Harper Government Unveils Pieces of History from HMS Erebus

Artefacts to be displayed at the Canadian Museum of History over Victoria Day Weekend

OTTAWA, May 13, 2015 /CNW/ - Office of the Minister of Environment - The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today unveiled exciting new artefacts recovered from HMS Erebus. Providing a glimpse into the daily lives of the crew, the historical objects were recovered during the recent expedition by Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Navy divers working under the ice in the High Arctic to research the famed Sir John Franklin shipwreck.

In collaboration with Canadian Museum of History, Parks Canada has created a micro-exhibit of HMS Erebus artefacts that will be available for public enjoyment over the Victoria Day Weekend from May 14-18.  Visitors are encouraged to share in this iconic piece of Canadian history by visiting the exhibit and meeting with Parks Canada staff who will be onsite to answer questions. The micro-exhibit will also be available on-line at www.pc.gc.ca.

One of the most exciting objects recovered was one of the ship's two 6-pounder bronze cannons, a stunning artefact representative of the ship's Royal Navy origins. The team also recovered buttons from jackets of the Royal Marines, who played a significant role in maintaining discipline onboard ship. Other artefacts recovered include unique pieces of the ships' construction, personal effects such as a medicinal bottle, plates and glassware.

Quick Facts

  • Franklin's ships are an important part of Canadian history as the expedition laid the foundation of Canada's Arctic sovereignty. On May 19, 1845, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror departed England, under the command of Sir John Franklin, on an ill-fated Arctic expedition in search of a Northwest Passage. Until the discovery of HMS Erebus in September 2014, the fate of the Franklin expedition was one of Canada's great mysteries.
  • Since 2008, the Government of Canada has conducted six major Parks Canada-led searches for the lost Franklin Expedition ships, working closely with public, private, academic and Inuit partners, painstakingly covering hundreds of square kilometres of the Arctic seabed. These operations were founded on the traditional knowledge of Inuit and were undertaken in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding between Canada and the Government of the United Kingdom. Plans for another Government of Canada summer expedition are currently underway and will build on the success to date and the multilateral partnership that has steadily grown for close to a decade.
  • In April 2014, Parks Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy joined together with National Defense's Joint Task Force (North) on their annual Operation NUNALIVUT to manage the logistical complexity of conducting underwater archæological work in such an incredibly challenging environment.
  • The expedition allowed the team to gather critical information needed to determine future steps of the archæological research, to capture incredible photo and video imagery, and to recover telling artefacts that will help to reveal this historic wreck to the public.
  • The cannon from HMS Erebus and other artefacts will undergo conservation treatments at the Parks Canada archæological conservation laboratory in Ottawa.


"The stunning artefacts from HMS Erebus are bringing this famed piece of history to life and will allow Canadians to connect with Canada's Arctic past like never before. The continued research to uncover the mysteries of the Franklin Expedition will ensure this incredible story, the integral role that Inuit oral history played in locating the wreck, and the endless possibilities this find can bring to Canada's North, continue to be celebrated and passed on to future generations."

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

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Associated Links

Parks Canada: www.pc.gc.ca


2015 April Dive Results for Franklin Vessel HMS Erebus

After almost 170 years of searching to understand the fate of English explorer Sir John Franklin's fabled arctic voyage, a multilateral partnership from public, private and non-profit sectors, led by the Government of Canada, resulted in the finding of one of the two lost Franklin vessels, HMS Erebus, igniting worldwide attention. The combination of state-of-the-art technology with Inuit oral testimony led to the September 2014 discovery of Franklin's flagship, thus solving one of the world's greatest archæological mysteries.

In April 2015, the Government of Canada again conducted complementary research projects in Canada's Arctic as part of the Department of National Defence's (DND) annual Operation NUNALIVUT. Working in one of the world's most remote and unforgiving environments, a unique dive expedition was led by Parks Canada to research HMS Erebus from under 2-metres of sea ice. Benefitting from the Arctic expertise of DND's Joint Task Force (North), Parks Canada and Royal Canadian Navy divers researched the wreck from a temporary camp on the frozen surface of Queen Maud Gulf.

This collaborative effort accomplished several key objectives. Most notably the team gathered the information necessary to design future steps in the archæological research of this historic wreck. They also tested an underwater laser for documenting the hull and interior of the wreck; a technology that has the potential to rapidly produce highly accurate, three dimensional recordings under water, saving valuable research time for such a complex site with limited access.

As expected, HMS Erebus stands to reveal many artifacts on or around the wreck, each of which will help us share this fascinating story and incredible national historic site. Artifact recovery furthers archæological research and offers an opportunity to see and learn about tangible pieces of this sunken treasure to the public. During the dive, the largest artifact to be recovered was a 6‑pounder bronze cannon which was laying on the deck of the ship. A joint effort was required to lift and subsequently transport it to Parks Canada's archæological conservation laboratory. Royal Navy ship Erebus was outfitted with cannons that would have served to protect the expedition in the event of an unsuspected attack. Other recovered artifacts, including the rectangular deck prisms and the Preston patent and composite Illuminators, illustrate the innovative design technology of the ship. Personal effects, including buttons from the jackets of members of the Royal Marines, a medicinal bottle, and plates made from fine earthenware, offer an evocative glimpse into the lives of the perished crew. Like the ship's bell, recovered by the team in 2014, each of these artifacts will undergo a significant conservation process to ensure they are fully stabilized.

The artifacts and imagery captured during this recent expedition are showcased as a micro-exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History throughout the Victoria Day long weekend from May 14-18. Parks Canada staff will be available to meet with members of the public and to share details of the dive and provide insight regarding the artifacts. The Breaking the Ice: HMS Erebus Revealed Exhibit will also be available online on Parks Canada's public website at www.pc.gc.ca.

The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were designated together in 1992 as a National Historic Site of Canada and in April 2015, the wreck site became officially protected under the National Historic Sites of Canada Order. As a world leader in heritage conservation, the Government of Canada has the necessary policies and procedures in place to ensure the wreck is conserved, protected and presented to Canadians. As Parks Canada's 168th national historic site, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror are part of an incredible story in the history of the exploration of Canada's North; a story that remains alive in the minds of Canadians today.

Through outreach programs like the live dive, public displays of the stunning artifacts, and online sharing of the incredible imagery of the wreck, this national historic site will offer people from across the nation the chance to personally connect with HMS Erebus. As one of the most important and fascinating scientific and historical accomplishments in Canadian history, these efforts will be pursued with the planned Government of Canada 2015 expedition to continue the research on HMS Erebus and the continued search for her sister ship, HMS Terror.

SOURCE Parks Canada

For further information: Jonathan Lefebvre, Office of the Minister of the Environment, 819-997-1441; Media Relations, Parks Canada, 1-855-862-1812, pc.media@pc.gc.ca

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