison and Jean-Sebastien (J.S.) Duchesne, and then moved to Toronto, where he currently lives. I contacted Liam to find out more about the trajectory of his career and to see if the 31-year-old photographer had some advice for people considering a career in this highly competitive field.

How did you become interested in photography?
My dad would take pictures with an old Canon FTB SLR when I was a kid, so that was always in the back of my mind. In Grade 8 I took an industrial design course where we developed and printed black and white. Finally, after high-school I moved to Alberta where I had the chance to take an intro to photography night course at SAIT [Polytechnic]. After that I was hooked. I spent the following year taking pictures of anything and everything…on film…it was expensive.

Why did you decide to take the Photography and Digital Imaging program at Holland College?
A couple of reasons: first, my brother, D’Arcy, graduated from the Culinary Institute and suggested I look into the photography program, (he’s a successful executive chef now). Second, I had a place to live on the Island, and third, I love Prince Edward Island! It’s kind of funny; I wasn’t accepted into the program at first. Fortunately someone backed out and I was able to enroll.

In what ways did the program prepare you to enter the field?
Aside from the technical/compositional/business aspects, the program really help me become a self-starter, which is essential if you want to make it in this industry. I think because Alex comes from an editorial/commercial background, the program truly mimicked a working professional studio environment. Operating my own editorial/commercial studio feels very similar to my time at PDI. Alex and J.S. were great mentors as well; in fact, I still email them now and again for advice when I’m stuck on something. Just having that support alone is quite nice.

What was your first job after you graduated?
I wanted to keep the ball rolling, so right after graduation, my girlfriend and I packed up a car and moved to Toronto. Once we found an apartment and hooked up a phone I called every photographer in the city looking for assisting work. The first guy who hired me was an interiors shooter. We would go to model houses in the middle of the suburbs and spend 12 to 16 hour days taking pictures of kitchens and living rooms. Not exactly glamorous work, but it was good training. After a while, I started to assist bigger-named shooters and eventually I worked on large advertising campaigns. I also had a part time job at a camera store to help with the bills at one point.

In just a few years you’ve managed to make quite a name for yourself. What are the key components that have enabled you to become so successful so quickly?
Hard work and luck. I ended up renting a studio while I was still an assistant. Although it worked out for me, I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing that…with the overhead, there were times I could barely afford to eat. Fortunately, a photographer who I had assisted landed a huge advertising contract and needed a place to shoot. So I bundled [the cost of ] my studio and my assisting services. We shot for that client out of my studio for a couple of years. It was a great gig and I was lucky to get it. That photographer became my friend and mentor – I learned so much from him.

Moving into shooting was a challenge. First of all, it took me years to develop my style (still ongoing). Once I was confident that my work was technically sound and that I could handle being in charge of a production, I started showing my book around. Most magazines and agencies have portfolio drop-off days, so I would do those and then harass the art buyer via emails and phone calls. You can’t be scared of rejection in this job – besides, it’s never personal. The first photo editor that took a chance on me was from Toronto Life, and both my first and second shoot for them were cover shoots. After those came out, things really started to snowball. Now I work for most Toronto-based publications. I was also lucky enough to be the main food contributor for a city weekly, The Grid. That magazine was very widely respected in the Canadian mag industry. In the three years it operated, it won so many national and international awards, (including SND’s Best Designed Newspaper in the World three years in a row). Working for them was basically free advertising for me.

What’s an average day like for you (if there is such a thing!)?
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time renovating my studio kitchen in order to make the shoots easier on food stylists. On average, however, a typical day could be anything from making cold calls, doing lunch with creatives, pitching ideas, building sets, researching new techniques, and even taking photographs! For instance just yesterday, I put together a lunch meeting with a photo editor/producer, creative director, and writer to hash out a cook book concept. A lot of my days involve sitting at the computer to be honest, whether it’s doing pre-production or post-production. Aside from marketing, that’s one of the biggest time sinks. Shooting jobs/creatives take up about 30 per cent of my time.

Depending on the job, shoot days vary quite a bit – shoots are rarely the same and always have problems to solve. For example, I’ve had to build plexiglass tanks to photograph things under water – we’ve even planted 20 square feet of grass sod in the studio to fake the perfect lawn. For some food shoots, I’ve had a dozen of Canada’s top chefs show up and fight over my studio kitchen to make their dishes. Those are always interesting and stressful. Last summer I did a cocktail bar guide were we spent the whole day shooting/drinking amazing cocktails in the park, which was a nice gig. Twice I’ve had to photograph $50,000-worth of gold coins in a vault with a security guard breathing down my neck, (I asked the magazine if they’d pay my rate in gold…no dice). Recently, I was flown to Newfoundland to photograph a cabin in the middle of the wilderness. That was a great gig because it’s not something I typically do. It was nice to be out of studio and photographing humans for a change.

What advice would you offer to people considering a career in photography?
To succeed in this industry, you not only have to work extremely hard but you also have to be incredibly self motivated. To start, shoot everyday, especially when it’s not fun or you don’t feel like it – it is a job, after all. Keep looking at established work, photographers, ads, magazines, and art within the field you want work in, whether its wedding, editorial, commercial, food, etc. Develop your own style and voice. Also, don’t get too caught up in the camera gear trap – you don’t need thousands of dollars of equipment to create a beautiful photograph. I’d even argue that having limited gear could be beneficial to creating your own unique style. Finally, don’t be scared of failure or rejection; like I said earlier, it’s not personal.


Written by Sara Underwood

July 28, 2014 at 11:45 am

Holland College golf students participate in applied research project

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Image downloaded from www.boditrakathletics.com.

Image downloaded from http://www.boditrakathletics.com.

Terry Hashimoto crouches down in the club house of Belvedere Golf Club and unrolls what looks a lot like a doormat with a USB cord coming out of one side. He hooks the USB cord up to his laptop, and in less than a minute, his team’s latest invention, the BodiTrak is ready to go.

BodiTrak helps golfers improve their stance for all of their different swings by pressure mapping. Last semester, Holland College Golf Management and Professional Golf Management students and their instructors used the mat. The group has seen a marked improvement their games.

“I’ve been teaching golf for 20 years,” says Golf instructor Blair MacPhail. “Without a doubt, this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

Instructor Jeff Donovan agrees.

“In only a month, I was hitting further, higher, longer – I would not have made the changes to my stance if I hadn’t seen the traces produced by the mat,” he says.

Terry says that the BodiTrak is an affordable, portable alternative to force plates, which are expensive and cumbersome. The system has been on the market for a couple of years now. The next step is to develop curriculum to train golf pros to use the system.

Jeff Donovan explains how the Holland College Golf Programs have become involved.

“We are working with Terry to refine the process for trainers using this product. Doing so is a great fit with our program. We already train golfers and many of our students are skilled players, so we’ll be able to use our expertise to engage our students in activities aimed at developing the most effective drills to use with the product. We’ll also look at how to apply the data that is gathered by the system to create a personalized training routine.”

Program Manager Tim McRoberts said the project is a great way for students and faculty to remain connected to the cutting-edge nature of training within the golf industry.

“Throughout the college, programs remain involved with industry partners to develop products or methodologies that can be applied in the real world. This project allows industry to make use of our expertise while providing students with valuable learning opportunities,” he explains.

Over the past few months, Terry says there have been several exciting developments for the Boditrak team.

“Jim McLean Golf Schools will be carrying and using the BodiTrak golf pressure mat as an integral part of its golf education programs at Trump National Doral, and Liberty National. We have signed Michael Breed of the Golf Channel’s Golf Fix Fame to a 5-year endorsement agreement, and CORE Golf, home of Sean Foley, Tiger Woods’ coach, has signed on as an educational partner. BodiTrak continues to expand its professional use both here in Canada and at golf courses such as Merion, Congressional, Baltusrol, Glen Abbey and the like. Additionally, manufacturers such as Foot Joy, Bridgestone, and Taylor Made are using and testing the systems.”

Written by Sara Underwood

July 15, 2014 at 11:42 am

Pictures from our royal visit

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We were thrilled to host His Royal Highness, Prince Charles on May 20th on the Prince of Wales Campus. Here are some images taken by Jean-Sebastien Duchesne, one of our Photography and Digital Imaging instructors. Feel free to download as many as you like!

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Written by Sara Underwood

May 23, 2014 at 2:32 pm


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