Recent photos from the HMS Erebus wreck site in the Arctic. Sir john Franklin and his crew sailed two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror into the high Arctic and lost their lives during the infamous 1845 expedition. HMS Erebus was found in September of 2014 and since then an amazing look into the past has captivated the world. The mystery of the HMS Terror continues while researchers search for that ship in the same vicinity.
Northern lights from the deck of the Park’s Canada research ship CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Park’s Canada photo.
HMS Erebus sitting in 11 Meters of water. Park’s Canada photo.
Park’s Canada researcher inspecting the hull of the HMS Erebus in 11 meters of water. Park’s Canada photo.
CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier heading to HMS Erebus site. Park’s Canada photo.
Boot of HMS Erebus crew member. Parks Canada photo.
The winter dive on the HMS Erebus, Sir john Franklin’s long lost but now found ship, went well but is only “scratching the surface” according to senior researchers on the expedition.
Divers were literally scratching the surface of the sunken ship. Removing the kelp that covered the old wooden hull was the first task to be able to get a better look at the wreck in relation to the overall site. Rather than strip it all away from the entire ship they cut it off only along the port side of the 34-meter long wooden vessel.
Although the Erebus has not disclosed much information about its fate as of yet, clearing the hull and mapping the site has provided more of a story.
Jonathan Moore drilling the ice for a dive hole at Erebus Dive Camp. Parks Canada photo.
Parcs Canada senior underwater archeologist Ryan Harris says the artifacts recovered so far “can help capture what life was like inside Erebus, as well as perhaps on the still-missing second ship of the Franklin expedition, HMS Terror.” Brass buttons, a cannon and ceramic dinner plates have all been discovered and are currently on display with a dozen other items in Gatineau, Quebec.
Brass buttons discovered can be narrowed down to only four crewmen. Parks Canada photo.
Ceramic dinner plates found at the Erebus wreck site. Parcs Canada photo.
In another mysterious and intriguing twist to the expedition, glass prisms were placed inside the upper deck which focused a very small amount light streaming through a skylight, and allowed that daylight to pass through, into the dark spaces below.
“It looks like something out of Jules Verne,” Harris says. “At this point in time, we’re absolutely just scratching the surface of what we might learn from this shipwreck,”
A cannon from the HMS Erebus is pulled to the surface through one of the dive holes cut in two-meter thick ice. Jonathan Moore/ Parcs Canada photo.
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.
Nunuvut’s government is staking claim to artifacts from the HMS Erebus – one of two ships from the ill – fated Sir John Franklin expedition of 1845. Nunavut is refusing to issue Parks Canada dive permits unless Parks Canada relinquishes rights to artifacts found and retrieved from the seabed at the wreck sight of the Erebus in the waters of Victoria Strait, just off the coast of King William Island where it was discovered in September 2014. The Erebus is thought to be the ship on which Franklin perished during the ill fated expedition. The other lost ship, HMS Terror has yet to be found.
Parks Canada finally relented to the Nunavut request after realizing their divers could face arrest by the RCMP. Permission from Nunavut’s director of heritage must now be consulted before retrieving any artifacts from the site.
One of the cannons from the HMS Erebu is lifted to the surface during last year’s artifact recovery mission in the Arctic. Thierry Boyer/Parks Canada photo.
In addition to Nunavut, other claimants to the Erebus’ artifacts include the Kitikmeot Inuit, who claim ownership under a land claims treaty, as well as the British, who, since the ships and expedition were of British origin, and based on an agreement drafted in 1997, possess rights to claim any artifacts of “outstanding significance” to their Royal Navy. The agreement between Canada and Britain recognize ownership of the wrecks and their contents by Britain, though it acknowledges Britain will ultimately gift ownership to Canada of everything, except gold, recovered from the wrecks.
Parks Canada diver surveys the HMS Erebus. Parks Canada photo.
“During the permit application process for the spring 2015 ice dive on HMS Erebus, the government of Nunavut included a condition that denied Parks Canada the authorization to recover artifacts from the wreck site,” says a briefing note for Leona Aglukkaq, who was then the environment minister.
The federal cabinet has subsequently declared the HMS Erebus wreck and surrounding waters a national historic site, which took precedence over Nunavut’s permit regulations. However the wreck of the Terror, Franklin’s second lost ship is presumed to be outside the historical site designation therefore creating the same issues and subject to Nunavut’s initial claim of jurisdiction for the HMS Erebus artifacts.
Diver inspects the hull of the HMS Erebus preserved by the Arctic waters. Parks Canada photo.
This summer Parks Canada will return to the Erebus wreck site to document artifacts and then continue nearby areas to the north to search for the elusive HMS Terror as well. Hopefully all the ownership and jurisdiction tug – of – wars will ease enough to allow divers to expedite the process before the artifacts are scattered.
A portion of the Erebus steering wheel found at the site. Parks Canada photo.
A crewman’s boot in good condition was found at the site of the Erebus. Parks Canada photo.
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.
If you are thinking of visiting Churchill where the buzz of the discovery is peaking like the rest of the north, make sure to visit the Anglican church and see the Lady Franklin stained glass window. Keep posted for more updates!