Parks Canada again led two separate Arctic archaeological surveys this summer associated with the 19th Century pursuit of the Northwest Passage – the continuing search for polar explorer Sir John Franklin’s HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, and the follow-up to the highly successful project in 2010 that located the wreck of HMS Investigator and related land sites, including the final resting place of three of its crewmen. The illustrious search for the Northwest Passage has captured public imagination for more than 400 years and these surveys continued with great anticipation.
Two British vessels, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, were lost in the Arctic during Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated 1845 voyage to discover a Northwest Passage. By 1847, fears that Sir John Franklin and his crew had met with tragedy prompted a flurry of rescue efforts from Britain and the United States, including an 1850 Royal Navy effort that deployed Captain Robert John LeMesurier McClure, of the 66-man strong HMS Investigator. Trapped in the confines of Mercy Bay, the shores of which now form part of Aulavik National Park of Canada, the crew overwintered for two harrowing years in this area. McClure and his crew abandoned ship leaving behind a cache of equipment and provisions and were eventually rescued by other Royal Navy ships. Upon their return to England, Captain McClure and his crew were credited with the discovery of the Northwest Passage.
While the lost Franklin expedition is better known than McClure’s voyage, both these expeditions are key events in the Arctic exploration of Canada. The lost HMS Erebus and HMS Terror have been sought for more than 160 years, creating great anticipation for their possible discovery.
Search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror
Survey for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror - Search platform vessels in
© Parks Canada
HMS Investigator, McClure’s cache and Paleoeskimo site
Parks Canada 2010 Arctic expedition base camp, located on the shores of Mercy Bay in Aulavik National Park
© Parks Canada