In September, Parks Canada underwater archaeologists explored deeper inside the wreck of the HMS Erebus, and were able to capture some images. As for the HMS Terror, we will continue to analyze data from the Spring 2017 dive and plan future research.

The 2017 mission also involves preparations for future explorations of HMS Erebus, including an excavation of the ship. Because of the Arctic environment, this will be one of the most challenging underwater archaeological excavations ever conducted in Canada.

The discovery of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror would not have been possible without Inuit knowledge. Today, Parks Canada is working with the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee to develop an Inuit Guardians Program. Inuit Guardians will be posted at both wreck sites during periods with little ice to monitor the sites and report any unauthorized vessel traffic.

Summary of HMS Erebus activities 2017

A wide range of activities took place both at the wreck of HMS Erebus and in Gjoa Haven from late August to early September 2017. During the last week of August Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team set-up a shore camp on an island near the wreck of Erebus. They were joined by a team of Erebus and Terror Guardians from Gjoa Haven, members of a newly-created programme to watch over both wrecks.

Due to strong winds in the region, the team was only able to dive to the wreck early one morning. However, with good underwater visibility the team was able to tour the wreck and check on its condition.

What was seen

The underwater archaeologists did not notice any major changes since 2016. A few of the new finds include:

  1. Up to twelve intact or partially intact black glass bottles trapped under the collapsed Upper Deck near the stern
  2. A roof for a mercurial artificial horizon, part of a device used for navigation
  3. Other small uniform buttons were spotted
Triangular object on wooden deck covered with sea weed and silt
This artificial horizon was spotted on the deck of the Erebus.

Planning for future research

A new Parks Canada excavation support barge named Qiniqtiryuaq arrived in Gjoa Haven. In future this barge will be used side-by-side with Parks Canada’s newly-acquired ship RV David Thompson. Residents of Gjoa Haven were also able to tour the Qiniqtiryuaq, meet team members, and learn about some of the equipment that will be used during the future excavation of Erebus.

Parks Canada staff giving a temporary tattoo to a young visitor to the new barge
Underwater archaeologist Marc-André Bernier gives the finishing touch to a temporary tattoo on one of the many visitors to the new Parks Canada barge.

Celebrating with the community

Following the fieldwork at the Erebus, the Underwater Archaeology Team and other Parks Canada staff, including CEO Daniel Watson, took part in the Umiyaqtutt Festival in Gjoa Haven, a week of celebrations, presentations, and a community feast. It included the plaque unveiling of the Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site of Canada.

Four men standing together with two burgundy plaques commemorating the national historic site
Parks Canada CEO Daniel Watson was joined by Historian Louis Kamookak, Jacob Keanik of the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee and Joanni Sallerina, Mayor of Gjoa Haven during the unveiling of the plaque commemorating the Wrecks of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site