Parks Canada was able to return this year to the wrecks of the HMS Erebus and Terror, the two ships used in the lost 1845 British voyage led by John Franklin.
The vessels were found west of Gjoa Haven in 2014.
Work surrounding the two wrecked ships was delayed due to Covid-19-related public health measures beginning in early 2020, but now operations are back in full swing.
The main focus for this year’s archeological operations was at the site of the HMS Erebus. Together with the Nattilik Society’s Inuit Guardians, Parks Canada established an ice camp over Erebus in April and May. An underwater drone was used to check on the ship’s physical condition and to collect new images.
Work resumed a few months later in September, based out of the research vessel David Thompson and the barge Qiniqtirjuaq. Fifty-six dives over 11 days allowed for excavation of the second and third lieutenant’s cabin as well as a completed excavation of the captain steward’s pantry. A total of 275 artifacts were recovered, which are now jointly owned by the Inuit Heritage Trust and the federal government.
“Inuit oral history led to the discovery of the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror and its legacy is being respected through the co-owned artifacts that help tell the story of the 1845 Franklin Expedition,” said Fred Pedersen, chair of the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee.
The committee was established in 2016, comprising members of Parks Canada, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, the Inuit Heritage Trust and the Government of Nunavut.
“Inuit continue to be part of the story through collaboration and cooperation, much like the support the Guardian’s program provides, ensuring the protection and presentation of the national historic site,” Pedersen added.
Fieldwork in 2022 confirmed that physical changes on the site continue to take place, likely due to waves generated by high winds and possibly climate change.
“Located in one of the planet’s most unique and sensitive marine environments, the wrecks of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are some of the best-preserved wooden wrecks in the world,” said Steven Guilbeault, federal minister of environment and minister of Parks Canada.