Thursday, June 30, 2011

Parks Canada confirms 2-phased searches for summer 2010

Parks Canada has finally confirmed that there will be a search expedition this summer, two in fact, as well as some of the details of the search.

The two phases will encompass a July re-visit to the site of the wreck of HMS Investigator, which was discovered last year, in Mercy Bay off Banks Island, and an August underwater search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in the region west of King William Island in Nunavut. No greater detail of the search area has been provided yet for the Franklin ships phase. Whether "west of King William Island" means just west or west and south is not clear which is unfortunate as the areas south and west, particularly the Queen Maud Gulf area and O'Reilley Islands area, appear most promising from the historical data.

The expedition will set sail on the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier as they did in 2008 and 2010. The HMS Investigator expedition will take place from July 10 to 25 and will deploy various underwater cameras. They'll also investigate McClure's cache and related terrestrial sites, including the rare, ancient Paleoeskimo site. The HMS Erebus and HMS Terror search is expected to launch on August 21.

New Technology to be Deployed in the Search for Franklin's Lost Vessels

Government of Canada continues Franklin search expedition in Canada's Arctic

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 30, 2011) - The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today announced that Parks Canada will be working with other Canadian researchers to deploy highly sophisticated underwater technology in the continuing search for polar explorer Sir John Franklin's lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. This summer's two-phased Arctic expedition will focus on further uncovering the story of the 19th century pursuit to find the Northwest Passage and will also include underwater exploration of the HMS Investigator shipwreck located last summer off Banks Island, as well as archaeological studies of related land sites.

"The Government of Canada is proud to be working with a nationwide team of existing and new Canadian researchers in this search for two of the world's most elusive shipwrecks", said Minister Kent. "Our collective efforts will significantly enhance this year's search capacity through the use of new technology."

The search for Sir John Franklin's lost ships under the direction of Parks Canada will enlist a sophisticated autonomous underwater vehicle to expand the search area, supplied by University of Victoria's Ocean Technology Laboratory.

Beginning about August 21, depending upon local weather conditions, Parks Canada and the associated organizations will continue the search for Franklin's lost vessels in the region west of King William Island in Nunavut. The expedition is a collaborative effort among Parks Canada, University of Victoria Ocean Technology Laboratory, Government of Nunavut and Canadian Ice Service. As in 2008 and 2010, Parks Canada archaeologists will be operating from the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier alongside hydrographers with the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

"The challenging search for a Northwest Passage has captured the public imagination for more than 400 years. As an integral part of our Canadian history and development as a nation, the Government of Canada is pleased to spearhead these important archaeological expeditions in Canada's Arctic," concluded Minister Kent.

HMS Erebus and HMS Terror were lost during Sir John Franklin's ill-fated 1845 expedition to chart Canada's Northwest Passage and the vessels have been sought for more than 160 years, creating great anticipation for their possible discovery.

From about July 10 to 25, Parks Canada archaeologists will further study the HMS Investigator wreck from a camp in Aulavik National Park, Northwest Territories near the western end of the Northwest Passage. The camp is near the location where Captain McClure and his ship HMS Investigator were trapped in the ice of Mercy Bay while searching for the lost Franklin voyage.

While HMS Investigator was discovered last summer, underwater archaeologists plan to dive the wreck for the first time this summer using a variety of underwater cameras, with the purpose of bringing back new information and unique underwater images. Archaeologists will also investigate McClure's cache and related terrestrial sites, including a rare, ancient Paleoeskimo site.

For additional information on the two-phased Arctic expedition and the 2011 itineraries, please see the accompanying backgrounders at under Media Room. As well, please visit the special feature on the Arctic expeditions at for regular updates over the summer.


Russell Potter said...

Ted, you scooped me on this one -- congrats!

While I'm relieved to hear that there will be a search this season (weather permitting), each of the two touted prongs, while promising, seem unlikely to me to lead to major finds.

Going over the HMS Investigator with divers will, I imagine, produce some intriguing imagery -- but that's probably the limit of it. The ship's interior looks to be largely filled with silt, so it will mainly be the vessel's exterior, and perhaps any small artifacts which have drifted to the bottom nearby, which we'll see.

As to searching the area "west of King William Island" with some variety of ROV, that doesn't, on the face of it, sound very innovative, though without details as to how this vehicle will be equipped it's hard to say. Let's hope it will have some form of side-scan sonar capabilities, or some other rangefinding or telemetry systems -- if it's confined to what can be seen with cameras, the chances of locating significant remains seem to me slight. But perhaps Parks Canada has some more specific data from last year's search that we don't yet know about.

Whatever the issues, I certainly wish the researchers well, and hope that they will share what they find, as they find it, even more directly and quickly than what was done last season.

Ted Betts said...

Looks like they are going about things in the right way, Russell, in terms of technology and search locations.

I just posted an update here.

Too bad Ron Calrson won't have much to add to our summer searches.