This year, an archaeological team headed by Parks Canada unearthed 275 artifacts, along with new imagery and survey data, from the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, otherwise known as the Franklin expedition, Parks Canada said in a press release earlier this month.
The recent excavations come nearly a decade after the shipwrecks were first discovered, in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Due to the pandemic, the excavations were temporarily halted.
Franklin’s lost expedition began in 1845, when the Erebeus and the Terror set sail from England looking for a Northwest passage to Asia via a sea route through the Arctic. Led by Capitan Sir John Franklin, the crew of 129 men and several cows met rough weather and had to survive a year on icebound ships. The situation grew desperate and the surviving men abandoned the ships, hoping to walk across the ice back to Western civilization. None were successful.
Franklin’s wife urged the British Crown to send search parties. Those attempts failed, though they did find the note that Franklin’s crew left in a cairn, announcing their intentions to abandon the ships and that Franklin had died.
In the years since, Franklin’s lost expedition has fueled numerous voyages by explorers, historians, and archaeologists, who hoped to uncover the story of what happened to Franklin’s crew and his ships.
In April, archaeologists from Parks Canada, the Canadian national parks system, and Guardians, Inuit members who oversee activities on their land, descended on an ice-camp set up near the HMS Erebus wreck, which was deemed to be in a more fragile state than the HMS Terror. Due to weather restraints, the team only had eleven days to survey and excavate the shipwreck, using specialized diving suits that are heated using warm water pumped from the surface.
The archaeologists were able to execute 56 dives in which they carefully excavated the Second Lieutenant’s cabin, the Third Lieutenant’s cabin, and the Captain’s Steward’s pantry to varying degrees of completion. In the course of these dives, they managed to uncover hundreds of items, including a folio, table setting, glasses, and epaulets, according to CBC News.
According to a statement, the artifacts will be held jointly by the Inuit Heritage Trust and the Government of Canada. It is not yet confirmed when the team will return to continue excavations of HMS Erebus or return to HMS Terror.