Common menu bar links

The Underwater Archaeology Search for Franklin's Lost Vessels: HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site

Parks Canada's Expedition

Collaborating Organizations 2012 HMS Erebus and HMS Terror Expedition

Parks Canada Agency

Parks Canada, an agency of the federal government, protects and presents nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations. Parks Canada's Underwater Archaeology Service (UAS) is a team of seven underwater archaeologists based in Ottawa, Ontario. The team, the only one of its kind in Canada, conducts underwater archaeological projects across the country, mainly at Canada's national historic sites, national marine conservation areas and national parks. It also provides underwater archaeology expertise to various levels of government and to non-government organizations, often working in collaboration with them, as it is the case of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror expedition. The Parks Canada crew for the expedition will be Ryan Harris, Senior Marine Archaeologist and project director, as well as underwater archaeologists, Jonathan Moore, Thierry Boyer and Chriss Ludin. Mr. Harris and Marc-André Bernier, Chief of the UAS, will serve as Parks Canada's principal media contacts for the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror Expedition.

Arctic Research Foundation

The Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) is a Canadian private charitable foundation established in 2011. The vision of ARF is to support long-term sustainability in the Arctic through innovation in knowledge and research capacity by promoting the mobilization and use of shallow-draft near-coastal research vessels in the Arctic.

The objective of the initial year 2012 is to dedicate a vessel towards an innovative, high-tech program in the Canadian Arctic, with Parks Canada Agency and other partners, to locate the shipwrecks HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site, using technology at the precision required to generate Canadian Hydrographic Charts and conducting a complimentary science program. Using Canadian technology and expertise, an efficient use of resources through a partnered multidisciplinary approach, and through public-private partnership with Arctic Research Foundation, we maximize the short and long-term benefits to the North and to participating departments and groups such as Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian Space Agency, National Defence, Natural Resources Canada, University of Victoria, Government of Nunavut and others.

ARF's main role within the project is the outfitting and provision of a research vessel, the R/V Martin Bergmann, for use by the Government/University field research team. The vessel will allow the research team to conduct survey and marine research efforts over the course of a full 6-8 week ice-free Arctic season on a multi-year basis. The ARF's role is also through strategic planning and providing guidance on mission planning and delivery.

Canadian Coast Guard

2012 marks the Canadian Coast Guard’s 50th anniversary. Parks Canada is pleased to recognize the Coast Guard’s commitment to saving lives, responding to environmental and other natural disasters, clearing the way for maritime traffic, and ensuring Canada’s waterways are safe and accessible.  From providing navigational aids and icebreaking assistance, to search and rescue, maritime security and marine communications, the Coast Guard’s significant role in the Arctic cannot be overstated. CCG icebreakers are deployed to the Canadian Arctic each year specifically to provide services in support of the various mandates of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the CCG, as well as to meet the general needs of the people and the Government of Canada. Every year, from late June to early November, the CCG deploys one light, two heavy, and four medium class icebreakers to the Arctic. These icebreakers operate in a harsh climate with some of the most challenging sea ice conditions in the world. They are often the first vessels into the Arctic each shipping season and the last to leave. The GCC also has two vessels that provide services on the Mackenzie River and Beaufort Sea. The Coast Guard’s Arctic activities, many of which are delivered in partnership or on behalf of other federal departments and agencies, academic institutions, and northern communities, include: Escorting commercial ships through ice to ensure access to Northern communities; Supporting scientific endeavours such as hydrographic charting and marine science; Maintaining aids to navigation in the Canadian Arctic waterways; Acting as the lead federal agency overseeing response to ship-source pollution incidents north of 60; Providing marine search and rescue (SAR) services; Operating Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centres, detecting distress incidents and providing information to mariners; Resupplying remote Arctic areas where commercial shipping services are not available; and providing support to other government departments, agencies and other organizations to conduct important work in the Arctic environment.

For more information on the Canadian Coast Guard and the 50th anniversary, please visit:

Canadian Hydrographic Service, Fisheries and Oceans Canada 

The Canadian Hydrographic Service is a federal government branch made up of Canada’s ocean and freshwater mapping experts. As part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Hydrographic Service conducts surveys and publishes nautical information and charts related to tides, sea bed depths, sailing directions, marine hazards and other types of information that contribute to navigation safety, scientific research and other marine activities. The main users of this information are typically commercial vessel operators and recreational boaters, as well as other individuals and industries that rely on Canada’s waters for business or recreation. Canadian Hydrographic Service has carried out hydrographic surveys in the north dating back to as early as 1910, and in recent years as teamed up with the Canadian Coast Guard to conduct new surveys in the Arctic to obtain new information on the shape and heights of the seabed and navigational hazards across northern waterways. This information is used for updating and improving navigational charts in the North, a task growing increasingly more important as more commercial and tourist vessels navigate Arctic waterways. This seabed mapping led to a natural partnership between the Canadian Hydrographic Service and Parks Canada and its other expedition partners to help locate the lost ships at the bottom of the Northwest Passage and formalized the Arctic Charting and Mapping Pilot Project.

CHS 2012 Expedition Program Team: Andrew Leyzack (Hydrographer-in-charge); Gianni Di Franco, Ryan Battista, Glenn Macdonald and Glenn Toldi (Multi-disciplinary Hydrographers ); Carl Bastedo (Electronics Technologist).

Canadian Ice Service (CIS)

The mission of the Canadian Ice Service (CIS) is to provide the most accurate and timely information about ice in Canada's navigable waters. They work to promote safe and efficient maritime operations and to help protect Canada's environment.

The Canadian Ice Service (CIS), a division of the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC), is the leading authority for information about ice in Canada's navigable waters. Ice in its many forms (sea ice, lake ice, river ice and icebergs) covers Canada's waters. As a result, it touches Canadian life in many ways. It affects: marine transportation in Canada's heartland as well as in the North; commercial fishing; offshore resource development; the hunting and fishing patterns of aboriginal peoples; tourism and recreation; and local weather patterns and long-term climate.

In direct support of their mission, the two main objectives of CIS are to ensure the safety of Canadians, their property and their environment by warning them of hazardous ice conditions in navigable Canadian waters, and to provide present and future generations of Canadians with sufficient knowledge about their ice environment, in order to support sound environmental policies.

Parks Canada's underwater archaeology team is dependent on the data provided by CIS in Canada's Arctic. As part of their research, the archaeologists utilize CIS information to gain knowledge of ice patterns in the Arctic, which allow them to determine the most opportune time to conduct their work. As their operational time approaches, they monitor the CIS website to stay informed of current ice conditions which directly affects their field time. In addition, CIS can use archival data and historic satellite imagery to ascertain the general drift patterns of the ice, which may help determine the direction the ships might have drifted after they were abandoned. This information could in turn support the search being conducted by Parks Canada.

Canadian Space Agency

The mandate of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is to promote the peaceful use and development of space, to advance the knowledge of space through science and to ensure that space science and technology provide social and economic benefits for Canadians.

Since its creation in 1989, the CSA has set out to ensure that all Canadians learn and benefit from the innovations of space science and technology to the greatest extent possible. Its objectives are to support and promote a highly competitive space industry and address the needs of Canadian society. With almost half of Canada's GDP growth in the knowledge-intensive sectors of the economy, the Canadian Space Program is a key driver behind continued leadership on the world stage, new opportunities for industry and scientists, and long-term social and economic benefits for all Canadians.

The CSA is proud to support the interdepartmental Arctic Charting project, and specifically the 2012 campaign led by Parks Canada in search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. As part of its contribution, the CSA will provide images, topographic data and near shore marine hazards products derived from Canadian satellite RADARSAT-2 and other high resolution optical remote sensing imagery. These products and images will provide the project team with reconnaissance data to define the Arctic coastline, identify targets of hydrographic significance and near-shore topography.

University of Victoria Ocean Technology Laboratory

Since 2003, the University of Victoria’s (UVic) Ocean Technology Lab (OTL) has been developing and facilitating underwater technology. It has launched underwater technology projects ranging in scope from autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to the evaluation of underwater cameras and instrumentation for scientific use.

UVic is a national and international leader in the study of the oceans. Its areas of expertise include: ocean-climate interaction; ocean physics; marine geology and geophysics; biological and chemical oceanography; deep-sea ecology; ocean monitoring systems; coastal resource management; marine conservation; coastal erosion; underwater vehicle design; wave and tidal energy; and ocean technology and development.

The OTL engineers have diverse backgrounds in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and software development, providing a solid framework for developing new and innovative underwater technologies.

The Parks Canada-led search for the Franklin vessels will enlist UVic's AUV, equipped with bathymetric side-scan sonar, to explore the ocean floor at depths that are unsafe for divers. The AUV, operated by UVic team members, will use high-resolution imagery to detect hazards and identify artifacts of archaeological significance.

Nunavut Department of Culture and Heritage

The Department of Culture and Heritage's mandate is to preserve and enhance Nunavut's culture, heritage and languages. The Department's Heritage Division is responsible for the management of Nunavut's archaeological heritage. It administers Nunavut's archaeological research permit system, conducts archaeological training and research projects in collaboration with community and land claims agencies, and provides expertise on archaeological matters to government and non-government organizations. Dr. Douglas Stenton, Director of the Heritage Division, assisted by Dr. Robert Park, University of Waterloo, have led investigations, in recent past years, on islands near the underwater survey area for sites containing evidence of the Franklin expedition.

Community of Gjoa Haven

The project appreciates the ongoing support of the community of Gjoa Haven and the Inuit Heritage Trust. In particular, local historian and Franklin researcher Louie Kamookak, who has brought his considerable depth of experience and insight into Inuit traditional knowledge to the search, and to the Gjoa Haven Hamlet Council, who is to be thanked for its kind assistance and hospitality.

British Government (British High Commission)

The British High Commission in Canada works to advance the UK's interests in a safe, just and prosperous world by: developing and maintaining a wide range of substantive partnerships with Canada of real value to both countries; developing business between the UK and Canada, and encouraging Canadian companies to invest in the UK; and, providing effective and courteous public services.

A 1997 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Great Britain, as owner of HMS Erebusand Terror, and Canada, as the nation in whose waters they are believed to have been lost, assigns control over “site investigation, excavation, or recovery of either of the wrecks or their contents” to Canada, in the event of their discovery.