On the Hunt for a Missing Piece of Canadian History - Parks Canada Continues Search for Lost Franklin Ships

OTTAWA, Aug. 9, 2013 /CNW/ - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today announced that Parks Canada Underwater Archaeologists will return to Canada's Arctic to continue an expedition of international significance; the continuing search for the lost vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, from the ill-fated Sir John Franklin voyage.

"Our government is pleased to pull together for a fifth season both existing and new Canadian partners and researchers to continue the search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror," said Minister Aglukkaq. "Being from Nunavut, I am especially excited about this project, as it will collectively increase our understanding of early Arctic exploration and its impact on Canada's development as a nation, while showcasing the beauty and unique culture of the Arctic."

The search capacity this year will be the most comprehensive yet. Beginning around August 10th and continuing for almost 6 weeks - the longest amount of continuous time on the water to date - Parks Canada will be joined by a broad array of partners for a fifth season in search for the historic shipwrecks. This year, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC) will lend their expertise and enthusiasm to the project, which also includes the Arctic Research Foundation, the Government of Nunavut, Canadian Hydrographic Service, Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Ice Service, and Canadian Space Agency.

The Parks Canada-led survey team will conduct the underwater search from aboard the Arctic Research Foundation's Research Vessel Martin Bergmann for the full 6 weeks or so, and will be further supported during that time by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier for an additional week. The team's traditional side-scan sonar surveying method will be boosted this year with the addition of a military-grade, side-scan sonar provided by DRDC, and by a new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), recently acquired by Parks Canada.

As with all past surveys, the data acquired will be shared among partnering organizations, which contributes to important priorities like safe navigation and environmental knowledge of the Canadian Arctic.

"I am proud of the incredible commitment, research capability and momentum this team continues to harness from so many valuable partners each year," added Minister Aglukkaq. "Having already covered more than 800 km2, the team is narrowing their search on the world's most elusive shipwrecks, while systematically surveying Canada's vast and largely uncharted Arctic waters. Weather permitting, this year's search will significantly build upon the important scientific and archaeological understanding in this fascinating part of Canada's history, and geography."

Canada's Arctic has a rich, diverse history related to the Arctic exploration of Canada, the enduring quest to discover the Northwest Passage and the significant roles in the history of Inuit-European relations in this vast territory. The search for the Franklin vessels offers a unique opportunity to celebrate the nationally significant places, persons and events that make up the rich tapestry of our country's Arctic heritage.

For additional information, please visit http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/culture/franklin/index.aspx for a new video with Parks Canada's underwater archaeologists discussing this year's search.

You can also check out Parks Canada on Twitter at @PCArchaeology for daily updates throughout the survey, and Parks Canada's Media Room at www.parkscanada.gc.ca for additional backgrounders.


Backgrounder

2013 Search Expedition for Franklin's Ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror

The Government of Canada is pleased to again embark on an Arctic expedition of international significance to search for the lost vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, from the ill-fated Sir John Franklin voyage. The 2013 expedition is a continuation of Parks Canada's Underwater Archaeology Service (UAS) surveys conducted in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

For the fifth field season Parks Canada's Underwater Archaeology Service will participate with existing partners; Arctic Research Foundation, Government of Nunavut, Canadian Coast Guard (DFO), Canadian Hydrographic Service (DFO), Canadian Ice Service (EC) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA). As with past years, this work will be conducted with the support of the Gjoa Haven Community and the Inuit Heritage Trust, as well as the Government of Great Britain. This season, the Canadian-led research team, will again bring a multi-disciplinary approach that will share resources and data, contributing to the safe navigation and environmental knowledge of the Canadian Arctic.

This year, Parks Canada is pleased to have garnered the support of new partners, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). Personnel from the RCN and DRDC will provide technical assistance with some of Parks Canada's newly acquired remote-sensing technologies, during the five and a half week survey aboard the Research Vessel Martin Bergmann. DRDC has also provided Parks Canada with an additional military-grade, side-scan sonar system that will allow significantly more area to be covered on any given survey day.

The search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror is anticipated to take place from August 10 to September 19. Weather and ice conditions permitting, the search areas will again include both the southern search area near O'Reilly Island, west of the Adelaide peninsula and where Inuit oral tradition places one of the shipwrecks, and further north to Victoria Strait and Alexandra Strait, where the other vessel is believed to be located.

The Arctic Research Foundation's Martin Bergmann is expected to deploy on August 10, 2013 from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, and begin surveying in the southern search area. The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier, will provide surveying support to the archaeologists for seven days, from August 22- 28, rendezvousing with the Martin Bergmann in the northern search area.

Survey technology for this year will include towed side-scan sonar, equipped with single-beam echo-sounder for the collection of bathymetry, from the Martin Bergmann. In addition, Parks Canada's UAS has acquired a new Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), equipped with high-resolution side-scan sonar and a new remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), equipped with high-definition video camera and sector-scanning sonar system, which will play a critical role in authenticating any seafloor anomalies, such as a shipwreck or its detached debris. The DRDC additional side-scan sonar system will be towed behind the UAS Research Vessel Investigator, which will be deployed from the Sir Wilfrid Laurier during the 7-day survey targeting Victoria Strait.

As part of this collaborative effort, in 2012 the Government of Canada and the Government of Nunavut signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a framework for the ongoing cooperation and coordination for the research, search and preservation activities regarding HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, along with associated submerged archaeological resources. The Government of Nunavut is the permitting authority for all archaeology research conducted in Nunavut, and will again participate in the Franklin survey conducting a land-based archaeological search. The terrestrial archaeology team will accompany the expedition aboard the Sir Wilfrid Laurier and focus their land survey in the Erebus Bay region.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in August 1997 between Great Britain, as owner of the vessels, and Canada, as the nation in whose water they were lost. If found, the MOU assigns control over site investigation, excavation or recovery of either wrecks or their contents to Canada. Mandated to protect and present subjects of national significance, Parks Canada is the responsible federal agency for the search and subsequent preservation of the vessels.

Sir John Franklin's two lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, are designated together as a national historic site of Canada - the only such 'undiscovered' national historic site - due to the importance of Franklin's voyage and his ships to the history of Arctic navigation and exploration. The discovery of either or both wrecks, or their contents, will offer unprecedented information on the search for the Northwest Passage, the exploration of Canada's North, early Inuit-European contact and the fate of Sir John Franklin. HMS Erebus, HMS Terror and their crew are also a testament to the history shared between Canada and Great Britain.

Backgrounder

History of the 1845 Franklin Expedition and his Lost Ships
HMS Erebus and HMS Terror

On May 19, 1845, the Royal Navy ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror departed Greenhithe, England on a much-heralded Arctic expedition in search of a Northwest Passage. Under the command of Sir John Franklin, with Captain Francis Rawdon Crozier second in command, the expedition's two ships set out with a total complement of 134 officers and men. HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were converted bomb vessels of 378 and 331 tons respectively and both had already seen prior service in polar exploration. They were stoutly-built and soundly reinforced for operation in the ice, equipped with novel auxiliary-steam screw propulsion systems, fitted expressly for the expedition, and lavishly provisioned for a voyage of up to three years expected duration. Sir John Franklin's orders were to traverse the passage and return to England without delay via the Pacific. The expedition was also expected to conduct a variety of zoological, botanical, magnetic and geological surveys.

The last Europeans to have contact with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were the crews of two whaling vessels, the Enterprise and Prince of Wales. Conversation during this chance meeting in August 1845, between the expedition leaders and the Captains of the whaling ships, indicated that Franklin was waiting for an opportunity to cross Baffin Bay to Lancaster Sound. However, after entering the eastern Arctic Archipelago later that season and enjoying initial success, the promising expedition soon began to fatally unravel. Indeed, except for occasional encounters with the Inuit, the crews of the vessels would never be seen alive again.

The disappearance of the Franklin expedition set off a massive search effort in the Arctic and the broad circumstances of the expedition's fate were not revealed until 1859 when Lt. William Hobson of the steam yacht Fox, a vessel privately chartered by the indomitable Lady Jane Franklin, found a sombre message left in a cairn on Victory Point, King William Island.

The message revealed that both ships had become trapped in ice in late 1846 and had remained so for approximately one and half years. It indicated Franklin had died on June 11, 1847, while an additional 23 crew members had similarly perished under unknown circumstances. On April 22 1848, the 105 remaining survivors deserted the ships and recorded their intention to proceed on foot in the direction of Back's Fish River. None would survive; the entire complement of both ships perished and HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were lost to the ice. While the message revealed the general vicinity of the two vessels at the time of their abandonment, neither wreck location is presently known.

In 1992, the Government of Canada declared the missing wrecks to be a national historic site. This designation came about as a result of their association with Franklin's last expedition, and their role in the history of exploration of Canada's north and the development of Canada as a nation.

SOURCE Parks Canada

For further information:

Jennifer Kennedy
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of the Environment, Canadian 
Northern Economic Development Agency,
and the Arctic Council
jennifer.kennedy@ec.gc.ca
Tel: 819-997-1441

Media Relations
Parks Canada
819-994-8371
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