The Wreck of Sir John Franklin’s lost ship HMS Erebus
By / par
Ryan Harris, Senior Underwater Archaeologist, Parks Canada
In May 1845, explorer Sir John Franklin set sail from England with two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, in search of a Northwest Passage through what is now Canada's Arctic Archipelago. After spending two harrowing winters beset in the unrelenting ice of Victoria Strait, both ships were eventually abandoned to its grip and the entire complement of 129 men left to perish on foot. While the graves and sun bleached bones of many of the Franklin crew have since been identified, strewn as they are across the bleak and unforgiving landscape of King William Island, the ships themselves have remained missing for almost 170 years.
On September 2, 2014 the well preserved wreck of HMS Erebus was finally located by Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team, the culmination of an exhaustive six year remote-sensing survey. The successful search drew upon a broad-based multi-disciplinary partnership implicating numerous Federal Departments, the Government of Nunavut, the Academic community, and private not-for-profit sector.
This presentation will recount the many challenges of the remote-sensing search as it evolved from modest beginnings in 2008, expanding year after year, and leading up to the eventual discovery and subsequent identification of the Erebus wreck in 2014. It will also delve into the archaeological potential of this fascinating site as revealed in the first exploratory dives and initial recovery of representative artefacts.
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