A scanned image of the HMS Terror submerged in Nunavut. Arctic Research Foundation image.
Just over a week ago the second piece of the 1845 ill – fated Franklin expedition was found in Terror Bay, Nunavut on the southern shore of King William Island. The illusive second grande puzzle piece of the expedition mystery was found in about 70 feet of water.
The Terror, abandoned in thick sea ice three years after it set sail from England in 1845, failed in its attempt to sail through the Northwest Passage. The wooden ship was discovered in “pristine condition” in a calm bay north of where the wreck of HMS Erebus was located in 2014.
Arctic Research Foundation’s Martin Bergmann research vessel located the shipwreck, with all three masts intact and standing while nearly all hatches closed.
“Resting proud on 24 metres of water, we found HMS Terror — 203 years old, it is perfectly preserved in the frigid waters of the Northwest Passage,” Arctic Research Foundation spokesman Adrian Schimnowski stated.
Location of the recently discovered HMS Terror. Google Maps image.
Trapped in ice somewhere between King William Island and Victoria Island the HMS Terror was found 92 kilometres south of that location. Bergmann’s crew decided to detour south to Terror Bay after an Inuk crew member, Sammy Kogvik from Gjoa Haven. Kogvik explained to the crew how during a fishing excursion about six years prior he sighted a rather large wood pillar extruding from the ice surface on Terror Bay.
“I was on my way to the lake to go put nets out,” Kogvik said in the Arctic Research Foundation’s video. “And when we got in the bay … as I was getting off the snowmobile, I looked up to my left, and there was something weird sticking out of the ocean on the ice.
HMS Erebus dive site in 2014. Parks Canada photo.
“This is tremendously exciting news,” said Geiger. “The nature of the find, as reported, underscores also the vital role of the Inuit then and now in the Franklin saga.
The doomed expedition of nearly 170 years ago, tragically culminated in 129 deaths of crewmen. The Terror and Erebus lay locked in ice and submerged in water undiscovered until a search team, led by Parks Canada, unveiled the Erebus two years ago.
The Northwest Passage is becoming newsworthy as a possible Arctic trade route. Fednav photo.
In April China encouraged shippers in country to use the Northwest Passage for trade routes around the world. The problem is there is dispute over the newly, somewhat accessible, Arctic route as to whether it’s an international waterway or under Canadian jurisdiction.
The Northwest Passage is roughly 40 percent shorter than the Panama Canal route, and even though there will be adverse affects on environment and wildlife species, the shorter passage will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,300 tons. Russia’s Northern Sea Route has actually drawn more attention since it is usually more navigable than the Northwest Passage, which,often is still impassable throughout the summer. In 2009, only two ships completed the Northern Sea Route voyage as opposed to nearly 500 this year!
Eventually the passage will come to a broader discussion as to who controls rights to the region. However, at this point without enough surety that ships are able to pass with consistency, the issue is at a “simmer” level.
Traditionally, Ottawa and Washington have carried out talks trying to settle the jurisdiction dispute with Canada claiming all rights to the waterways that combine to form the Northwest Passage. Shippers, by this edict, need to comply with Canadian regulations when traversing the passage. The United States disagrees with their proposals but will comply in the meantime and notify Ottawa anytime a US firm plans to sail the waterway. Now with China entering the mix the scales could tip and a cause a flare – up in political negotiations.
The Northwest Passage in the Arctic will be used for future shipping to China. Canadian Geographic image.
China has vaguely outlined its’ own guidelines to sailing the Northwest Passage and announce that it wants more ships utilizing the trade route. In not so many words the country is asserting its position on Canada’s claim.
However, China may just be putting the cart in front of the horse by asserting the trade route preference for the firms that might use the route. COSCO, a prodigious shipper has deemed the northern route too dangerous to attempt on a regular basis.
For now the Panama and Suez Canals still remains the choice for most shipping companies. Posturing is in place by these interested countries for the future and at some point the route will become viable. While weather, year – round ice and challenging navigation conditions are aspects that Ottawa cannot alter, infrastructure and updated mapping can be improved. It seems that regardless of current day usability, the groundwork is being laid for future passage of the mythical region.
National Geographic wildlife photographer Nansen Weber has been going to Cunningham Inlet by Canada’s Somerset Island in the high Arctic with his cameras for 16 years. Every summer thousands of beluga whales join him for an amazing spectacle in the shallow inlet. For about a month, the beluga whales gather for what is a very social time as well as molting period and nursery time for newborns. The Cunningham River is a northerly version of the Churchill and surrounding estuaries in the southern Hudson Bay in that its’ temperatures average eight degrees F warmer than the surrounding ocean waters. The warmer water is a welcome respite for the whales and facilitates the behavior mentioned.
Weber and the whales seem to coexist in the inlet with the belugas approaching him closely as if they remember him from the year before. The drone footage of the whales, polar bears, and the incredible rugged landscape lends perspective to the massive wild region that is largely unspoiled.
That notion could be changing however with climate change and federal policy allowing research and transport throughout the Arctic. Shipping channels around the Northwest Passage are becoming more accessible with ice reduction due to warming temperatures. This will allow large ships in the region and they, with all the noise they produce, will undoubtedly have an affect on the animals echolocation faculties.
“This might be the only place on Earth you can enjoy the beluga whales like this that is still wild like it’s been for the last 500 years, but maybe it’s going to be changing. Just in my lifetime of being in the Arctic for 20 years, I’ve seen climate change. There’s new birds that are migrating up north that I haven’t seen before, there’s mosquitoes now where there shouldn’t be mosquitoes, the ice patterns and weather patterns are all weird. It’s kind of a dilemma that’s always there in the back of your head while you’re enjoying the beluga whale spectacle in front of you,” Weber says.
Weber’s videos and photos shed light on how ship traffic and resulting noise pollution may alter the beluga whale population’s migratory routes. “There has been scientific evidence that the ship traffic—the sonar—affects the communication between the belugas, so that could definitely be a problem for the future for our belugas in Cunningham Inlet.”
All of the Arctic region and all of its inhabitants will be affected with changing climate. “It’s not only about the beluga whales. I mean, we have polar bears, there’s narwhals and bowheads along the Northwest Passage, arctic char that run in the rivers. Inland you have the musk ox, the caribou that graze, all the migratory birds that fly up every summer to enjoy the short arctic summer, the snowy owls, the falcons. It’s just a huge ecosystem that’s all tied together,” states Weber.
Exclusive video from the Arctic Ocean in Queen Maud Gulf shows Franklin expedition lost ship Erebus for the first time since the ship went down in the 1840’s. Sir John Franklin and his two ships, the Erebus and Terror, met their demise when they were trapped in ice in 1846 off King William Island near Nunavut according to Inuit legend. With hopes to find the Northwest Passage vanquished the surviving crew abandoned the ships and set out on foot pulling one of the life boats across the icy land. Stone marked graves of three of the ship-men were discovered earlier. This is the first tangible discovery since of the lost expedition.
Diving through the two-meter thick ice has proven to be very beneficial as the ice has eliminated any turbulence from waves above. This setting has allowed for clear water as silt has settled on the ocean floor.
The Erebus was discovered last summer though rough seas forced the crews to abandon the expedition until the ice provided the current ideal conditions. Searchers will continue the quest to find the Terror this summer.