Launch of the book Lost Beneath the Ice

Lost Beneath the Ice, an awe-inspiring new book on the sensational story of the discovery of HMS Investigator.

Image shows a Parks Canada underwater archaeologist diving over the wreck of the HMS Investigator. Lost Beneath the Ice The Story of HMS Investigator
Text by Andrew Cohen
Images Selected by Parks Canada

In 1850, HMS Investigator was sent to search for the lost Franklin ships. They failed, becoming trapped in the ice, but completed Franklin's quest for the Northwest Passage. This book recounts the voyage and Parks Canada's discovery of the wreck.



A compelling story of the long-awaited find of HMS Investigator grounded on the sea floor of the icy waters of Banks Island, just outside Aulavik National Park.

The book offers a beautiful rendition of images of the crew from HMS Investigator with stunning photos of Parks Canada underwater archaeologists exploring the historic wreck. The text, by Andrew Cohen, tells the story of HMS Investigator and its significance to early arctic exploration – a unique account to be treasured by Canadians and shared the world over.

A piece of Canadian history

When Sir John Franklin disappeared in the Arctic in the 1840s, the British Admiralty launched the largest rescue mission in its history. Among the search vessels was HMS Investigator, which left England in 1850 under the command of Captain Robert McClure. While the ambitious McClure never found Franklin, he and his crew were eventually credited with discovering the fabled Northwest Passage.

Like Franklin’s ships, though, HMS Investigator disappeared in the most remote, bleak and unknown place on Earth. For three winters, its 66 souls were trapped in the unforgiving ice of Mercy Bay. They suffered cold, darkness, starvation, scurvy, boredom, depression and madness. When they were rescued in 1853, HMS Investigator was abandoned.

Parks Canada’s search for the historic shipwreck was a formidable undertaking. Despite the challenges they faced, Marc-André Bernier, Chief Underwater Archaeology Services, and his team were successful in their pursuit, locating the missing vessel off the shores of Banks Island in the Northwest Territories, just outside Aulavik National Park.

The book is an important piece of Canadian history. Parks Canada wanted to share this historic find by showcasing the shipwreck in its final resting place, giving Canadians a candid look at what the underwater archeologists saw when they first laid eyes on the ship.

Parks Canada’s project on Banks Island

M-A Berner Marc-André Bernier, Chief Underwater Archaeology Services
© Parks Canada

In July 2010, Parks Canada led a project in Aulavik National Park (NP) on Banks Island, Northwest Territories, which included both terrestrial and marine archaeological surveys. The work resulted in locating HMS Investigator in Mercy Bay offshore from the park boundary, as well as the graves of three crew members onshore. McClure’s Cache and related land sites were also documented. The terrestrial team also briefly studied a nearby archaeological site south of McClure’s Cache that was determined to be larger and older than first estimated, dating back to the Paleoeskimo period and likely between 2400-2700 years old.

Aulavik National Park was created in 1992 and provided for in the 1984 Western Arctic Inuvialuit comprehensive land claim agreement. Parks Canada and the Inuvialuit cooperatively manage the national park to protect and present its Arctic lowlands ecosystems and 3500-year old cultural heritage. As the closest community to the park, Sachs Harbour is also the only community on Banks Island.

“We were jubilant,” said Mr. Bernier. “Not only was finding the wreckage an incredibly exciting moment, but to find it in better condition than expected, sitting upright, made one feel as if it had been mysteriously waiting for us, all this time. It was surreal.”

For the complete story, visit the Parks Canada 2010 Arctic Surveys section.

To learn more about Aulavik National Park, visit: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nt/aulavik/index.aspx.

About HMS Investigator

The discovery of HMS Investigator promises unprecedented information on the early exploration of Canada’s North and the search for the Northwest Passage – a critical piece of our history. This ship is the first to have sailed the last leg of the Northwest Passage.

HMS Investigator was one of many vessels sent to find the lost Franklin expedition, but Captain McClure also used the 1850-1853 expedition to search for the final link of the Northwest Passage. By 1851, the ship was trapped in ice at Mercy Bay. After 2 years, the crew was saved by a Royal Navy sledge team from HMS Resolute. McClure was officially credited with the discovery of the Northwest Passage and, as a result, designated in 1972 as a person of national historic significance by the Government of Canada.

For the complete story of HMS Investigator and its successful discovery visit the Parks Canada 2010 Arctic Surveys section.

About the Author

Andrew Cohen is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Among his books are While Canada Slept, a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, The Unfinished Canadian and Extraordinary Canadians: Lester B. Pearson. He writes a nationally syndicated column for The Ottawa Citizen and comments regularly on CTV. A professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University, he is founding president of the Historica-Dominion Institute. He has twice received Queen’s Jubilee Medals.

On the shelves

Published by Dundurn Press, Lost Beneath the Ice will be available in English in November 2013, and early 2014 in French.

It is being produced in print and e-book editions in both official languages.

The book can be purchased online through Amazon: http://www.amazon.ca/Lost-Beneath-Ice-Story-Investigator/dp/1459719492.

The book can also be purchased in bookstores across the country.

Message to booksellers

Booksellers and other merchants should order English or French copies of Lost Beneath the Ice through their Dundurn Press sales representative.

An e-book edition will be available at the same time as the print editions.

Dundurn Press, Lost Beneath the Ice; $29.99 in Canada
English: ISBN: Harback: 978-1-45971-949-1 / eBook: 978-1-45971-951-4
French: ISBN: